Archive for the ‘the petri dish’ Category

Paradise Now: Globed

Wednesday, January 18th, 2006

I finally watched the Golden Globes yesterday. (I usually tape award shows and then fast forward through all the boring stuff, all the better to savor idiotic moments–like when Dennis Quaid said that “Brokeback Mountain” was the kind of movie that rhymed with “chick flick,” or when Harrison Ford handed his vodka to Virginia Madsen, as if she were his cocktail waitress.)

There were few surprises, of course, except for this: The Golden Globe for Best Foreign Language Film went to Hany Abu-Assad for Paradise Now. I’ve written about this great film before, and if you haven’t seen it yet, look for it on DVD starting March 21st.

Those of you in L.A. may be interested in a panel discussion with the director that will take place tonight at the University of Judaism on Mulholland Drive, in Bel-Air. Details here.

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Brokeback Mountain

Monday, January 9th, 2006

brokeback.jpg Ang Lee’s Brokeback Mountain, one of the most talked about movies of the year, fortunately also happens to be one of its best. Like Annie Proulx’s short story by the same title, the movie resists the temptation to plead or lecture, opting instead to tell a love story the way its characters live it.

This is no small feat. The vast majority of film representations of gay characters tend to suffer from what director Todd Haynes (Far From Heaven) once called the “Sidney Poitier Syndrome,” meaning that gays are either perfect individuals who suffer from society’s persecution, or else its weak, yet noble victims who are saved by the straight man. What Brokeback Mountain achieves is nothing short of miraculous: showing us gay characters as complex human beings.

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Lost in Translation

Tuesday, December 13th, 2005

The Los Angeles Times‘ Ashraf Khalil and Jailan Zayan explain why Al-Shamshoon, the Arabic-language version of The Simpsons, may not be the big hit its producers hoped it to be:

Omar doesn’t drink beer. That is not a misprint.

Instead, he spends time with his buddies at a local coffee shop. At home, he pops open frosty cans of Duff brand juice.

Needless to say, Simpsons fans in the Middle-East are none too pleased:

“They managed to make one of the funniest shows ever into something that is terribly unfunny, and one of the smartest shows around into something incredibly dumb,” ranted an Egyptian blogger who goes by the name Sandmonkey and who wants the show canceled. “Us Simpson lovers can’t take this abomination any longer.” (..) “What’s Homer without beer?” Sandmonkey told The Times, preferring to be identified by his blogger name. “This is a fundamental issue!”

A couple quoted in the article have found a way to enjoy the show, however. They “dissect the translations, recall the originals and debate what jokes do or do not work in Arabic.” D’oh!

Syriana

Monday, December 12th, 2005

syriana.jpgFew movies have the power to engage me beyond the two hours I spend in the theater, but Syriana was one of those. Stephen Gaghan managed to create a fictional world whose complexity, for once, comes somewhat close to the complexity of real life. It’s hard to describe the plot of Syriana, perhaps because the movie doesn’t have one, in the traditional sense of the term. Rather, it gives us several storylines that interweave together to create a story.

Here’s the best I can do: An oil-rich Gulf state decides to sell its oil to the highest bidder, which in this case happens to be China. The deal is signed by the heir to the throne, Prince Nasir (played by Alexander Siddig). A Geneva-based analyst (Matt Damon) believes that the prince is right to apply principles of a free market economy and offers his services. But the American oil company who had hoped to land that deal isn’t too pleased; its CEO (Chris Cooper) wants to complete a merger with another oil company, and having the prince around isn’t so good for their business. The merger, however, is sure to ignite a Justice Department investigation, so a lawyer (Jeffrey Wright) is hired to do due diligence (the kind of diligence where you work out who’s going to take the fall to preserve the merger.) The young men who work in some of those oil rigs are fired at the whim of the deals being made or unmade, and two of them, hoping for three square meals a day, join a madrasa led by a blue-eyed cleric (Amr Waked). The government, of course, has stakes in the lost deal as well, and needs to make sure that oil is cheap and abundant for American consumers, so a veteran CIA man (George Clooney) is sent to Beirut to take care of things. An informant changes sides and turns against one of his contacts. And on and on.

The characters in Syriana are neither good nor bad; they do things out of greed or idealism, out of fear or desperation, each of them only aware of the particulars of their own situation. But in fact everything is connected, everything has consequences beyond those they see. And so the result is the continuing chaos we find ourselves in. The movie is not without fault (in particular, I think it could have given even more depth to some of the storylines) but I really liked it.

BTW, I should say how amused I was to spot Morocco everywhere in this movie: There’s Casablanca, substituting for Beirut; and, look, there it is, substituting for Teheran; and, oh, there’s the refinery port substituting for a Gulf port. I also drove Alex crazy pointing out all the veteran Moroccan actors playing bit parts. You just can’t take me to the movies.

For Love of Coffee

Thursday, November 17th, 2005

My love for coffee is pretty well documented around these parts. I have a particular weakness for Cuban coffee, but was intrigued to learn about Canned Coffee. Check it out. Several writers have written reviews for them of various Japanese coffees (!).

Paradise Now, In Theaters

Monday, November 14th, 2005

Hany Abu-Asad’s Paradise Now opened in select theaters this past weekend. The film is about two young Palestinians, Said (Kais Nashef) and Khalid (Ali Suliman), who are called upon by an unidentified terrorist group to become suicide bombers. They are given very short notice, and are quickly taken in and outfitted with bomb belts. Will they go through with the plan? Or will they listen to the entreaties of Suha (Lubna Azabal), a young woman both men have a crush on? It’s a story of love and loss, loyalty and violence, sacrifice and redemption. It also happens to be a very good thriller.

paradisenow.jpg

While we’re busy following Said and Khaled, we get a glimpse of life in the West Bank, with its trash-filled streets, dilapidated houses, and omnipresent road blocks. Several characters spend time worrying about water filters. People look up when an ambulance speeds by, and then return to their teas. A video store carries tapes of suicide bombers’ parting words and collaborator executions. A couple of kids try to fly a kite with a Palestinian flag on the back.

Paradise Now is powerful, suspenseful, thought-provoking, and beautifully directed. The occasional didactic moments are there, to be sure, but overall this was still a wonderful movie, one I can’t recommend enough.

I highly recommend Lorraine Ali’s report in Newsweek of her visit with filmmaker Hany Abu-Asad for the movie’s Tel Aviv premiere. Ha’aretz has a long, thoughtful piece about the movie and its director. Even the New York Times delivered words of praise. So do yourself a favor and go see it.

We’re Arabs and We’re Funny…Ha Ha Funny

Monday, November 14th, 2005

The Associated Press has a piece about the third annual Arab Comedy Festival, which will take place November 13th to the 17th in New York. Details here. (Tickets sold out for the first four nights, so hurry and get yours.)

Ramadan 1426

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Ramadan karim to all my Muslim readers, and best wishes for a happy and healthy month. Despite the fact that my observance of some Muslim rituals has faltered in recent years, I still keep up with the fast. I find abstinence from food and drink to be the easy part, in fact. The hard part, I think, is staying away from all the other stuff.

Rosh Hashanah 5766

Tuesday, October 4th, 2005

Happy Rosh Hashanah to my Jewish readers. Put some North African flavor in your celebrations by reading this interview of Sherwin Nuland, where he talks about his new biography of Maimonides; and by listening to this cool podcast where Jewlia Eisenberg talks about Algerian divas like Reinette L’Oranaise and Alice Fitoussi.

Levantine Center Needs Your Help

Tuesday, September 27th, 2005

The Levantine Cultural Center, a Los Angeles-based organization that brings together people of American, Middle-Eastern and Mediterranean heritage to explore the arts, has a history of putting together amazing events. This year alone, they’ve staged a major rai concert, showings of films like Lila Says, poetry readings by Nathalie Handal and Sholeh Wolpe, plays like Nine Parts of Desire, and much else.

But the center has run into some financial trouble. The staff is made up exclusively of volunteers, but they still need to be able to cover rent and program costs. If you are able to contribute, consider making a donation.

The Mid-East Mystique

Thursday, September 8th, 2005

The L.A. Times has a profile of UCLA professor Jonathan Friedlander, who is using his collection of ‘orientalist paraphernalia’ for an exhibit at the Powell Library. The items were collected over the years, bought at antique shops or even at the local Sav-On.

Several hundred items will be on view until Dec. 16. The complete collection, by contrast, comprises more than 1,500 pieces: 1930s comics and pulp fiction such as “Spicy Adventures” and “Desert Madness”; ads for Ben Hur Flour; bottles of Pyramid Beer; video games such as “The Prince of Persia”; sheet music for songs including “The Sheik of Araby” and “Persian Moon.” Exotic topless women undulate on the covers of Arabic music CDs. Fierce warriors scowl from the covers of DVDs. (Most of the collection is available for view on a database at the exhibition, which includes listening stations and film clips.)

Despite his attraction to these artifacts, Friedlander maintains there’s something pernicious at work in them. The images, which seem increasingly cartoonish the more you look, portray the Middle East as an irrational, oversexed, violent land given to despotism and mysticism. The women tend to move in harems and wear very little; the men seem not to go very far without their scimitars.

“It becomes ahistorical anything goes,” Friedlander says of the mishmash of myth, reality and disparate historical periods portrayed. “And you erase people’s cultures this way: It all becomes ‘the East,’ ‘the Orient.’ “

What’s even more twisted is how Camel cigarettes are exported and sold to the Arab world. I’ve always been fascinated by the idea that one can sell the Orientalist mystique even to the Arabs. How’s that for a research topic?

Facing The Music

Tuesday, September 6th, 2005

Mariam Said, Edward Said’s widow, takes issue with Maureen Clare Murphy’s report about the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra’s performance in Ramallah last Friday.

Murphy criticized the poor organization of the event, the fact that it was invitation-only, and even the cooperative aspect between Israelis and Palestinians. Mariam Said, for her part, emphasized the history of the project, the desire to bring together musicians of different nationalities together, and the amount of good will that it took to found the orchestra and keep it performing.

In other news, the orchestra’s conductor, Daniel Barenboim, is being called an “anti-Semite” because he refused an interview to an Israeli Army radio.

Botero’s Cri de Coeur

Monday, July 18th, 2005

An exhibit of Botero’s paintings, inspired by the torture of Iraqi prisoner by U.S. troops at the Abu-Ghraib prison, opened in Rome last month. Another show of the artist’s works opened in Barranquilla, this time displaying pieces inspired by car bombings and kidnappings in Colombia. The L.A. Times has a review of the shows, and of what drew Botero to the events.

These aren’t the sorts of scenes most people associate with Fernando Botero. For decades, the 73-year-old Colombian painter and sculptor has been best known for his seemingly innocuous images of plump priests, chunky children and still lifes of gargantuan fruits and flowers.

But this perception of Botero’s work was always overly simplistic and incomplete. Encoded, or perhaps hidden in plain sight, in many of his paintings are multilayered cultural symbols, covert allusions to current events and winking art-historical references to works by Velazquez, Vermeer and other Old Masters. Some of his most enigmatic images birds perched in lollipop trees, faces anxiously peering out of windows, a pile of dead bishops resting peacefully hint at darker forces roiling beneath the colorful, pleasing surfaces.

Read more here.

Kassir Remembrance

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

The Nation‘s Adam Shatz remembers Lebanese journalist Samir Kassir, who was killed in a bomb attack on June 3rd. Kassir wrote for Al-Nahar, and was a staunch member of the anti-Syrian opposition.

In Lebanon he has ascended, if that is the word, to the status of “the martyr Kassir.” Yet Kassir was an unusual kind of martyr in today’s Middle East, a staunch secularist who wanted to live in a free country, not to die for one. In a region driven increasingly by a politics of death and sacrifice, he stood for a vision of peaceful reform, progressive social change and democratic secularism–the values of any left worthy of the name. The day after Kassir’s murder, hundreds of journalists poured into Martyrs’ Square in downtown Beirut to observe an hour of silence. Many raised black pens to the sky, visually evoking the adage that the pen is mightier than the sword. It is not. But to wield the pen rather than the sword in the face of mortal threats requires uncommon courage. This Samir Kassir had in abundance. His death is a terrible blow not only to his family and friends but to Lebanon, Syria and the cause of Arab freedom.

You can see some of the pictures Shatz refers to here. You can also read Randa’s brief post from last Friday.

Latest Doueiri Film Screen in L.A.

Tuesday, June 14th, 2005

Acclaimed director Ziad Doueiri‘s new film, Lila Says, sounds like something I’d line up to see. Here’s the summary:

In a Marseilles ghetto, Lila, a gorgeous sixteen-year-old Catholic girl (Vahina Giocante), stops to talk to Chimo, a nineteen-year-old Arab boy (Mohammed Khouas). Lila asks Chimo to look up her skirt — if he can handle it, and puts into motion a sequence of events that is shockingly raw, sensual, and devastating. Lila’s angelic demeanor barely contains the vitality and powerful eroticism that she shares with him and with which she transports the shy and sensitive Chimo from the bleakness of his life. “Lila” is a coming-of-age tale that focuses on Chimo, a sensitive young man emerging from adolescence in a working class, largely immigrant quarter of Marseilles. Like many sensitive young men, he doesn’t spend his whole day sitting around reading poetry – he knocks around town getting into mischief with three pals.

Since all four are Franco-Arabs in the post-Sept. 11, 2001, universe, being hassled by the cops is part of the process as much as getting drunk. So is sticking their noses into the local mosque to check out what the sheikh has to say. None of this business is pursued in any detail. Though they evidently have pious friends, none of Chimo’s pals seems to be serious-minded enough to either engage with Islam or reject it.

Unfortunately, the movie is out only in limited release and I won’t get to see it in Portland for a long while. But you lucky bastards in L.A. get a preview and a panel, courtesy of The Levantine Center.

Lila Says
Exclusive Preview Screening/Panel
Thurs, Jun 23, 7:30 pm
Westside Pavilion Cinemas
10800 Pico Blvd.
310.281.8223

Go. Just go. And then tell me how it was.

30 Days In My Shoes? Dude, I Want To Try 30 Days In Yours

Wednesday, May 18th, 2005

Morgan Spurlock (of Supersize Me fame) is producing a new TV show for the FX network. The reality series, called 30 Days, places people “in unfamiliar social circumstances” for a month and documents their reactions. One of the shows is about a “fundamentalist Christian” who is taken to Dearborn, Michigan for a month. Says Spurlock:

“We took a fundamentalist Christian from my home state of West Virginia, somebody who is very pro-war, pro-’us versus them’, that when you hear Muslim the only thing he thinks of is a guy standing on a mountain with an AK-47,” Spurlock said.

The man leaves his wife and children at home and goes to live with a Muslim family in Dearborn, Michigan, home to one of the largest Muslim populations in the United States.

“He dresses as a Muslim, eats as a Muslim, he prays five times a day, he studies the Koran daily, he learns to speak Arabic, he works with an imam, a Muslim cleric, to learn the history of Islam, what are the five pillars, why are they important.”

“And the transformation this guy goes through in 30 days is miraculous, it’s incredible,” Spurlock said.

The documentary maker, who has visited more than 100 schools as part of his campaign to improve school food programs, says the television show is driven by the desire to make people think about societal problems.

Another show has Spurlock and his fiancee trying to survive on minimum wage for a month. Now that I’ll watch. Maybe I’ll set my TiVo.

Sembene Profile

Monday, May 16th, 2005

The Guardian has a fascinating profile by Maya Jaggi of the legendary Senegalese novelist/screenwriter/director Ousmane Sembene. (His latest film, Moolade, was released in the U.S. late last year, and is opening in Britain this week.) Sembene started his career as a novelist, but turned to film in order to reach a wider audience in Africa. I was particularly interested in this tidbit about African cinema and how it is regressing due to many factors, including the obvious one: economics.

Sembene has always been uncomfortable with French sponsorship and patronage, though what is known as African cinema, Shiri points out, “was born out of France’s desire to retain cultural influence in the continent”, through subsidies to officially approved films. Sembene increasingly taps EU coffers. “I go everywhere, knock on all doors,” he says.

According to Talbot, he has “always been in total financial control of his work; he has all his negatives.” For Sembene, “Africa is my audience; the west and the rest are markets.” But he feels the chronic distribution problem in Africa (where many commercial cinemas offer a diet of Bollywood and kung fu) has “gone backwards not forwards, especially in francophone countries”. Outside festivals, Gadjigo says, “it is hard to see African films in Africa. African leaderships don’t see the role cinema can play in development,” and 90% of Senegalese cinemas have closed in the past 10 years. Shiri notes that under IMF belt-tightening in the 1980s and 90s, “governments weren’t given any leeway to support culture”.

Read the rest here.

Botero Paints Abu-Ghraib

Monday, May 16th, 2005

Colombian painter Botero will soon be showing a series of paintings inspired by the treatment of Iraqi detainees by U.S. troops in the Abu-Ghraib prison in Iraq. (Caution: Graphic material.) You can view a selection here, where you can also read an interview with the artist. And here’s an interesting snippet, where Botero discusses what Abu-Ghraib meant to him and whether politically-inspired art is valid.

“En el momento de la gestacion o creacion de estas nuevas obras sintie que existia alguna similitud entre estos dos hechos de horror?
-No. La situacion es distinta. La violencia en Colombia casi siempre es producto de la ignorancia, la falta de educacion y la injusticia social. Lo de Abu Ghraib es un crimen cometido por la mas grande Armada del mundo olvidando la Convencion de Ginebra sobre el trato a los prisioneros.

“Espera que esta serie, que seguramente sera polemica, tenga efecto politico en el mundo?
-No. El arte nunca tuvo ese poder. El artista deja un testimonio que adquiere importancia a lo largo del tiempo si la obra es artisticamente valida.

The paintings are not for sale, and will remain part of Botero’s private collection.

Link via Daily Kos, via Maud Newton.

Art Co-Op

Monday, May 16th, 2005

Am I an eternal optimist or does it seem as though stories like this one, of artistic cooperation between Israelis and Palestinians, Jews and Arabs, are becoming more common these days? A welcome trend, for sure:

The Palestinians and the Israelis get about equal stage time in Ms. Muskal’s version of “The Yellow Wind.” The piece features the vocalists Keren Hadar and Mira Awad singing in Hebrew and Arabic, and work by the Israeli poets Shaul Tchernichovsky, Natan Alterman and Natan Yonatan. The Arab poet Mahmoud Darwish’s “I Am From There,” featured in the composition, says: “I have learned and dismantled all the words in order to draw from them a single word: home.”

Brian Lehrer, the WNYC radio moderator and talk show host, will be the narrator.

Ms. Muskal took lessons in Arabic music and learned enough Arabic to set the words to music fluently.

Bassam Saba, a Long Island-based musician who plays the nay, an Arab flute, is onstage the whole time. He helped familiarize Ms. Muskal with Arabic music. “I saw how she thinks to force these two cultures together, composition-wise,” he said.

“It follows all the discovery and connections between people on earth now,” Mr. Saba continued. “People are looking for each other more. It represents this kind of cultural communication. For me, it was important to look for this marriage, coming from the Middle East.”

On a related note, the West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, which emerged out of a cooperation between Edward Said and Daniel Barenboim, is still active and will tour again this summer.

Lebowitz Interview

Wednesday, May 11th, 2005

Ruminator magazine just posted a longish and quite funny excerpt of an interview with Fran Lebowitz, from their upcoming fall issue.

SM: I find [Vincent D'Onofrio's] monologue at the end of every episode [of Criminal Intent]-where he wraps everything up neatly and corners the bad guy into confessing’comforting, even if it’s the most unrealistic part of the show.

FL: You know, the reason it’s comforting is that it provides people who are disturbed with how idiotic the world is, with the idea that’should there be a very smart person in a terrible situation’ that person would be listened to. That’s the thing that really attracts me to this show. Now, we all know that this guy would never be a cop. But we also know something much, much worse than that: anytime a person that smart appears someplace useful in society, they are not going to be listened to. Whereas, on this TV show, everyone, including his superiors, listens to him. More than that, they completely defer to him’ the D.A., his captain. Why? Just because he’s smarter. We know the world works in exactly the opposite way. So, this kind of show provides a parallel universe for people who wish that were true. If life were anything like that TV show, George Bush could never be President. It just couldn’t happen if exceptional intelligence were highly valued. In fact, we live in a culture where intelligence, exceptional or not, is reviled.

Imagine What It Will Do To Tarantino’s Oeuvre

Tuesday, March 8th, 2005

Wired Magazine reports that legislation that would allow viewers to automatically skip over what is considered “objectionable content” in DVDs passed through the House Judiciary Committee’s Subcommittee on Courts, the Internet and Intellectual Property and looks to be “on the fast track”

The legislation would essentially affirm the legality of software such as ClearPlay, which automatically edits supposedly objectionable scenes out of popular movie titles. Several DVD players now come ClearPlay-enabled and work with more than 1,000 movie titles.

Some Hollywood directors and studios have complained that such filtering violates their copyright by altering their works without permission. S167/HR357, however, would sanction the practice.

And if it can soon be done with movies, how long before it happens with books?

Thanks to David for the link.

Salam Pax: From Blog to Book to Film

Thursday, February 3rd, 2005

Salam Pax has parlayed his blog into a documentary film about Baghdad, which has recently been screened at the Rotterdam Film Festival.

Following the fascination with the writing of Salam Pax – not his real name – he began a regular column in The Guardian newspaper and was given a crash course in documentary film-making.

For the film he travelled Iraq to document the changing landscape of the country and the problems it has faced since the invasion, speaking to ordinary Iraqis about their experiences.

Washingtonienne, call your agent.

Arabs on Film

Tuesday, January 25th, 2005

Blogging Sundance is a cool little blog with lots of on-site coverage of the festival. A couple of days ago, for instance, there was an item about filmmaker Jacqueline Salloum who’s there to present her short film, Planet of the Arabs, which is based on the (must-read) book by Jack Shaheen–Reel Bad Arabs.

For those who may not have noticed, the latest example of cliche-ridden portrayals of Middle-Eastern people comes courtesy of TV series 24, except now the bad Muslims happen to be an entire family (Mom, Dad, and Kiddo terrorists). Just in case you were wondering whether you should trust the people next door, 24 gives you the answer.

On the other hand, the writers of the ABC drama Lost managed to craft a credible, complex Arab character (played by British-Asian actor Naveen Andrews) that keeps me tuning in every Wednesday. But for every Sayid in Lost there’s a hundred other characters like the Arazes in 24. I guess that means we have to go to a deserted island instead of a suburb to find some good A-rabs.

Islamic Architecture in the West

Monday, November 29th, 2004

In a fascinating article for the SF Chronicle, Jonathan Curiel examines Islamic inspirations in modern American architecture, including the Alcazar Theatre in San Francisco and the Civic Center in San Rafael, California. The influence dates back at least to the late 19th century, earlier if one counts Moorish trends, which came to the Southwest by way of former Spanish citizens. The slide show for the article contains a shot of the Berkeley City Club, which was designed by one of my favorite architects, Julia Morgan. Morgan’s best-known building, Hearst Castle, also contains patterns drawn from Moorish/Islamic architecture.

But perhaps the most interesting bit of information in Curiel’s article is that Minoru Yamasaki, the man who designed the World Trade Center in 1965, spent considerable time in Saudi Arabia, and used patterns he’d seen in Mecca in his own work, including in the famed Twin Towers. (It’s highly ironic that some thirty-five years later, religious fanatics would consider the building, designed by a Japanese American architect, using Islamic designs at the base and in the plaza, and housing people of a multitude of backgrounds and faiths, to be the symbol of the America they wanted to destroy.) The work was an example of cultural cross-pollination; Muslim architects themselves had borrowed from Byzantine designs.

“Cultures have constantly mixed and seen one another, either in war or peace,” [MIT Professor Nasser Rabbat] says. “It used to be that people thought of the world in terms of purely, independently developed cultures each having its own language, whether it’s culinary, visual, literary, architectural.

“But there are those of us who subscribe to the multicultural method, where we no longer believe in the notion of a purity and insularity of a cultural development. … The influence is continuous, mutual and never ceases. ”

Read the rest of this article, and find out how the city of Opa-locka, Florida, came to be known as the Baghdad of the South.

In Search Of The Mummies

Tuesday, November 23rd, 2004

Two French amateur Egyptologists (one a realtor, the other an architect) have challenged Egypt’s leading eminence on the subject of pyramids, the big Zee himself, Dr. Zahi Hawass. For two years, the Frenchmen have asked for permission to put a 15mm lens through a floor of the Great Pyramid at Giza, behind which, they believe, lies the burial chamber of Cheops (Khufu). After Hawass refused to grant their request, the amateur egyptologists went on a campaign to challenge his scholarship.

The Frenchmen’s challenge to the Big Zee’s authority has ruined the image of Egyptology as the gentlemanly pursuit of studied introverts. What has emerged since the Frenchmen went public in September with their accusations is a backstabbing world of academic ambition, national pride, tourism dollars and television ratings. “Dr Hawass treats Egypt as his private hunting ground,” says M. Verd’hurt, from Lyon. “They are speculators, amateurs!” comes the retort from Dr Hawass.

There is more to this fascinating saga, at the heart of which is essentially a struggle between modern-day Egyptians and foreigners on who gets to study what, where, and how, who funds the excavations, and in what language the results are published.

Jane Austen With Bhangra Twist

Tuesday, November 9th, 2004

Here’s an interview with filmmaker Gurinder Chada (Bend It Like Beckham) . She’s adapting Jane Austen’s Pride and Prejudice into a Bollywood musical called Bride and Prejudice, starring Aishwarya Rai.

But Chadha confessed that she still cast her uncles and aunts in Bride and Prejudice.
‘I like to cast relatives in certain family situations because they always look the part where often extras don’t,’ she said. But her mum has refused to be in her movies again. ‘My mother is sick of it now. After Beckham she didn’t like people coming up and taking a picture with her. ‘Fame didn’t work for her,’ said Chadha with a laugh.

The movie comes out in the U.S. on Christmas Day.

Ramadan 1425

Sunday, October 17th, 2004

koran.jpgRamadan Kareem to all my Muslim readers!

The image at left is from a Koran illuminated by 18th century calligrapher Ahmet Karahisari (1469?-1556). You can view similar manuscript pages online here.

He Sees Comedy Where There Is Tragedy

Friday, October 1st, 2004

Roberto Benigni, whose film Life is Beautifulwas set during the Holocaust, is currently shooting a comedy about the Iraq war.

In spite of the subject matter, Oscar-winner Benigni intends the film – which is due for release in 2005 – to be a comedy.
Benigni plays the part of a poet who is in Iraq by chance and is caught up in the events.
“War naturally is the background of the film and my character is directly involved in it. This poet ends up in Iraq by pure chance,” Benigni told Italian Rai radio.

Library Browsing

Tuesday, September 14th, 2004

Check out the British Library’s digitized versions of twenty-one of Shakespeare’s plays in quarto form. (Quartos are cheap pamphlets, the size of the fourth of a sheet of printing paper. ) (Link via Maud.) While I was on the site, I checked out the BL’s extensive Arabic section, which contains some of the oldest available manuscripts.

For Readers in Minnesota

Monday, September 13th, 2004

The schedule for Mizna‘s second Arab Film Festival is now available. Among the movies to be shown is a short film by Moroccan filmmaker Kamal El Mahouti.

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