A pink taxi

A pink taxi

June 30, 2011


THREE HUNDRED SIXTY FIVE! I type it in bold capital letters. It was my goal, it was my motivator. My way of celebrating this anniversary:  I have written one year's worth of postings.


I have written about fitness, coffee, bikram yoga, memories, relatives, artists, movies, food shopping, music, art events, pilates, children, birthdays, books, sporting events, concerts, anecdotes, driving, Dubai, Geneva, golf, opera, poems, open letters, languages, schools, trees, bridges, Madonna, politics, art projects, trips and even about blogging.

Many have supported me by telling me they read me frequently. The numbers of readers average about 100 a day, and I suspect they are not always the same readers. Most of my readers are in the USA and in the UAE. But I also have far flung readers in the Ukraine and even in South Korea. My most recent readership is India and Russia. I smile at the possibilty of those large markets!

Some readers, the most candid, suggest that a blog isn't enough. They will say: "it's a shame..." Or "you should go beyond the blog...". I do grow defensive because I believe the blog suits me well. I am not a journalist, nor am I a novelist,or  poet. I have addressed this issue before.

Publishing this blog one day would be like printing photos and putting them in an album. Some say that blogs shouldn't be in hardcopy format. That they should be read on the internet. People have lost the habit of documenting their family memories in hardcopy photos, in albums. "Who would buy a book-blog?"

Writing this blog has not been without challenge. Time is not the issue. All writers can find the time, as that is what they do. I work within that same framework. I push myself to write daily, as a writer pushes herself to sit in front of the computer screen to write 3 more pages to her novel. But readers unfortunately don't equate blogging with writing, although for both inspiration is required.

I have written 365 posts and I am not sure what is left for me to write. Reading, visiting, viewing, admiring, experiencing, mingling, listening, exchanging, exercising....living.

If I live and experience any novelty, any quaint feeling, I will be sure to write it and share it. I often remind myself of one thing:

"Go live your blog instead of writing it!"

A Film or a Gem?

Great to go the cinema without any idea about what the subject matter. I went to see the much anticipated Terrence Malick's Tree of Life.

It has the best two male actors Hollywood can offer: Brad Pitt and Sean Penn.  But also superb children's performance.

Darwin, religion....and dinosaurs?

There is drama and there is an absence of it. All the times are mixed in a medley, as are the photographic images of elements.
I could have counted one hundred different images. The editing and the sequencing is very harmonious. It is artistic and poetic. There is beautiful music and beautiful imagery.

It is an allegory of life. An attempt to understand the origins and the end. Space and earth. Our place in a larger narrative. It is philosophical.

Photography in all its sophistication. Replete with symbolism. An atypical film. A lot of acting and very little dialogue.

A life. A childhood. A perspective. Memories. Experiences. Emotions. Lessons learned. Lessons given. Life in its routines and its milestones. And music to accompany the images of joy and pain. Much prayer.

Brotherhood and parenthood.

The film is about life...and the belief in God.


June 28, 2011

TV Habits

TV has never been a constant in my life. I was a 70s child and I don't remember TV in my early childhood.

In the 80s, there only was Channel 33 in Dubai and its programming began at 5 or 6pm. During the rest of the day,  it was assumed people had better things to do than watch TV!

At age 10, I discovered Saturday morning cartoons in the USA. My siblings indulged, I barely watched. My first real show was Eight is Enough, a weekly program about a large family. On our way to school, we used to speculate about what would happen in the next episode. My parents watched Dallas with intense interest, but they rated it as unsuitable for kids, and that was there relaxed time away from the kids in front of the box.  (Remember TVs were boxes without remote controls back in the day!)

I was familiar with the sticoms The Love Boat, Give me a Break, Happy Days and Different Strokes. ButI picked up information about these shows from school, rather than because I myself watched them regularly.  I was a bookworm and preferred reading.

When I was in college, I did become addicted to the populalr show Beverly Hills 90210 and soon after that came Melrose Place. Aaron Spelling produced something that was addictive in the nineties.

But media entertainment has come a long way since the Nineties. There are so many different tv shows to choose from, cable channels, and reality tv (which I hate!). In this new century of easy gratification, you can buy a box of dvds of any TV program you fancy, oldies or the latest. I admit I have watched Lost, 24, True Blood (I wrote a post!) and my favorite Gossip Girl.

Just yesterday, on Emirates airlines, I watched at least 8 sessions of Gossip Girl in a row, in an O.D. craze, while my kids played video games and proved they could finally self-entertain themselves now. "Mind numbing" is what a friend thought when I informed her of my splurge in Upper East Side Manhatanite college kids life style. The accessories, the evening wear, the hairstyles, the glitz! But then what would she think of a certaina relative of mine who watched 24 in twenty four hours straight. That suspensful series is supposed to happen in real time, each ticking minute represents a real minute!

My children don't have the TV as a constant in their lives either. We have a screen to watch DVDs once in a while, (we traded our box in Geneva just last year), and we don't even have cable in Dubai. In Geneva, during the Summer vacation, they make up for lost time however, and watch all the French programs: the silly competitive ones, like Fort Boyard, which consists of teams running daring physical competitions, in search of treasures, or reality shows like Top Chef.

One show that we watch together as a family is the infamous, "Journal de 20 Heures", the 8pm evening news. We also indulge in "spectator sporting" for tennis grand slams and soccer, during the World Cup or Euro Cup.  As of recently, the TV is frequently on MTV, delivering musical vibes throughout the apartment. Just a sign that my eldest son is nearing teenagehood.....

June 27, 2011

Lost in Translation

I always read books in their original language. This even applies to Spanish, with Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Isabella Allende which I devoured in their original.  Arabic is so challenging I couldn't even imagine trying. I have therefore read Naguib Mahfouz and Ala'a Al Aswani in English or in French, depending on where I purchased the book.

But from this day on, the aleatory choice of which language translation to read will no longer be. My struggle with Orhan Pamuk begins with its translation. I really believe that in this instance, more than any other, reading it in Turkish (which wouldn't happen unless I give the language a second chance) would have been preferable. His novel Museum of Innocence is about words, word choice, sentence structure and style. It gets lost in English.

I respect Maureen Freely for having taken the endeavor of translating this hefty Turkish novel. I admire her prouesse in mastering the Turkish language. I can confirm from experience that it is a difficult language, perhaps not as difficult as Arabic or Mandarin. But unlike those two languages that are obviously learned for the sheer numbers of people who speak it, Turkish is a secondary language despite the Central Asian market.

I flirted once with the idea of becoming an interpreter,or  translator. I passed the admissions exams for the School of Translation and Interpretation at the University of Geneva, but (gladly) didn't heed my mother's recommendation to stay in Geneva and get a professional degree. The American universities had much more allure! Still, I have taken many language classes, have been confronted with many translation exercices (even in Arabic!).

I therefore can imagine the  challenge of translating The Museum of Innocence. Orhan Pamuk, in this novel, uses words carefully, selects them cautiously and precisely. He fills sentences with juxtaposed nouns because of the thematic: objects. In this book, he collects objects and these objects are intricately described, are unique,  and each have a precise definition, qualified with an array of adjectives. These objects are manipulated with a variety of verbs as well.

Interesting is Pamuk's desire to anthropoligize Istanbul, to explain its idiosyncracies, to describe its furthest corners, its quaintest neighborhoods. I suspect he has me, the foreigner, in mind, as a reader. Even more so than the Turkish reader whose language he has in common. But his detailing requires symbiotic translation. Does he have the appropriate English to edit the translation and insure its accuracy?

Maureen Freely's style is too contrived. She uses an excessive number of what I casually call "SAT words". The words are beautiful and savant. But their choice appears artificial. Did Orhan Pamuk imagine such a salad of refined words? Did he mix them in a sauce so rich it becomes indigestable? I should give Maureen Freely the benefit of the doubt, as I will never be able to read Pamuk in Turkish to find out for myself. I may look at the same text in French translation and see if the French rendition is more readily digested.

When you translate a book, you don't have to worry about building a storyline, you simply have to respect the tone, the vocabulary and remain as faithful as possible to the text. But translating shouldn't be an attempt to construct your own world, to use your own words, no matter how erudite your English is!

I have packed Pamuk's Istanbul for the summer. I will read it in English as my father did. I want to experience it as he did (after all, it is my father's Ottoman Lebanon I am in search of). However Pamuk's other books, the more philisophical "My Name is Red" and "Snow" shall be read in French.

I may have started "Museum of Innocence" with much enthusiasm, gotten bored with the melancholy at the heart of the novel, and as I reach its end now, the story is unveiling, I am held aback by the magic of Pamuk, by the way he presses me to walk the streets of Istanbul with his unpleasant narrator, almost pushing me foreword by the arm, to the point that I have asked my husband who traveled to Istanbul recently:

"So how is the weather in Pamukland?"

June 25, 2011

Ballet Barre

My sister attends Physique 57 in New York City. The fitness classes she takes there consist of toruturous exercises at the bar, reminiscent of ballet exercises. My sister also happens to be an alumn of  The Dubai Ballet Center and her namesake, my daughter, is walking in her ballet slippers twenty five years later, at the same location!

My daughter is in the 1st Grade in Ballet. She has passed two official exams (pre-Primary and Primary) with the British Royal Academy of  Dancing. I watched her perform informally yesterday and I was torn between regret and pride.

The pride I felt was toward the tomboy who started  ballet when she was three. At the time, she used to insist on wearing a blue skirt over her pink leotard to break the overall pink monotony of the outfit. She gradually accepted to conform and I was always impressed that she joined class with  such enthusiasm and insisted on continuing. It has been three years since her first class.

The regret I felt came from never liking ballet myself ! Unlike my daughter, my mother had to force me to go to class. She had to bribe me: if I didn't do ballet, I couldn't do karate! As a result of this barter, I went with reluctance and stubbornly refused to pay attention.  I stood there bored and perhaps a bit self-conscious in a leotard I considered unfit for an over-weight teenager. If I had a tad bit of additional maturity, I would have tried to enjoy it and benefit from it.

For my daughter, while the previous years were basically pre-ballet classes, this year, in Grade 1, she spends half her class at the ballet bar. I gazed at her, in line and in sync with her fellow dancers: I saw her stand in different positions and the basics came back to me. Except this time, I was listening to the dance teacher's instructions carefully.

In tune as I am now with pilates, I understood the teacher's imagery. She asked her little students to stand with poise, as if they were springing out of a toaster, their backs straight and their tummies tucked in and their necks reaching long. She made sure that they had shoulder stability as well.

Incidently, a few days later, I heard Kanye West's Runaway after a long time and the piano keys reminded me of the dainty ballerina the rapper had selected to adorn his record cover and appear in his video.


I am happy that my daughter has taken to ballet. It will always be a valuable base for any fitness program and she will be sure to integrate grace it into her life.

Even Kanye West thinks it is cool!

June 24, 2011


At some point in their lives, every person will experience that empty and lonely feeling that is called homesickness.

My parents may recall that I suffered from separation anxiety, of which I don't recall too much.  My summer weeks at camp were fun and activity filled and I didn't feel homesick when I was in Vermont. Rather, it was much later, in Geneva, in September 1995. I was nearly 15 years old when  I experienced homesickness for the first time.

I missed home and my parents. I missed the three younger siblings I left in a far distant country. If I were to see them, I would need to take a plane alone. I had taken public transport in Washington DC before, but here the bus became my weekly ticket to urban fresh air, away from the enclosed severity of daily life at the boarding school.

Besides the rigid time schedule,  and no one to direct me into my studies, I felt lonely. At our boarding school, supervision is what we received, never counseling. So imagine how appreciative I was of academic counseling in college in the United States. I was spoonfed till I got into the Phd program and even then I was dispensed with advice.

No such thing in the boarding school I attended. No study methods, no prep talk about the most important exam in a lifetime,  the baccalaureate. For three years, I learned how to study, how to improve performance on my own.

It was an icy cold boarding school, even in the summer because the corridors remained dull, the dorms run felt down and the campus depressing. No wonder I felt homesick, but I never felt it again after those three years in boarding school.

Those years were almost like an inoculation against homesickness.  Even when I studied in the midst of rural Massachusetts for three years, I didn't feel lonely but rather relished in my newfound independence. Then, I thoroughly enjoyed my graduate years in Boston. When I returned to Geneva as a newly married woman, I turned my homesickness into autopilot but I didn't feel an ounce of solitude. I was married and "at home".

 I have created a myth for my my children about bee stings. "you only get bit by a bee once". Other bees will smell the poison of their friend's dart in you and leave you alone. My eldest therefore stands a little less fearless of bees and will tell his siblings and friends: "I got bit once before. It never happens twice."

So for those of you who have experienced homesickness, I can guarantee one thing: you will not be stung by the dart of homesickness again. You are  now immune!

June 22, 2011

Dreaming of Costco

My first office work was managing my grandmother's coupons. Tossing out the expired ones, cutting, categorizing, accounting the savings. It was also my first lesson at being penny wise, pound foolish.

Who doesn't enjoy lavish grocery shopping? I wrote a post about the incredible experience of shopping at Whole Foods in the USA, at the Geneva fruit and vegetable market on wednesdays and saturdays, or at the San Remo market with my father in August. He knew about burrata mozzarella before any Petite Maison experience!

I also wrote about ethnic community oriented shopping in Dubai, how the Westerners and Westernized shop at Spinneys and at the Organic Store (I managed to fit in Jonathan Franzen, my beloved author in that post),  and how the Emiratis shop at Coop while the rest of us shop at Carrefour.

The community that stands out at Carrefour, and particularly at the Deira City Center location are the Iranian tourists. It is known, and pardon the stereotype of course, that the Iranians rush to Carrefour, as soon as they land at the Dubai airport. Given my own Iranian lineage, I have the tendency to rush to that megamarket or "hypermarche" as the French call it as well. Carrefour may not be the best bargain  in Dubai. Coop certainly is: I can fill my cart to the brim with everything except Meats and only pay 300dhs. That only gets you two elegantly filled yellow bags at Spinneys. Carrefour's cart full, including meats, will reach 750 dhs.

At Carrefour, I am sure to stock up on things like cereals, waters (you can find Badoit!), French turkey breast (for escalope),  and a variety of French snacks for school. I can even find French stationary required for school! Indeed, it is the Francophile in me that shops at Carrefour also.

As soon as I have landed in San Francisco I rush to Costco. Like the Iranians who arrive in Dubai, I also crave the American products and deals offered by such a discount store. I stock up on medicines, pharmaceuticals, cereal bars, socks. I find my son a pair of adidas sneakers, my daughter some PJs, we even buy bedding, like the tempurpedic Swedish pillows.

Everything is a good deal at Costco because products are bought in bulk. The cart fits two children seated side by side, and EVERYTHING is extra large for the large consumption of American families.

In fact, in Dubai, as a desperate housewife, I find myself stocking on loads of sliced turkey, two of the same cereal boxes at a time, litres of sparkling water, gallons of Isostar. When I run out of laundry detergent, I buy two boxes at a time to stock up again. I am then reminded of the buy one get one free concept that is rarely found in Dubai but that abounds in the USA. I also remember the huge sized packages of soaps, or shampoo bottles at Costco, not to mention all the good deals in the fresh and frozen section.

I can't help but wait patiently for them to bring Costco to Dubai! It would save me loads of money,  and many trips to Carrefour!

June 21, 2011


Sometimes I find a chapter in The Museum of Innocence by Orhan Pamuk that I like more than others. Sometimes I find my favorite chapter and love it because it is lyrical. Sometimes I show it to my husband. Sometimes my husband laughs at the literary feat of an author we both recognize to be a genius, no matter what negative thoughts I may have cultivated about his hero.

Sometimes the feat is to call the chapter Sometimes and begin every sentence with "Sometimes" and write four pages in a single Faulkneresque paragraph, with added punctuation. Sometimes I take a fluorescent yellow textmarker and highlight the favorite sentences in a text,even though it isn't a lesson. Sometimes I select my top favorite sentences in that chapter and transcribe them to you, my readers, because of my dire need to share the poetry. Sometimes the topic is essentially about the routine of evening TV watching. Sometimes I attempt to imitate Pamuk's style, all the while wondering how it really sounds in its original Turkish instead of the translated English.

"Sometimes it would rain and we would listen to the raindrops against the windowpanes. Sometimes we would say, "How hot it is." [...] Sometimes a funny thing happened on television, and we would all burst out laughing at once. Sometimes it would seem ridiculous the way we all got sucked into whatever was happening on the screen. [...] Sometimes I would see a cockroach scurrying across the kitchen floor.[...] Sometimes I would forget Time altogether, and nestle into "now" as if it were a soft bed. [...] Sometimes Aunt Nesibe spoke about Sureyya, the former queen of Iran, of her anguish when the Shah divorced her for failing to give him an heir, and of her life in high society in Europe. [...] Sometimes the television would say "Snow tomorrow," but it wouldn't come. [...] Sometimes Aunt Nesibe would bring out something from the refrigerator and ask us what happened in the film while she'd been away.[...] Sometimes I was absolutely positive that life itself wasn't somewhere else, but right there, at that table. [...] Sometimes it would snow, and it would snow and it would stick on the window frames and on the sidewalks."

Sometimes I write one post too many about Orhan Pamuk.

Enjoy this piece by Depeche Mode entitled "Sometimes" as the perfect soundtrack to this posting:

June 20, 2011

Some Radio Songs

It is said that Dubai92FM plays music for a certain age group and a certain expatriate community. Those are gross generalizations I want to correct here. I am teased because I listen to 92, because I fit in that "age group", despite the fact that I am non-Western. But I strongly believe, that 92FM (unlike Virgin) plays for an alternative indie-rock, college style community. (or college graduates, lol!)

Some songs are played on the radio and they target your heart: bull's eye! That is why we have 92FM, it plays those types of songs. The ones that strike chords of nostalgia.

It may be a sign of "middle age" to listen to retro music. To be old enough to remember Human League's 1981 record! I know many who revel in 80s music nights, which I abhor and boycott. My outlook on music is different because I safekeep only a few momentos from the past and enjoy listening to them spontaneously.

These thoughts came to me when REM 's Loosing My Religion popped on the infamous 92FM this morning. I parked my car and listened to it with attention. Ofcourse my cousins, in the time of its release, teased me ad nauseam because I would listen to it endlessly, on repeat, on our Spring Break 1990. The "other two Charlie's Angeles" (as our trio was called) had visited me on the East Coast and disliked the nasal tones of REM. My beloved and music afecionado youngest uncle dismissed my liking for this group with sarcasm. Yet, I stood my ground.

I can compare the single Loosing My Religion to another very meaningful song that played three-four years ago: "Viva La Vida" by Cold Play. It carries the same epic energy. It is an upbeat song that is poetic and strong. Both REM and Cold Play are very engaged bands, who don't write music lightly. Every lyric, every sound, has a profound meaning.

Will my children park their cars and listen to Viva La Vida two decades from now? I am sure they will!

PS. I must mention Catboy and Geodiebird, who kindly commented about my blog on their show! On 92FM of course. They are stars. They featured in Ali Mustafa's film City of Life!

June 19, 2011

Are Mathematics Random?

Friends of mine came for dinner. Our conversation steered towards mathematics because one of them is an MIT graduate and I always enjoy their expert perspective on things. We discussed a Bernar Venet painting. Art and Mathematics.

Bernar Venet admits it himself: his mathematical axioms are abstract. He paints mathematics as an abstraction because we all agree that it a language like another. The way Kandinski painted music, or Middle Eastern artists paint calligraphy.

Just that day, on the field trip, a classmate of my son happened to sit next to me and spoke about how intimidating mathematics can sometimes be. Which one of us hasn't come upon a blackboard with dizzying mathematical terminology and not cringed? Bernar Venet admits it and so does the MIT graduate! I would add that I have felt the same with calligraphied Arabic language on the blackboard. If I look at it, without reading it, Arabic calligraphy can also be intimidating.

But I wanted to reassure the 7th grader. I explained that mathematics is more simple than he thought, if only he cleared his mind and took it a step at a time. That it also required very neat calculations and for that the essential sharp pencil, the scrap paper, the proper mathematical instruments.

Why is it that we study mathematics to such abstract levels? Indeed we apply it in everyday life, but most high school mathematics go beyond every day calculations. Mathematics like music is a state of mind. I listen to Mirwais' electro sounds, his re-mixes and I know that he is keeping count, that there is symmetry to the rythm, that the formulation of a beat requires algebraic logic.

For maths is a state of mind. Like yoga, it is a good exercise for your brain. Upon solving a mathematical problem, be it geometry or simple fractions, we have exercised areas of the brain, the way we isolate and exercise certain muscles in the weight room, or even more in the pilates studio. The brain flexes and works while calculating. It also requires the concentration and the focus that brings equilibrium to the state of mind, as the yoga focus brings equilibrium to the body.

For us, artists and laymen, the non-engineers who study mathematics and don't always apply it, mathematics are random! Look at Venet's sculptures, he picks arcs and gathers them in bouquets!

June 17, 2011

Breakfast in Boston

I often refused to go for sunday brunch in Boston. I was addicted to a 10am step-class, followed by weight training class. Two hours of exercise rather than calorie-intake. Boston in the 90s. My student days.

However, breakfast out could happen any day of the week in graduate and especially post graduate school, because the classes were spread out freely.

I could squeeze 5 friends in my German sedan. Or visiting relatives, or my cousin, dental student at Harvard. Always my boyfriend, turned husband. We soon realized that we were both early birds and breakfast afecionados, a common point that brought us closer.

He loved Charlie's Diner on Columbus Avenue. I had read about it in Boston Magazine and we had discovered tucked behind Copley Plaza and the stunning I.M.Pei glass high rise. I have taken innumerable photos of that building from the vantage point of Charlie's Dinner.

We often dodged long serpentine queues on weekends, unless I took my Villanova brothers, visiting from Philadelphia or my sister visiting from Stanford. We went on weekdays, sat at the laminated bar, or the formica tables. This is not a well lit neo-dinner a la Johnny Rockets. This is an authentic unpretentious Boston dinner, dark and gloomy, where your eyes adapt to the ambiance.


Men at work, cops, hospital employees and students sit at tables, still wearing their winter hats and coats, drinking out of chipped mugs and devouring eggs, fritters, french toast and pancakes piled high, dripping in generic syrup. My future husband always ordered turkey hashbrown!

The other breakfast place, a short distance away, in the residential part of SouthEnd Boston, was miles away an experience from the dingy Charlie's Dinner. ToGo's served a more alternative, hip crowd. No cops or students (except for us) here: scones, pastries, muffins: all the American array of pastries, with a dash of the best ingredients, the most gourmet flavors. People here sat leisurely sipping cappucinos, over the New Yorker magazine, caressing the dogs they walked, joking about their party hangovers. Fashionable tatoos, tasteful piercings, bulging biceps, Martha Vineyard Black Dog tshirts informing the rest where they spend their long weekends.

Memories of Boston often are made of these breakfast moments.


June 16, 2011

In The Head of Khadaffi

Taher Ben Jelloun, the Moroccan writer of Sacred Night, has been recognized as a true French intellectual, on par with Sartre Camus and Duras. He won the Prix Goncourt in 1987, the same prestigious literary
prize earned by the Afghan Atiq Rahimi. I still remember how proud I was, at age 17, that an Arab received the Prix Goncourt, encouraging non-French natives to aim for the prize.

This talented writer currently has a bi-weekly gazette in Le Monde. In that space, he blogs, and by that I mean he writes with complete freedom about anything and everything, in a light and digestable manner.

One particular vignette was entitled being "In The Head of Khadafi" and was undoubtedly inspired by "Being John Malkovich" (also recently featured in a posting on this blog!).  Ben Jelloun writes with much humor in this editorial dated May 16th, which I will translate for you below:

"I had a hard time entering the head of Khadaffi. He had locked everything: doors and windows. He has a big head with scorpions and hay. It is to trick the enemy. I benefited from a moment of distraction on his part, to embark into the box where every hair has been implanted and painted in black. I discovered there that his paranoia was to become bald. Even before losing his hair, he spoke to a hair specialist recommended by his neighbor Ben Ali. (...)

The last time he had a migraine was not on March 18th, the day the Security Council of the UN voted for the intervention in Libya. No, that actually amused him. The true last time Khadafi had a migraine was when the Swiss authorities stopped his son Hannibal. He couldn't stand it: "how could the Swiss police dare touch my son and even put him in prison? Ok, so he maltreated his servant. So? How could that be so wrong? (...)

The truth is that everyone is jealous of Libya, its prosperity, calm and beauty.  In our country, we have banned international press and  advertising billboards. I didn't ask for anything, but every time I stroll in my country, I notice huge billboards with my portrait in color. There I am in military regalia, traditional outfits, creative clothing, and even hunting clothes. The people love me and that is why they feel the need to multiply my portraits on billboards.

I don't understand the Christians, and the French in particular. They don't keep their word. I do my best to visit them, we sign pages and pages, and now they try to assassinate me. Let them try. But they are cowards, they dare not descend from their plane. They bomb Tripoli and then run away. I won't let this happen. Luckily North African and African friends have come to give us a hand. The press calls them mercenaries. They are wrong. I compensate them as I would friends, not merchants.

I wonder why the Christians seek to negotiate with me. They are wrong. There is nothing to negotiate. They have killed my son and my grandchildren. I will teach them a lesson: they will see. I won't say how I will seek revenge. They'd better be attentive.

We will resist Western barbarism. They throw their nightly bombs and massacre our people. I only act in self defense. Of course I have to eliminate the traitors that have become allies with the enemy. Libya shall never be divided into two. Libya shall be free, independent, democratic. With me as their leader. But I am nothing, just a Libyan like any other. Power isn't in my hands, but in the hands of the people, I mean the tribes. I am sure Al Qaeda has something to do with this. One day we will find proof.

I have a headacke again. My hair has lost its color. I have to color it again. I am suffocating in this bullet proof vest, which my sons have forced me to permanently wear.

I must call my friend, the young Bachar Al Assad. He fights with courage and efficiency. We have to show solidarity. We are targeted by the same evil hand. I know who is behind it all. I won't tell you because I want to give him the surprise of his life.

I am now in a safe place. They will not get to me. I am neither Saddam nor Bin Laden. They will not have the satisfaction of waking me with a torch and looking for fleas in my hair. They will not throw my body in the ocean. They are crazy, these Americans! I think of Ben Ali and of Moubarak again. They must waste slowly, poor things: they are depressed. It is their fault, why keep power till eternity? I am here for 42 years and the true power escapes me. I am neither president, nor emir, nor king. I am a simple citizen that loves his country and who fights to defend it against its enemies.

I can't count on anyone. The medicines I take make me nervous. The sleeping pills don't last long enough. I therefore spend time at night watching the sky polluted with planes that are looking for me. I write. I compose poems. I love poetry. It helps me in these moments to live.

And why have the Americans been drawn into this fiasco? I had paid the 2.7 billion dollars for them to forget the Pan Am story. They were happy. The French also were duly compensated, much less than the Americans of course, but that is normal, they are worth less on the market. Ok, I must not digress. I must remain vigilant.  I will make sure Spring never passes through Libya. I will content myself with the other three seasons."

June 15, 2011

Husain and Rokni

I used to search the Dubai and Abu Dhabi art fairs, in quest of Maqbool Fida Husain's works. I did it out of passionate curiosity for an artist whose oils I knew I would not be able to afford. I also always asked to see any etchings, drawings or watercolors, wishing I would find an "affordable" one that I might acquire. Just because the "affordable" was in relative terms, I denied the horses or the sitar players and went in search of tigers or nudes or anything extraordinary.

I never purchased a Husain. I knew he was an almost centenarian and I hurried because I knew that once his long life and prolific career ended, collectors wouldn't want to separate from the precious works. I would spot him at the Emirates Towers frequently, at his favored Noodle House Restaurant and each time I itched to disturb him, at best to ask him for a drawing on a paper menu, or just to tell him about my admiration and respect.

His deserved label as the Picasso of India sometimes led to false valuations of the genius artist. Some would deny him the title, saying that he had painted 60,000 paintings in his long life and that they were not rare. If anything, his fate would be that of Salvador Dali, whose works (apart from the top selections) devaluated postmortem (because of the fakes that flooded the market).

Other artists would be likened to Picasso, as meaning Pablo himself, the passionate artist, or Pablo, the Cubist. I would like to explain that Picasso has become an expression of greatness in art and those bestowed with that accolade are very refined artists, who paint with passion and have a unique style. I agree that some of Husain's painting do have the Guernica look of Picasso because his horses (a Hussein fetish) have the same open nostrils and distressed mouth.

But Husain is Indian and his colors carry the flavors of his country: the mustards, reds and browns. His iconography is Indian, with the sitar, the beggars, the Mother Theresa and the Bollywood stars in saris.

What I admire most about Husain, he who has innovated the cultural expressions of his beloved motherland, is his expansive style. I am stunned by the physical aspect of his brush stroke. I know that he doesn't paint with dainty Cezanne strokes but he rather dashes all over the large canvas, his paintings mere expressions of his large movements. I also like the humor that transpires, when he uses white or blank, especially on deliberately unfinished human faces (as if to confer anonymity).

An Iranian artist with similar talent is the young Rokni Haerizadeh who is also appreciated for his expansionist canvases. Rokni paints layers upon layers, with a quick spontaneous brush, in colors beyond any traditional palette. I have counted one dozen greens in a single painting! Like Husain, Rokni also paints viisions of his motherland, its folklore and the more alternative, the intimate and the political, the humorous and the violent. Without a doubt, Rokni is the Picasso of Iran, and I believe I may now dub him with a less cliche title, one that suits him to perfection: the M.F. Husain of Iran.

Gluing the Pieces Together

I have tried informing Christies that I don't want their jewelry catalogs, nor their antiques. I could do without the Orientalist sales as well, but that would be too perilous of an exclusion, lest they mistake Middle Eastern Art for contemporary Orientalism!

The antiques, cars, jewelry, carpet and Orientalist catalogs go straight to the recycling bin. But it so happened that my seventh grader got a collage assignment for his school-by-correspondence and I immediatly remembered the freshly arrived otherwise useless for me Chrities jewlery and antiques catalogs.

We considered the Porcelain, Furniture and Decorative arts to cut out of. The assignment required him, thus me as well, to think of an object and cut smaller elements of that object and glue them to make a larger whole. We immediatly thought of a porcelain plate, shattered in hundreds of pieces, and glued back together.

So we went about cutting cups and saucers, Sevres trays, with flowers and landscapes, all ranging from 2 thousand to 12 thousand dollars, asking price. We fragmented the plates, the tea pots and the vases. My son drew the contour of a decorative, hexagonal platter and we were now trying to put the varied and mixed fragments of paper, representing porcelain, to form a whole.

The task was a lot easier than our simplest puzzles. My son grew up with puzzles and I am a big fan. Here, with scissors, we could cut shapes to fit into others. Neither one of us has ever been skilled with scissors so the edges of the attained platter now look rather sharp and the interior does have some hidden empty spaces of "no porcelain". We tried to mismatch the assembly as much as we could, so the contrasts of colors, the symmetrical representations of human forms and of flowers be respected too.

Voila! Who said that the porcelain couldn't be glued back together? We have now both studied the intricacies and the beauty of porcelain.

That catalog had a different fate.

June 13, 2011

Two Turkish Artists

My husband teased me today: "you are going to write about the only two Turkish artists you know and compare them?"

I am nearly half-way through Pamuk's  "The Museum of Innocence" and I have lost pleasure in the reading, no longer escaping in its reverie, but toiling through the melancholic feelings of the narrator.I continue to read because I still respect the writer, despite my boredom. I am to blame because I selected his least complex novel, an attempt for him to trivialize literature and write a romantic story.

I can't help comparing him to Fitzgerald and his idle aristocratic characters or Francoise Sagan's Bonjour Tristesse because of the innate melancholy of the story. Somehow those short novellas allowed for the blues. This hefty novel, which short chapters I first appreciated, now seems replete and soaking in a thick sauce of indigestible melancholy!

Of course, I base my imagery on the acquaintance I have with Istanbul and the year I spent attempting to learn Pamuk's language. Had I pursued the difficult Turkish language, I would have resorted to reading it in its original. I even wonder whether I should have read it in French translation. Somewhere, I do suspect it may be lost in translation.

The only other Turkish reference I have is that of the art of Nazif Topcuoglu. His photography is centered around the image of the Lolita, a Nabokov reference that predictably has also touched Pamuk. Here the theme is developed with originality and somptuosity like the Sabines and Nymphs that ornate European parks.

When I look at a Nazif Topcuoglu photograph, The Virgin Suicides immediately comes to mind, two young girls having a pomegrenate fight, knife in hand and white blouses tainted in red. Or the one featuring the very large mantle piece  and the multitude of girls, dressed in the brightest colors, splattered all over the floor, as if in angelic ectasy.

Orhan Pamuk's Museum of Innocence lacks that energy, vigor and controversy. It may describe Istanbul of the 1970s, but it should have been written with the vigor of our new century.

June 12, 2011

Learning how to Jump Rope Late in Life

Dear A:

Your parents are very versatile and quite athletic so I am sure you will be skipping rope very soon. Learn from my own misfortune.

At age 4, yours truly used to point 4 fingers of one fist to indicate her age. She used those same 4 fingers to answer the question: "how many languages do you speak?" (English, French, Arabic and Farsi). I was a multilingual child but I still hadn't learnt how to skip rope.

At French schools, we exercise our brains, rather than our limbs. A few mechanical stretches, a few ball games and we were back into class, grinding numbers, practicing penmenship and memorizing lessons and poems.

Admitedly, some girls did bring skip ropes to recess. The jump rope, like the baguette, immediately bring to mind French kids from the 1940s. My parents, however never bought me one,and  never taught me the art of jump roping. I didn't seem to learn from my peers either....

But then, in my early 40s, I was challenged by a U Concept trainer, who happens to train your dad too. "Just do it",  he told me of another exercise. "It is as simple as skipping rope." In my case, that analogy certainly didn't make things easier. That is when I had to embarassingly admit that I didn't know how to jump rope. And then I requested shyly: "Could you teach me?"

And so today, my trainer gave me a skip rope, bunched it up and asked me to hold it in one hand. "Jump for 20 seconds. Little boxing jumps." Then he told me to stand still and asked me to swing the rope onto the floor, in one hand, with rythmn. I accomplished step 2.

He then told me to jump over the rope and stop. Jump and stop. Single unlinked jumps. I could do that.

He asked me to do two jumps at a time. I remembered the girls at recess, how I used to watch them jump with ease. "Hey, those are girlie skips" he corrected. "Jump with two feet." I was able to perform four jumps and stalled, but I was thrilled!

It's like teaching an adult to swim or read for that matter. It's amazing how skills we learn as children, namely speaking many languages, are taken for granted. Perhaps, if I do finally succeed in jumping rope, I will encourage my children (your cousins) as well, and I will break the vicious cycle of not knowing how to jump rope at an early age!

As for you,  who today turns three,  you are a whiz at scootering, and kicking a soccer ball. You have always been so coordinated and daring. Nudge your parents, and ask them to teach you how to skip rope like a boxer. If they don't, you can always knock on my door...after I practice all summer! Happy birthday sweet nephew!

June 11, 2011

Letter of Complaint

Dear PinkTaxi Blogger:

Every evening, as I return from work, I find my wife on her makeshift office/couch, laptop on her lap, editing your blog. You know her well enough to understand that she gets very involved in whatever she does, so she barely looks at me when I walk into the room, much less listen to how my day went. I ask her what she's doing and she brushes me away, and types fast, editing, or searching for random images to illustrate your postings. Why she has selected to edit on my personal time, I don't understand. Although perhaps it has to do with the fact that she herself is a mom to two demanding boys, and she tends to overcrowd their schedules and hers too with activities and sports. She certainly takes after you. Her life is scheduled like a perfect Swiss watch. How she fits in cooking clubs, and volunteering for galas, and dinner parties, I don't know. And then she has your blog, which she seems to prioritize in a very irritating way.....
Although perhaps I should be indulgent. After all, you introduced me to my wife. A matchmaker of the nineties! You have already mentioned that endeavor in a blog last year, on that same date. As a reminder, we were on roller blades when we first met, you then elbowed your husband, my now brother-in-law, while we indulged in a chocolate meltdown cake, to tell him you approved of me for your little sister.

You are also the only blood aunt my sons have, on either side. You did remind my eldest son of that, in a February blog. Those are perhaps the only postings I have actually read. Just watching the zest my wife puts into editing you discourages me to log on.

To tell you the truth, I was the first one to coin your text messages as ebonics, they were so incomprehensible. This was before your thumbs knew the BB keyboard so well that you furiously write daily essays. Dear sister in law, your idiosyncracies are well known to me. They run in your family. When your sister becomes obsessive compulsive,  about spinning daily, the way you do bikram yoga and pilates, I fear that she is turning into you.

Your blog is almost 365 posts old...the only reason it doesn't fit the Gregorian calendar is that your months are 25 posts long, because I put my foot down on weekends and holidays when your sister is out of touch and cannot edit and post you.

Today is my birthday, so I feel entitled to write this complaint. As we speak, your sister is once again editing one of your postings. If you added some more golf entries for example, the sport we share in common, perhaps I will be more indulgent, next June 12, if your blog lasts that long.

Love always,

Your brother-in-law who  actually truly loves you and your Blog !

PS: This letter has been composed by none other than PinkTaxiBlogger. All characters are fictional and do not apply to any real people.

June 10, 2011

Diet of A Fitness Freak

Warning: this post has been composed under the influence of a protein shake!

I have had the whey, the strawberry and the caramel flavored, the powder and the ready made. I have walked into nutrition shops and read labels in search of 20g of protein in a scoop of powder, purchased them in those huge 5 gallon bottles that require weight lifting for transport. I have mixed in bananas, frozen berries, over ripe mangoes, avocado and even espresso shots.

Sometimes my spouse or one of my brothers will treat me to the more luxurious store blended protein shake: my eldest brother even once snuck a double shot of protein that left me feeling heavy and consternated: "I shouldn't have protein after a bikram class!" was what I'd  remarked before he'd even revealed what he had added.

I am what I eat and I can't be fooled about the contents of my shake. In fact I recently find myself hesitating at Starbucks when I used to always order a capuccino in the past: what will I be doing after the coffee? Is it an exercise free day? Only pilates? Will I be weight training? Bikram? The drink has to be customized to the activity, otherwise I will regret having the milk in the caffeine while doing a dead lift.

But the opposite can also occur while working out. After I have religiously eaten my eggs and broccoli for breakfast, I will crave an energizer between pilates and circuit training. It used to be a no brainer: I would wolf a sugar loaded 90cal Special K. But those are things of the past, that no longer find their way into my shopping cart or mouth anymore.

I have therefore decided to reform my otherwise fanatic protein diet on those days  that I work out: a slice of brown toast and honey with my eggs, some dates or a banana between fitness sessions. The extra carbohydrate only before training will be allowed.

My new goal is to curb my sessions with this guy I met: his name is Lactic Acid.