A pink taxi

A pink taxi

January 31, 2012

Body Language

I knew his body language without knowing him personally. I could tell when Andre Agassi was unhappy or jubilant. I had watched him play tennis for so many years that I could read his heart by observing the inclination of his expressive eyebrows. I just loved the way he saluted his public: blowing affectionate kisses to the four corners of the court with a  bow! His body language was part of his persona and only made him more likeable.

In the same way, I know Roger Federrer's body language: his subdued mannerisms, his way of touching his frown with his finger, his composure when resting, his delightful smile when winning. I also recognise his rival Djokovitch's body language: his aggressive fist showing, the way he bounces the ball 200 times before serving to break his opponent's concentration: boing, boing, boing,boing,boing,boing....

I have seen Tiger Woods play live in two championships. When he played the Desert Classic in Dubai, I stalked him daily, for 3 to 4 hours at a time. By then I had grasped his body language. The way he strides from one hole to the next, his serious and unfazed look. I can tell
when he is disappointed with his game. I know the way he glances at spectators from the corner of his eyes.

Two concerts suffice for me to recognise Chris Martin's body language. He may be a performer but he doesn't play the act. He is himself on stage and consistently so. His dance moves, his mannerisms and his shyness facing the hordes of fans are always the same!

I am very conscious of body language. It begins with good posture. It is accompanied by close eye contact. These two elements translate into confidence. Body language is also an expression of affection, admiration and/or respect. I think that I owe the people I mix with, precise body language, to express my feelings.

January 30, 2012

The Starbucks Allure

Seattle Coffee, Tea Leaf and Coffee Bean, Barrista and even Carriboo are better alternatives to Starbucks (I can't seem to like Nero). But I spend more time and money at Starbucks then any other outlet.

There is no doubt that I have picked the heavily marketed Green Mermaid insignia because of nostalgia. I am a successful marketer's prized customer: the loyal one. I will always remember Starbucks first location in Harvard Square. How it bought up Coffee Connection, the local Boston brand, and gradually expanded to Newberry Street locations. All those hours spent at Starbucks studying, cramming, but also playing the stock market (crazy 90s! I even invested in soaring Starbucks stocks), meeting friends and flirting with my future husband.

The standardization of Starbucks is the other reason I order a coffee with confidence. I have had Starbucks in as far flung places as Bangkok and Beyrouth! You get the same product, no matter which location, country, barrista.

In total, most of my blog posts have been typed at Starbucks!

January 28, 2012

My sister rediscovers Pet Shop Boys

My sister has become a music fanatic ever since she became an avid spinner at Flywheel. She is constantly chatting about music on bbm and now certain songs remind me only of her.

This has occurred to a certain extent because I have given way to top 40 charts and we now both love Kate Perry and Wiz Khalifa and Lilly Allen. I must give her credit for discovering Cold Play before me. Yet when I received a blackberry message informing me that she was listening to Pet Shop Boys, I was impressed. In the past, she chose to skip their New York City Boy tour in New York, in a small venue, in the company of my other two siblings. Thus, I thought: "wow, her musical dispositions have changed."

She sent me the lyrics and I decided to share the moment with her and listen to the song on my ipod. "An ipod moment? She inquired. You love it, right?" She knows more than anyone that Pet Shop Boys is a family thing that hails from our beloved Dai Rahim, who passed on his love for pop music. My older brother appreciates them as much as I do, if not more.

I recently attended a dinner where the artsy-hosts played Pet Shop Boys ALL NIGHT. Not the song Domino dancing that hums "All night all night let them all fall down", but I mean the hosts shuffled all their songs all night long. I couldn't believe anyone else loved the Pet Shop Boys as much as I did!

"Can you forgive her?" is the song my sister selected. I listen to it as I type my impressions. Certainly not my first impressions. I must have heard it hundreds of times as I grew up, as I fell in and out of love, as I looked for myself, learned my lessons, made my mistakes. I must keep it on my ears because its effect is very ephemeral. Its pop-magic lasts as long as the song.

Its disco beat, very avant guard for its day, still rings contemporary nowadays. The lyrics are sung in a distinct British accent and are continuous, non-interrupted, without him taking a breath of air.....
Beyond the constant question of its title: "can you forgive her?" is the story. My heart quivers: "another night, with open eyes, too late to sleep, to soon to rise, you're short of breath, is it a heart attack, you're hot and feverish....you're in love!" Pet Shop Boys sings a fait accompli!

....and the rythm
is catchy and it takes my heart on a quick ride!

January 27, 2012

Flamingos and Sunsets

Sunsets in Dubai can be splendid. The large orange sphere can be seen from various points of the city, and even from the desert. I often catch the sunset on my way back into the city, on the Khawaneej or on the Hatta Road, always pointing to its circular beauty with superlative enthusiasm.

The most dramatic sunset is always caught at the beach. But I once took an unforgettable photograph of the sunset, with the cliche exotic palm trees that were purposely and decoratively imported for the Creek Golf Club. The Dubai city scape shimmered beyond the creek. I collected the beautiful sight in a click of my always close at hand blackberry. The picture had a funny fate. It ended as the blackberry status of a famous man, to say the least. But that is a story I can only develop off the blog.

My youngest notices beautiful land and city scapes. We cruise over our favorite Dubai bridges and he exclaims: "mama the sunset!" at any time of day, especially when we are furthest away from that  exact ans ephemeral moment of sunset. For him, sunset! is an exclamation of beauty, a realization that car riding is about looking out and noticing splendor.

In the same manner, if we travel on the outskirts of the city, at a distance where Dubai profiles as a line of vertical buildings reaching for the sky, he cries out: flamingos! He is looking for the flamingo laguna, where we can only grasp a "feather of pink" in the distance. The flamingos have sought refuge in the small marshes of our city, and when accumulated in a group, from a distance, we can catch the streak of pink. But for a much closer look at these enigmatic tropical birds, we visit the dumpy Dubai zoo where they live in sad captivity.

Flamingos, like sunsets, carry tropical poetic significance. Both very prominent themes in Mehdi Farhadian's kaleodiscopic works.

I wanted to mention my beloved January nephew, who is a sunshine celebrating his one year of rays today. I love him.

January 25, 2012

Four Hunks

Why do I train with four different hunks? Why not stick to one personal trainer? If I train with each one, once a week, doesn't it amount to 4 hours too many?

I started as an exclusive pilates woman. I rejected the gym as something from the 90s. I thought elongate and stretch your body rather than crunch and muscle.

However, before I knew it I was training at the Aviation Center with a great guy who emphasized very heavy weights: bench presses, dead lifts, press ups and loads of other free weights. He spotted me, encouraged me and pushed me foreword. He is my first trainer and I still do very heavy weights with him. I often wake up with sore triceps!

I was tempted to try the glitzy urban UEnergy gym (once UConcept). Every workout is an event there! Before I start, the trainer has chalked down a comprehensive circuit training program for me: has anyone heard of bear crawls, ski hurls, spiderman push ups? I am forced to perform countless box jumps (I never thought I could jump). Every time I step in the DIFC location, my fitness level is cranked up with the DJ quality decibels of their musical system.

I also met a third trainer who is so refined, so precise, so technical that I couldn't miss out on his workouts. With him, I practice TRX, I do proper lunges and squats, I skip rope!

When I walk into Evolve, I bring all the skills practiced above to a trainer who quizzes me about my nutrition and throws me into extremely challenging circuit/strength workouts. He has the power of hypnosis: I run on the outdoor track overlooking the PortRashid, with the trainer in tow! All this on a sugar,dairy, carb free diet!

Blue or hazel eyed, bulky muscles or buffed, harsh or friendly,  strict or lenient, these hunks, I mean trainers, all compliment each other in my fitness routine.

January 24, 2012

My Favorite Articles in LeMonde

I claim to read le Monde from cover to cover. This is an exaggeration, used as a pretext to explain my slow pace and my back issue reading.

I am reading Nov 13 of last year today. My attention and interest have rested upon an article by Frederic Bobin, the reporter in Afghanistan. He is writing about the Panchiris. His article isn't news giving. It is a reportage, as the majority of articles are in Le Monde. It could feature in a weekly magazine, and I may say, even a monthly. The article is descriptive.

These are the articles I enjoy the most in leMonde. I may skip the news ie social turmoil in Poland, the death of the interior minister of Mexico. However, if the article was a portrait of the aforementioned Mexican minister, I would read it. Not because I am interested in the subject himself, rather by the way he is presented in a newspaper I call in all blasphemy, my bible!

In the article on the Panchiris of Afghanistan, the reporter will start with the larger picture: he will describe the mausoleum of Massoud. The description will be minute, from the blood-red carpets to the plastic flowers. Then, in a vignette, the reporter will zoom on an individual of no stature. A simple policeman called Abdullah Agha. He will make a portrait of him that is worthy of a protagonist in a novel. I will know that his eyebrows are thick, that he wears a dark blue police suit, that he stands with his gun pointed to the grass. Then the reporter will tell us about the randomly chosen policeman's state of mind: his scepticism, his frank talk, his political worries. I will learn about the policeman's past, how he was a djihadist as a a teenager. I will encounter a new french expression of war: "bapteme de feu" (baptism of fire, literal translation). I will always marvel at the vocabulary, at the syntax.

I will dwell on this article. It will take me 30 mins to enjoy it, share its ideas with anyone who happens to be sitting with me at the time, or will mention it on the blog. I will then fold the paper at page 3. Perhaps pick it up again later tonight, and if not tomorrow, further delaying me in the chronology of journalism.

January 23, 2012

Why All these Breakup Songs?

"Should have told u what u meant to me" Kate Perry

When Gotye played for the first time on 92FM, it was love at first note. The languorous whining of the lead male singer, his complaints, his lyrics. I probably understood that "Somebody that I used to know" was a break up song from that first radio encounter.

Then Gotye was played more and more frequently. On 92FM. And gradually the other radio stations caught on. Now, a pinktaxi stands the chance of singing along to its catchy tune at least 6 times a day, just by surfing the radio channels! I think the DJs play it because of its chirpy tune, its upbeat melody, its sound of revolt! Ironically and thus a proof of talent, Gotye's sad, regretful lyrics and voice contrast sharply with the steady, rhythmic, almost crescendo music that accompanies his song.

"Letting me believe it was always something that I had done..." replies the female with the stunning soprano voice on the same Gotye song. The song begins slowly with its most beautiful expression: "when we were together, when you said you were so happy you could die". Superlatives are splendid in break up songs.

The album X and Y by my favored Cold Play is composed of break up songs too: Fix It, X and Y and What if. The guitar and the piano are such tear jerking instruments! And the lyrics are as close as it gets to Rimbaud poems. Chris Martin suggests a following scenario: a decision "that you don't want me there in your life". Yet his songs are not defeatist, they encourage risk taking and intrepidity: "Every step that you take can be you biggest mistake....that's the risk that you take".

Depeche Mode have also sung their baudlairesque  like sadness, have dwelt on the aftermath of breakup: torn up hearts and the policy of truth......when revelations lead to breakups, "when its too late to change events".

On top of the break up songs is The Way you Lie by Eminem and Rihanna, a purely passionate scream. In this duet,  Eminem raps: "when its bad, its awful!" In their case, they keep returning to each other because Eminem questions: "have you ever loved someone so much you can barely breath?"

A friend remarked that "gray" is what sells nowadays. Take Kate Perry and her swooning over a guy that she could have had "in another life!" This is it for break up songs on the radio.....with an upbeat tone. I once smsed my favorite DJ: "Kate Perry's song can either make me feel very happy or very sad! Its one of those tilting songs!"

"You can be addicted to a certain kind of sadness" Gotye

January 21, 2012

HorseRiding with Passion

I got back in the saddle after 25 years. It is like a bicycle: you never forget! Muscle memory and instinct lead you on. This is why it is good to try these sports when you are a fearless child: skiing is another example. It is very hard for an adult to get on skis, skates or on a horse if he hasn't tried it as a child.

But riding as an adult is another adventure! I have consciously discovered its benefits, both physical as well as mental. When I rode as a kid, like any other activity, I just took it literally. Get on a horse, follow instructions if you hear and grasp them and pretty much not be very concerned about its secondary effects, its purpose. Just ride!

Now I get on a horse with a purpose. I am here to exercise. I know its an excellent sport that emphasizes the working of your lower body muscles. For all women to know: it really works the inner thighs! As a pilates junkie, I get on the horse with the same determination as I "saddle" my reformer machine, the leather reigns and stir ups adding to their commonality. I also sit with a good posture, I am in control of my muscles, especially my core, and I concentrate. The instructor couldn't help noticing: "any instruction I give you and you are like a machine, you just implement it. That is good, but relax!!!!!!!" In his French it sounds like "detends toi!"

I was surprised that he told me that, that he came up closer and asked me to loosen up my jaw, the way my bikram instructor advises me to. I tried to explain that I loved being on the horse, the proximity to an animal I prefer to others. I wanted to speak of the fear I feel when the horse speeds up but the confidence I have in my ability to hold on, to remain in control. It would have been too long of a paragraph for a class setting so I tried to relax, to no avail.

At my third lesson, I rode the horse with a different mental state. I had come in the early morning, half angry, half determined to change the course of my daily routine, preoccupied with various issues.

I got on the horse and I rode with passion. I spoke to it, pressed my legs with energy, stopped thinking about my posture, and was no longer stiff.

The horse sensed it, his rythme changed. I spoke to it in murmurs of an idiom I cannot recall. The wind was in my face, I held on with strength, the fear was in my heart and the instructor called out: "that's it! You are finally relaxed! You should see your smile!"

Creative Juices

"Mom by profession, blogger by night, and athlete by heart... U in a sentence" (BBM from my brother)

J.K. Rowling, the prolific writer of Harry Potter, was a housewife when she first began to write. I use the past tense because I don't imagine she remained a housewife after that. She became a best seller novelist and traveled the world....and she worked: she wrote.

The same can be said of Stephenie Meyer, the prolific writer of Twilight. How could a Mormon married woman, with an expected "conservative" view on things imagine a beautiful life of vampires?

I believe these women, the Bronte sisters of our times, broke the shackles of convention, where motherhood consists of moving away from the "me" and only dealing with the daily routine of rearing and materning, to create!

People ask me when I find time to write. They also ask me what I do with my time. Do I work? At the beginning of this blog, I used to "fit the writing" in. Now, I actually admit:

I have to find the time to write.

I read less. I nap less. But I live more.

I always remind myself. Don't write your blog. Live it. Go out there, observe. Try something new. Allow your feelings and emotions to prosper. Listen to people. Take up a new activity. Add on another. Sharpen your skill. Live your life.

I will not be presumptuous. I am neither a writer nor am I an artist. But I have encountered writers and artists. I have observed them. I have imagined the lives of writers I have not met: Rushdie, Franzen and Pamuk.  I have thought of how they extract the "creative juices". How do they get inspired? How does the urge arise? When do they write? When do they find the time?

If I had a studio and paints and canvases, if I had the talent to paint and draw and sculpt, people wouldn't ask me when I found the time and what work I did. Somehow blogging still remains in the category of "pass time". My children don't think so. They tell everyone that their mom is a blogger. That is her work.

If I had a studio and paints and canvases, I would have to let loose and relax and enjoy life and live it and experience it, as do the most talented artists I know.

Therefore people should not be bewildered by the "new" me and claim its a mid-life crisis. I am just looking for inspiration.

Living my blog.

January 19, 2012


I come from an explosive background, multi-original to say the least and languages are part of the deal. I can dialogue in 4 idioms.

Some people, unlike myself, have constantly grown in a single milieu, speaking a dominant language. These people cultivate an authentic slang, unadultered by outside influences. I catch onto their language immediately and fondly listen to them.

In contrast, I am strongly bilingual: I shift from English to French in my thinking, writing and dreaming. I can also understand and discourse my mother and father tongues: Arabic and Farsi with ease. I frequently mingle with a variety of people who have the same linguistic melanges. My relatives and friends, for the most part, are not what I will call here, slang talkers.

French people can be categorized as slang talkers because they rarely speak another language and have very coercive methods of safeguarding their language from outside influences. I take great pleasure in conversing with my son's first grade teacher or our riding instructor. They use terminology and expressions that are rich and poetic and always very precise. The first grade teacher has a distinctive Marseillais accent full of the sunny mediterranean culture that it represents.

Iranians who live in Iran, who haven't been to Los Angeles or Dubai, have kept an Iranian slang whose intonation, accent and particular expressions always enchant me. The main pleasure I derive from watching the Iranian films, of which Separation won the Golden Globes, is to listen to them speak my mother tongue, in the purest form of idiomatic Farsi, with its fancy formalities and the innate sense of humor beneath it all.

Lebanese are a breed of their own. Their slang is made of a crazy mix of languages. Also their colloquial Arabic is  "italianized"(ie made light) version of an otherwise rich and daunting classical Arabic. The only thing about me that isn't Lebanese is probably my ownership of their slang. I am familiar with it, have grown up understanding my paternal side and certainly appreciate the finesse of its significance and wry humor.
The only way I can pull it off, is by pretending to speak it. I sometimes tease friends and relatives with an attempted electronic message like the one below:

وينك ؟ مشغول؟  كتير جعباله شوفك. أنا كمان عندي ميت شغله بس ماشية حاله. شو بدك .... كتبله شي كلمه ورجاع على شعلك. شو  لازمله أهوي!!!!!

My father only has one answer for this: "na'sik bbm bil arabi!" and his non pardoning: "ma asalik!" which translates into "all we needed was you to bbm in Arabic and .....the second term just doesn't have a translation!

Now that is slang for you!

January 18, 2012

Medieval Ages

As a child, I day dreamed for hours at school. I remember the shape of the class windows, the view of the desert landscape where our French lycee was built in Sharjah, the monocord voice of any given secondary teacher....I day dreamed for hours, through physics, chemistry, geology, geography and history.

And I skimmed through Medieval History as a result. The French educational program is redundant though and most principles are re-introduced 3 times. Thus, I came across Medieval history in 4th grade, 6th grade and 8th grade! Every two years that history lesson was more dense, the details more intricate...and still I day dreamed. I was convinced that any history before 1914 was plain boring.

Somehow the ONLY thing I remember with acute perception is the Four Seasons by Bruegel. French history books are illustrated with art and I believe I used to stare at them while the teachers babbled....

And thus, it was through art history that I reappropriated Medieval Ages. I attended courses at the University of Geneva and realized that the Medieval Days were not Dark Ages, that in fact scribes painted their books with "Illuminations". That stained glass was so magical, Matisse and Chagall renewed the tradition.  That Cathedrals were glorious enough for Chris Martin to "build them in his heart". That today's tryptichs herald from those days...

My son is onto his third repetition of Medieval Ages and me in tow. We have examined how books were created in the day, those leather bound, parchemin scribed illuminated treasures. We have discussed the power structure, the agricultural practices, the poetry of the day...and I marveled at the second chance offered to me to make up for all those hours of day dreaming.

January 17, 2012

Petit Nicolas goes to the Pool

Has anyone read Le Petit Nicolas?

Never take your kid's word for what its worth. There is always more to it. They drag you into an activity and then before you know it: you are caught in the net. Captive!

My 7 year old daughter convinced me to volunteer as a "supervisor" for their weekly swimming pool outing. Swimming is my sport. School outings are my thing. I agreed to try it once.

The minute I found myself in the locker rooms with 30 girls (about 30 boys were in the boy's locker rooms), when all the girls stood in a disorganized, disheveled fashion, in their suits, with swim caps to put on and goggles to adjust, I went back some 40 years, to the era of Petit Nicolas.

Petit Nicolas is the quintessential French boy of the 60s. He is the protagonist of a series of books whose stories make you laugh to tears. Petit Nicolas has a group of friends: a rich kid, a nerd, a hungry kid, a clumsy one, a dreamer. Its Peanuts with French sauce. Petit Nicolas is the cool, popular kid who narrates. The funniest dynamics are the ones between the kids and adults, their supervisors, teachers, shop keepers, policemen. And here I was victimized by a same group of kids.

I came prepared with my shorts and flip flops. I thought my responsibility consisted of taking care of a single group of 15 kids: make sure they dress, don't slip, don't forget their things. I soon found out that I had been elected as the........swim coach!!!!!!!! I was going to be posted at a station where 4 groups of 15 kids would rotate every 8 minutes and I would teach them 4 skills!!!

How fortunate I am to be a natural born swimmer, to have taken lifesaving classes and to have been a very strict tutor. I know how the French system works and I was fortunate enough to know how to exercise discipline. Here I was standing at the deepest corner of the pool with 15 children in line: teaching them to step into the water by using the ladder. I had to insure safety, no slipping, no jumping, no hurrying. In addition, the technique had to be explained in a certain haste and encouragement had to be made as well.

It is self-rewarding to be around 60 seven year old kids. I had a wonderful time being a drill sergeant. The excitement of the kids is contagious. I didn't think much of the swimming lesson itself, its value because the children won't learn much from these drills, when each one will have the chance to do it once. But I believe in the lessons of camaraderie. Something the French school system has perfected since the days of Petit Nicolas!

January 16, 2012

The Dubai Art Scene

Myrna Ayad moderated a panel of gallerists, of which my dear friends Sunny Rahbar and Asma Al Shabibi. It took place at the Pavilion, an art center that I had never ventured to before. I was impressed by the large attendance and couldn't be more proud of the eloquent women that spoke of their own experiences as vanguards of an art movement in Dubai, and by extension the Middle East.

How could I have skipped activities at the Pavilion when I am such an art enthusiast? The reason is that Dubai is saturated with art activities. My fluctuating email addresses cannot handle the amount of invitations that come my way.

I may have been harsh on the "diner guests" that convened to meet Nazif Topcuoglu and didn't attend his opening show at the Green Art gallery, but I must admit to missing some shows, in spite of my own enthusiasm, just because I can't be there each and every time. There is so much going on the Dubai Art Scene!

After the academic atmosphere of the Pavilion, I ventured to DIFC Art Night, with my 7 year old daughter in tow, to support Art Space and XVA. The cool Dubai evening, the beautiful people such a venue attracted, the DJ in the house made for a fun time.

I met an artist I long time admired, Tarek AlGhoussein. He is amongst the few UAE based artists, such as the Haerizadeh brothers, Hesam Rahmanian, Lamia Gargash and Jeffar Khaldi, all of whom I am honored to be acquainted with.

This single day on the Dubai Art Scene would not be counted as eventful for many because we have now been spoiled by the numerous shows and activities. As a public, we have become more selective. Yet the scene doesn't cease to develop, more innovative and creative each time....and especially very enriching.

No one can deny it: Dubai is on the art map.

January 15, 2012

Why do you read the Pinktaxiblogger?

The first reason friends and family log onto the Pinktaxiblogger is because I encourage them to. I push them to read. I inform them of the subject. I quizz them about the reading. Its called pressure.

But why do you readers log on with some frequency? Why do you read a blog that is about nothing but...me? I once wondered who my readers were. I know a few very well, am acquainted with others, some write comments, others surprise me casually when they say they read me! How could I not write without an audience? For an audience? It would be like acting on in an empty theater.

Family members log on for family reasons: the first one being pressure. What if they didn't? What if my dad didn't comment? The distant relatives, the ones in Beyrouth and the ones in San Diego read it to "keep in touch", to discover what is happening to the family in extraordinary Dubai.

I would think that readers log on for mere curiosity, something called "fozooli", in Farsi. Curiosity can be a good thing: what is she up to today? But some, especially those who like me less, who "don't even talk to me", want to know for pure "fozooli".

I would like to imagine that some subject matters are interesting to some: what is happening on the art scene, what independent movies have I recommended, what tips do I have in golf, what happened at bikram.

Do I entertain my readers with my graffiti writing? Is that why they take the precious time to log on and read? When does the idea dawn on you, dear readers? are you sitting with your ipads, in an idle time? Are you at your desks, taking a break? Are you waiting in line at the supermarket with your blackberry and you decide to log on? Are you googling Lara Baladi? Ballet lessons in Dubai? Protein shakes? Sandance at Atlantis? Canvas Magazine Covers? Cold Play? Geneva Parks? Kettle bells? Jonathan Franzen? Rediscovering Beyrouth? Desormais? Showers? Bridges? Venet? Bikram golf?

Question still left unanswered: why do you log on? I don't read Gweneth Paltrow's blog, despite the interest, curiosity and search for entertainment.

January 14, 2012


Eavesdropping may be rude but it always happens to me "by accident". I just happen to be there, at the time, and I catch a conversation that is either meant to be occult by way of language or because people think I am completely unrelated to the subject.

Just last night, two Iranian ladies tried to swap my dinner seat for one of theirs in the same way they do at weddings, or on airplanes. They murmured under their breath in Farsi that I had caught them red handed and I retorted in their idiom that I was enchanted to understand Farsi!

In the locker rooms, after a strenuous workout in a hot room, ladies convene, to shower and change and recover. Frequently, especially the first timers,  choose this moment and place to vent their thoughts and release the remains of stress that the yoga itself didn't extract: "what was the instructor about?" is the most frequent question I overhear. "Why is he so severe? Why didn't he let us leave the room?" They don't know that I only attend classes with this given instructor and that I giggle at their first impressions. I then interject: "isn't he great? You must not give up. Come again!"

An  eavesdropping incident occurred at AbuDhabi Art fair this november. I happened to sit down in a gallery to take in the art, when I noticed a man talking to another: "did you see my picture in Canvas Daily?" I smiled at the idea that some still relished the simple narcissism moment of fame: a photograph in a publication! (In this case Canvas is a publication close to the heart). I therefore took a good look at the medium hight, blond man, with a certain Tommy Hilfiger look to him. When I was back home, settled with the aforementioned copy of Canvas Daily, I remembered to look for the man who boasted about his photo.

To my surprise, it was no other than Jeff Koons!

January 13, 2012

Protein and Veggies

I once said I would never diet again. I believed in portion control. I thought I should have anything I would otherwise eat but share it in half. This worked. I did shed most of my weight in my twenties this way. I also never ate anything that wasn't "worth it". Just what I really liked, in moderation.

I grew up with an eating disorder. I was overweight by the time I became a teenager. My cousin reminded me of my "exclusively fruit" dinners, while I peered at Miss Piggy posters decorating the kitchen: "if you eat anything else you may turn into her!" syndrome.
I tried my grandmother's 1950s banana milk diet that she got onto because in the day nurses couldn't be overweight! I tried fad-diets like weight watchers in the 1990s. Nothing worked till I cut my portions.

I pay little attention to food nowadays. I fill my life with other pleasures. Coffee is big. Indeed, coffee must be accompanied by some snack. I had reduced it to a simple, delectable Special K bar. Forbidden in my new diet. My teeth grind because I crave it. In the same way as I crave my "nightcap": a square of dark chocolate before I sleep, reminder of 5 star Swiss hotels that leave it on your pillow.

I am not allowed sugar on my new diet. Not even fruit. Its a very Orthodox way of dieting. No frills or nonsense: protein and vegetables, three times a day. I sprinkle the day with handfuls of almonds.

I am on a strict diet because I am training with a coach who believes diet and sport go hand in hand. When I trained with him last, the diet wasn't this strict but I did retain very good habits from the two month stunt: I think twice before I have a carb, I eat many more proteins than I ever did. My lifestyle has changed.

I can't wait to get off this no-sugar-diet! Now even an apple feels like a forbidden fruit!

January 12, 2012

A Sexy Art Show

A sexy art show in the sense that it pushed beyond the boundaries of Middle Eastern Art. Topcuoglu's photographs are universal and timeless, his models may be contemporary Turkish girls but they transcend our region and this makes for a talented artist.

How can 50 people convene at pre-art opening dinner and not attend the show itself the next day? I ran to Green Art Gallery with trepidation to discover Nazif Topcuoglu's photographs.

In anticipation, I had invited many friends to accompany me. I was confident, without having seen the photos of this collection yet, that it would be a "hot show". A must see, even for the least interested in art, because his photography is always provocative and the esthetics superior, so it draws the attention of a wider audience. But no one caught on to my "bait": Dubai is full of professional, familial and social distractions.

Nazif Topcuolglu's works are recognizable thematically: school girls. His photographs are signed by the distinct structure that he builds to perfection. If the girls are in a group, their suddenly immobilized movements are theatrical, their connection close, their story mysterious.

His models live in interiors of bricks, books, and carpets. Furniture, antiques, textiles are used as props to develop the intimacy of their actions. They are whispering, experimenting, sharing, talking, quarreling, giggling, conspiring.
They either wear their school uniforms or  negliges, as thin and transparent as that of Primavera by Boticelli.

Please remove the erotic out of these photographs in the same way Nudes are simply beautiful. These girls are clothed,
carefree, Nabokov protagonists. Their sensuality is that of nymphs, like statuettes in gardens, like Boticelli's Venus drifting in a shell.

The story remains the same: females in suggestive poses, naughty by nature,  by their own accord, in an experimental way, where taboos are absent. Female camaraderie, something that stands between boarding school atmosphere and harem like behavior.

The impact of Nazif Topcuolglu's photography on our Dubai audience is strong: "conversation-art" for sure.

A must see!

January 11, 2012


I walked into my children's Aikido class yesterday. It is an obscure martial art that I selected after I observed the instructor teach at the same center my eldest practices judo. It is as graceful and choreographied as judo is aggressive and randomly spontaneous.

The children, all under the age of 10, were sitting, japanese style, on their folded legs. Their backs straighter than yogis. Listening to their Sansei give instructions to two classmates at a time. Complete silence. Utter discipline. I marveled.

Discipline is practicing your sports regularly. Attending the class. Going to the gym. Getting on the spinning bike. Lifting the weights. Running the miles. Two buckets of golf balls at a time. Sweating it out. Pushing yourself in the burn zone. Loving it. You need to love the adrenaline in order to be disciplined.

Discipline is studying frequently. Silently. Attentively. Shutting off. Concentrating. Inhaling the knowledge. Understanding. Sitting at the desk. Sharpening the pencils. Achieving.

Discipline is reading the book. Opening to the incipit, continuing. Discussing. Getting hooked. Loving the syntax. Trying a recommendation. Sharing with a friend. Reading a bedtime story to your child: the same one, the favorite one, the Arabic one, the French one.

Discipline is grabbing the problem by its horns and dealing with it immediately. Finding a solution. Talking about it. Facing the facts. Seeking the advise. Brain storming.

Discipline is finding the time. Waking up earlier, sleeping earlier. To maximize the energy, to fill your days with activities instead of poor excuses. To transition from one activity to another with finesse and rapidity. To switch into the next gear.

Discipline is saying no to negative thoughts. Saying no to the automatisms of life: the desire to sleep in longer, to grab the cookie, to cancel the bikram class, to hang out longer, to drink another coffee, to drift away in a daydream, to slack in the chair, to dismiss something because you don't like it, to fear a new activity, to skip an obligation.

Discipline can be contradiction: order and disorder, sleep and no sleep, "me time" and "give time". Indeed, what is a life of discipline if not boring routine, standard practice, intense workouts?
I also know I must discipline myself to enjoy, to slow down, to marvel, to laugh, to nap, to let go of some responsibilities, to read more and write less, to venture and try. To brake the mold. Have another cup of coffee....with a cookie!

Snow Patrol

She made a public declaration, on the radio waves. I caught it and laughed. DJ Nathalie, on 92FM introduced Snow Patrol to her Dubai audience with a personalized:

"I want to marry the lead singer!" Lucky lead singer I thought as I told my kids the anecdote. I quote her sms: "yes I love them and him, Gary... My future husband. He makes me swoon."

She played the tune, which is track 2 on the CD she prompted us to buy. My kids now love to recognize that tune in particular: "Snow Patrol!" they call out at its first alternative notes. And just evoking the band by name makes us laugh in a Dubai whose only snow is artificial at Mall of the Emirates.

On Monday, while I was at the gym, locked onto 92FM,  with a personal trainer who handed me an intimidating jump rope, Nathalie played Snow Patrol for some 20 minutes, but very special "dj only" versions, accappela, live etc. Jump roping wasn't as challenging anymore. I sported with delight.

It is hard for me to describe Snow Patrol with my amateur musical ear. They come in the trails of Oasis. They have a demeanor that is proper to today's generation: green, laid back, simple, casual. They are alternative because they aren't rap or hip hop or dj hip. They aren't mainstream like Cold Play. I bet they fit in the College category. They have good vibes like REM but they are less, and it is their "less" that makes them cool.

A band, that is all.

I can't wait to see them in March on Sandance, at Atlantis!