24 Nov 2015

The Torn Identity: A Tale of Hollywood and Beirut

From Roger Moore in The Man with the Golden Gun encountering a belly dancer in an ‘exotic’ Orientalist nightclub to Chuck Norris storming through civil war Beirut to rescue American hostages, Hollywood has had a tortured relationship with Beirut. Its depictions of the capital have almost always been widely inaccurate, distorting the geography and character of the city. But this is about to change with the upcoming release of a major Hollywood production set in Beirut, The Torn Identity.

The Torn Identity promises a more honest and authentic representation of Beirut and the lives of its inhabitants, in a spy action film that will reportedly star Matt Damon in the lead role of Jason Torn. Gone are all the Orientalist clichés and lazy depictions of a lawless war-torn city, instead The Torn Identity will present a realistic depiction of the vibrant metropolis, enlivened by tastefully- done action scenes.

18 May 2015

Meet Haifa Wehbe, Lebanon’s Foremost Conceptual Art Group

For outsiders, Lebanon is known for its excellent food and lively night scene and, less fortunately, for its recent turbulent history. Much less known however is the country’s passion for conceptual art which borders on the obsessive. Conceptual art groups are household names in Lebanon and they are treated like celebrities in this small country. Little is known of this phenomenon outside the country due to the Lebanese reluctance to advertise or promote themselves or their culture abroad. As a result, the thriving conceptual art scene has escaped the attention of international media.

The uncontested queen of the conceptual art scene in Lebanon is Haifa Wehbe, a pseudonym for a collective made up of 32 artists who alternate in playing the role of ‘Haifa’, seemingly a seductive pop singer but in reality an elaborate artistic project that was started nearly two decades ago. ‘Haifa’ has spawned many imitators over the years, which is a testament to the group’s success and popularity.

13 May 2015

A Valuable Guide to British Values

The newly-elected British government has announced plans to combat extremism by promoting British values. In the words of Home Secretary Theresa May: ‘What we’re talking about is the key values that underline our society and are being undermined by the extremists.’ Well, aside from the fact that she should have said 'are' instead of 'is', I am completely in agreement with her. We must not allow extremists to undermine our British values.

What are British values though? I have a compiled a useful explainer about the core British values and identified the ways in which dastardly extremists are trying to undermine those cherished pillars of British culture. This also doubles up as a guide to tourists to minimise friction during your stay here.

6 May 2015

Cities are intentionally ruining themselves to appeal to hipsters

The city of Rotterdam in the Netherlands recently started rationing water despite having enough water supplies. Seattle in the US has intentionally made its public transport slower because it was running too efficiently, and commissioned artists to spray graffiti on trains and in stations to make them look shabbier. The city of Wuhu in China demolished a recently-completed flashy district and commissioned a replica of a 19th century run-down East London district, complete with dysfunctional postal service and temperamental telephone lines. And the list goes on. So what exactly is happening?

You won’t read about this in any urban planning magazines, but this is the latest trend to emerge in city management and development circles. Mayors around the world are discovering that flashy, modern and functioning cities are just too boring and they are failing to attract the core hipster labour force required for a modern city to function. Keen observes have noted that hipsters, the fastest growing demographic in the world, don’t like living in comfortable surroundings and they much prefer to live in run-down areas that feel more authentic.

5 May 2015

Making it up as we go: Understanding British Democracy

The British parliamentary elections are due to take place in two days, surrounded by an air of uncertainty and the prospect of multiple non-definitive outcomes. What compounds the matter more is that very few people outside the UK genuinely understand how British democracy works. Indeed, very few people inside the UK understand how it works.

Having lived in the UK for over a decade and studied local politics, culture and society closely, I decided that I am qualified to write an easy guide to explain how British elections work and what are the constitutional parameters that will play a factor in determining who comes to power next.

30 Apr 2015

God resigns over situation in Middle East

In a surprising announcement He made during a hastily-convened press conference, God has declared that He is resigning over the situation in the Middle East and other global failures which He takes full responsibility for. God made it clear that his position has become untenable, but He will stay on as caretaker deity until a replacement could be found. The news has sent shockwaves throughout the world as stock prices plunged and an atmosphere of uncertainty prevailed.

At the press conference held at the Washington DC Marriott, the only venue available at a short notice, God outlined the reasons for his resignation citing primarily the deteriorating situation in the Middle East. God spoke at length of the region’s significance to Him, having chosen it as the place to launch three monotheistic religions. God spoke bitterly of his disappointment and pain over the wars that continue to plague the region which He had had high hopes for.

23 Apr 2015

Sound like an expert with these phrases about Middle East politics

Many people are hesitant to talk about the Middle East and its politics because it seems to be quite a complex place that requires extensive knowledge to understand it. While this is certainly true, there are handy phrases you can use that will make you sound like you know what you are talking about without actually bothering to study the area. We have collected these phrases in the form of a handy guide below. Note that if used properly, you can even go on to become a certain moustached celebrated columnist allowed to pontificate on the region with very little knowledge to go on.

‘It’s all about the oil’

This is the mother of all phrases about Middle East politics. It is one of the most effective phrases in the context of Middle Eastern geopolitics and one that can explain everything. It has even been used to explain Saudi Arabia’s 8-0 defeat at the hands of Germany in the 2002 World Cup and the backlash against Haifa Wehbe’s latest video clip.

16 Apr 2015

Vintage Arab Maths Questions

Everybody is talking about the maths puzzle from Singapore which got people discussing the question of Cheryl’s birthday. If you liked solving the puzzle, below are some vintage Arab maths questions, taken from textbooks from the Saddam and Gaddafi era. We hope you enjoy solving them.

Problem 1 from Iraq.

There are five thieves who have 100 gold coins. They want to divide the coins among themselves but not all of them participated in all five robberies. Four of them participated in four of the robberies, three of them participated in three, and so on. How should they divide the coins fairly amongst themselves?

14 Apr 2015

Meet the violent anti-fake news website movement

It all started in July of last year, Tim Timothy was browsing the internet when he came across an article titled ‘Everyone In Middle East Given Own Country In 317,000,000-State Solution’. As a keen observer of the region Timothy, who’s studying for a master’s in International Relations, was aghast by the news. He read the article over and over, and every time it seemed stranger and stranger, he was nearly moved to tears by the prospect.

What Timothy did next changed his life forever. He shared the article on his Facebook page with a heartfelt message about the sad fate of the Middle East, an area he had grown fond of since spending a week in Morocco. Timothy wasn’t prepared for what happened next as his friends, and gradually strangers, started mocking him in the comments box, telling him that the article was satirical and ridiculing him for his gullibility. Timothy deleted the post but it was too late, someone had already taken a screen shot of his post and it was shared widely on social media and he was bombarded by sarcastic messages for days.

10 Apr 2015

Beirut to be demolished and turned into a giant car park

The government of Lebanon has come up with an innovative solution to the parking and traffic problems in the city of Beirut that is sure to transform the way we look at cities from now on. Over the next few years, the city will be demolished entirely and replaced by a giant car park. The city is notorious for its traffic jams and lack of adequate parking spaces and this solution will make residents happy and guarantee that the scheme receives wide political support.

The situation in the city has been getting worse for a number of years and the government couldn’t cope any more with the constant complaints from residents and visitors and finally decided to turn to this radical solution to end the problem once and for all. It is understood that the scheme will be offered to a private company through a BOT deal, where the company handles the demolition and the construction of the parking and is then able to charge people for parking at reasonable rates.