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.

7 Apr 2015

The Middle East Geopolitics Guide to Surviving Office Politics

The backstabbing, the plotting, the scheming, the conspiracies, the competition for resources; the world of corporate office politics is surely a difficult one in which to survive. Fortunately, experts in management theory have recently noticed the similarities between the intricacies of corporate office politics and the realm of Middle East geopolitics and have turned to the latter for inspiration on how to survive and thrive in the hostile, cutthroat world of the modern corporation. Below are the initial findings of this thrilling study.

Resources

Much like with Middle Eastern geopolitics, controlling resources is crucial to increasing your power in the corporate world. Be sure to get a desk near the water cooler where you can observe who’s talking to whom and what they are discussing. Coffee is also another important geopolitical commodity, and if you can work your way to controlling coffee supplies in the office it will go a long way towards earning you favours and consolidating your power. Office workers will do anything for a good cup of coffee in the morning.

25 Mar 2015

I Wrote My Own Wikipedia Biography

Sharro holding an imaginary chicken in 2012

Karl Sharro

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia


Karl Sharro (Arabic: كارل شرّو‎) (born in 1971 in Zahle, Lebanon) is a Lebanese-Iraqi-Phoenician-British architect, someone on Twitter and also someone who has a blog.

1 Early Life
2 Career
3 The London Years
4 Fame
7 External links 

Early life

Sharro was born to his parents, a sign of the great genius that he will grow up to become. Only great people are born to families, ordinary people are born in families. Sharro enjoyed a happy childhood during the Lebanese civil war (1975-1990), particularly enjoying the long absences from school because of the fighting. While in the classroom he liked to write short funny messages that he would pass to his classmates, acquiring a skill that will be useful later in life on Twitter.

18 Mar 2015

Netanyahu warns of nightmarish future in which Arabs do regular stuff

Taking a break from warning about the existential threat posed by Iran to the free world, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu has issued a rallying cry and a warning against another major threat: Arabs are doing regular stuff. Netanyahu’s ‘the Arabs are voting!’ has resonated around the world, as he unleashed an apocalyptic warning of the dangers of a future in which Arabs voted, got jobs in management and perhaps even went to the cinema occasionally.

16 Mar 2015

Arab Leaders Agree On Banning Opinions

In an unprecedented major reform initiative, Arab League leaders have arrived at an agreement to ban opinions entirely. The leaders, who met recently in Egypt, have come to the realisation that the number one reason for disagreement is differing opinions, and have decided to end this nefarious source of subdivision and disharmony once and for all. From now on, they declared, only the truth will be allowed.

Putin on spiritual retreat to ponder the ethical questions of life

Is Man predestined or does he have a choice? What is the role of human agency in shaping our life? Can we take what’s not rightfully ours under certain circumstances? How can we make sure we act morally in a world where it is increasingly hard to tell right from wrong? Is there indeed a right and a wrong or is everything relative? These and many other questions will be contemplated by Russian leader Vladimir Putin in his spiritual retreat which started ten days ago.

12 Mar 2015

Christians, Jews and Atheists: A Photo Guide to Western People

It has become customary for Western media to identify the religion of people that appear in stories and photographs about the Middle East in a very precise manner. This is a very helpful development, that allows the audience to form a complete opinion about the issues being discussed. For example, a story about a patient getting into an argument with a dentist would be different if the two were Sunnis or one was Sunni and the other was Shiite.  

10 Mar 2015

Female Arab TV Presenter Smiles Live On Air

Just a week after a female Lebanese TV presenter ended a live interview when a Muslim scholar told her to shut up, another female Lebanese TV presenter has smiled during a live broadcast. The brave presenter has shattered stereotypes about women in stern conservative Arab and Muslim countries by smiling repeatedly and bravely on camera while asking questions. Her confidence appeared to embolden her female colleague, and their female guest to also smile naturally while speaking live on air. The female guest was also wearing a headscarf while smiling live on air, thereby shattering even more stereotypes.


9 Mar 2015

The Mother of All Middle East Conspiracy Theories

The Middle East is, to coin a phrase, a complex place. All is not what it seems. Appearances can be deceptive. The truth is hard to come by. It is also a place where journalistic conventions necessitate the use of lots of proverbs strike a neat balance between the mystical and the fatalistic. Nevertheless, truth is concealed under layers of misinformation and deception, like an ancient oasis buried underneath the desert sand.


4 Mar 2015

Lebanon Becomes First Ever Country To Be Turned Into A Company

In an unprecedented move in international politics, the tiny Mediterranean nation of Lebanon has this week been turned into an incorporated company, in the process changing its name from the Republic of Lebanon to Lebanon, Inc. The surprising move has been initiated by political leaders following years of political paralysis and conflict and the realisation that while the Lebanese are not good at politics they are excellent businesspeople.


27 Feb 2015

Understanding the Middle East with better clichés

Some people feel that western media coverage of the Middle East is dominated by too many clichés and stereotypes. However an emerging view now believes that there are actually too few rather than too many clichés, thereby making reporting less accurate. This radical critique of what is really wrong with Western media coverage has already produced enlightening pieces that allow us to understand what exactly is happening in the Middle East far better than we have managed in the past. Below is a sample of this revolutionary trend.

25 Feb 2015

Google creates artificial intelligence that drinks overpriced independent coffee

In a major breakthrough for artificial intelligence, Google has created AI that learned how to play 80s computer games, drink overpriced independent coffee and dress in checkered shirts and vintage denim. The announcement by Google this week has set the world of technology abuzz at this huge leap in the field of artificial intelligence.


19 Feb 2015

Obama Outlines His Vision for a Likeable, Watered-Down Version of Islam

Following his recent statements about the US being 'at war with those perverting Islam', American president Barack Obama has now expounded his vision for ‘a likeable, watered-down version of Islam’ that is sure to get the approval of a large number of non-Muslims. In an exclusive interview with our blog through which Obama wanted to reach out to a wide audience of ‘not too Islamic folks’, the president outlined his ideas for a ‘cooler, lighter Islam’, in a bid to galvanise support against the Islamic State.

17 Feb 2015

How one tweet ruined my life

This is the first time I speak about my ordeal with Twitter mobs in public, and I do it with a sense of duty and to raise awareness about the dangers of this kind of online bullying, in hope that we could learn something from this unpleasant episode.

The story begins yesterday around six in the evening, when I came across a website called It's Back To The Future Day! which proclaimed that today (yesterday) was the day that Marty McFly went forward to in Back to the Future, along with a picture of the dashboard of the car showing the actual day. So I tweeted the image with a line that said "If you want to feel really old, today is the 'future' in Back to the Future", not expecting that this single tweet would change my life forever.

13 Feb 2015

US Calls It Quits In the Middle East in Response to Constant Whining

Following its recent withdrawal from Yemen, the US administration has surprisingly taken the decision to call it a day in the Middle East and cut its entire links with the region. The move follows decades of constant whining and criticism of the role that the US has played there, which has made it impossible for the superpower ‘to continue to perform its imperialist functions in a satisfactory manner’.

11 Feb 2015

Five Great Tales Ruined By Mobile Phones

The Odyssey

After the end of the ten-year Trojan War, Odysseus is trying to return home to Ithaca to be reunited with his wife Penelope and his son Telemachus. Fearing that Odysseus had died, Penelope and Telemachus are in agony. They are tormented by the prospect of life without him. Fortunately, after half an hour of this mental anguish they receive a text message from Odysseus saying that he is on his way home. Odysseus books a trip on his mobile phone app and manages to return home in time for dinner that night.

30 Jan 2015

Deconstructing the Theoretical Currents in Middle Eastern* Food


Deconstructing the Theoretical Currents in Middle Eastern* Food

*By which we mean the food of the Levant**, but we said Middle Eastern to draw you in.

**It’s really Lebanese food that we are talking about, but we don’t want to alienate Syrians and Palestinians.

23 Jan 2015

The Confused Person's Guide to Understanding Yemen


‘What the hell is exactly happening in Yemen?’ is now one of the most urgent geopolitical questions in the Middle East. Sadly, few people are qualified or knowledgeable enough to answer this pressing question. Most experts agree that most experts can’t give you a straight answer. The reality is Yemen is a complex place that is very hard to understand for outsiders, and even more so for insiders. Indeed most of the people asking what is happening in Yemen are Yemenis themselves.

14 Jan 2015

World Agrees Hypocrisy Is Our Only Hope

In an unprecedented realisation that represents global consensus such as we have never seen before, the entire world has awoken to the same epiphany today: hypocrisy is our only hope. A week to the day since the attacks on Charlie Hebdo’s office in Paris, and after an intense week of debate and argument, reality has sunk in for all Homo sapiens: we cannot ever hope of living up to any shared principles and we must embrace hypocrisy as our only hope of achieving global harmony.

6 Jan 2015

Far-Right Extremist ‘Confused and Upset’ After Realising He’s a Foreigner

A far-right extremist has spoken publicly today of his shock and dismay at discovering that he too is a foreigner. John Smith, 29, from Luton in England, revealed the agony and confusion he has been experiencing since making the traumatic discovery. Mr Smith is a fierce critique of immigration and ‘everything foreign’ as he once put it, and has been active in far-right circles for a number of years.

5 Jan 2015

Shock As Lebanese Student at US University Comes Second In His Class

Lebanon awoke in a state of shock today to the news that a Lebanese student at a US university has come second in his class. The small Mediterranean country is reeling from the revelation, particularly as every Lebanese student at a US or European university has topped his or her class since 1953 when official records began.