Thursday, December 31, 2009

Sumerians Look On In Confusion As God Creates World
ROFLer from The Onion - America's Finest News Source

Tiger Woods, Gender and Domestic Violence
Perhaps the most sensible article about the issue. The allegations remain unsubstantiated, but the fact remains that there is such a thing as equality before the law. True or not, the image of Tiger Woods ducking a golf club swing continues to be a subject for mainstream humor in games, cartoons and SNL skits, in the grand old tradition of the spousal rollerpin chase. Which would be unthinkable if the genders were reversed.

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Marketing WTF: Häagen-Dazs

Via Times of India:

My friend Ramit (name changed on request) called me late Friday night. He sounded quite agitated. “You know, Haagen Dazs has opened its Delhi outlet”. I reacted with a joke. “Good, now you can spend a lot more on an ice cream than you normally would. But why are you agitated?”

“Because I am not allowed to enter”, he said. Now, Ramit is not like one of the politician’s son or into drugs, the sort who are often in news in India’s capital for all the wrong reasons, nor is he the kind who will shoot someone down because she refused to serve him a cone of ice cream.

He did not waste much time and said he has taken a picture and is mailing me the reason. I switched on my mail, and clicked on the attachment. I couldn’t believe what I saw. Was I in India, 62 years after gaining independence, and years after South Africa officially ended apartheid? The banners outside the outlet said: Exclusive Preview for International Travellers. And under that, in an even finer print, the real bombshell: Access restricted only to holders of international passports.

This raises a couple of questions. The lesser being how they would expect foreign nationals (of Indian origin or otherwise) to be carrying around their passports while strolling around a mall, in case they are asked to prove their nationality (unless they intend to judge nationality by appearance). The greater being why on earth a Häagen-Dazs franchise would make their first entry into the Indian market by specifically excluding Indian nationals.

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Dubai in Film: City of Life
"'City Of Life' is an urban drama set in Dubai that explores the existing complexities within an emerging multicultural society's race, ethnicity and class divide. A privileged Emirati male, a disillusioned Indian taxi driver and a European woman's paths are about to collide and irrevocably impact one another's lives. The first multi-lingual feature film to be written, produced and directed by an Emirati with UAE funding, intended for both local and international release, 'City Of Life' blazes an impressive trail for Emirati film."


Thursday, December 10, 2009

Interview with Bruce Bueno de Mesquita
I attended his presentation in Abu Dhabi last night. Very relevant work, very scientific approach, and VERY engaging oration.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

National Day Weekend 2009


Another extended weekend ... I took Thursday off as well to link the weekend with Wednesday, December the 2nd. On this day, the UAE celebrated its 38th National Day. Despite the recent financial bombshell, festivities seemed to be going on as usual (as with life in general, apparently). But 2-Dec is not considered a day to scrimp anyway.









 There was a parade of boats on the creek in the afternoon. Twin-hull racing powerboats Victory 1 and Fazza were there, along with abra, waterbuses, coast guard and various other public service craft. A few private yachts and commercial craft also made appearances.



Dressed in flag colors, I had a great dinner with friends at Noodle House (excellent laksa, but forgot to take pics)



The next day, I went to the Global Village, an annual multi-month expo for merchants from different countries to peddle their wares. The pavilions were certainly impressive, built in the popular imagination style of the country being represented, or featuring some architectural icons thereof. Some of the stage performances were impressive, and there was some decent food to be found.


Inside the pavilions, though, things were often less exotic. There were too few vendors of traditional or popular items UNIQUE to the countries, and too many trinket mongers selling cheap factory outlet products. This varied from pavilion to pavilion, but some of them were major offenders in this regard. Likewise, there were too many fast food restaurants and way too many generic karak tea stalls. And I could not find a single European country in the Europe pavilion (no, Turkey doesn't count). What's the point of going to a "Global Village" to find plastic kitchenware and a tub of KFC? If the organizers simply rejected all the merchants of miscellanea and at least 90% of the McChai stalls, more authentic sellers of real national products might be attracted to come there, along with buyers of the same.

Anyway, while it did not nearly live up to expectations, it was not a total disappointment.


An Emirati dance, one of the performances

Qatayef (Arabian pancakes) and Shay Zaatar (tea of thyme)

The day after next, I went out in the afternoon for some actual Emirati food. Few restaurants serve it, and it took some trouble to locate one. This one is known as Al Makan, and serves Levantine food as well. The one at the Dubai Mall also features a nice alfresco area for when the weather is good, with The Address towering nearby, and the Burj Dubai itself next door.

Yarish Soup (vegetable soup with crushed wheat)

Kabbouli Meat (a mild lamb biryani, with lots of lentils, raisins and cashews, served with yoghurt ... probably of Central Asian origin, but it was in the Emirati section of the menu)

Assidat Boubar (sweet mash of red pumpkin, a bit like pumpkin pie minus the pie)

Thursday, December 3, 2009

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Eid al Adha 2009

We got an extended break (26th - 29th Nov) for Eid al Adha, thanks to the festival falling on a Friday. I decided to spend the whole first day ambling around Dubai. With the weather cooling down from a sweltering summer to a pleasant and breezy winter, it was a perfect day for a stroll about my 'hood in Deira (*flashes east coast gang sign*). After a morning walk and shower, I went back to the creek for an everything-in-it "dynamite sandwich" (I love how Dubai's small cafeterias come up with these names) at the wharf customs gate. The winter landscaping had just been completed, and the fresh flower beds were beautiful.












The weather was wonderful and the city was glittering in the late morning sun.



After a long walk, napped under a tree near the NBD building, headed to Salahuddin street and then walked to Muraqqabat for a lunch of falafel, ful and tabbouleh, followed by a cheesy dessert of nablus and sfouf.



After a couple of hours back at home, I travelled down to the Muteena and Naif communities for an evening stroll. These are areas where a lot of low-wage workers gather on weekends and holidays. Many garment outlets, barbershops and eateries were bustling on Eid's eve. There are also some nice parks in this area, and even an old fort that I did not previously know of [EDIT: "watchtower" would be the more appropriate word].












After some shopping and people-watching, I hopped into a South Indian restaurant for the house special Red Pepper mutton curry. Gosh, that curry was so delicious - and so HOT that I needed an extra vellappam to finish it, and had to follow it up with two scoops of ice cream.



Good I had that day of quiet, because the next two days were spent partying at the Flamingo Beach resort in Umm al Quwain with nearly 40 extended family members.



There was no dearth of ruckus - but for the morning in between, when I got up early for sunrise and coffee.












Ah, the simple pleasures.