Sunday, November 28, 2010

A thought

What is the deal with genies these days? For one thing, they keep showing up in ads all of a sudden, and for another, they seem to be mostly not Arab. Like not in any way. One of them is a Scottish man in a tux:

And the other, whom I am certain I will not be able to find, is a guy who I suppose could be Arab (or meant to be) but at least initially came off Hispanic, and who was wearing a muscle shirt. He was advertising really cheap phone service.

I have no idea what this means. Not that this is the most serious trend in the zeitgeist regarding anything east of Istanbul or south of Sicily, but what the hell, I've been watching a lot of TV lately.

Monday, November 22, 2010


US totally grifted by random Afghan:

For months, the secret talks unfolding between Taliban and Afghan leaders to end the war appeared to be showing promise, if only because of the appearance of a certain insurgent leader at one end of the table: Mullah Akhtar Muhammad Mansour, one of the most senior commanders in the Taliban movement.

But now, it turns out, Mr. Mansour was apparently not Mr. Mansour at all. In an episode that could have been lifted from a spy novel, United States and Afghan officials now say the Afghan man was an impostor, and high-level discussions conducted with the assistance of NATO appear to have achieved little.

“It’s not him,” said a Western diplomat in Kabul intimately involved in the discussions. “And we gave him a lot of money.”

It really just kind of sums everything up, huh.

Rolling Stone ventures to MENA (!)

Rolling Stone is launching Rolling Stone: Middle East.

Needless to say, I subscribed immediately. I hope it's obvious why this is a huge deal; for one thing, this is a major American pop-culture publication showing major interest in the cultural products and pop life of a region that is almost uniformly understood as backward, primitive, and totally lacking in anything Rolling Stone could ever be interested in. That in itself is a huge deal.

If people in the region read it, that could be even better. It would be complicated, as validation by Western observers always is for almost any Arab group, individual, movement, or trend; but it could also be very valuable. It depends on how they play it at RS, and on how many people in the region actually read it and take it seriously. (Those variables are, of course, related--it's a bit of a chicken-and-egg thing). As much as it can be fun to make fun of RS these days, when I was in high school that magazine was incredibly important to me. I was the proverbial sad indie kid, and it was kind of a lifeline at times. There are some kids in the Middle East who are probably already consuming this kind of Western media, whether they can actually get their hands on the glossy or whether it's via an Internet cafe; how great is it that they could get their own deal? Something actually meant for them?

The major caveat is that as far as I can see, it's all in English. That worries me a little, and it throws the emphasis back toward the remedial-Orientalist perspective. Maybe there is or will be an Arabic-language version or website; I really, really hope so. Even if that doesn't happen, I still very much applaud this step.

And finally, it'll just be fun for me., people: go. Read. Be pleased.