Thursday, May 19, 2011

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Thursday edition

"Part of the problem is that he also looks like Santa on his day off."

"So, she's a little AWOL at the moment? Just a touch?"

"Wake up and smell the shisha. You are not in Miami."

"Yes, I broke the internet."

"The thing is, it's only Americans who are on this 'real journalism' bit. Brits are happy to churn it out. 'This is chip paper'."

A conversation between two editors:
Editor A: "What's the longest you've ever quit smoking?"
Editor B: "I quit for about 8 hours last time."

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

I'm curious: What phrases do you think you hear more of in a week in the UAE?

Feel free to nominate your own, too. Here are my suggestions.

"Ma'am/sir, do you have one dirham?"

"Too much hot."

"After tomorrow."

"It's not possible."

"Where you from?"

UPDATE (thank you Anonymous)
The one, the only: "Inshallah."

Headline of the day from Khaleej Times out of the Arab Media Conference

"Arab Media has a spring in its step"

I can't help but imagine a bunch of reporters in national dress, bounding along with walking sticks and top hats. 

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Tweet of the week

 Ali Alsaloom 

Paris Hilton returns to Dubai

After shooting Paris Hilton's My New BFF-Dubai here in 2009 – the show has not yet aired here – Miss Hilton is coming back, Thursday night for the second anniversary of Okku.

To recap, that's Paris Hilton Thursday and Kim Kardashian sometime this year. Any other reality ladies/gents on the way?

Can't we get some of those "Real Housewives" over here?

UPDATE: Paris tweeted this:

 Paris Hilton 

And then she tweeted this....

 Paris Hilton 

               I for one hate when that happens. :)

When your life is falling apart in the UAE, don't consider ending it all or you could end up in jail

Suicide is illegal here, Gulf News reports. There have been several high profile – and successful – suicide attempts in Dubai of late. Most notoriously, the first (and hopefully only) person to jump to his death from the Burj Dubai – reportedly after being denied a vacation request. A second man, like the first, from India, died after leaping off Jumeirah Lake Towers.

"Lawyer Eisa Bin Haidar said judges frequently slap fines on those who attempt suicide. Under Article 335 of the UAE Federal Penal Law, a suspect who attempted suicide faces a maximum of six months in prison and/or a maximum fine of Dh5,000."

At a press conference last night Sanjay Verma, the Indian consul general, said there had been 27 suicides recorded among the Indian community in Dubai and the Northern Emirates since the start of the year. 

Generally the media ignores suicides, out of an effort not to encourage others who might be considering trying to end their lives. But here, I believe the issue needs to be discussed in the context of a sponsorship system that too frequently squeezes people and leaves them feeling as if they have no options. 

Here, your work is everything: a visa sponsor, income and housing provider. "No objection" letters from an employer are required for almost everything. There is very little room to manoeuvre, particularly for those who do not have some independent financial flexibility. 
I agree with Mr Verma when he says "more could be done". 
"A company is the first port of call. They are interacting with workers. It is the primary responsibility of companies."

Monday, May 16, 2011

Today in things the UAE does not need: One new Dunkin' Donuts down, 10 more on the way

The new outlet is in Dubai Festival Centre.

According to the accompanying press release, the new outlet at DFC is the UAE's 63rd and indicative that the sugar shack's expansion plans are "on track" – they plan to open 11 outlets this year. Sheesh, it's hard for me to imagine a place where there isn't a Dunkin' Donuts in the UAE. 

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Sunday edition

"I would like to stop getting emails about judgement day please. It's May 21."

"I mean, that is a full suitcase. A bear, two cheetahs, a lion and a monkey."

"I appreciate you for bringing the donuts, and I hate you for bringing the donuts."

"A walkathon? In this weather? Are you serious? Why don't they do something else instead, like a bake sale?

A conversation between two editors, one who is leaving.

Editor A: "So if I come to Boston, you'll put me up, right?"
Editor B: "Define 'put up'." 

Snoop Dogg in Abu Dhabi: An informal shot

Okay, so it's old news now. But I still love this shot of Snoop in his hotel room, wearing a kandoura before performing on May 6 at Yas Island, that is circulating the internet. I cannot verify its authenticity, but looks like him to me. He's also wearing slippers. Awesome.

And after the jump, as promised (although I doubt anyone really wants it), the unintentionally hilarious story that grew out of my interview with Snoop Dogg in Los Angeles back in 2004 as he promoted the  epic (not really) comedy Soul Plane. The film is about a guy who comes into some money and starts his own all-black airline. There were some real up-and-comers in it, thinking about it. Mo'nique and Sofia Vergaras, for two. Snoop's done aiight too. Props to my former colleague Denis Armstrong, back in Ottawa, On., for sending it along.

My favourite quote, from the comic actor Tom Arnold, on how much more professional Snoop was to work with over other rappers.

"He knows he's got to be there and he's there," said Arnold. "Him and 70 other guys."

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Once again, the unforgettable Rob Evans: Please, if you do one thing this summer, learn first aid

The National's Gemma Champ has a wonderful and terribly sad column today about the importance of learning first aid. Gemma was one of the three who was with my friend and colleague Rob Evans out on Yas Island when he died, six months ago tomorrow, and the fact that there was nothing she could do to help him clearly haunts her.
What I didn't know was that sweet Gemma stole away the day after Rob's funeral in London (about a half-dozen of us flew from Abu Dhabi to attend when it finally happened in December) and took a first aid course.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Awwww: Al Ain Wildlife Park and Resort names its tawny lion cubs

The park held a contest to name them. Meet Laith and Dana.

PS: Anyone else think it's funny that the UAE can't even have a wildlife park in the UAE without it also being a "resort"?

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Snoop Dogg remains awesome, wears a khandoura for his Yas Island concert

The picture is priceless, check it out in today's edition of The National. From the review:

The often-controversial rapper Snoop Dogg lived up to his reputation last night when he performed in Abu Dhabi - dressed in a khandoura and wearing sunglasses. The singer, known for hits such as Doggfather and Don't Stop, stayed true to form, letting slip a few expletives within minutes of arriving on stage - and throughout the concert.

I have a soft spot for Snoop, having interviewed him in Los Angeles once during a press event for a pretty terrible comedy called Soul Plane. (I am trying to find a copy of the story I wrote then, including his hilarious comments about becoming a leading man, so stay tuned) He is a true modern-day renaissance man. In addition to being a successful rap artist who can work with anyone he wants, he is a dedicated husband and father, high-school football coach and producer, sometimes of porn. He does all this, by his own admission, as a total and complete pot lover.

Sometime after I interviewed him, I was sent a press copy of his 2007 book, Love Don't Live Here No More, Doggy Tales: Vol 1, and it became a favourite pastime in our newsroom during times of stress to open it at certain spots for random bits of Snoop wisdom.

Here is a bit on looking at the world differently:

"There were things I'd never noticed, like the color of the building across the way. I'd always thought it was gray, but under the mid-morning sun, I realised it was really a dingy blue. Even the crackheads looked different..."

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Thinking about what my last blog post would be: Honouring Derek K Miller

Derek K Miller is a Canadian writer who lived in Vancouver, BC and kept a blog at He was a dad, and a husband, and a lot of other things too. Then he got cancer. He died Tuesday, at the age of 41. This was his last post.

"The world, indeed the whole universe, is a beautiful, astonishing, wondrous place. There is always more to find out. I don't look back and regret anything, and I hope my family can find a way to do the same."

Snap caption: Today in books you would not expect to find in the UAE

Caitlin Mercer/Borders Ibn Battuta Mall Dubai

Overheard in the newsroom: Super special Thursday edition

"HR saying 'I don't like the way you are holding that banana'."
-On how a recent workplace crackdown on dress codes might escalate

"You scrape the ice off the windshield with your maxed-out credit cards."
-On how whenever we talk about how it sucks to live here, we console ourselves with thoughts of extreme weather and paying taxes

"This is the least-weird cake I've had since moving here."
-Because cake in the UAE is mostly just wrong.

Snoop Dogg is playing on Yas Island tomorrow night: A conversation

Editor A: What if Snoop Dogg gets arrested?

Editor B: Well, apparently he's flying in from Amsterdam.

Editor C: Is he really flying in from Amsterdam?

Editor B: Well, it's a good story.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Need a lady doctor appointment at the Women's Health Centre?

You better bring your passport. And marriage certificate. And a letter of permission from your husband. And this isn't for anything illegal, say a single woman trying to get birth control or treatment for her illegitimate pregnancy or something like that.

Just a regular, run 'o the mill appointment. A colleague has a disturbing, frustrating account of what went down, which should provide a little perspective on the state of women's health in the country. Having said that, I have been two to different lady doctors since arriving, a man and a woman, and although there were lots of questions about my marital status and nationality, I never felt as though I wouldn't get treatment or could be arrested. 

Monday, May 2, 2011

OBL dead: A slightly different POV from my Pakistani taxi driver this morning

"Yesterday America make big drama."

And even better...

"I mourn the loss of thousands of precious lives, but I will not rejoice in the death of one, not even an enemy. Returning hate for hate multiplies hate, adding deeper darkness to a night already devoid of stars. Darkness cannot drive out darkness: only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate: only love can do that."
UPDATE (probably not said by Martin Luther King Jr.)


 "Three things in human life are important: the first is to be kind; the second is to be kind; and the third is to be kind."
— Henry James

How to be a happy expat

Because a cloud wall makes you want to take a selfie.  After 10 years living in the UAE, some of that time happy, some miserable and ...