Saturday, June 26, 2010

Kiteboard swarms, Jumeirah Beach

Still haven't been kiteboarding myself, and after watching some french kid get dragged down the length of the beach, eating sand, I'm okay with that. I also heard a story about some unfortunate soul who sailed clear over the beach a few years ago, on an unexpected updraft. He was too distracted waving at friends on the beach bellow to realize that the wind was about to slam him into the minaret of the beach-side mosque. Not pretty. I don't know if that Darwin award is a true story or not, but I'll save the mouthful of sand or minaret-face for someone else. I'm plenty happy splashing around in the shallows with my Cannon.

I took these a while back and promised mom I'd post them sometime last year. And then I forgot, and got distracted, or busy. There's no excuse. Sorry mom. I was playing with exposure and prefer the slightly darker images, myself. I also know that I should be shooting everything horizontal now. Chock it up to the learning curve.

what most folks don't notice at their feet
in the first four inches
where the beach meets the sea

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Holy nemo! Save a Fish! The mall seas are draining!

Straight from the land of the absurd to your pixil-screen, another winning Dubai news flash: The Dubai Mall Aquarium, (naturally MASSIVE and full...FULL of fish) has had a bad day.

It cracked. Water gushed everywhere. Rumors screamed across Twitter calling it anything from a wee crack, to a full on aquarium Tsunami. And water DID gush everywhere, and as far as the public new coverage is concerned all the fish are fine. But really, ARE THEY? Regardless, we thought it was a DOPE opportunity to start a cause and save some fish. Cause what sort of asshole doesn't like a cute little fish, and the environment and stuff?

Yeah, so TBWA is all about fish, because, we're basically awesome. Join the group, tell us which of the 33,000 fish you've adopted, name that cute little bugger and spread the fishy love. LOVE. For the love of fish, get on it. Mine's named Dory.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Freedom is a freefall

...until you get caught. A Frenchman and a Brit basejump the Burj. A nice little film from Current TV.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Terrorizing fish

Non-working weekends–I'm a fan of these.
Time to get out of the city and get WET.

Before the sandstorms filled the sky with the beige haze, blowing in the July heat, the conditions were PERFECT for wake boarding in neighboring Emirate, Um Al Quwain. was a little windy, but even still. There's a modest little beach club on the Um Al Quwain Creek. It's not nearly as fancy as "beach club" suggests. There's hardly even a beach. But there's a mediocre grille, some houseboats, a speedboat, and dude that reminds me of Mowgli who drives it. It's protected by some mangroves and the perfect place to terrorize some fish and face-plant like the champions we are.

The town's at the end of the creek. Cause creeks here have ends. (You have your fake Louis Vuitton, your fake boobs, and naturally, or shall I say UNnaturally, you also get your fake creeks, that are really just extended bay-inlet-waterway-thingys.)

Wake boarding seems easy enough...

My first time getting yanked through the water, I pretty much sucked. I blame the shorts. Yes, I found my balance, but balance is boring. Idiocy...way more fun to watch.

Brian was doing all right. He'd had a few more weekends of practice under his belt. So the chop didn't destroy him.

He caught a little air, and occasionally landed it.

And occasionally he didn't.

Mike jumps the wake despite the chop, one rigid wipe out at a time.

A little further down the shore we would buzz by the public beach where families were having some picnics on the sand. It looked like they were mostly local Um Al Quwainians (?) The women were in their abayas, some in veils, which made me realize I've never seen a veiled chic wakeboard. Wake boards + Islamic modesty = awkward. But just because I haven't seen it, doesn't mean it doesn't happen. I hope it does...against all odds.

Boats are FUN. Just sayin'.


Any self-respecting wake board jaunt needs a uuber-tacky-tourist-pyramid backdrop. Done.

Go fish
On this particular weekend, the fish were doubly terrorized by a fishing festival. Anyway you could get out there with your bait and tackle, the fishermen were on it. Biggest fish won a speed boat.
Jet ski fishermen. I saw someone else trying to fish from a little blow up boat. In a tussle between a fishing hook and a blow up money's on the hook.

Weighing the contenders.

I think it was that cute little ray in the grass there that took the prize. Dead fish don't bother me. Skewered rays do :(

Saturday, May 30, 2009

shameless consuption

But before the mass gastronomic indulgence...something cute:

Deger saved a bird. Little twat was bashing her head into parking garage walls trying to escape, despite obvious windows and ways out, EVERYWHERE. Bird-brain. Odds are the little wench didn't appreciate Deger's awesomeness. So let's all appreciate on the bird's pea-brained behalf. All together now: AWWWWWWWW.

Now onto BRUNCH! We headed to a cute little place across the pond from Irish Village. (I have no idea what it's called.) And unlike the other ostentatious brunches where vats of gourmet grub go stale all day long, here you order one little dainty taste at a time, and they make each plate fresh. Genius.

Glam with sauce, delivered in dainty little portions, and as many as we want. Life's really rough sometimes.

duck won ton! Almost as cute as the ones still swimming around the pond outside, but way more delicious. And that's not pesto. It's dill-sto.

Deger and his mom check out a pre-wonton duck. For some reason he seems to be terrified of the water. (The duck, not Deger. Although Deger might be scared of the pond too.) He also doesn't seem to recognize the significant irony of the moment. (Again the duck, not Deger.)

And then off to Madinat to chill and digest. And by chill, of course I mean sweat.

Arab lights are neat, especially when the ceiling doesn't bother to block out the sky.

Canal side beer + shisha + beanbags = the perfect way to hunker down for the post-brunch recovery and enjoy the last few days of hot but bearable outdoor temperatures.


Meet Mo.

The chill, Arab teddy bear. Mo thinks he's an amazing dancer. Really, he's a bit uncoordinated.


Oh! Reflections!

What's a better way to end the day than a Strawberry Dacari at Trader Vics?
A dual strawberry Dacari slurp-off at Trader Vics with Veeeeee!

Full Moon Beach Party at Atlantis.
aka, snob-fest, kinda trying to be like the one in Thailand (so I hear), without the fun hippie travelers, and with too many stilettos, and silocon body parts. I have no idea why the women here insist on hooching themselves up, in order to sink their 3-inch heels into sand. But at least there were enough NORMAL people around in flip flops to sorta balance things out. A bottle of beer should NEVER cost that much though, especially when the bar makes you wait half an hour for change. I don't care WHAT city you're in. It's a BEACH party for Christ-sake, not the Oscars. make me cry a little bit on the inside.

Roommates, Leon and Benoit, didn't seem to mind though.

At least they had fire breathing and twirling minsrals to entertain the latent pyro inside all of us. (I wonder if they still have eyebrows.)

Another weekend, another gastronomic orgy
It's not a meal. It's an epic-Arab-seafood-extravaganza. Just the appetizers alone could have kept me satisfied for a week. Mmmmm...hummus.

One small tidbit amongst the abundance. Let's call it "Becky" just for fun. Becky here has been deep fried to a crisp, head still attached. Perfect for rapid munching and nonchalant decapitation. I ate her. Other folks at the table ate "Beckys" by the handful. Crunchy!

This giant prawn seems to have already lost this battle. The euphoric Delaney might be responsible.

Is that a mosque mole?
Post-seafood face-stuffing, we headed over to Lime Tree Cafe. It's good to walk these things off before you proceed to sit again. On the way we spied a flying hamburger balloon. Yes, Islam and American hamburger propaganda share the same prayer-filled sky.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Not so shiny after all

Considering all the previous press about the glitz and glam of the oh-so-posh-a-rific-fan-brand-tabulous-Dubai lifestyle, a bit of the other perspective is healthy. The place isn't perfect and it's refreshing to hear someone say so, even if it's exaggerated.

Give this a read. The article is long. Read it anyway. And please, keep a few things in mind. This ran in the opinions section of the Independent in the UK. It is biased. It's written by a journalist who probably popped into town for a couple days to write something that would things up, expose some realities, visit the the most polarizing locations, and talk to the most polarized perspectives, judge, be asked not to judge, continue to judge, and write about it. It's well written. It's spot some respects. It's terribly off and narrow in others.

The dark side of Dubai
This link is now blocked in the UAE. Funny, eh? Good ol' unfreedom of speech. If the link simply doesn't work, paste the address or google "dark side of dubai" and you should be able to find it without any trouble.

Some perspective on the article
and keep in mind I'm not defending Dubai, just wanna put stuff in context.

Is the human rights situation here messed up?
Yes. Is it messed up in a bunch of other countries? Yes. Are the labor camps real? Yes. Do the construction guys I walk past every day look at me with a sort of sad, broken desperation? Yes. Do I feel helpless about it? Yes. Should I speak out against it or try to run an awareness campaign? I'd rather not go to jail and get kicked out of the country. And it would probably happen in that order.

Are all western expats oblivious,
drunk, and too damn shallow to care about the corruption and human rights trouble? No. Many are clueless. Many are not. Maybe he should have done his interviewing in places other than a notoriously trashy pub. Don't get me wrong, I like Double Deckers for what it is– a great place to grab some pints, sit outside, watch some football and watch the Aussie Chippendales prance around in their bow ties and knee-length shorts. But sometimes it also smells like stale beer and feet. For obvious reasons, it's not the best place to go for informed opinions on the state of affairs in Dubai.

Dubai is a ghost town?
Um, no it's not. Parts are, like many villas on The Palm that have been bought up by investors, or Russians, who just want to say they have a villa on The Palm. The economy has slowed down here just like everywhere else, but when half the place is in transition between construction zone and city, there's gonna be some weird emptiness in between, regardless of downturn or upturn. Some apartment towers in Jumeirah Beach Residence are still empty. Some are filling up. Some stores are closing, others are still waiting to open. But when you see 18 jewelry stores right next to each other, and no drug store in the open air plaza at the base of 5, 45 story apartment towers, it just makes sense that a few will shut down.

Are the Emiratis are either pro-exploitation or con-exploitation?
Do they all tell the same "my grandmother walked to a well" story and now we're rich, so who cares what has to be sacrificed in the process? Um, no. But is the exploitation happening, and are the Emiratis the sacred class, benefiting from it? Yes. Is it racist and irritating, and just weird? Yes. Is this their country and are the rest of the white-colar expats still capitolizing on a fancy tax-free resort town? Yes. Do most of the local and white-collar folks have Philipino or Indian or Pakistani maids and nannies? Yes. Does that happen in many other non-western countries? Yes. Is the exploitation far more complicated than how he explained it in the article? Yes. Is it right? No. Are some of them treated well? Yes.

And as the west criticizes, we're all a little bit hypocritical.
As in any rapidly developing nation, be it in the wake of imperialism, or instant economic boom, or a migrant orchard industry in the US, or in the wake of a monarchy with the means and ambition to push a country to get ahead and prosper ASAP, there are consequences. They are complicated. Read. Comment. Ask questions. And lets see if this blog stays up or if the invisible hand of dubizie shuts it down.

want more?
Slumdogs and Millionaires

Shortly following the blitz of media criticism, the Sheikh responded.
Mohammed: Global crisis behind us

The worst of the crisis is over

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Is it me, or does it stink in here?

Sometimes camels take a crap.
Maybe that's what happened at Lynx. I don't know. I don't like talking about advertising here. That's not what "The Camel's Toe" is supposed to be about. Why waste precious pixels on ad bullshit when other blogs do such a great job of it already? But this month, the '09 Lynx Award Show made Dubai stink last week, and for that offense I can't help myself. So forgive me while I digress from the typical stories of Arab graffiti, sand in my bra, nasty camel milk and succulent beaches, but I need to vent.

Lynx judges, you have killed a little bit of my faith in creative advertising. It's a tiny death, mind you, nibbling away at our shared love for original ideas and honest people. I am not jealous of the winning work. I WISH I was jealous. I LOVE being jealous of amazing work. It sets the bar higher. Jealousy of ideas I wish I'd thought of myself, beautiful writing, fresh art, it all keeps the creative heart beating. I'm more embarrassed, than angry, because the ones who SHOULD be embarrassed probably aren't.

I was frustrated though, that Tuesday night, so it's good that I didn't manage to run into one particular Creative Director/self-declared "roll model," as I made my tipsy way through the celebrating and equally pissed off masses towards the exit.

I'd like to think I wouldn't have regretted a word of what I didn't have the opportunity to say. (Double negative anybody?) Are you proud of yourself? Really? How would you define the phrase, "hack" given the opportunity? So, were you just too much of a "pussy" to show your face on the cover of Campaign magazine? I can't IMAGINE why. Instead I just went home and went too bed, a far better use of my evening.

Considering the unethical, copycat, "borrowed," un-client approved, lazy work for products (that in some cases) don't even EXIST in the Middle East, that our dear Lynx judges unwittingly chose to either celebrate this year, or perhaps simply draw attention to, I'm glad my shortlisted babies didn't have to endure such rank company. But then again, thank goodness for the few legit pieces of fresh thinking that SHOULD be the focus of the post award show buzz. It's a shame the scam artists of our industry have tarnished the setting, and I hate that I feel compelled to write about it. I'd rather be gushing with love and envy. To the judge who said something along the lines of, "this is for a big name brand, therefore it can't possibly be scam," I'm afraid you've been scammed. But at this point, I'm sure you realize. But the stolen fed-ex turned aramex ad? The gummie bears? Really? did an entire panel of judges really not recognize them? Life must be nice underneath that rock.

Recycling's "in" this year
This image started surfing the inter-continental-agency email waves the next day. I don't know who made it, but it gave me a nice chuckle. Thanks, cute creative with a sense of humor. Can we be friends?

Want the details?
I know you do. Cause like I said...why hate on ads, when someone else has already done it. No need to re-write the play-by-play.

One optimistic friend told me, "I kinda think that Fp7 was actually made an example of. By giving them agency of the year, showing the ads that were obviously scammy, maybe the judges were making a statement." I hadn't thought about it that way. Maybe he's got something there. Maybe some healthy embarrassment will come of it. Maybe my myopic, bitchy little perspective has been too busy downing a second desert to notice. I'd like to think so. Maybe the copy-ads were innocent. We've all done it by accident before. You see something, it sticks in your head in a hidden sort of way, and you think you think it up later on. Or it's might just be a good idea that's occurred to more than one person at more than one agency at the same time. It happens. Like the JWT/TBWA bandaid/Hansaplast ad. It's weird when brains are thinking in parallel. Telepathy is creepy-cool. Maybe this sort of innocence just happened a lot this year, but then again, odds are against it.

To everyone else who's jaw was dangling in the mediocre chicken gravy that night, remember, Karma works. I've seen it. (Sometimes it works fast, and unfolds right in front of you, and that's really satisfying.) So create on, my friends. Make us all jealous with your golden originality next year, and I will love you. Just, please for the love of God, Allah, Al Lat, Buddha, Ganesha, Zeus, Santa Claus and the Tooth Fairy, please let the work be truly yours. Let it be for a legit client, even if it's a tiny one you had to seek out for awards, then at least get the product right. Let the idea be new. Let recycling just be for empty bottles and wasted paper, and planet friendliness. Then, as you wave your ego-trophy in inebriated well-deserved joy, I will be the first to stand up and cheer my heart out for you.

Wednesday, February 4, 2009

myth castration, part deux

So while the good 'ol USA continues to get their information on Dubai and the Middle East from the "not at all biased or lame" US media...barfs in the corner...may the super-dooper myth-demolition-extravaganza continue.

1. Dubai is all sand. sand sand sand sand.
Sure there's sand. can feel a wee-bit beige. But if the desert is really nothing but a bunch of dunes and camels, then explain this deliciousness.

Safa Park.
From here, the entire city looks green,
and unlike Paris, you can PLAY on it!

Perfect for frolicking, afternoon concepting,
naps, dog romps, picnics and blatant stupidity.

Granted, a lot of the city IS beige. Unless it's a tall shiny ego phallus. Then it's tall, shiny, and...well, phallic. But it makes for some crazy views when I walk from work to the Dubai Mall for lunch.

This particular erection looks even taller in person, especially when there's a perfect little cloud for dramatic effect. But this is the kind of crap CNN's already covered. Sorry I digress, but it brings us to our next myth....

2. There are no clouds, EVER, and it never rains.
Um, see above. It'll be gone this summer, but it rains in the winter. Thank God. Last winter it rained so much, the city flooded. That was good fun.

Yay weather! Rain, wind, big waves! Okay, it doesn't
really show up here. You'll just have to trust me.

3. Dubai is not in Iraq. And it's not Gaza either. Get a map, people.
I know high school geography was a while ago, but come on. The Middle East is a REGION. For the world to consider a chunk-o-planet a "region," it has to be BIG. Those are just the rules. Dubai is in the United Arab Emirates. It's a little country with a lot of ambition, a lot of tolerance, and the cleanest, shiniest floors ever.

Dubai faces the Arabian Gulf, and if you drive over to Fujiarah, you get a delicious piece of the Indian Ocean. (Technically, it's the Gulf of Oman, but lets not nit-pick. The snorkeling/diving's suposed to be pretty great.) And don't let the whole "Indian Ocean" bit confuse you. Dubai is not in India either. Some neighborhoods just seem that way.

4. Girls should be VEILED?! It's an Islamic nation, therefore it's DRY?!
What? This isn't SAUDI. Dubai is the Vegas/Singapore of the Middle East. Everyone from Europe comes here to defrost, get fried in the sun, ride a camel, party, shop and pick up some knock-off handbags and gold.

On the way to the Gold Souk,
Why take a bridge, when you can take an Abra?

Everyone from the rest of the Middle East comes here to embrace the tolerance and open mindedness of the place, party shop and pick up some real handbags and gold. (Most of them are over the whole camel and sun thing. It's old news.)

This was a fancy little table at a club, for 4 of us. Holy excess!

Roomies at 360

Another night, elsewhere in the city....drinks, music, balmy breezes, strappless tops, and 360 degrees of water. (It's on a jetty.) Take a ten minute walk back down the jetty, through the hotel and out on the street, and you can hear the call to prayer five times a day. Some say it's hypocritical. Some say it's tolerant. Some say it's economics. I'm just amazed that there's life for my tube-top after South Beach.

The general rule? Don't have sex in public. Don't pass out like a drunken idiot on the sidewalk, don't streak down Jumeriah Beach Road (even though it may be tempting,) and you'll be all right. Some of the women I work with dress more seductively than in many ad agencies in the states. Bare shoulders, strappy dresses, Abayas, veils, sweaters, whatever rocks your boat. If you want to dress like a whore, knock yourself out. What will happen? The Indian and Pakistani guys will stare. Yes, they really will. People might think you're Russian and ask you how much, and they won't let you strut through a mosque dressed like that. It's okay to wear a bikini. (Ideally not at work. That would be weird.)

Good place for Bikini!

Bad place for Bikini!

Dumb placed for Bikini!

Now that we've cleared that up, it's also okay to wear shorts and socks with your sandals here, if you don't mind sticking out like an American tourist. The fashionistas might avert their eyes and make fun of you, but it'll be in a Lebanese version of English-French-Arabic, so you won't know the difference and everyone stays happy. And if you're romping around in your short shorts, rocking the sock-sandal thing, you probably ARE a tourist, in which case, so what? ENJOY IT.

5. Women have to deal with loads of sexism at work.
Actually, every advertising chic gets her own personal MINSTREL! At least if you're lucky enough to know someone with a ukulele and feather pen. If you're one of those feminist freaks who yells at the men who are considerate enough to hold the door for you, and let you leave the elevator first, you might not like Dubai. Ladies first. American men, take lessons, your chivalry has gone down the toilet.

Do I see sexism here? Yes. It's eye opening. It makes me angry. And when i do see it, it's out of context. I ask questions. I get less angry, i get more angry. I get confused. It's called a healthy exposure to a different culture. Do I have any idea what it's really like, to be an Emirati woman, in a conservative Emirati family? No. But I know it varies from family to family, a lot. I know it varies from Saudi to Syrian to Lebanese to Iranian to any other given ex-pat family. And anyone who's afraid to come here just because they're too in love with their Wal-Mart-esque-narrow-minded complacency, they're missing out. There's more to life than Iowa. Here's to the open mind. Here's my roaming minstrel. Hawt. Now if only he'd learn to play the damn thing.