Happy Holidays!
So it's about 2:30 am in the morning here. Our plane back to the States leaves in about six hours, we leave for the airport in about two and a half.

In order to try and circumvent jetlag, I'm going to stay up all night. That's my plan, at least. I'll let you know how it goes.

Until then, for everyone who celebrates it, Merry Christmas!

And since I probably won't post much over the next few weeks, here are twenty-eight "Classic" Newlywed in Dubai moments to relive. Why twenty-eight? 'Cause it's more than twenty-five, but fewer than thirty. It's also the number of good ones I've written.

My TOP 28
(and be sure to spread them out over the next three weeks, as you've got to make them last):

08/13/06 - Safe in Dubai pt 1

08/13/06 - Safe in Dubai pt 2

08/14/06 - Arabic Logos #1

08/29/06 - Arabic Logos #2

09/04/06 - Gas Prices in Dubai

09/06/06 - Morgan Spurlock Must Die

09/10/06 - The Barracuda a/k/a Rum Running in the 21 Century

09/12/06 - Letter to the Editor

09/16/06 - Arabic Logos #3

09/18/06 - Grocery Shopping in Dubai

09/22/06 - Ochs is #1

09/23/06 - Ramadan

10/04/06 - Map of Dubai

10/05/06 - Fiesta in Mexico

10/16/06 - Wounded Wife

10/18/06 - Ruining Ramadan

10/27/06 - EA Cricket 07

11/03/06 - McArabia

11/14/06 - Morning photo roundup

11/20/06 - Dubai Marina

11/28/06 - Groceries in Dubai

11/29/06 - That Darn Cat

11/30/06 - Arabic Logos #4

12/07/06 - Spice Magnets

12/07/06 - Bridgton News

12/12/06 - "Reel Bad Arabs"

12/15/06 - GMOs and Muslims

12/16/06 - Burj cookies
posted by Josh @ 2:29 AM  
Boston has "Bostonians". New York has "New Yorkers". Los Angeles has "Los Angelenos". Dubai has ... nothing.

There's no such word as "Dubaians".

Sure, there's a word for national citizens of the United Arab Emirates, "Emiratis". But in Dubai Emiratis only make up anywhere from fifteen to twenty percent of the population (I've read differing accounts on the percentage of the population. Actually I still haven't found a definite number for the population of Dubai, either, but around one and a quarter million people seems to be a good ballpark figure).

Anyway, that means that around one million people have no name, no label.

We call ourselves "ex-patriates", but that only works when we're here. Sometimes we refer to our country of origin, even if, as with some of our friends, they've barely lived there in the last decade or more.

But what happens when we go somewhere else on vacation?

"Where do I live? Well, I'm American, but I live in Dubai."

It's kind of stupid.

And it's very difficult to become a citizen of the UAE. Even babies who are born here to foreign parents aren't citizens. That's just not the system. (Luckily you don't have to worry, as babies are not in the cards for us while we're here.)

Maybe it's just because this place is growing at such a pace and speed that the sociological aspect hasn't caught up yet. Very few of the one million ex-patriates have been here for longer than four or five years, most only a year or two. What happens if they stay for the rest of their lives, have kids who are born here, grow up here, and stay here? (Again, not to worry, that's not us, but I'm just playing the hypothetical.) Sure, these babies can get an American or British passport if their folks are American or British, but are you really an American if you've never lived in the US? Are you a Brit if you've never been to London?

Granted, the official line is that as ex-patriates living in their country we are guests here.

But guests, eventually, leave. And at the rate of construction here, I don't think they want us all to leave. There'd be a lot of empty apartments.

It seems that the system has to change, if they want the growth to be continuous or sustained.

Look at the incredible growth in Southern California, for example. Not unlike Dubai. But I think Los Angeles is, in some ways, the polar opposite of Dubai. You move to that city, like I did after college, and you buy a Thomas Brothers map, find an apartment, get a California driver's license and you're a Los Angeleno. You don't even have to be a Laker fan! Everyone is equal.

Yep, that's only about a thousand times more egalitarian than Dubai. But I don't think that the Emiratis want equals. I think they want guests.
posted by Josh @ 10:18 AM  
Animationy Famous
Huh, so here I am off studying for Finals for the last week, and apparently I've set the whole innernet ablaze with my article about Chris Sanders.

And by "whole innernet" I mean "a few animation fans based in Los Angeles".

Not that there's anything wrong with animation fans based in Los Angeles. I used to be well, both of those.

But seriously, I guess I made Jerry Beck's Cartoon Brew, which is something.

So since I've got the attention of the animation world, why don't you all go check out the animation at art-barn.com. It's a thousand times better than crappy Jib-Jab, whom I hope you know have a cross-promotional deal with Cartoon Brew.

(Not that I don't have promotional deals with art-barn, but my audience is like one-ten-millionth of Jerry Beck's ...)

Oh, and speaking of totally shameless plugs, let's everybody go see Steve Anderson's Meet the Robinsons, out March 30, 2007.

Good night!
posted by Josh @ 12:04 AM  
Speeding Shame
I just saw this other the weekend, it's pretty crazy. The state owned paper Emirates Today is publishing photos of speeders and bad drivers in their paper and online, check it out here.

I guess the paper gets the photos from the police cameras, which is a bit shady, but then again the drivers here are completely insane.

Okay, the speed limit on Sheikh Zayed Road is 120 km/hr - about 75 mph. Normal for a highway. But routinely you'll find construction vehicles going about 80 km/hr - 50 mph. Then in the fast lane you've got these Land Cruisers, BMWs, Porsches and whatnot going well over 100 mph.

Perfect example - a maroon Ranger Rover with plates "666" was caught speeding on camera twice in three days!

Luckily our little black Echo probably won't be making the pages of Emirates Today, as I don't think it can go anywhere near an impressive speed. But if it ever does, you'll be the first to know.

Lastly, here's a crazy video I found on YouTube with some footage of accidents in Dubai (don't worry, nothing too gruesome):

posted by Josh @ 12:01 AM  
Ray LaMontagne's "Crazy"
Today after lunch at the Hard Rock I ran over to Ibn Batutta Mall to pick up some last minute Christmas presents and some toilet paper. Very important mission. As I drove on the rainy Sheikh Zayed Road, I turned on the radio, good ol' Dubai 92.

They were in the middle of a kind of folksy acoustic cover of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy". You know the song, it was one of the anthems of this last summer. You know it, even if you don't think you do. I mean, we played it at the wedding. See, you've totally heard it. But not this version. This version, well it sounded a little bit like Lewiston, Maine's own singer-songwriter Ray LaMontagne.

Then the Canadian DJ comes on and says, "That was Ray LaMontagne covering Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy".

No way!

No freakin' way!!

Dubai 92 is the big American-ish station around here, I think it might be the number one station in Dubai. It's kind of modern rock music, but then lots of 80s British pop. It's what you'd expect to find on the iPod of your British buddy who's about 35 years old, but keeps up with the current Rolling Stone-esque musical trends.

Also weird about Dubai 92? Their promo announcer voice (you know, the "You're listening to a mid-morning music marathon on Dubai 92") is the same voice of Los Angeles' KROQ.

Very random.
posted by Josh @ 7:19 PM  
Hard Rock Holiday
Today we went out to lunch at the Hard Rock Dubai, nextdoor to the university. Had a bit of a surprise when we went in - the entire floor was covered in little styrofoam pellets - fake snow!

Talk about things you'd never see in the States! First off, we had to walk upstairs on these slippery little spheres to the non-smoking section (which in itself is a joke, if health laws don't exist in Dubai the laws of physics still do, thus smoke still rises, making the non-smoking section smokier than the smoking section ... but I digress). Second the staff was having fun playing in the snow throwing it around. Where people are eating. Now, I don't know what kind of Department of Health exists in Dubai, but you'd think that having this stuff in an dining establishment is breaking some rule somewhere. You'd think. I mean, how do they clean? What happens if some child drops a burger into the fake snow ... I mean, they just can't sweep it up ... ewww.

But anyway, it was actually still kind of fun to have some snow in Dubai. I mean, other than the Ski Dubai kind.
posted by Josh @ 2:36 PM  
Newt's New Deal
Did anyone see Former Speaker of the House Newt Gingrich on "Meet The Press" yesterday? He had a good point about Iraq, that the 60% unemployment rate among young men is fueling the insurgency, we have to give them something to do. What about rebuilding their infrastructure with a program like Franklin Roosevelt's post-Great Depression Civilian Conservation Corps?

Pretty good idea, I think.

Then he said something about 'starting a debate about the First Amendment' which kind of lost me.

I like me some free speech.
posted by Josh @ 10:00 AM  
Finished Painting
Thursday, the day before the big Holiday party, I finally painted the last room in the apartment - our office / spare bedroom. It's this teal / seafoam green color (officially known as ACE Hardware's "Going My Way"). It came out exactly like I was hoping it would.

Check out the photos here: Paint! Office

We're still looking for the perfect fold-out couch or futon, so the pillows were just for the party. But hey, it worked.
posted by Josh @ 11:08 AM  
Burj cookies
Last night was Liz and my First Annual Holiday Party. It was kind of funny, we invited a bunch of our neighbors and coworkers, and two of the British women asked, "What is a 'Holiday Party'?"

Apparently England isn't particularly PC ...

Anyway, Liz and I put together quite a spread for our guests, if I may say so myself. The favorite thing I made were sugar cookies hand cut to the shape of the Burj al-Arab hotel.

See, we don't have any cookie cutters here, nor could we find any. So instead of just making all boring circles, I carved some dough out like the famous Dubai landmark. It took a little while to do, but in the end they just looked so cool.

Plus they tasted good, too!
posted by Josh @ 6:22 PM  
News: Stalag 9/11
I've been trying to stay away from political articles around here lately, lest anyone have views different than my own. But this article is so clever. Plus Billy Wilder is one of my favorite all-time filmmakers.

So check this out:
    The Huffington Post
    Stalag 9/11
    By Chris Kelly
    December 03, 2006

    George Bush has done some iffy things since seizing power, but the one that really hit me where I live was ruining Billy Wilder's Stalag 17.

    If you're not into old movies, you should know that Stalag 17 is a cynical, fast-talking dark comedy set in a prisoner of war camp, kind of a cross between Grand Illusion and His Girl Friday.

    Of course, if you're not into old movies, knowing it's a cross between Grand Illusion and His Girl Friday probably didn't help much. Let me start again...

    Stalag 17 was a play written by two guys, Donald Bevan and Edmund Trzcinski, who had been actual prisoners at an actual place called Stalag 17 in actual Austria during World War Two. (Think of Austria as kind of a cross between Switzerland and Triumph of the Will.) Billy Wilder made it into a movie in 1953 with William Holden and it's a really terrific piece of entertainment, full of interesting characters and snappy wised-up dialogue and cool plot twists and bravery and Nazis. And you don't have to take my word for it. Ask anyone else who's old.

    Here's where President Bush comes in. While Stalag 17's prisoners are planning their escapes, and the Germans are trying to stop them, both sides keep referring to this dopey sort of rulebook called "the Geneva Conventions."

    These appear to be rules about the fair treatment of prisoners - I dunno, not torturing them, for instance - and even the Nazis obey them. Weird, huh?

    A lot hinges on them, as a plot gimmick, but the characters seem to take them for granted. Even though it's a war, there are still things you don't do. Which, if only for story purposes, explains why the movie isn't two hours of Otto Preminger holding William Holden's head under water.

    (Otto Preminger? Nothing? Okay, think of a cross between Erich von Stroheim and... no, this is getting us nowhere.)

    This isn't supposed to take anything away from the Nazis as the villains of the piece --you can see it in the kommandant's beady little burgher eyes that he wishes he could get around the Conventions - but the rules are the rules.

    Even if the rules are - how did the Attorney General put it? - "quaint."

    But here's the thing. If you accept that the Geneva Conventions are just an annoying formality, like recycling - and I guess we do now - it ruins the whole movie. There's no drama in it. Because the Third Reich isn't even trying.

    The prisoners get mail from home. They get visits from the Red Cross. They aren't even kept in cages. No one hoods them, or electrocutes them, or pretends to execute them, or places them in a "stress position" or walks them around on a leash. At one of the darkest points in the story, one of them is forced to stand for a few days without sleep. Like that even hurts.

    Don't the guards want their country to win? These guys -- the prisoners -- are all members of an organization (The United States Army Air Force) that not only is thinking of using weapons of mass destruction, they actually are. Night after night. From planes.

    They have information that could save German lives. But no one seems to have given their interrogators the tools they need to get it.

    And now my stomach hurts. Because sometimes even sarcasm can only get you so far.

    In real life, the Nazis did commit atrocities against American prisoners of war. At Malmedy. At Mauthausen. That's why we hate Nazis. Because they were bad.

    In real life, bombing Germany killed a half million civilians, but interned American and British airmen were generally treated according to the Geneva Conventions. They weren't systematically tortured. They weren't deliberately humiliated. They weren't held in solitary cells. International organizations were given their names and their families were informed of their capture. Their mortality rate was less than 1%.

    And they were being held by the worst government on earth.

    It's almost like the hippies at MoveOn have it backwards. When it comes to protecting his country, Hitler isn't George Bush.
posted by Josh @ 6:16 PM  
GMOs and Muslims
One of the classes I'm taking spared us a Final Exam, and gave us a Final Paper instead. Phew. I'm much better at writing than memorizing corporate structures and management decision making standards. Plus we got to work in groups - even better.

The paper was on Genetically Modified Organisms, you know, when chemical companies put random new genes into corn to make it grow taller, or tomatoes to make them stay ripe for longer periods. But the trick was that each group had to take sides - the European Union, the US, the chemical companies, developing nations, etc. Then in the final class we would debate.

Well, my group was the EU, which is cool because they're not down with GMOs, and neither am I.

But what was even cooler is that another group was the US, and we got to find fault with "their" government for an hour and a half.

Anyway, walking to class I ran into one of the guys who's in both of my classes. He's an accountant, and initially very reserved, but after I got to know him he's wicked friendly. I don't even know what country he's from, one of the Islamic ones around here. So we were joking about the paper and making fun of the US and stuff, having a grand old time. His group was taking the side of the chemical companies, but he said how GMOs were pretty scary to him.

I agreed, and then mentioned something I read in one of the articles. A group had put a milk protein from pigs into maize.

He got deathly serious. He asked if I was joking.

No, I wasn't - I'd email him the paper tomorrow.

See, Muslims don't eat any pig products. It's very serious business. You can't even buy ham, bacon, pepperoni, etc in my grocery store here. And the sheer fact of a scientist putting porcine milk protein "alpha-lactalbumin" into their corn - well, it's got to be very scary to Muslims.

We didn't talk about it in class, and being the only American in the class of twelve I sure as hell wasn't going to bring up that US scientists were sneaking pork milk into their Doritos. But that's something I had never thought of before this experience, and something I wonder if these American chemical companies have even thought of yet.
posted by Josh @ 6:00 PM  
Ol' Number 18
Not that I'm particularly bitter about Johnny Damon leaving the Red Sox and going to the Yankees, but this photograph of Daisuke Matsuzaka holding up his new Red Sox jersey with Number 18 is the best thing I've seen in my life. Ever.

Take that, Johnny.

Just for the record, though, Matsuzaka was No. 18 with the Seibu Lions.

But what do we call him? Is it "Dice-K" or "D-Mat"? It seems that the Globe wants Dice-K, but his agent wants D-Mat. I don't particularly like Shaughnessy, but I like Boras even less ...
posted by Josh @ 7:56 AM  
Matsuzaka AND Mirabelli!

The deal to bring Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka to the Red Sox is complete! Six years, $52 million. The deadline was midnight EST tonight, but it's done now. And I can breathe again.

And ... and the Boston Globe is reporting that backup-catcher Doug Mirabelli is returning, too. Wow, this lineup is something. Dude. That's all I needed for Christmas.

Tomorrow I'm climbing to the top of the Burj Dubai wearing my Tim Wakefield Red Sox shirt. That's all there is to it ...
posted by Josh @ 4:52 PM  
Chris Sanders Fired.
This morning I got some disturbing news from a friend who still works at Walt Disney Feature Animation. I guess yesterday they laid off 166 people, leaving only 600 behind.

One of the fired was "Lilo & Stitch" writer / director Chris Sanders.

I had the luck to sit near Chris' office twice in my career at Disney. The first time was in the fall of 1998, after I'd been in the building all of two or three months. At that point he and his co-director Dean were first thinking up Lilo & Stitch. They were very secretive about their work, and since I was on a different picture, I barely knew their title. But eventually I found out more about the movie. I guess you'd say I happened to be in the right place at the right time. See, Chris also did the voice for Stitch in the movie (and all of the many, many sequels) so every day he was constantly running around doing that high pitched gibberish that is Stitch. But this is back when about five people in the world knew who Stitch was, and I wasn't one of them. Finally I was just like, "Dude, what are you doing?!" At that point I was let into his wonderful world.

I've met lots of bright people in my thirty years on this planet, heck I married one, but Chris Sanders is something else. He is a genius. It's plain and simple. Now I've never met Steve Jobs, or Bill Clinton, or the guy who came up with the Clapper, you know, the people most associated with being a genius in today's world, but I'm smart enough to recognize genius when I see it. Or hear it muttering alien squeeks from his office.

Because Chris Sanders is Stitch. There's one story from when he was directing Lilo at the Florida studio, which of course is now since closed. Anyway, apparently there was a line of ants walking along the sidewalk. Chris and his co-director made a bet of how many ants they could lick off of the sidewalk.

It's that weird, crazy kid behavior that made him perfect for making Disney animated movies. Like one day when I was sitting outside of his office he was even more excited than normal. And "normal" for him was like a five year old all hepped up on pixie sticks and Halloween candy. One day he's totally psyched, and he's carrying this wooden box. He asks this other Production Assistant and myself if we want to see something cool. It's as if we were in elementary school waiting for class to begin, and he's got the best "show and tell" item ever. He's so excited that it rubs off on you, like pixie dust.

"What's in the box? What's in the box?"

It turns out that he had a mummified cat in the wooden box. He bought in on eBay or some sketchball website. It was so gross and funny and weird, and he was totally into it. It's pretty obvious his is the brain that spawned Stitch.

Anyway, in 2003 I ended up sitting in a cubicle outside of his office again. He was just starting to plot the movie that he was directing, well, directing until yesterday. I remember the day he found out that I was quitting and moving home. He saw me scanning at one of the "creation station" computers, and he mentioned that it was a bummer I was leaving Disney. He was actually quite somber and genuine, and it was sad to see him like that.

That was one of the hard parts about leaving Disney - all of the people who I didn't know that well, who I had never worked with, but with whom I would liked to have worked. You know, the potential. The possibilities.

But I always thought, "At least I'll get to go to these future movies as a fan". To see the little bits of the artists who I know make it into the characters that they create.

It's sad that now I've lost not only the possibility to work with Chris Sanders, but also the possibility to see his movie. If it was a bummer when I left Disney, then this is downright tragic.
posted by Josh @ 2:33 PM  
I Jinxed Gagné
Right now it's about 3:30 am in the morning. I'm awake.

I was asleep, but then I woke up and got thinking about all of the things we have to do in the next week before we head home. As if that wasn't enough, then I got thinking about everything else in the world.

Including the Boston Red Sox.

You didn't believe me when I say talking about Red Sox stuff can jinx it, did you? Remember when I was going on and on about pitcher Eric Gagné last week (If you missed it, see Red Sox Update).

Well, looks like I jinxed it ...
    Associated Press
    December 13, 2006

    Reliever Eric Gagné and the Texas Rangers reached a preliminary agreement yesterday on a one-year contract worth about $6 million.

    The agreement was confirmed by a person familiar with the negotiations who spoke on condition of anonymity because no announcement had been made. The deal would allow Gagné to earn about $5 million more in performance bonuses.

    Gagné, the 2003 NL Cy Young Award winner with the Dodgers, must pass a physical before the contract can be finalized.

    Injuries limited Gagné to 14 games and eight saves in 2005 and two outings with one save this year. The righthander had surgery in April to remove a nerve from his pitching elbow -- the same arm that required elbow-ligament replacement surgery in 1997. He then had season-ending surgery July 8 to repair a herniated disk in his lower back.

    Gagné became the closer for the Los Angeles in 2002, and saved 52 games with a 1.97 ERA in 77 appearances. The following season, when he won the Cy Young Award, he pitched in the same number of games and innings (82 1/3) and converted all 55 save chances with a 1.20 ERA and 137 strikeouts. He saved 45 more games in 2004.

    © The Associated Press

Quite honestly I wasn't even going to post this until tomorrow - midnight EST on Thursday is the ... well, we'll talk about it at 12:01 am ...
posted by Josh @ 3:35 AM  
News: Lionel's crying
Okay, so maybe I have to take back everything I just said about Dubai drivers being "something beyond", as I just read the news about Nicole Ricthie driving the wrong way on a LA freeway.

(And yes, I know that it's several days old, sadly my subscription to "Nicole News 24/7" expired last month).

Interestingly enough, it sounds as if she was stopped next door to the Disney Animation building where I used to work ...
    Los Angeles Times
    Nicole Richie arrested on DUI charge
    The 'Simple Life' star was spotted driving the wrong way on the 134 Freeway.

    By Andrew Blankstein
    December 12, 2006

    Celebutante Nicole Richie was arrested early Monday on suspicion of driving under the influence after motorists spotted her driving the wrong way on the 134 Freeway in Burbank, the CHP said.

    The 25-year-old celebrity, known as the friend of Paris Hilton and who stars with the heiress on the television show "The Simple Life," was booked at the California Highway Patrol's Glendale-Verdugo Hills Station on the single misdemeanor charge after her arrest at 1:45 a.m. She was taken to the Glendale city jail, then released at 7:17 a.m. after posting $15,000 bail.

    Officers assigned to the CHP's Altadena office responded to reports by motorists that a sport utility vehicle was traveling east in the westbound lanes of the 134 Freeway, near the Buena Vista Street entrance in Burbank, the CHP said. When officers arrived, they found Richie had stopped in the carpool lane and was the lone occupant of the vehicle. She admitted to officers that she had smoked marijuana and taken the painkiller Vicodin, said CHP Sgt. Mark Garrett.

    Unlike the DUI arrest of Paris Hilton in September, which was captured in minute detail by a swarm of paparazzi, CHP officials said Richie's arrest was uneventful. In 2003, Richie was arrested for heroin possession and spent time in rehabilitation. Authorities would not say whether Monday's arrest violated terms of her probation on that charge.

    Earlier this year, production of "The Simple Life" was postponed because Richie had entered a treatment facility to deal with her inability to gain weight.

    © Los Angeles Times
posted by Josh @ 8:42 PM  
Parking Lot
So the other night we went to the Mall of the Emirates to see that movie Reel Bad Arabs. Now, it's dark and it's pouring rain, so everyone is kind of driving like idiots to begin with. It doesn't help that the parking garage at the mall is very poorly laid out, there's no easy way to get up to the top floors without driving through a few rows where people are parking, so everything gets backed up very easily. Generally when we go over there we park on the roof - it's a pain to get to, but at least it's out of the way.

Monday night, though, I didn't really want to park on the roof because of the rain. I went to the third floor, however, and had to drive around and around to find a spot. Finally I see three people walking up to their little hatchback. They wave, I assume at me, so I flip on the blinker and wait.

They're kind of taking their sweet time getting in the car, when all of a sudden this big Land Rover / Land Cruiser-deal comes speeding up behind me. Enough so when I see it in the rear-view I actually braced for impact. But it stops in time, and the door flies open.

A blonde woman runs to my side of our car and raps on the window. Startled, I look to find the button to open the window and she opens my car door.

What the hell?!

"We have an agreement, I'm getting that spot."


"I've been following those people around the lot, and we have an agreement that I'm getting their spot."


I was floored. Was she making this up? Were they waving to her and not me? Wait, did she seriously just open my car door?!?

I didn't know what to do, I was so in shock.

She stalks back to her truck and waits. The car in front of me pulls out and drives off. What do I do?

Do I park here and tell her to scram? I mean, she's white and sounded British, so she's not one of the sheikh's daughters or anything, but on the other hand who might she know who could get me kicked out of Dubai? Who knows?

What do I do?

I drive off.

I'm still in shock. Liz, on the other hand, is furious.

Did she really open my car door?!?

We eventually found a spot and parked. I kind of wanted to go over to the truck and do something, I dunno, write down the license plate number or spit on the windshield or something, but I didn't. I went to the movies and got popcorn instead.

In my life I've learned:
    The drivers in Boston can be inconsiderate.

    The drivers in New York City can be downright rude.

    The drivers in Los Angeles can drive much to quickly for their own or other people's safety.

    But the drivers in Dubai are something beyond.

I think almost two days later I'm still in shock.
posted by Josh @ 3:07 PM  
News: DP World Sold
The sad ending of a stupid chapter in the post-September 11 United States.

I assume that this sale also covers P&O Ports New England, in Portland, Maine.
    The New York Times
    Dubai Port Company Sells Its U.S. Holdings to A.I.G.
    By Heather Timmons
    December 12, 2006

    LONDON, Dec. 11 - Dubai's giant port company, DP World, sold its United States holdings on Monday to the American International Group, bringing to an end a contentious deal that left a bitter taste for Middle East investors.

    Under pressure from politicians, DP World is selling terminal operations in six ports, including New York-New Jersey and Philadelphia, cargo-handling businesses in 16 Eastern and Gulf of Mexico ports, and a passenger terminal in New York City to a unit of A.I.G., an insurance company with little experience in the port business.

    The price was not disclosed, though DP World said it was "fair." DP World executives said after they agreed to sell the assets in March that they expected to get about $750 million from the sale. Since then port deals have become increasingly popular for bank infrastructure funds, like that of Goldman Sachs, which headed a group that won control of AB Ports, a British company, in June.

    The DP World sale is the final chapter in a politically charged deal that many financial advisers say helped drive Middle East petrodollars away from the United States and into developing market areas like Asia instead.

    DP World, which is controlled by the Dubai government, acquired the United States ports in its $6.8 billion acquisition of Peninsular and Oriental Holdings, a British company, in February. The deal was quickly opposed by United States politicians from both parties, who claimed that Dubai's ownership of United States assets was a threat to security and that the deal was being rushed through without proper review.

    Their objections were based in part on the fact that several of the Sept. 11, 2001, hijackers moved through the United Arab Emirates before coming to the United States and used its banking system. Supporters of the deal argued that Dubai was one of the United States' closest allies in the Middle East, and had a long history of allowing the United States military to use its ports. Foreign policy specialists worried that the opposition would cause a rift between Dubai and the United States.

    DP World's chief executive, Mohammed Sharaf, said that the uproar over the deal had not done permanent damage to relations between the United States and Dubai. The two countries' leaders are "much more responsible people" than that, he said.

    He acknowledged that because of the reception to the DP World deal, some Middle East investors were looking outside of the United States for places to put their money. "As time passes, that will change," Mr. Sharaf said, unless United States authorities enact more protectionist measures against deals involving Middle East investors.

    Senator Charles E. Schumer, the New York Democrat who led opposition to DP World's takeover of Peninsular and Oriental, said in a statement that Monday's sale represented "an appropriate final chapter" to the DP World deal and that he expected it to receive broad support in Washington.

    "The economic relationship between Dubai and America has not been hurt by this," Senator Schumer said in a telephone interview. He said the deal was "mishandled from the get-go."

    A.I.G.'s asset management unit, the AIG Global Investment Group, will take control of the port operations. The ports' current management, led by its chairman, Michael Seymour, will remain. AIG Global Investment's managing director, Christopher Lee, said that A.I.G. had "identified the marine terminals sector as a key element in our infrastructure investment strategy."

    Senator Schumer said that A.I.G.'s asset management unit might not have much port experience, but it "has good experience running companies."

    DP World is planning to grow in North America, South America, the Middle East and Europe, Mr. Sharaf said.

    © The New York Times Company
posted by Josh @ 9:33 PM  
O Christmas Tree
Here's a camera-phone picture of the Christmas Tree at the Mall of the Emirates. It actually reaches to the third floor (where we were standing):

posted by Josh @ 2:19 PM  
"Reel Bad Arabs"
We saw Reel Bad Arabs last night. Sadly it was a very frustrating film.

The movie is based on Dr. Jack Shaheen's best-selling book, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People. Unfortunately instead of interviewing actors, writers, film historians, heck, even the clerks who sell movie tickets, the movie interviews only Dr. Jack Shaheen. What's left is a fairly one-sided portrayal of the issues.

It's very easy to prove that many movies made in Hollywood have horrible Arab stereotypes. Reel Bad Arabs does do a good job of assembling clips to support that arguement, they pull up everything from old 1940s cartoons up through 2000's Rules of Engagement. Take the cliched belly-dancer, for example, this film assembles quite a montage of clips with scantily-clad women gyrating. Or the lecherous sheikh who's after the American or European blonde. We're treated to virtually every blonde bombshell Hollywood has produced getting leered at by a dude in a dish-dash.

And then sadly Reel Bad Arabs goes in a different direction than I would have.

The film trots out a whole host of movies that have had crummy stereotypes. While some of the clips were spot on, for the most part the selection was very weak. As I guessed yesterday, they brought up the sheikh that Jamie Farr played in The Cannonball Run. However, for some reason they chose instead to discuss the sequel, Cannonball Run II, which is horrible. I mean, even worse that the first movie. Yes, bad movies can be racist, but I feel you really have to put the characters in context. The two Cannnonball movies are very questionable in their representation of gays, blacks, Asians, hillbilly crackers, women, authority figures as well as Arabs. Virtually no group comes away not being insulted. But by quoting the films in a scholarly context, it seems to give them more weight than they really carry. I mean, can anyone really take Ricardo Montlebon seriously?! He played the Jamie Farr's sheikh's father in the second film.

Ricardo Montlebon!!

But that wasn't the worst choice in movie clips. Oh no.

Have you ever even heard of Ernest in the Army?

Yeah, I didn't think so.

Made in 1998, it stars Jim Varney (God rest his soul) as Ernest P. Worrell. And apparently they fight Arabs. I'm not really sure, and I don't think anyone really is as nobody in the world has ever heard that this film exists. I bet the director's own mother hasn't seen it.

But now I've seen twenty seconds of it. And it was way worse than Cannonball Run II.

The clips go on, some Las Vegas showgirls turning into Special Forces soft-core rubbish, and a whole host of movies made when my parents were in high school. It was laughable.

Also laughable? Shaheen's clear bias against liberals. It's not Raiders of the Lost Ark, it's Steven Spielberg's Raiders of the Lost Ark.

It's not Father of the Bride Part II, it's Disney's Father of the Bride Part II.

And then he gets to True Lies. The bad guys in this 1994 film are Arab terrorists who blow up the Florida Keys with a nuclear bomb. Does Dr. Shaheen refer to it as Twentieth Century Fox's True Lies? Or maybe News Corporation's True Lies? Perhaps Rupert Murdoch's True Lies? Wait, I know, as the star of the movie is California's current Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger, is it Arnold Schwarzenegger's True Lies?


And it would have been perfect, too, as the segment of the film bridging Hollywood and Washington politics was pretty weak. But instead of pointing out that the man in charge of what is technically the seventh largest economy in the world was in a horribly racist movie a little more than a decade ago, he lets the Governator off scott free. In fact, the only Arnold clip that they use is the "You're fired" part at the end of the movie. And even then, Schwarzenegger is on screen for about a second. To contrast, the film plays the entire scene of frightened daughter Eliza Dushku being threatened by the Arab villian up on the crane.

One can only wonder, did Shaheen and the filmmakers let Schwarzenegger off because he's a Republican?

But Disney and Spielberg get called out by name ... that hardly seems fair.

This brings up another interesting choice that Shaheen and the filmmakers made - what to skip and what to delve into. Sadly the television program "24" was all but glossed over. I feel that the Araz Family in last year's season four would have been an excellent topic to discuss. It's post-September 11th, so it's higher profile, it deals with a family of Arab terrorists, including a teenage son who's dating a little blonde American girl.

Sounds like a compelling part of their argument.

But instead the filmmakers choose to spend quite some time discussing Network, which was made three decades ago. That was the year I was born.

At least the documentarians place this film in historical context by touching on the mid-1970s oil crisis, which gave rise to the anti-Arab sentiment in the film. They weren't that nice when it came to 1985's Back to the Future.

The villians who shoot Doc Brown in the opening of Back to the Future are Libyan terrorists. They have machine guns, a VW bus, no real dialogue, and they kill a beloved character.

Now, I'm not speaking on behalf of the writers or director of Back to the Future, I have no special insight into this film, but I can assume why the Libyans were chosen as the bad guys for the brief opening scenes. In the early 1980s Colonel Moammar al-Ghadafi and the country of Libya were widely regarded as the principal financier of international terrorism. It's believed that they financed the "Black September Movement" that partook in the Munich massacre at the 1972 Summer Olympics. And in 1984 a British police constable was shot outside of the Libyan Embassy in London while policing an anti-Gaddafi demonstration. It's believed that machine gun fire from within the building killed her.

I don't think that Libyan terrorists were picked because they were Arabs. I don't think that their brief potrayal on film was paticularly racist. Had the movie been made in the mid-1990s, I bet the villans would have been some relgious zealots such as the Branch Davidians or a group of home-grown terrorists like the Michigan Militia. And they would have acted the exact same way.

The Libyans were a dominant terror group in the twilight years of the Cold War. Who else could they have been? Not Soviets, the USSR already had a nuclear bomb, why would Doc Brown have to make it for them?

It's terribly frustrating.

But the saddest part of the movie for me was that this conservative-bias took too much time from the pertinent facts. The most compelling part of the documentary is nightly news footage from the day of the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. How Connie Chung et al were reporting a "Middle East connection". It's horrifying. It's saddening. It's real.

But it's not explored fully.

It's too bad the filmmakers made so many of the decisions that they did. They spent too much time dealing with antiquated movies, and not enough time with the post-September 11th Hollywood. The complete lack of voices other than Dr. Jack Shaheen's is a very poor choice, I mean, did they even ask anyone else? How about Leonard Maltin? He loves to be in everything! But seriously, it's too bad that the filmmakers didn't ask some of the writers and directors of the chosen clips why they wrote or directed these Arabs in this fashion.

While the topic is quite interesting, it needs to be discussed and studied in a nonpartisan and transparent fashion, which this film sadly isn't.

It's just too bad.
posted by Josh @ 12:50 PM  
Dubai Int'l Film Festival
Looks like I'm going to have to miss tonight's showing of "High" Hitler - I forgot, the Dubai International Film Festival starts today!

The festival is really quite diverse, lots of American movies (For Your Consideration, World Trade Center, Fast Food Nation, Bobby) but then also lots of Indian and world movies, with a handful of local offerings.

What with the end of the semester, I'm only going to go see a couple of movies, sadly.

Tonight we're seeing what sounds like an interesting one - Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People.

Based on Dr. Jack Shaheen's best-selling book, Reel Bad Arabs: How Hollywood Vilifies a People examines the slanderous Arab stereotypes produced by America's dream factory for the past 100 years. Drawing on hundreds of derogatory images, from early silent films to blockbusters such as Back to the Future and True Lies, Dr. Shaheen identifies Hollywood's Arab caricatures: "over-sexed Bedouin bandits, submissive maidens, buffoons, barbarians and bloodthirsty terrorists." Since 9/11, there has been an ever greater need to counter this form of anti-Arab prejudice, and although pernicious celluloid images persist, Reel Bad Arabs also looks with guarded optimism at the more complex and compassionate depiction of Arab characters in several recent American films, including Ridley Scott's Kingdom of Heaven, and in Hany Abu-Assad's Oscar-winning Paradise Now, DIFF's Opening Night Gala Screening in 2005. Produced by America's Media Education Foundation, which promotes "critical reflection" on the varied global impact of American media, Reel Bad Arabs is a powerful and provocative documentary, which shares this section's goal of building cultural bridges.

I'm a little wary of this movie, honestly, in the blurb they've brought up Back to the Future and on the poster is a picture of the guard Razoul from Disney's Aladdin. Back to the Future and Aladdin are, far and away, two of my favorite motion pictures of all time.

And you know that they're not even going to talk about the sheikh from 1981's The Cannonball Run.

So we'll see.

If it's cool I'll tell you, apparently it's already available on DVD from the Media Education Foundation.

Then on Saturday we're going to check out Death of a President.

A discovery that had people queuing round the block at its recent Toronto International Film Festival premiere, no doubt on account of its subject matter, is a brilliant piece of film-making. Totally fictional in its story, but made utterly authentic by documentary clips, fake interviews and skilful digital effects, it presents us with an 'investigative documentary', set in an imagined near future, about the assassination of George W. Bush and the pursuit of the perpetrator. With a brilliantly convincing collage of actual documentary footage and equally convincing interviews with those involved, Death of a President takes us through the lead-up to the assassination during a protest outside a Chicago hotel. Almost inevitably, a Muslim is fingered for the killing, despite limited evidence. Only slowly is the true culprit revealed. The whole has a haunting sense of real possibility.

I've been psyched to see this since early September when I heard about it. Some of the reviews were mixed, I remember (Richard Corliss from Time was so-so, and I trust him quite a bit) but still, talk about a compelling movie to see while over here.
posted by Josh @ 3:24 PM  
Obama is a lefty!
I just saw Senator Barack Obama on the news at a booksigning in New Hampshire, and he's left handed!

Just one more reason to vote for him in '08!
posted by Josh @ 2:19 PM  
"High" Hitler
As I've mentioned here before, although at first glance our cable channels in Dubai look American, they're slightly different. Orbit ESPN has baseball and football, but also rugby and cricket and soccer. Cartoon Network has Powerpuff Girls and Dexter's Lab, but also some crappy European stuff.

And then there's the History Channel.

Pretty much it's either "Engineering Disasters" or World War II all day and all night.

And not even the War in the Pacific - I watched on December 7th and there wasn't a whisper about Pearl Harbor. Nope. It's all the European Theater.

Which makes it a little bit like the Hitler Channel.

"Hitler's Legacy", "Hitler's War: Death Trap", "Hitler's War: The Iron Grave", "Hitler's War: The Battle Of Britain", "Hitler's War: Fire Storm", "Hitler's War: The Air War Over Germany" ... the list goes on and on.

But tomorrow night's new show might take the cake ... "High Hitler".

Apparently Hitler was all hepped up on goofballs and laxatives and who knows what.

They've been advertising the heck out of this show, and I'm really kind of psyched to see it. I mean, I've heard a lot about Hitler, but that he was gassy and on laxatives 24/7? That's something new I didn't know.

I'll report back if there's anything else worth writing about.
posted by Josh @ 2:00 PM  
the Scott Boras Corporation
Short Red Sox rant here - every baseball-related article I've read in the last two months has in some way included agent Scott Boras.

How in the wide-wide world of sports can he represent Daisuke Matsuzaka, Eric Gagné, J.D. Drew, Johnny Damon, Alex Rodriguez, Bernie Williams, Barry Zito, Chan Ho Park, Greg Maddux, Kenny Rogers, Ivan Rodriguez, Adrian Beltre, Jason Varitek, Derek Lowe, Craig Hansen and the entire lineup of the 1919 Chicago White Sox?!

I mean, this one man controls pretty much every Red Sox, Yankee, Tiger and Dodger player. How is that possible?

And is that fair?

It can't be legal.

Man, I hope the new Democratic Congress will look into this in January ...
posted by Josh @ 5:59 PM  
Ski Dubai Video
So I've finally edited together a little video from our trip to Ski Dubai.

It was all shot on my Coolpix L1, not my real digital video camera, so the quality is a little sub-par. Luckily that doesn't get in the way of the story, because there is none. Just some pretty pictures.

And since this is probably the closest thing to a "real" ski movie that I'll ever make, I had to steal a page from Greg Stump and include a song from his classic 1989 film License to Thrill.

And if anyone is still looking for that perfect present for me, well, the Greg Stump DVD four pack would be outstanding! It features four fantastic movies:

    "Blizzard of AHHHS"
    "Groove - Requiem in the key of Ski"
    "P-Tex, Lies and Ducktape"
    "License to Thrill"

In fact, pick up a copy for yourself while you're at it, the movies are just that good ...
posted by Josh @ 10:36 AM  
Bridgton News
Another cleanup article here - I've finally got a good scan of our wedding announcement that ran in our local paper, The Bridgton News on November 9.

Yes, that does say "Mr. and Mrs. Joshua Edwards". OOPS!

Can you imagine the only part of the article we didn't give them was the headline, and that was the one mistake that they made?

Oh well. We've had a few good laughs out of it. Well, I guess I should say I have. Not so sure about "Mrs. Edwards". Hahahahahaha ...

posted by Josh @ 3:34 PM  
Spice Magnets
So I was going to say something about our kitchen spice magnets from Ikea today, and I realize I never told you about them in the first place!

A few weeks ago we went to Ikea and bought the best thing ever, these little three inch in diameter metal canisters with a glass lid and magnetic back for our spices.

These magnets are so great. We just slap them on the side of the fridge, and they're right where you need them at all times!

As I've mentioned before, spices in the grocery store here can come in many forms - either the little glass jars like we're used to in the states, or plastic bags, or a self-serve system, like the candy cart in the mall. That's all well and good, but then you get home and have a plastic bag of cinnamon and you realize you're in trouble.

We also bought some glass jars for our flour, sugar, cornmeal, brown sugar, pop corn, black beans, etc. They're a fun decoration, and useful too!
posted by Josh @ 3:26 PM  
Red Sox Update
Holy cow it's killing me not to talk about the Red Sox and the potential deal with Japanese pitcher Daisuke Matsuzaka. I've been itching to write about this for weeks now. But I don't want to jinx a potential deal, so I'm gonna keep quiet.

Instead I'll talk a little about lefthanded pitcher Hideki Okajima that the Sox signed from the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Yes, the Hokkaido Nippon-Ham Fighters.

Apparently the team is owned by the Nippon Ham meat-packing company.

It's kind of like if HoneyBaked Ham bought the Kansas City Royals and renamed them the Kansas City HoneyBaked Ham Royals.


Anyway, I don't know much about Hideki, but I did find out that during the 1980's the Fighters wore bright orange and yellow uniforms. That's hot. The team now has blue pinstripes - but their mascot, Flighty the Fuzzy Pterodactyl is still fluorescent pink.

Doesn't "Flighty the Fuzzy Pterodactyl" sound like something Homer Simpson would make up?

Like his line from Marge vs. the Monorail about the possums who live in the monorail, "I call the big one 'Bitey'."

Anyway, Red Sox. Hmm. Not going to talk about Matsuzaka. Nope. Not even going to entertain the possible trade of Manny Ramirez, either.

But one rumor I have to talk about - closer Eric Gagné.

I know he's had elbow, back, and every-other surgery in the last three years, but I saw him close against the Yankees back in LA in 2004 and he was just lights out.

The Dodgers use to flash this big "GAME OVER" on the jumbotron when he would come in. The place was a zoo.

Imagine what would happen at Fenway when he came in to close?

Too bad Schilling is already #38 ...

See, there I go, getting too excited about rumors already. Can't even think about Matsuzaka yet. Nope. Not yet.

Oh, it's cool we got JD Drew and Julio Lugo, too. I can't wait for Matsuzaka or Gagné ... oh man ...
posted by Josh @ 10:46 PM  
James Bond in Dubai
Oops. Yesterday I kind of got off on a tangent talking about James Bond and Jack Bauer, and forgot the point I was going to make.

I bet you that at some point in the next two James Bond movies (#22 or #23) James Bond will visit to Dubai.

Now, maybe he won't be cruising down Sheikh Zayed Road in some crazy-fancy car, or swinging from a crane onto one of the Emirates Towers, or ski racing the bad guys at Ski Dubai, but I could see him cruising around the Palm Jumeirah in some huge yacht. Maybe having a meeting (and drinks, if they have a bar?) at the Burj al-Arab hotel, too.

I know James Bond is a snobby south of France / Bahamas kind of guy, but Dubai is getting pretty big and pretty global.

Just a thought.

*If I'm wrong on this, maybe Dubai will feature in the next Mission: Impossible movie instead, which I hope they make with Brad Pitt instead of Tom "Crazypants" Cruise.
posted by Josh @ 2:06 PM  
News: Disney Shorts
Here's an article from the New York Times the other day about Walt Disney Feature Animation.

I was psyched to see that Disney is making short films again, then I was bowled over by the list of directors - Kevin Deters, Stevie Wermers and Chris Williams. They're three of my buddies, and three of the funniest story-artists I know.

I can't wait to see their cartoons. This will be the return of Disney Animation. Mark my words ...

Goofy in "How to Install Your Home Theater"

    New York Times
    For Disney, Something Old (and Short) Is New Again
    By Charles Solomon
    December 3, 2006
    BURBANK, Calif.

    MOVIEGOERS who have become inured to pre-show car ads and trivia quizzes may soon get something old enough to seem new: cartoon shorts.

    After a hiatus of nearly 50 years, Walt Disney Studios is getting back into the business of producing short cartoons, starting with a Goofy vehicle next year. The studio has released a few shorts in recent years - "Destino," "Lorenzo" and "The Little Match Girl" - but those were more artistic exercise than commercial endeavor. The new cartoons, by contrast, are an effort by a new leadership team from Pixar Animation Studios, now a Disney unit, to put the Burbank company back at the forefront of animation with a form it once pioneered.

    "The impetus comes from John Lasseter, who takes the idea from Walt Disney and 100 years of film history," said Don Hahn, producer of "The Lion King" and "The Little Match Girl," in a recent interview at his studio office. "Shorts have always been a wellspring of techniques, ideas and young talent. It's exactly what Walt did, because it's a new studio now, with new talent coming up - as it should. I think the shorts program can really grow this studio as it grew Pixar, as it grew Walt's studio."

    Although audiences today are more familiar with his feature films, Walt Disney's reputation was originally built on shorts. In the 1930s "A Mickey Mouse Cartoon" appeared on theater marquees with the titles of the features, and Disney won 10 Oscars for cartoon shorts between 1932 and 1942. He used the "Silly Symphonies" to train his artists as they geared up to create "Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs." But after World War II Disney phased out short cartoons because of rising production costs and the minimal amount theater owners would pay for them.

    Mr. Hahn said the new shorts would be screened in theaters along with Disney films. "You pay your 10 bucks to see a movie," he said, "and you get a surprise you hadn't counted on." The new shorts will be done in traditional 2-D animation, computer graphics or a combination of the two media, depending on the story and the visual style.

    This is not the first attempt at such a revival. Warner Brothers, for example, tried to bring back the classic Looney Tunes characters in new shorts in 2003, but they proved unsuccessful and most of them were never screened theatrically.

    Chuck Williams, a veteran story artist who will produce the new films for Disney, said they do not have to become a profit center in order to perform a real commercial function.

    "They allow you to develop new talent," Mr. Williams said in an interview at the Disney studios. "Shorts are your farm team, where the new directors and art directors are going to come from. Instead of taking a chance on an $80 million feature with a first-time director, art director or head of story, you can spend a fraction of that on a short and see what they can do."

    It is not surprising that Mr. Lasseter is using short films to train and test the artists: he and his fellow Pixar animators spent almost 10 years making shorts, learning how to use computer graphics effectively before they made "Toy Story" and the string of hits that followed. Pixar continues to produce a cartoon short every year, and has won Oscars for the shorts "Tin Toy," "Geri's Game" and "For the Birds."

    Four new shorts are in development at Disney: "The Ballad of Nessie," a stylized account of the origin of the Loch Ness monster; "Golgo's Guest," about a meeting between a Russian frontier guard and an extraterrestrial; "Prep and Landing," in which two inept elves ready a house for Santa's visit; and "How to Install Your Home Theater," the return of Goofy's popular "How to" shorts of the '40s and '50s, in which a deadpan narrator explains how to play a sport or execute a task, while Goofy attempts to demonstrate - with disastrous results. The new Goofy short is slated to go into production early next year.

    The idea for "Home Theater" came from the experience Kevin Deters, one of its two directors, had buying a large-screen TV. "For years I've been saying to my wife, let's get a nice, large TV, because I've been suffering with a 30-inch screen," he said. "She finally acquiesced around the time of the Super Bowl. When we went shopping, we discovered the stores had 'Delivery in Time for the Big Game!' and similar promotions, some of which appear in the film."

    Over the years the studio has tried unsuccessfully to update the classic characters. Mr. Deters and his co-director, Stevie Wermers, for instance, unhappily recalled "Disco Mickey," the 1979 album that suggested the trademark mouse could boogie like John Travolta. The cover featured Mickey in a white suit and open shirt, swinging his hips.

    "You don't want to put Goofy on a skateboard," Mr. Deters said. "There's no reason to attempt to make him hip and cool. Goofy isn't cool. He's the ultimate domesticated man, as the 'How to' shorts showed. I relate very well to him as the guy who's sort of a schlub on his couch."

    "How to Install Your Home Theater" will be made with a fairly small crew: despite the triumph of computer animation, Disney still has a number of talented traditional animators who are eager to draw again.

    "The Goofy short will be very funny, but we won't have to spend a lot of money and time on it, which won't diminish it one bit," Mr. Hahn said. "Obviously there's a financial component to these films. We have to make them responsibly. But the big investment is for the long haul. We're saying we believe in new talent and new techniques, and they'll pay dividends in 10 to 20 years, just as we're reaping the benefits now from the investment we made 25 years ago, training John Lasseter and Andrew Stanton and Tim Burton and John Musker and Ron Clemmons."

    Disney also intends the new talent to reflect an increasingly diverse work force. For most of its 100-year history American animation has been the creation of male artists, a situation that is slowly changing.

    "It's kind of shocking to realize that once the Goofy short gets made, I'll officially be the first woman director at Disney Feature Animation," Ms. Wermers said. "Considering that probably more than 50 percent of the audience for the short will be female, because of moms taking the kids, there should be more female voices out there."

    Ms. Wermers is not alone in her sense that Mr. Lasseter and his fellow Pixar alumni are already having an impact.

    "I feel Disney is a very different place than it was a year ago," said Chris Williams, a story artist who is developing "Golgo's Guest" and "Prep and Landing," "and the shorts program is just part of that. It's become a very exciting place to work."

    © New York Times Company
posted by Josh @ 8:29 AM  
Bond Goes Bauer
This weekend we finally got to the movies to see the new James Bond movie Casino Royale, with actor Daniel Craig as the new James Bond.

I liked it, it had some great action sequences and really took me by surprise a few times, which is fun.

However, I have to say that this movie is a pretty wild departure for the James Bond franchise. I mean, long gone are the days of a tuxedo-clad Connery, Moore or Brosnan.

Daniel Craig's younger Bond is more brash and dirty - he actually reminded me quite a bit of 24's Jack Bauer in his "shoot-first-and-blow-up-lots-of-bad-guys, ask-questions-later" mentality.

I mean, had Bond had to torture M's son to get vital information about a terrorist plot to blow up M Force One, I would have bought it. Totally within character.

It's funny too, how similar the "Casino Royale" poster above is to this promo shot for the new season of 24:

Anyway, I'm not ragging on this movie at all, there were a few parts that I almost cheered at, Bond was pretty brutal and well, I still am American and like me some brutal heroes. Good ol' cowboys like Jack Bauer or Die Hard's John McClane. I mean, you'd never see Jack Bauer swooping in wearing a jet-pack with his tuxedo, and I wouldn't expect this new Bond to do, either.

You know what else is weird? This new trend of having bad-ass women characters in the Bond flicks. The last few have had the bimbo character, but also the intelligent, witty and sometimes deadly women, such as Halle Berry's Jinx or even Michelle Yeo's Wai Lin or Densie Richard's Dr. Christmas whatever. Wait, no, she was a bimbo pretending to be smart.


This time around Eva Green's Vesper Lynd is a pretty snappy character who puts Bond quickly in his place. Even if she's wearing waaaay too much lipstick in this photo.

All-in-all? Good time. So check out the new Bond, still fresh after 20 sequels.
posted by Josh @ 9:56 AM  
Weekend photo roundup
I took quite a few photos this long holiday weekend, so let's jump right in.

Friday we went over to the Dubai Marina where I saw a 2006 Lamborghini Gallardo Spyder. Now, I don't know much about cars, but when you see a bright yellow convertable Lamborghini, well, you can only assume that the driver wants to be noticed.

Interesting fun fact? The engine for the new Volkswagen Jetta (2005+) is baed on the V10 engine from the Lamborghini Gallardo.

(Love wikipedia!)

I also love me some Jetta. So cool, with out the pretention of a Lamborghini.

Wikipedia also told me that the Gallardo is considered the "entry-level" Lamborghini. Dude, now I so want to meet this car's owner and be like, "Oh, I see you have the entry-level Lamborghini. That's so cute."

Saturday was National Day - the 35th anniversary of the establishment of the United Arab Emirates.

But Saturday was also crazy-rainy. I've told you about some rain in the past, but that was like sprinkles. Saturday at 4 am I woke up it was raining so hard outside.

The street behind our apartment has no drainage whatsoever, so by mid-morning it was flooded. The rain slowed in the afternoon, so I went out to get some photos.

It was so bad cars were leaving a wake!

Here we are looking down towards the Dubai Marina construction. It was pretty foggy at points, too.

We also had a third Thanksgiving this weekend. I'm so spoiled now, when we move back to the states I'll say, "What, only one turkey?!"

Then yesterday was the work holiday for National Day. I took a few more photos out and about, it wasn't rainy, but the clouds were intense.

They're up over at my Flickr Gallery. Check them out if you have some time.
posted by Josh @ 1:36 PM  
Portland, ME
So I'm sitting here in Dubai, world-renowned city of international flair, reading about Portland, Maine as a world travel destination.


The editors at Frommer's Travel Guides and Frommers.com picked the twelve surprising, thriving, or emerging travel destinations for 2007, and Portland, Maine is on the list!

    Frommer's Top Travel Destinations for 2007
    By The Frommer's Staff
    November 21, 2006

    Krakow, Poland
    Tokyo, Japan
    Minneapolis, Minnesota
    Asheville, North Carolina
    Portland, Oregon
    Virgin Gorda, British Virgin Island
    Okanagan Valley, British Columbia
    Glen Canyon, Utah
    Zurich, Switzerland

    Portland, Maine

    A university town and burgeoning retirement location, Portland has a fantastic mix of culture and education. It also has an impressive amount of first-rate restaurants, with several perennial entries on Gourmet magazine's "America's Top 50 Restaurants" list -- including the excellent Fore Street, which builds its menu around local ingredients. The weather can be extreme, but Portland is an eminently walkable city, with the downtown area compact enough to explore thoroughly, and an excellent indoor farmer's market that is open all year round. For those seeking outdoor adventures along the coast, there is a jogging trail that stretches from Portland to nearby Brunswick. Conveniently, Amtrak has instituted service to Portland from Boston's North Station, making the city much more accessible from the Northeast corridor.

Quite a diverse selection, eh?

But can you really jog from Portland to Brunswick? Isn't that like twenty-five miles away? I mean, I guess you could do it, I personally don't really like jogging on 295 myself, though ...

Anyway, congrats to my people in Portland.

And you never know, maybe this little town of Dubai will some day make the list ...
posted by Josh @ 8:06 AM  
Holy cow, today is already December First!

Wow, that's crazy.

Our flight home for the holidays is on the morning of December 21. And I am so excited to go back to Maine. I can't wait to see my family, my friends, snow, beer ... and celebrate for the first time with my Wife (not just some measly girlfriend anymore).

But I'm not going to count down the days until we leave.

I don't do that anymore.

Well, it goes back about eighteen and a half years, actually. The weeks leading up to my twelfth birthday. I was so excited to turn twelve, I have no idea why. I guess because it was one year away from being a teenager? I don't know. Who really understands the mind of a sixth grader?

I had this countdown going to my birthday. I started on March 1st, counting down the thirty days. Each day I'd be obsessed with the number of days left, I rememember filling up page after page of "30" and the next day "29" and the like.

Again, dorky sixth grader.

I actually began the routine in fourth grade. Counting down to my tenth birthday, now, that was a big one. Double digits. Yep, I remember sitting in the library at Crooked River Elementary School with Crazy Holly drawing a calendar and figuring out how many days it was until my birthday.

And since I'm a creature of habit, I repeated the task in fifth grade, and then carried on into sixth.

Sixth grade was a little different, though. That month my paternal grandfather was in the hospital with lung cancer. Now, I don't know if my parents hadn't stressed to me how bad his condition was, or if they did if I would even understand. At that point all four of my grandparents were still alive - I might not have even grasped the concept of death.

But that March my Papa passed away.

I was so ashamed. Here I was obsessing over the passing of the month, while my grandfather lay there dying. I was wishing the days away - and those were his final ones. That was so selfish of me. Nothing, nothing is so important to wish time away.

And that was the last time that I had a full-on running countdown to an event.

As exciting as the future may be, let's not wish it away. Life's too short as it is.
posted by Josh @ 9:55 AM  

Josh and Liz are two American kids who got married in August. Liz has lived in Dubai since 2003, Josh since August of 2006.

Follow along in the culture shock of being recently married and (for Josh, at least) recently transplanted to Dubai.

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Right now in Dubai

  • California
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  • Ochs in History (pt. 2)
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