Friday, September 29, 2006

Burnt Sugar

I'd never been to Dearborn. When the first Arabic billboard (an ad for At&T) greeted me, I smiled so wide I scared myself. The second billboard was an Army ad, and I almost stepped out of the car and threw something at it.

I went to the Arab American National Museum last night to see Burnt Sugar, an afro-hip-hop-funktastic band with 10 members and a maestro. They were so tight! My only complaint is that it was in a seating venue. But we all bobbed and rocked out in our seats. The guitarist had an I Heart Beirut sticker on the back of his guitar.

One of the things I love about music, especially good live music, is that it locks you into the present moment. And that's a really good place to be, especially if you're an artist. When I lived in Austin, I loved going to shows when I was writing, because I would get into the music and then it would float me along and I would discover new things about plot, characters, scenes.

Yesterday was a big writing spurt day, but then I hit a wall, so I thought going to a show would help. During the first few songs, I was stuck and I felt lost, and the crazy loud improv horns and drums were completely mediating that feeling.

But then, at some point in the second half, I let go, and that's when the good ideas came.

The band consists of 2 horn guys, one of whom also does computer drums and effects, a flute/music box guy, an upright bassist, a guitarist, two vocalists, a drummer, a keyboard player, and a bass player. Their maestro stands in the front, middle, and dictates which instruments, including voice, go when. The result is jammin'.

All in all, a badass band and a great show.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fall Reading

Fall... is loud in these parts. I have a tree in the back yard that bears a fruit/nut that looks a lot like a lime, but is, in fact, hard as a baseball. When it gets windy, at night and early morning, the nuts fall loudly, like mini nature bombs. It's actually very cool.

I am currently reading:
  • Banksy's Wall and Piece (cover art above), which is so brilliant. It's sort of a catalogue of graffitti and wall art, which includes images of the Apartheid Wall in Palestine.

  • Kafka, (re-reading).

  • Iris Murdoch's The Sea, Sea.

  • Hassan Daoud's The Year of the Revolutionary New Bread Making Machine, which I am hoping to translate.

  • Please feel free to share what's on your Fall list.

    Sunday, September 24, 2006

    Happy Ramadan

    I strung lights up in front of my house for Ramadan...for the first time, I actually know people who are fasting, so I am braving it this year. So far it's barely 11 AM and I am famished. I also really want gum.

    I am really into photography right now; also, I have ideas for three stories, and I started one last night, late late, because, I believe, my muse is on Arab time. She always comes around at around 2 or 3 AM, which is about 10 AM in Egypt and Palestine. Either that, or she's a drunken skank, and likes to show up just after the pub. It's her form of drinking and dialing.

    In any case, all the stories have this theme I love right now, partially inspired by my readings of late --Poe, Kafka--, partly inspired by the move and my utter confusion at both how happy I am to be in a new place and how sad I am to leave so much behind. Perfect combinations for the scribbling factory, so off I go.

    Meanwhile, here is a stunning photo, titled "Shelter."

    Saturday, September 23, 2006

    NYTBR has short and sweet reviews today

    I was surprised to see that no tomatoes were tossed and all reviews of novels (all 3 of them) were short, sweet, and positive. It was also cool to see writers like Aminatta Forna and David Long get some attention...

    (The photo of tomatoes was taken by Angelo, who snatched the camera from me at the Farmers' Market yesterday. )

    Monday, September 18, 2006

    Toothpaste and knives

    Hey guys, I'm finally back in the US now. Sore throat. Sleepy. Must read much Turgenev for class tomorrow.

    A funny thing happened to my child at the airport (he flies alone): at security, his toothpaste was taken away because no liquids are allowed on planes. So now he has stinky breath. Furthermore, as I cleaned out his backpack this morning so he could use it for school, I found in one of the pockets a knife he uses when he fishes. He's 9, so of course he had no idea what he was doing. Still, people: my kid unwittingly had a knife on a plane.

    How the fuck did it make it through security?


    Thursday, September 14, 2006

    Royal Festival Hall Reading...

    was a success! The house was packed and I enjoyed people's reactions, my co-authors, Jaquelin Rose's moderating, and the entire event. Yipee!
    Number of pre-reading drinks (bitter lemon and gin): 2.
    Number of people in the audience: 400
    Number of mistakes made while reading: 1
    Number of jokes we cracked during the Q&A: at least 20
    Number of people who came up to me after the show and told me they were Jarrars: 2
    Number of hotties: at least 5
    Number of times I made people blush at the after party because of my "American" forwardness: at least 4
    Number of mini pizzas consumed: 2
    Number of beautiful stories I heard: too many to count

    Calming the nerves

    I had a couple of bitter lemon and gins before the show...


    I went to a pre-event party last night, and met some really cool people, including Gaza Blues co-author Samir el-Youssef, who is hilarious.

    There was a BBC-Arabic chick there who interviewed was almost impossible to express my thoughts in Arabic.

    I also finally got to meet Adania, who I've been e-friends with for five years. She's adorable, even if she made me go to a pub when I was jetlagged. We got to see a fucked up statue of Oscar Wilde coming out of a coffin, and Adania said, "Why did they make him so ugly?"

    Thursday, September 07, 2006

    Reading: 9/14, Royal Festival Hall, South Bank Centre

    Hey everyone...I'm leaving to London early next week to do a reading from the new collection, Qissat. Here are the details:

    WHEN: Thursday 14 September 2006, 7:45 pm

    WHERE: Purcell Room, South Bank Centre, Royal Festival Hall, London

    WHAT: "At the UK premiere for this collection of stories by Palestinians living under occupation and throughout the diaspora, Liana Badr, Randa Jarrar, Adania Shibli and Huzama Habayeb join us to read from and discuss their writing."

    Go here for more details.

    Bloggers, writers, etc.: Please spread the word.

    I'm super excited, for several reasons, which are all pretty obvious. First, it is delightful that I'm getting to read with three amazing, brilliant writers. Second, I went to a British school for 8 years, but have never been to England. I'm super excited to see it. Third, fourth, fifth...I could go on forever, but I'll stop there for now.

    Wednesday, September 06, 2006

    Hot encounter with one of the dudes down at the Arabic bakery

    I walked into the bakery and three dudes with too much gel in their hair were jumping up and down and acting retarded. Then they were talking about someone called Jamal. "BMW Jamal or Jeep Jamal?" one of them asked. "No, dumbass, Lexus Jamal." I waited patiently for someone to take my order. A hot, big guy emerged from the kitchen in baggy pants, white unbuttoned shirt showing off nicely groomed chest hair, and an apron, and very short hair (no gel). He pouted slightly and nodded in my direction. I ordered way too much food because I wanted to keep talking to him:
    "Is this mjaddara?"
    "Can I have four of these baklawa?"
    "Yeah, a couple of spinach pies."
    "Um, kibbeh."
    Finally, right before he rung me up, he spoke:
    "Want some bread?"

    Yes, people. I am that shy and lonely. But he was fly.

    Monday, September 04, 2006

    More on Mahfouz

    The New Yorker has an archived article that came out around the time Mahfouz was attacked. It's a brilliant piece that details his attack and examines fanaticism in Egypt. It includes interviews with Mahfouz, Mubarak, SheikhAbdel-Rahman, Youssef Chahine, and more, and it's heartbreaking.