Sunday, April 29, 2007

Foreign Movies

I failed to mention Marion Cotillard who played Fanny Chenal in A Good Year. Gorgeous and talented.

What brings her to mind again is a piece in the newspaper about the French language film La Môme (La Vie En Rose in the US - opening in June, but previewing now) It's a biography of Edith Piaf, with Marion Cotillon apparently wonderful in the title role. I like Edith Piaf. I shall watch this movie when it comes out.

I've been looking out for Spanish movies - from Spain rather than Latin America - in Virgin. Penelope Cruz is not just a pretty (sorry - I mean drop-dead gorgeous) face. She works in Spanish, English & French: I know this because Virgin has at least two French language films with her in - and no Spanish ones at all!

And while I'm here - I really enjoyed Sabah, a grown-up Syrian-Canadian variation on My B.F.Greek Wedding. Written and directed Ruba Nadda, it stars the Lebanese actress Arsinée Khanjian who, in addition to being an established talent in her own right, is married to director Atom Egoyan. I'm going to look out for all three of those names in future - but I've promised myself - and Habibi - not to buy any more DVDs or books for the remaining 10 weeks (TEN WEEKS!) of our sojourn here.

Up to this point, though, I thought that all Arab movies were slapstick comedies featuring rubber-faced moustachioed men leaping about in their dishdashas. Actually, that's not true, because there are lots of Arab movies on satellite, but they seem stuck in a timewarp to me - though I'm probably tuning in to Arab Classic Movies.

Still, it's good to see a mainstream English language movie based in Arab culture: after a dozen years here, the arab-western mix is part of my way of life, so I really appreciate some straightforward cinematic storytelling that reflects this. Sabah is not, of course, an Arab movie: it's a cross-cultural piece which inevitably brings to mind other movies about immigrant identity and culture - such as Bend It Like Beckham, MBFGW, and Bhaji on the Beach; but we need cross-cultural film-makers.

I haven't lived in the Middle East, in this extraordinarily cosmopolitan town, for a dozen years, just to put all my experience and discoveries in a box marked 'Foreign' when I go back to Europe. These are not postcard memories to be brought out for visitors, but part of who I am, as English as I am. And I want to see movies that address that.

Uh-oh. Blogging past my bedtime again.

Friday, April 27, 2007

A Good Movie

We just watched Ridley Scott's latest: A Good Year, which has had reviews of the 'nice, predictable, old-man's-going-soft' variety.

It's got Russell Crowe - usually a good sign.

It's got Albert Finney - usually to die for - and Freddie Highmore - also a good sign.

Also Tom Hollander, who I really liked as Mr Collins in the Not-the-BBC Pride & Prejudice.
And Archie Panjabi, who I've never seen before, but will look out for in future.
And Didier Bourdon, Isabelle Candelier and Jacques Herlin as the entertaining live-in force-to-be-reckoned-with. (I've read all the Spanish-based versions of this story!)

It's got French light, French stone, French je-ne-sais-quoi, an entertaining screenplay and some satisfying camera-work. Yeah, of course we were fairly sure how it would end - but it was fun watching it work itself out.

We liked it.

Saturday, April 14, 2007

Law and Justice on Sexual Abuse

This is a comment (slightly tidied up) which I posted in response to another blogger's comment on the howl of anguish and rage that I posted yesterday in the UAE Community Blog, and subsequently wrote about here:

It has been established for decades that people in positions of care or authority who sexually abuse children find strategies - psychological or physical - to prevent their victims from speaking about it.

Even if the judges were not aware of this, surely it is relevant that a grown man, resident in the girls' home, used a knife to get what he wanted?
Surely it should be recognised that the man who is capable of using a knife to force four adolescent girls in his care into incest and adultery, as they are defined here, would have no hesitation about intimidating them with reminders of the legal penalties for 'their' actions, should the authorities ever find out?
Surely, in a region which places such emphasis on female honour, there should be some understanding of how ashamed these girls would feel, and how reluctant to speak of their shame to anyone?
And surely, someone should have given serious thought to the climate of apprehension, shame and fear that this man must have created in that household, and the cumulative effect on those girls as they saw their turn coming, across a span of twelve years?

Doesn't the combination of an abusive stepfather, a helpless or complicit mother, and a wall of silence surrounding the birth of eleven children suggest how helpless and hopeless these girls must have felt?
Shouldn't all this raise serious doubts about how much choice, control, and therefore culpability can be ascribed to them?

With hindsight, would the youngest sister still report her stepfather to the police?
Do the four older girls think that their new 'freedom' is worth the cost?

The sentence of death by stoning will no doubt deter some potential offenders from sexually abusing children in their care. Unfortunately, there will always be those who think that they can get away with it; and now they have a new weapon to encourage silent submission: eighty lashes if you tell.

Therefore, I will hope for a review of the law through which this case was prosecuted, and the drafting of guidelines for judges who have to rule in such cases, these guidelines to be informed by proper research into the effect of longterm intimidation, and physical and/or sexual abuse on adults and minors.

Thoughts, anyone?

Friday, April 13, 2007

Death and Lashes

Yesterday I read a Gulf News article about the tragic outcome of a fire in Sharjah. It states that the mother panicked, and dropped the children from their 8th floor apartment in order to save them. One died, and one is in hospital.

This Emirates Today front page article of the day before explains that the reason she couldn't get out was that her husband, as was his custom, had locked her and the children in when he went to work. Apparently this is a common practice. He'd changed the lock too, without telling, or leaving a duplicate with, the watchman.

That poor woman has enough guilt to live with, Gulf News. She didn't panic - she threw her sons down to the crowd below, saving one. Maybe if the police had been there in under half an hour, or the fire brigade in under forty five minutes, things might have been different. (Shades of the recent Al Attar fire which started at about 4.15 a.m. but didn't attract a fire crew til 6 or 7 - What is going on in this country of multiplying high-rises?) Maybe if her husband had not locked her in.

Today there was this.

I don't hold with stoning, for reasons I'm too sad to go into after these stories. But if I'd met the judges who sentenced those girls, in the half hour after I'd read the second article - assuming I could stop crying long enough to see straight - I think I'd have cast a few stony opinions.

Both of these men were cast in the role of protector, the ultimate authority in the lives of the 'their' women and children. Yet when they abused their authority, one deliberately, one through fuzzy thinking, both the judges and the Gulf News writer - one after long deliberation, and the other with a, perhaps thoughtless, choice of words - assigned blame to the protegees.

Female children should have the protection of law.
Male and female adults should have equal status in law and practice.
Male and female adults should be prepared to give, take, and accept equal responsibility in personal relationships, especially when it comes to raising families.

Then we can start dishing out equal blame for crime and stupidity.


As a formula for the day-to-day business of living with each other and raising a family, mutual respect, consultation, consent, and compromise may be a pain in the ass at times; but it does spread the load, and provide a check for the more foolish decisions that one tired or over-conscientious person might come up with alone. Like locking up his wife for her own protection.

As for the law.

And those who interpret it.


I'm looking for an upbeat one-liner, but I've broken my rose-tinted specs. Sorry.

Wednesday, April 11, 2007

3 Rs and a Screwdriver

I've been a bit busy lately, with

Reading: an interesting mix of fact and fiction as research for

Riting: The Nobble. It exists as research notes, a family thicket, a timeline, and a few - um - scenes. This may take some time.....

and Rithmetic:

One million aches: 1 megahurtz

Basic unit of laryngitis: 1 hoarsepower

Time between slipping on a peel and smacking the pavement:
1 bananosecond

1 million microphones: 1 megaphone

2000 mockingbirds: two kilomockingbirds

1 millionth of a fish: 1 microfish

1 trillion pins: 1 terrapin

1 million billion picolos: 1 gigolo

10 cards: 1 decacards

10 rations: 1 decoration

10 millipedes: 1 centipede

2 monograms: 1 diagram

8 nickels: 2 paradigms

2 wharves: 1 paradox

(OK, so the last bit's just padding, but it's fun. Some of these appear on a Teacher's Day-to-View calendar, but you'll find more here.)

Actually, there's not been much writing either, except of the Application-Form-plus-CV-and-Supporting-Letter variety. I used to think that a CV was a simple record of what one has been doing. Pshaw! What a foolish notion!

As any CV-writing website - and there are several out there - will demonstrate, a CV is a delicately balanced tool with as many potential variations as a screwdriver, and the jobseeker must choose the appropriate one in order to gain access to the potential (pause for swift intake of breath and adjustment of tone to reverential) employer.

Hmm... Screwdriver: connotations of DIY, shaken-not-stirred, breaking-&-entering, taking-&-driving-away. Sometimes I am troubled by my subsconscious........

OK I don't want to jerry his Jag, roger his Rover, or do anything at all to his Beemer. I just want an interview.

So I'll stop worrying about (a) Slotted, (b) Phillips, (c) Pozidriv, (d) Torx, (e) Hex key, (f) Robertson, (g) Tri-Wing, (h) Torq-Set, (i) Spanner

Thank you Wikipedia ..........and.... I'd better go hone a new metaphor....... I mean key.

So, first read over your CV file, which you have of course diligently reviewed every six months since you completed your education, sometime in the last millennium. (You haven't? Well, pshaw to you too!).

Now, what exactly do you want to do with it? (Sorry. What is your objective?) Do you want to apply for a job in the same field?......... in a different field?............ apply for a particular job vacancy?

Does your CV fit the bill? Yes?

Brrrrrrringggggg! Go straight to style*.

(Er, what?



If not, what's the problem? Underqualified? Overqualified? Too young? Too old? Unemployed? Fired? Gaps? Inexperienced? Criminal record? No degree?

Don't fret. Be positive. It's not just what you've done, it's what it says about your character, strengths, and potential value to the employer lucky enough to land you. It's not just what you say, it's also how you say it. It's not just what you put down, it's how you lay it out.

Et cetera!

And now, balanced precariously as you are between optimism about your innate fabulousness, and anxiety about the intricacies of the above, perhaps you would like to consider whether the appropriate style* for your CV is: Chronical, Targeted, Combination, CV, Inventory or Functional?


OK. I've stopped.

Speaking as someone for whom the term career might have been invented (Consider it as a verb rather than a noun.....) I present a bit of a conundrum for a prospective employer with formal procedures and conventional expectations. I have been involved for an extreeeeeeeemely long time in community work, community arts and arts education; sometimes it's been paid work, sometimes not; sometimes freelance, sometimes on contract; but always productive and satisfying. Add to that the fact that, for over a decade, virtually every project or contract has come via referral, and the CV has been something of a formality; and it becomes apparent why, this close to my 50th birthday, I find myself consulting websites on how to fill in a CV that conveys all of the above as energetic, multi-faceted, etc. rather than...... something less marketable....

It's actually been a very interesting exercise. In common, I think, with most people, I find networking and self-promotion quite unsettling, but I do understand that if you don't lay out your stall properly, potential customers will pass you by. When it comes to creating what I sincerely hope will be an effective CV, it's at least as stimulating as a sudoku puzzle - and I like sudoku! What gets me is not the listing and highlighting, the boxing and bordering, and the honest business of selling the product (me!). It's the gimmickry of goal statements and what I shall call dynamic jargon.

Habibi regularly receives emailed CVs (or biodata - not a term I'd heard of til I came here)


OK: tangent time!

(It did not bother me that a company that I used to work for counted its employees as 'work units'. It was a big, well-run, 24/7 company, and no-one ever actually called me Work-Unit 2222 to my face. However, quite apart from the fact that the term 'biodata' does not strike the ear with either the self-confidence of 'CV' or the gravitas of 'curriculum vitae', it says 'Work Unit' to me.

It says that the person who puts this term at the top of her written representation of herself has been conditioned to see herself as a mere cog, a drone. That kind of conditioning would also explain the whipped puppy eagerness of the 'goal statements' which pant across the page, scattering 'Pat me! Pat me!' promises in all directions.

I'm out of practice. This is coming out sour, and, I think, disingenuous. If you come from a relentlessly competitive background, an employment culture of survival of the fittest, and have seen both the rewards of success and the price of failure, then of course you will have absorbed the attitudes, and the language, which such a culture generates. But it can be counterproductive if recruiters from other cultures read it through their own cultural filters. My English reluctance to sell-sell-sell would probably play as arrogance or complacency to a recruiter from an aggressively go-getter culture. Let the Games begin!

Exit Tangent now. Do not pass Gravitas. Collect Jargon.)

...As I was saying, Habibi regularly receives emailed CVs (or biodata!) couched in extraordinary language, much of it mishspooled. I've already dissed goal statements (In the tangent. If you skipped it - sorry!), but let me get to what I'm calling dynamic jargon.

I have two sections entitled 'Responsibilities' and 'Achievements'. Fine. So I'm responsible for this, that and the other, and have achieved the other, that and this. Yes? No!

But it's true!

Yes, but it doesn't convey your energy, your focus, your achievements!

......m-my ..responsibilities....?

Such as?

Erm, administration, stocktaking, bareback-riding, disembowelment..

No, no, no! You must be more dynamic!


#$(%^&!!!! (sigh) Have you considered - enabling? facilitating? maximisingoptimising?

I -


Actually I -



Inflitratingexculpatingcoruscatingmasticatingsyncopatingadumbrating! Calibrating! Amputating! Mutilating! Flagellating!


- I beg your..... Where did she go?

So, dynamic jargon. I know it's just the current convention, and presumably it indicates some level of professionalism to HR personnel awash in a CV sea, but I suspect that it started off as someone's strategy to make sure she stood out from the crowd. Now we all have to do it!

By the way, I shamelessly cannibalised fairly typical advice from a variety of sites. The one I recommend, and include some terms from, is They are not to blame for the way I used said terms: I really did need guidance on how to put a CV together, and theirs is the most straightforward and thorough of the bunch. There are some typos here and there, but the advice is realistic, and free, and they have templates in different styles and for different purposes. Don't hold any of the above against them!