Wednesday, March 4, 2015

40+ opening tomorrow at USEK

The exhibition, with details stated above, will include my vide art Holiday Inn.. so if you wish to watch it live, and in loop, would be great to see you!

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Mjadara: McDonald's vs Beirut Beer

Photo credit Georges Rahme, original research Deborah Phares
When McDonald's came up with this ad I forgot to mention that Mjadara a dish which is based on lentils and rice is a perfect alternative for meat-abstaining Christians during lent and that Shrimp burger makes a suitable alternative to it. I mention this because creatively the idea of mentioning mjadara was spot on creatively. Today, a new ad for Beirut Beer started circulating. The ad follows exactly the same idea of " "what, Mjdara every day?".... Except the alternative is drinking a different beer than the one you are used to (could it be Almaza?). Anyhow, the ad is beautifully directed by Samir Syriani and the creative director is Nathalie Masri. Whereas I whole heartedly support creative directors working outside the realm of the agency system, but Nathalie's name was embroiled in a previous did-she-didn't-she quid pro quo concerning Buzz energy drink which makes of this her second strike in the grey area of repeating ideas already done (no, there are no 50 shades of grey as this could be a copycat or a bad case of research or whatever other factor, but the result is the same - a repeat of something done!). I am trying to be supportive of independent talents here, but... I do feel uncomfortable more and more as to the same coincidence of linking certain people to ideas already done.

Wednesday, February 25, 2015

Pop Up concepts: Pump up the design volume

Literally one day to the next, the brown paper that was covering the windows (and which promised to something to the effect of "soon, something exciting will be happening" or whatever new shops seem to say) went down, the result made me do such a double take I almost fell: There they were, prominently displayed, the covetable Thom Browne sunglasses. Further look behind them revealed the unmistakable Marcelo Burlon iPhone cases.
The shop with no outside banner or name is called Pop Up Concepts and is situated on Salim Boustros street right opposite So restaurant (in other words, the first street parallel to the Fouad Malek/Sagesse avenue on your way to the ring up from the intersection of the Netherlands and Quantum towers), and proved to be a cave of wonders for the discerning buyers, stocking eclectic brands most of which could not be found elsewhere. Apart from the afore-mentioned brands, one could spot Lust Ltd., Oskar Gydell, Rouille, Corso, Nialaya, North Skull and so much more.
Although there is the usual phone, and even website, the main modes of communication are whatsapp and instagram!
Photos courtesy of Bassam Houssami

My first attempt at contacting Bassam Houssami via whatsapp found him in the Paris Fashion Week stocking up on goodies (for another store as well, the well-renowned Piaff) which, if it indicates anything, it is the personal nature of communication that drives the store. Eventually our schedules did interlap though, and my first curiosity was - in a city where everything and anything is called a "concept store", well - what is the definition of one according to him? "A Concept Store, in my opinion, is a retail space that exceeds the expectation of the specific client it is trying to target by offering a wide variation of available products". I was thankful for such a definition because I have seen concept stores built on monobrands in Beirut, and it was a delight that someone was talking psychodemographics finally, so he continues "It is targeting a lifestyle by offering merchandise such as clothing, shoes, jewelry and even electronics or beauty products. It is usually the place consumers go to find stuff that are not available in your standard retail store".
But with the plethora of the shops calling themselves "concept stores", does Beirut really need a new one? Not to be named but just in the vaccinity of Pop Up Concepts, there are already three such stores available. Houssami is adamant "Well, I don't know about new, but i have been online since a year .. The new store in Salim Boustros Street, Achrafieh is only 1 month old and has a different cachet from the surrounding stores in terms of products".
Oh, and indeed about the products, how and how come brands make the cut to be part of the roaster on offer? "The main Criteria for stocking is to have something that is not yet known to the Lebanese Market wether it was a well established brand or a new up coming talent" and as they say, the proof is in the pudding, the brands displayed include a mix or established brands but not known and totally out from left field ones which are too alternative to be mainstream.
But who is that customer who is able to find him or herself in such a setting I wonder? Houssami has a very clear vision of the character of such a person "My clients are loyal, trendy and want that extra twist to set them apart from the others... They have a good eye to aesthetics.. They know what they want and they want it now!"
That "want it now" is an under estimation, just drop by the instagram account and see the frenzy of indicating that such and such product is available now or is on pre-order, the salivating replies, the tagging from one customer to the next, the amazed comments all indicate that willingness to be the first, the early adopter, and certainly the ahead of the curve in terms of having the products.
Houssami is clear on the strategy which shunned mainstream media and focused on Instagram and whatsapp, "Our Society today is all based on technology and social media interaction. Billboards are too main stream in my opinion and do not deliver an effective response that can be measured. Instagram on other hands gives you an exact response, to an exact product to the crowd that is interested.. What's App is the easiest and most casual way to communicate and share photos."
By way of wrapping, Houssami says there is more of this where it came from, new concepts, industrial shops in different areas of Beirut by way of expansion but - this being Lebanon - revealing too much ends with someone else releasing the idea in a half-baked way so his restraint is understood.
As new concepts and shops are anticipated, right now let us relish on the one that exists already!

Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Hellofood celebrates Oscars with... Food!

Hellofood has decided to celebrate the Oscars with... food! Films that we remember due to food-related items...
The press release was too good not to be replicated (almost) verbatim!

 Hellofood, has selected the top 10 moments in movies that have inescapably imprinted a particular food in our minds. Similarly, with these associations it is hard to avoid accompanying them with the corresponding snacks. For example, who has ever managed to watch Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory without a substantial amount of chocolate in his reach? Or Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles without ordering a pizza? Still, no one has ever ordered a pizza like the cutest prankster kid- the young Macaulay Culkin.

The movie: Lady and the Tramp (1955)
The Food: Spaghetti with Meat Balls
The Guests: Lady, a sheltered Cocker Spaniel, and Tramp, a streetwise stray dog.
The Scene: Tramp crafted the most romantic dinner date for his Lady with the help of some Italian romance – the pasta, the music, the red-white checkered tablecloth.
The Feeling: Cuteness
The Quote: "Side by side with your loved one, you'll find enchantment here. The night will weave its magic spell, when the one you love is near."

The movie: Home Alone (1990)
The Food: Pizza
The Guests: Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin)
The Scene: Kevin, together with the gangster from Angel’s with Filthy Souls on video, demonstrating the most inventive way of collecting your pizza from a delivery guy.
The Feeling: Just ingenious. 
The Quote: "Keep the change you filthy animal."

The movie: Rocky (1976)
The Food: Raw eggs
The Guests: The man himself. Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone)
The Scene: Rocky casually swallowing five raw eggs at 4am before one of his epic Philly training runs.
The Feeling: Victory. Championship. Triumph.
The Quote: The lyrics to the “Eye of the Tiger”

The movie: Harold and Kumar go to white castle (2004)
The Food: White Castle burgers / A table full of steam-grilled sliders
The Guests: Slacker roommates Harold (John Cho) and Kumar (Kal Penn)
The Scene: The ultimate climax scene.
The Feeling: of getting what you want.
The Quote: "This is either a really smart move or by far the stupidest thing that we have ever tried."

The movie: Pulp Fiction (1994)
The Food: $5 shake
The Guests: Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta)
The Scene: A fictional 1950s theme restaurant, a rich and bizarre setting for that memorable food moment, while Link Wray’s “Rumble” kicks off on the background.
The Feeling: Wanting to try that white shake with that red cherry.
The Quote: "Goddamn, that's a pretty good milk shake."

The movie: Annie Hall (1977)
The Food: Boiling lobsters
The Guests: Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) and Annie Hall (Diane Keaton)
The Scene: Woody Allen and Diane Keaton's calamitous attempt to boil live lobsters perfectly captures the conflicting feelings we face each time we plunge those icky but luscious crustaceans into the scorching water.
The Feeling: Gleeful but guilty
The Quote: “Annie, there's a big lobster behind the refrigerator. I can't get it out. This thing's heavy. Maybe if I put a little dish of butter sauce here with a nutcracker, it will run out the other side”.

The movie: Goodfellas (1990)
The Food: The “Prison Dinner”.
The Guests: Paulie (Paul Sorvino) Vinnie (Charles Scorsese) and Johnny Dio (Frank Pellegrino)
The Scene: Our Goodfellas stuck in prison, making an elaborate dinner. Specifically, it’s when the boss, Paulie, is slicing the garlic thin enough so that it will melt in a pan of hot olive oil (accompanied by "Beyond the Sea," by Bobby Darin).
The Feeling: Yes, it’s more about the food prep than the actual eating. And yes, every time we slice garlic, we think of that scene.
The Quote: “In prison, dinner was always a big thing. We had a pasta course, then we had a meat or a fish. Paulie was doing a year for contempt and had a wonderful system for garlic. He used a razor and sliced it so thin it would liquefy in the pan with a little oil. It's a very good system. Vinnie was in charge of the tomato sauce”.

The movie: The Godfather (1972)
The Food: Tomato sauce recipe
The Guests: Capo Peter Clemenza (Richard S. Castellano)
The Scene: When Capo Peter Clemenza offers a decent recipe for Sunday gravy: "You start out with a little bit of oil. Then you fry some garlic. Then you throw in some tomatoes, tomato paste, you fry it; you make sure it doesn't stick. You get it to a boil; you shove in all your sausage and your meatballs. And a little bit of wine, and a little bit of sugar—that's my trick."
The Feeling: The only red splatter more ubiquitous than blood in Mafia flicks may be pasta sauce.
The Quote: "Leave the gun, take the cannoli"

The movie: Hook (1991)
The Food: Imaginary
The Guests: Peter Pan and the Lost Boys
The Scene: The imaginary food scene where the Lost Boys teach Peter Pan to conjure a feast with the strength of imagination.
The Feeling: Wanting nothing more than to be at that table, eating giant drumsticks with the hands and having a food fight with those unnaturally colorful pies.
The Quote: “Use your imagination”

Monday, February 23, 2015

Nasri Khattar book launch at Dawaween on February 28th.

After an unfortunate false alarm earlier due to logistic reasons the "Nasri Khattar: Fighting illiteracy with type design" book will be launching on February 28 at Dawaween starting 6 PM.
The official launch invite also includes this intro: "Nasri Khattar is the inventor of Unified Arabic type. He is an architect and a type designer who has dedicated his whole life for the proliferation of Arabic script through the use of Unified Arabic letters that do not change shape according to their position in the word. A visionary work of 30 letter forms that fought their way through the corridors of diplomacy, international business and the minds of Arabs".
To those of you who do not know Dawaween please see the map below:

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Vintage Arab ads 1968 (Part 4)

Below is the 4th (and sadly last) batch from the 1968 ads found in Annahar newspaper!

Pyrex baby bottles

Mission juice and cola

Al Hasna'a magazine

Gibbs new in menthol

Audi 1968 starting 7200 Liras

Hillman Hunter free registration and win 500 Liras

Super Argo in Strand cinemas


(All over the world these columns are the symbol of Baalbeck, the world over the symbol of cigarette quality is Marlboro)


Monday, February 16, 2015

Vintage Arab Advertising 1968 (Part 3)

Here is the third installment of the 1968 ads I found in Annahar newspaper, I hope you enjoy them as much as I did finding them!

Chahine au carrefour

Levi's (does not need ironing ever)

Datsun (each is a winner in its own category)

Mercedes station wagon

Amatoury 114 cologne

Crown Cola (15 piasters)


Gondole restaurant