Rumi Dances Under the May 18th Moon

Rumi at La fontaine May 18

For all you Rumi fans out there!  A Rumi movie.

According to the the movie promoters, Rumi is America’s best-selling poet. Apparently, his popularity as the number one, daily, Facebook quote has helped him leap beyond the previous favorite, Lebanese- American, Khalil Gibran.  That, and the fact that his copyright expired several hundred years ago.

Poor Natasha Tretheway,  probably few of you have even heard of America’s 2013 Poet Laureate.  She has 1,861 Likes versus the Persian’s million plus.  Just give her another 800 years to build an audience.

raise your words not your voice rumi

Don’t get your tailfeathers in a tinzy, dear roosters.  Just having a little Rumi fun.  I LOVE Rumi.

Amazon, helpful reviewer, Nicholas Croft, wrote about the film,

“The first fifteen minutes of the video relate the biography of Rumi, who was born in Afghanistan during the year 1207. Rumi’s family moved to Turkey, where his father became the head of an Islamic Sufi learning community. Upon his father’s death, Rumi took his place as the head of this ancient community of prayer.

Rumi eventually met with a desert mystic named Shams of Tabriz and mentored under him for a number of years. The grief that Rumi felt, upon the death of Shams, led to the birth of his poetry of longing and also to the creation of the Whirling Dervish dance tradition.

The story of how Coleman Barks came to his decades-long project as translator of Rumi’s Persian texts is then revealed. We witness recording sessions where Mr. Barks reads from his acclaimed translations of the poet. These sessions are often accompanied with musical instrumentation such as the oud, harmonium, dotar, tabla, violin, ney and sarod. Video talks by the various scholars, which were often shot within beautiful natural settings, are interspersed among the studio sessions. All of these elements combine to suggest both the tone and the meaning of Rumi’s poetry.

Rumi – Poet of the Heart is a devotional work that gently guides viewers through an introduction to the life and spirit of one of America’s most widely read poets. Join with Coleman Barks and company to explore Rumi’s compelling inner secret world. You will be transformed through their intoxicating spirit of contagious enthusiasm.”

Saturday, May 18th is the quarter moon.  Where? La Fontaine Centre for Contemporary Art, of course.  This should be one of those beautiful nights we can be outside before the weather gets too hot.

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Future Babies

The newest type of baby

A local ad for the new generation of babies.  All you need is an Ipad.

Images of the Republic of Gilead come to mind.  What is the Ministry of Health saying?

Hunting Ghosts in the World’s Largest Prehistoric Cemetery

bahrain burial mounds view from the air

Bahrain’s ghosts have been around since – well – since words were first scratched into clay.  Back in 1890, writer J.T. Bent described Bahrain’s inner desert as a “vast sea of sepulchral mounds.”

One of the world’s largest, Bronze Age, cemeteries, the Sumerians called ancient Bahrain, Dilmun, the place where no man or woman cried or felt sickness.  The legend was the neighboring countries sent their dead to Bahrain to live out their eternity in Paradise.

Bahrain burial mounds

Today, the 170,000 burial mounds are believed to be the final resting place for five centuries of island inhabitants and not the neighboring countries’ relatives.  Whether or not the dead were locals, the island still carries their ghostly memories.

Funny enough, these ghosts leave their mark on the island’s transient, expatriate population.

Writer and cultural commentator, Deonna Kelli Sayed, was one resident whose years living on the island impacted her life in ways she may not have anticipated.  Although we never had a conversation about the island’s ghosts during our writing classes, it was while living in Bahrain that Deonna became fascinated with ghost hunters.

After she and her family moved back to the USA, she literally began following the Syfy Channel’s paranormal investigators and documenting her experiences.

Paranormal obsession by deonna kelli sayed ghost hunting

Her adventures and interest in culture led to her first book, Paranormal Obsession where she investigated America’s interest in the paranormal since 9/11.

so you want to hunt ghosts by deonna kelli sayed

But her second book, So You Want to Hunt Ghosts: A Down to Earth Guide, is the one you might want to consider if you are interested in investigating for yourself whether or not ghosts are real.  The book “explains how to conduct historical research on your case, how to properly document your discoveries, and how popular media and ghost hunting TV shows have impacted the modern paranormal community.”

deonna kelli sayed american muslim bahrain ghosts

Deonna Kelli Sayed is a fascinating Global Citizen.  She talks about her first paranormal experience in New York, her multi-cultural family and living in Bahrain in this January 2013 interview on That’s Some AmericanMuslim Life.

Tickling Games

Clarity is needed for all you Fifty Shades of Gray enthusiasts.  I am not using tickle as a euphemism for other tawdry acts.  This is a serious question.

Am I the only one whose husband loves sticking his fingers into my ribs and tickling me until I fall down on the floor and pee my pants?

Or is it merely Mojo’s character?

Perhaps his joy watching people squirm was what led him to become a lawyer.

And when does this behavior stop?  How many decades will pass before this ends?  It’s all fun and games until someone breaks a hip.

For those of you who really don’t care about my questions, and whose thoughts have shifted to other tickling games, you will love Dr. Sadie Allison.  Her San Francisco-based company  Tickle Kitty sells all sorts of things arriving in specially wrapped, brown paper packages.  The question is – will you get it through customs?

Speaking of Tim Mackintosh-Smith

Fatima Ali Raza, the owner of La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art, invited me for dinner.  As we ate under the moon, she asked me,

“You know Ibn Battuta don’t you,” she began.  Her eyes sparkled.

Ibn Battuta, Ibn Battutua, the name echoed in my brain.  However, no thoughts came to mind.

“No,” I admitted.

“Ibn Battuta was an Arab explorer.  He traveled from Tangier to China and covered more parts of the world than Marco Polo.  So many people do not know who he is.  And do you know who I have coming to La Fontaine?”

“Ibn Battuta’s ghost?”

She paused, “Tim Mackintosh-Smith, the expert on Ibn Battuta.”

Now it registered.

At the 2011 Dubai Literary Festival, my friends, Deborah and Maeve, went to his lecture.  The British Mackintosh-Smith is an Arabist living in Yemen.  He is the go-to man for anything about Yemen – and Ibn Battuta.

Mackintosh-Smith literally re-traced Ibn Battuta’s footsteps around the world.  Then he condensed the 14th century traveler’s thirty years of travel into a trilogy.  Travels with a Tangerine, the first in the series, made it to the best sellers list.

“For three years I have been inviting Mackintosh-Smith to Bahrain.  And he finally accepted.  He will be coming in November.  We are planning to offer several workshops over the three days he is here, both in Arabic and English,” Fatima announced triumphantly.

“That’s fantastic,” I said.  “Now I know what to suggest to my book club.”

“But don’t read all of his books.  I am ordering some for the event.”

I decided to see how well-known Ibn Battuta was.  I posed the question to Mojo who corrects my American history mistakes.

“If I say Ibn Battuta what comes to your mind?” I asked him.

“The Ibn Battuta Mall in Dubai.”

“Have I got a gift for you.”

Get ready for this November event at La Fontaine by reading Tim Mackintosh-Smith’s Travels with a Tangerine.

La Fontaine Center for Contemporary Art is featured in The Best of Bahrain vol. 2 which is being launched this Saturday, September 15th, 2012.

The Julia Club

Finishing the 500-odd paged Dearie I started thinking about how French cooking changed the lives of authors Julia Stuart and Julia Child.

Classic French dishes were the inspiration for their first books: sole meuniere for Julia Child and a haricot bean and meat cassoulet for Julia Stuart.

In Stuart’s The Matchmaker of Perigord the story starts describing a son’s devotion to his mother’s thirty-one year cassoulet and its crucial element: a preserved duck leg.  So important was his mother’s recipe that a village feud started over a cassoulet’s proper ingredients.

‘Monsieur Moreau,’ she began.  ‘Forgive me, but it is a matter of utmost importance and a true Frenchman such as yourself will know the definitive answer.  Should a cassoulet have tomatoes in it or not?’

According to Dearie, co-Authors Julia and Simone Beck, aka Simca, nearly came to blows over the proper cassoulet for Mastering the Art of French Cooking.  They tried twenty-eight recipes with and without goose before agreeing on the final version – which did NOT call for tomatoes.

In Stuart’s The Tower, The Zoo and the Tortoise, the Tower ravens ate the tail of Beefeater Balthazar Jones’ 181-year old tortoise for lunch.  Although the famous ravens ate it raw, right off Mrs. Cook’s fleshy backside, Julia Child suggested adding mustard and grating a little cheese to enhance steak tartare.

Stuart’s most recent book, The Pigeon Pie Mystery is about an Indian cook who uses a 1897 recipe for pigeon pie.  Her problem began after she altered the instructions.  Instead of carving innocuous leaves into the pastry’s top, she garnished the pie with three bird legs pointing towards the sky ensuring it was eaten by the Major-General Bagshot.

Roasted pigeon was the first Cordon Bleu dish Julia Child served to her husband, Paul.  And it was one of the first dinners she prepared that didn’t nearly kill him.

There are other similarities between Julia Child and Julia Stuart.

Both women were “trailing spouses” who followed their husbands overseas.

Neither Julia aspired to be an Expat Houswife.  Without ever having written a book, both women fearlessly changed her business card to Author and devoted eight-hours a day to her new-found passion.

When Julia Stuart asked English authorities for permission to do research at the Tower of London, they denied her access.

Disguising herself as a Tourist, she took another route to research English ghosts like Margaret Pole, the Countess of Salisbury,

“who was chased by a hacking axe man after his first blow failed to remove her head.”

After interviewing Beefeaters, Stuart incorporated the Tower of London and Hampton Court Palace apartments into her story then filled them with eccentric characters.  Her clandestine research made English history interesting – especially for Americans.  Today the English edition of her book, Balthazar Jones and the Tower Zoo can be purchased in the Tower of London’s gift shop.

Julia Child succeeded despite the famous stand-off with Madame Bressard.

After passing her Cordon Bleu exam she went out, and with her French allies Simca, Louisette Bertholle, met every famous French cook.  Together they gathered their secret recipes then tested each one for Mastering the Art of French Cooking, converting the French measurements into something useable for American housewives.  Fifty years later, the cookbook continues to sell to new generations of cooks.

Neither Julia is or was a professional actress but on camera their breathless enthusiasm and laughter makes me want to join in on their fun – whether cooking, visiting places or meeting people that inspired them.

Even if my mother did not name me Julia, I will join their club – the club of women who get lost in the maze of their dreams and persevere until they eventually and successfully find a way out.

Julia Stuart’s video tour of Hampton Court can be seen on YouTUBE.

While in London we missed Hampton Court but spent a beautiful afternoon at Kensington Palace.  Julia promised me she would show us around the next time we visited London.

Oprah Picks Julia’s Pigeon Pie

My Life in France by Julia Child and Alex Prud’homme

During one sleepless night while I visited my mother in Iowa, I re-read My Life in France by Julia Child to improve my mood.

The next week as we vacationed in Santa Barbara, the SB Independent wrote Julie Child would have been 100 this year.  Dearie, a new biography about the city’s former resident was scheduled for release on her August 15th birthday.

Trying to keep our luggage light until the final leg of our journey, I waited until we arrived in Newport Beach to shop for books.  The Barnes and Noble entry table was piled high with the summer releases.

Next to Dearie sat my friend Julia Stuart’s newest release, The Pigeon Pie Mystery.

My relationship with Julia Stuart began when a friend gave me a signed copy of her first book, The Matchmaker of Perigord, for my birthday.

I picked up both books and during the sixteen hour flight from Los Angeles to Dubai, I finished reading The Pigeon Pie Mystery.  Between The Hunger Games and a documentary on Woody Allen, I thought about why I loved her book.

Arriving home, I discovered others agree with me.  I opened my email to a message saying The Pigeon Pie Mystery was one of Oprah’s two new book picks of the week.

“Good for Julia,” I thought.  But I wished I had beaten Oprah to the posting.

Oprah’s LifeLift blog summarizes Pigeon Pie’s plot but there is something I must add.

Julia Stuart tells stories as if she is the village raconteur who knows the history of all parties involved.  Instead of being embarrassed by her neighbors, she delights in filling her listeners in on their eccentricities – making mountains out of molehills, or a short story long with delicious tidbits.

Her characters swim in life’s tragedies – lost love, dead children, loneliness, regretful deaths, and losing parents.  Yet in-between sorrow, she finds laughter, imagines unexpected friendships, fulfilling dreams, and finding love usually at home, in our own backyard.  And just when it seems like the story is nothing but one novelist’s over-active imagination, she slides in a historical fact, proving the cliché that real life is stranger than fiction.

Her books are described as “witty” or “charming” because she sees life for what it is and instead of focusing on the darkness or negativity, she chooses to write lightly with humor, delighting in people’s diversity of experiences and interests.  That’s what I like about Pigeon Pie.  It’s a matter of style – how to tell a tragic story with humanity.

It is Julia’s positive outlook on life which landed her book on Oprah’s LifeLifts.

Congratulations to Julia Stuart.

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