The Bullet List #28: East Texas Crime, Flint Police, ISIS Media Hacking, Pop Culture Excellence and The Wire Nostalgia Edition by Nasri Atallah

Hey everyone,

It’s a quick one this time. One crime show, one documentary, two articles and a podcast. Should keep you busy for a couple of weeks.
If you’ve got anything you think I should see or read, please send it my way on the Twitter https://twitter.com/NasriAtallah

Nasri

Hap & Leonard (Sundance TV)

Vox recently referred to this show on Sundance TV as “one of TV’s best-kept secrets” and I agree. It is woefully underrated, and I’m happy I came across it by chance while flicking through Amazon Prime’s video offering.  The show is based on a series of crime novels written by Joe Lansdale, set in late 1980s East Texas. Each season adapts a new novel in which best buds Hap (James Purefoy, who you might know from Rome or Altered Carbon) and Leonard (Michael K. Williams, who you definitely know from The Wire) unpack the darker side of America: seedy deals gone wrong, Vietnam War hangovers, and racial tension. It doesn’t always hit the mark, but the chemistry between the leads is enough to keep you going, and the swampy mysticism of East Texas is just perfect. The third season is a couple of episodes in.

Flint Town (Netflix)

Watching the state of American policing from abroad is a bit bewildering, and it can be hard to understand just how the system got so broken. That’s why this 8-part Netflix Original following the officers who police the city of Flint, Michigan (pop. 100,000) makes for fascinating viewing. It follows individuals in one of the most understaffed (just 98 cops for the whole city) and underpaid departments in the US, on their beats and in their homes. It provides intimate portraits of cops, and some insights into their political views as individuals, and digs into the structural problems around race, as well as funding and militarization.

How ISIS & Russia Manufactured Crowds on Social Media (Wired)

The antics of the Internet Research Agency are now common knowledge and feature in panicked accounts of the shifting theatre of global warfare all over the media. But the manipulation and weaponization of social media was spearheaded by a different group altogether, ISIS. This short piece in Wired gives a great insight into ‘media hacking’.

Unpopped (BBC Podcasts)

I’m a sucker for a pop culture podcast, and recently almost had a heart attack when someone on NPR’s Pop Culture Happy Hour took a dig at someone from Slate’s Culture Gabfest. I realize that getting palpitations when your favourite podcasts collide is a particularly sad form of pop culture nerdom, but anyway what I’m saying is, I love these things. And Unpopped from the BBC (which seems to be a standalone podcast and part of a new strategy by the Beeb to move away from The Archers) is welcome addition to my podcast diet. It takes an in-depth panel-driven look into a pop culture phenomenon (so far: drag queen culture, David Lynch, the Spice Girls and Tomb Raider) which is essentially the opposite of every half-baked Twitter hot-take you’ve ever read. Host Hayley Campbell is excellent (she’s also an excellent writer and a hilarious Twiterrer)

Omar Comin’! The Wire’s Creators and Stars Remember the Birth of an Icon

It’s been 10 years since the last episode of The Wire aired, and since one dose of Michael K. Williams wasn’t enough for this Bullet List, here’s an excellent oral history of how one of the most iconic characters in TV history came about. Omar comin’!

The Bullet List #27: Put Kendrick Lamar in Charge of Everything Edition by Nasri Atallah

Told you these would be coming through more regularly, so here we are again. Trying to keep these lean and mean (not sure what that even means) so I can do more of them. Oh, and by the way, if you're enjoying these Bullet Lists, tell your friends to sign up (they can do that here). And thank you for all the emails saying you find the recommendations useful and pushing me to do the podcast. I'm planning on recording a pilot episode in the next two weeks. Stay tuned. Or subscribed. You know what I mean. Onto the recommendations.

Film

THE BIG SICK

This is hardly an under-the-radar recommendation given that the film has a 98% Rotten Tomatoes score and grossed USD 55 million on a budget of USD 5 million. It was one of the most successful indie films of the year, and its writers Emily V. Gordon and Kumail Nanjiani are up for an Academy Award for Best Original Screenplay. Despite taking the massive risk of having one of its characters in a coma for the entire second act, it is such a funny and tender film. As always with this kind of highly personal story, the cast of both sets of parents is particularly brilliant. The film is now streaming on Amazon Prime (and was made by Amazon Studios, who seem to have figured out how to make breakout hits after years of tinkering with niche subjects).

Music

THE BLACK PANTHER SOUNDTRACK

Kendrick Lamar, The Weeknd, SZA, Anderson .Paak, James Blake, Travis Scott, Sjava, Mozzy, Reason. I mean I could go on, but do I really need to? One of the most powerful soundtracks in a while comes from one of the most powerful films of the superhero franchise era. Curated by Kendrick Lamar (who should be in charge of everything) and featuring his label mates from Top Dawg, the album delivers on its promise. Everything about Black Panther has been so powerful. I can’t use another word. Even the photos from the red carpet premiere.

Article

INSIDE THE TWO YEARS THE SHOOK FACEBOOK — AND THE WORLD

Chances are you’re one of the 2.3 billion people who have a Facebook profile, and chances are you’ve noticed things have been a bit rough for the tech (media?) giant for the past year or two. This sprawling and exquisitely reported piece (they spoke to 51 people involved with the company) about the technical, ethical and philosophical challenges facing Zuckerberg and his team is required reading. In many ways, Facebook is the internet for a lot of people, so understanding its limitations and vulnerability to abuse is an important part of our digital literacy. Also this kind of journalism is exactly the kind of thing we need to keep alive in the platform era, and the issue's cover is pure art.

Newsletter

THE HUSTLE

Business news can be pretty stale, but having worked in banking, energy, advertising and tech (I know, all the evil industries, they look almost comical next to each other on my cv) I like keeping up with what’s going on in that world even though I’m out of it and have cleansed my soul. Well, The Hustle is the answer. It is very sharply written, often hilarious, and always insightful. Kind of like Prof Galloway from the recommendation in The Bullet List #26, but in writing. Subscribe, you’ll be entertained and you’ll be able to drop some knowledge about IPOs and shit at the next dinner with your friends. I mean, they’ll probably turn away from you and roll their eyes, but still.


Book

STREETS OF DARKNESS by AA DHAND

I'm recommending this again. It isn’t every day that you get a Bradford-based crime story, but AA Dhand’s changed that in the past couple of years. This is the first of his DI Harry Virdee stories and sees the hardened (and suspended) detective tasked with maintaining the city’s fragile ethnic balance. Problem is, to do so he has to team up with the former leader of the BNP. As a riot brews, Harry’s got to act quickly, and at the edges of the law. It’s a great read. I hope to join the ranks of crime writers plonking exciting stories down into places no one’s really bothered with before.

The Bullet List #26: The New Chapter Edition by Nasri Atallah

Welcome to the first Bullet List of 2018. I’ll have more time to focus on these from now on. I’ve recently decided 13 years of corporate employment was enough, and January has been my first month as a full time writer and creative. It’s terrifying, it’s confusing, but it’s pretty damn exciting. Current projects include the crime novel I’m working on at Faber Academy, for which I’m aiming to finish the first draft by April (please hold me accountable for that). I’m also writing more opinion journalism, dabbling in screenwriting, working on a documentary pitch, and I’m taking a more active role in my wife’s clothes brand. So, on to this edition's list of pop culture recommendations.

Something I Wrote

Speaking of personal projects, here’s something I wrote for UK film magazine Little White Lies about the disastrous trailer for Beirut. Somewhat dishearteningly it seems to have been getting some positive reviews at Sundance, but I’m not holding out much hope that it will be a fair representation of the complexities of Beirut in 1982. And I still think that it’s a waste of a brilliant film title.

YouTube Channel

L2 Inc’s Winners and Losers with Professor Scott Galloway. Now, before you despair at the recommendation of a channel dedicated to analyzing trends in the tech industry, hear me out. First of all, Galloway is a hilarious host. His deadpan delivery and occasional wig-wearing are worth the sub on their own. But he also has very insightful takes on an industry that dominates all of our lives, more than any other industry really. And he advocates for breaking up the four horsemen of big tech, so there’s something compelling about his approach to the industry. It's an interesting 3 or 4 minute breakdown of trends, what they mean for the economy, and for our lives as consumers.

Book

Being on a writing course, I have honestly never read as much as I have in the past four months. But I don’t want to make this list ridiculous. I’ll just say you should definitely pick up Home Fire by Kamila Shamsie, who came in and spoke to us about her process. Also, if you’re looking for a kick up the ass writing-wise, pick up Anne Lamott’s Bird by Bird. And for some great Bradford-based crime fiction pick up A.A. Dhand’s Streets of Darkness, which has been compared to Luther and The Wire.

TV Shows

OK, I know this isn’t prestige TV (and I’ve said before I’ve got a bit of prestige TV fatigue) but I've been enjoying going back through 4 seasons of Brooklyn Nine Nine. There is something so wonderful about a fun, lighthearted, hilarious ensemble comedy that’s delivered in short episodes that reminds you that TV doesn’t have to be grim and foreboding and delivered in hour-long chunks. It's also the kind of TV that can just fill up space while you're ironing or doing dishes.

Speaking of prestige TV, I have a semi-recommendation for a show that don’t stick the landing. Ozark, Netflix’s Breaking Bad, which I finally got around to watching a year after everyone else. I don’t think that’s a very fair comparison though, because Bateman’s character is already broken and bad when we meet him. It’s really quite fun and moves so quickly, packing a ton of action into every episode, until it all crumbles around the flashback episode (7, I think). Still, it’s a fun ride, and you should give it a shot.

Podcast

James Altucher spoke to my good friend Mike Van Cleave for his massively popular podcast. It’s a tough (but wonderful and enlightening) listen. See, Mike was diagnosed with cancer and given a few months to live a couple of years ago. Yeah, Mike’s not the kind of guy to leave this place while there’s still good parties and conversation to be had. So he's stuck around, and he's learned a lot. He is an inspiration, and I don’t use the word lightly. And this podcast will let you in on why he’s such a special friend. Turns out life advice from a dead guy is a best kind there is. If you click on one thing in this newsletter, make it this.

Another –– very, very different –– podcast I really enjoyed recently is Citations Needed. It explores the intersection of media, PR and power. The episode that got me into it was the one on Trumpwashing. The notion being peddled by the conservative and neoliberal establishment that somehow Trump is an abhorrent anomaly in the US political system, rather than it’s very id.

Newsletter

Quartz Obsession. I know it might seem weird to recommend a newsletter in a newsletter, but Quartz Obsession is absolutely great. Every day at 4pm you get a ridiculously detailed and interesting deep dive into one topic. The newsletter features content snippets like charts, statistics, videos cards, text, quizzes, quotes, timelines or polls. According to Jessanne Collins, editor of Quartz Obsession, “There’s a sense of news-cycle fatigue, which can offer an important gap for media products to fill. There’s a hunger for smart, relevant, interesting coverage that’s not regurgitated and not the same news day to day.” Sounds great, right? There are only so many articles you can read analyzing a Trump tweet. Treat yourself to something interesting in your inbox everyday. Oh, and one more thing, I’m finding carefully picked newsletters to be a great antidote to social media fatigue. I don’t feel I’m missing out on anything and I don’t have to be glued to Facebook and Twitter all day. Win-win.

An Idea I Want to Run By You

So I've been thinking about this for while, but I'd love to turn this list into a podcast. "Sounds amazing but how?" I hope you're asking. Well, I thought I could have bi-weekly chats with guests (writers, designers, artists, musicians, entrepreneurs, etc) and ask them to bring in their top pop culture recommendations and use those as a way into discussing their life and career. I'm lucky enough to live in London, know some people in the industries I'm interested in, and get to travel often, so I'd have access to some interesting people I hope. You'd be getting pop culture recommendations and an insight into the mind of someone interesting. Let me know what you think.  

That’s it for now, as always you can find me on Facebook, Twitter and Instagram for regular updates.

You Are Not Alone — A few thoughts for International Mental Health Day by Nasri Atallah

I'm a fan of any initiative to reduce the stigma around talking about and seeking help for mental health issues. So I thought I’d share some stats, and some personal experience.

According to a survey by the Mental Health Foundation, 65% of people say that they have experienced a mental health problem. More than 40% say they have experienced depression and over 25% say they have experienced panic attacks.

These are all UK figures, I imagine they vary from country to country, but the basic thing to keep in mind is that if you’re feeling anxious or depressed — or dealing with other forms of mental health issues — you are most definitely not alone. You’re probably not the only one with these issues in the room you're sitting in right now.

I’ve been in little cycles of psychoanalytic therapy in the past (which didn’t really do it for me, and no two cases are the same, so it might work for you. Doing research on this helps a lot), but most recently I went through a cycle of cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT).

What triggered the need to go into therapy earlier this year? Well I was having regular and sustained panic attacks on the Tube and in crowded places, something that has never happened to me before. Anxiety is a normal part of the human experience, and it can even be useful. But when anxiety starts to dictate behaviour, thinking and decisions then it’s time to look for help. So when I started retreating into my home and avoiding places I normally love, I knew it was time to do something.

Anxiety is a combination of thoughts, feelings, physical symptoms and behaviours. So it’s really something you want to deal with as soon as you can. And don’t think your case is silly. I thought mine was silly. Most of my anxiety, believe it or not, was pretty much directly related to Brexit and Trump. Looking back at my emails, I realize I reached out to my local mental health service in November, right after the election. I suddenly became overwhelmingly concerned with my own well-being, that of my family, that of the world at large. I became convinced everyone around me in the world was a raging racist who wanted me dead. My logical mind knew that was not the case, but it couldn’t do anything about the ball holding my chest hostage, the ringing in my ears or the tremor in my hands. I felt stupid walking into a doctor's office and telling them I was scared of Donald Trump and his supporters while I lived in a leafy bit of Camden.

But he walked me through it, and told me to never second-guess my anxiety. Every single mental health issue is important, because it is important to YOU. Never ever think what you’re feeling is silly or undeserving of attention.

I’m lucky enough to live in the UK, so I got great support on the NHS, and elected to go to a group therapy session once a week for six weeks rather than have one-on-ones with a doctor. Something about the group attracted me, the fact that there would be a heightened level of empathy and a shared vulnerability. And CBT is a great technique. Within no time I had tools to manage my anxiety. And that’s an important thing to keep in mind. It never goes away, it is something you manage.

At the beginning of the 6 weeks we were asked to write our biggest fear about the therapy on a piece of paper, put it in an envelope and hand it to our counsellors. They’d give it back to us six weeks later. When I got my piece of paper back, I opened the envelope having forgotten what I'd written down.

I looked down at the Post-It it said: “I hope getting better doesn’t change who I am”.

It felt like it had been written by someone else. “What a silly thing to be scared about” I thought to myself. But I smiled about it, happy about how far I’d come in such a short time.

I'm happy to chat with anyone going through feelings of anxiety and happy to share some of the documents I have from the CBT sessions if someone is curious (but please see a therapist, the documents are only helpful as an indication of what you could get out of seeking help).

If you live somewhere that has great healthcare, by all means make the most of it. If you live somewhere like Lebanon or the US where healthcare is considered a luxury, please seek out help nonetheless. I know it’s expensive, but the tools it gives you will change your life. Look into the different therapies beforehand so you choose the right path for you.

And remember, we are quite literally all in this together.

Cover Image by Brendan George Ko

I'll be writing a novel at the Faber Academy for the next six months by Nasri Atallah

Today I start a six-month intensive course called “Writing A Novel’ at the Faber Academy in Bloomsbury. This doesn't come out of nowhere. I’ve toyed with the idea of joining a proper writing course for about a decade. I’ve spent hours scrolling through MFA program sites at NYU, Iowa, the University of East Anglia. Every year at about the same time, I’ll spend hours fantasizing about it. And then I’ll talk myself out of it. “It’s not the right time to put life on hold for a Masters”, I’ll tell myself. Or “it’s too expensive”. Or “I can’t move to New York at my age”. I’ll find something, anything, to walk away from the idea.

The truth is, I’ve always been petrified. I have loved reading and writing since I was a child. Given how I grew up, it was inevitable. It’s been the only consistent through-line in my life. And the fear is that a course like this might tell me that writing doesn’t love me back. It could tell me that I'm being delusional in those little moments where I accept this might be something I’m good at. So yeah, petrified.

But, as I creep up on my 35th birthday, I think I know how to transform my own fear and anxiety into something useful. So I applied to this course, after a couple of years of hesitation, I got in and I head to my first workshop today. I will be studying under Richard Skinner, who heads up the program and is the author of The Red Dancer (Faber & Faber), amongst others.

Even though I write regularly (bits and pieces in The Guardian, GQ, Brownbook and my first book Our Man in Beirut), this is the first time I'm being serious about a novel. I've been toying with ideas for a while, but I realize I need structural help and, well, an all-round education. So I've decided to put in the time and money to do that with the most dedicated fiction educators in London. 

I will be taking the course alongside my day-job at Keeward & Bookwitty, and that is how it is designed be taken. Everyone I have spoken to who has been on the course has done it alongside a very demanding job. So I guess the title of this post is misleading: I won’t technically be writing the novel at the Faber Academy, but I'll be writing it on the tube, in planes, in every waking hour where I'm not working on something else. 

I don’t expect to come out of it with a bestseller — although that would be nice. What I do expect to come out with is a solid final draft of a story I care about, and hopefully someone who believes in that same story (an agent, publisher, fellow writer). More than anything, I hope to come away with a community of peers who share the same hopes and fears that I do about taking their writing seriously. And most of all, as SJ Watson put it in his comments on the course that made him a literary star, I want to walk away with what he calls the ‘permission to think of yourself as a writer.’

A bit about the Faber Academy’s track record from the Evening Standard

“The six-month Writing a Novel course run by the Faber Academy, is fast gaining a reputation as UK publishing’s Fame Academy. Since the creative writing school, an offshoot of the world-famous publishing house, opened its doors in 2009, 62 graduates have gone on to secure publishing deals. Its bestselling alumni include SJ Watson (Before I Go to Sleep), Rachel Joyce (The Unlikely Pilgrimage of Harold Fry), Renée Knight (Disclaimer), Laline Paull (The Bees) and Joanna Cannon (The Trouble with Goats and Sheep).

[...] Not even the University of East Anglia’s MA, the UK’s best-established creative writing course since the 1970s (Booker winners Ian McEwan, Kazuo Ishiguro and Anne Enright, as well as 2017 Baileys winner Naomi Alderman, studied there), or the Iowa Writers’ Workshop, the world-celebrated literary launch pad featured in the fourth series of Girls, can claim an equivalent hit rate over the same period. ”

The Bullet List #25 — I Seriously Don't Watch Movies Anymore. At All. Edition by Nasri Atallah

I'll be sharing these recommendation lists on here (again) and on TinyLetter. So you pick which way makes more sense to keep receiving them. If you want to subscribe, have a look here.

YouTube Channels

Binging with Babish: For someone who doesn’t really cook anything that would be universally recognized as edible, I sure do love a good YouTube food channel. Babish brings together my obsession with YouTube junk food shows and pop culture: he makes recipes based on food that shows up in films and TV! Where should you start? I'd take a chunk out of the Ross' Thanksgiving Sandwich (link above) from Friends or nibble at Chef’s Chocolate Salty Balls.

Cold Cuts: the latest project by Lebanon’s very own Mo Abdouni, founder of the irresistibly fun FIMP magazine (they had the best launch events) back in the day. This is his new video platform and his first couple of films — a doc about a Beirut drag queen (link above) and a music video for a German-Yemeni Berlin-based band — have quite rightly been lauded in Elle UK and Reorient.

Books

Raymond Chandler: I’ve been on a bit of a crime fiction binge of late, partly because it is my favorite genre and partly because I’m finally trying to write some myself, and figured I’d go back to one of the stalwarts. I tucked into the Big Sleep, which is excellent, if “problematic” (that word itself is becoming quite problematic). There’s no doubt he’s a master of the genre, but I could have done with a little less slapping of 'hysterical' female protagonists who appear to have their legs poking out of their dresses for most of the plot. It made me realize I should probably tuck into something a bit more contemporary, and potentially from another part of the world.

That’s where Parker Bilal comes in. Bilal is the pseudonym of British-Sudanese author Jamal Mahjoub, and his crime fiction series follows the investigations of Makana, a former Sudanese cop, now a refugee in Cairo, working as a low-rent private investigator. I love what I've read so far.

Reading Lists

Crime Writers of Color: My search for writers who aren’t white and male (again, nothing wrong with being white and male, far from it, it’s just that it doesn’t require much searching to find their output), took me to Twitter. I got a ton of very helpful recommendations there, which I put together in this helpful little reading list.

Documentary

Bowling for Columbine: Somehow my wife, who is a monumental Marilyn Manson fan, had never seen this Micheal Moore joint. So I wanted to show her the scene in which Manson is the most rational and intelligent human being in the film (which isn’t surprising if you know anything about him), and we ended up watching the whole thing, and somehow it seems like something that feels very relevant even today. It even got us into a rewatching a whole bunch of late 90s Louis Theroux documentaries which kind of predicted that America was about to lose its mind (more on that in a bit).

Music

Ryo Fukui - Scenery A regular at the Slowboat jazz bar in Sapporo, he taught himself to play piano aged 22 and released this beauty a mere six years later.

Rapp Snitch Kniches - MF Doom Love this track by prolific and slightly eccentric British rapper of Trinidadian-Zimbabwean origin MF Doom (Daniel Dumile).

The Bunny Tylers - Mothers Make Murderers Hypnotic track by Beirut drone/ambient duo The Bunny Tylers. The band is made up of Charbel Haber (of Scrambled Eggs and solo career fame) and Fadi Tabbal (of The Incompetents, and pretty much the producer behind everyone who plays alternative music in Beirut).

Articles

The Rise and Fall of the Sellout There is a rich tradition of calling artists who chose to not do exactly what you want them to do sellouts, but in this great Slate take (that digs into the terms origins on the left, and in jazz) Nicolay argues the word is on its way out of the musical lexicon.

The Lost Cause Rides Again: Don’t Give HBO’s Confederate the Benefit of the Doubt This impassioned piece by Ta-Nehisi Coates was written a couple of weeks before the deadly actions of white supremacists in Charlottesville. It argues that HBO’s green-lighting of an alternate history series where the South won the Civil War is tone deaf because it doesn't take into account the black contemporary experience in which it's not that clear that South actually lost and alternate histories don't seem so necessary because people of color in the South live that 'what if' every day. In light of the horrors of the past few weeks, it’s tough to see how this show pitches itself now and how it gets made at all.

How America Lost Its Mind Brilliantly written & sprawling essay on the origins of America’s gradual unmooring from reality, going all the way back to the 50s and 60s. If you wonder how millions of American's can watch InfoWars, read this.

TV Shows

Real Detective: Think Discovery ID true crime shows but with well-produced and acted reconstructions, no ad breaks and the most heart-wrenching interviews with real detectives you can think of.

Atypical: I cannot emphasize how brutally emotional, fun, well-written and raw this Netflix family drama about an 18 year old with autism, and the family around him, is. It is also brilliant acted, with star turns from Michael Rapaport, Jennifer Jason Leigh, Keir Gilchrist, Bridgette Lundy-Paine and the hilarious Nik Dodani.

Podcasts

Episode of 99% Invisible Ever wonder who comes up with emojis? Who do they pitch them to and who decides if it makes it onto your phone. Why does the little pile of poop look a bit weirder on Facebook than it does on WhatsApp? Well this predictably excellent episode of 99% Invisible has all the answers.

Instagram Accounts

Anyone who knows me or who follows me on Facebook, Twitter or Instagram, knows I'm a total sucker for bleak neon-lit landscapes at dusk and old cars in front of empty cafes. Think a mix of a Hopper painting meets Blade Runner meets a muscle car meet-up. Well Patrick Joust from Baltimore and Chris Malloy from Calgary are two of my favorite photographers who manage to capture that beautiful combination.

Films

I think I’m going to drop this section because I really don’t watch films at all anymore. Working on a blog post about why I think that is (spoiler: all the good writers have run off to TV and everyone with a smartphone in a theater is an asshole).

What To Expect When You Follow Me On Social Media by Nasri Atallah

If you're reading this you've probably just followed me or are about to follow me on some form of social media platform. Now, I don't really have a ton of followers or anything, but I've recently seen some of the people I follow write up a post about the kind of stuff you can expect from them, and I find it refreshing and useful. It allows me to declutter my feed or choose to give them more weight in it. 

First thing you should know is that I'm interested in a range of things, I'm a bit of a dilettante, and have some form of ADHD. The core of what interests me revolves around the media & publishing industries, new books/films/music/shows that are out, multiculturalism & identity, and social & political affairs in the two places I call home — Britain and Lebanon. So within one day on Twitter I could post about a new hire at Spotify and what it means for their distribution strategy, a new show on Netflix and how I'm currently bingeing it, my obsession with Arab Noir Fiction, a piece by Riz Ahmed on representation in pop culture and something about Lebanese politics or how Brexit will be a disaster. I know that seems like a pretty broad palette, so consider this a fair warning that some stuff might be annoying,

I'll also post stuff about my own projects and those of my friends. I work at Keeward and Bookwitty on publishing, media and creative ecosystems, so chances are there'll be a healthy dose of self-promotion on that front. I also like to push my friends' projects, specifically absolutely anything my incredibly talented wife does, but also other friends who happen to be in music, film, TV, fashion and so on. I try to make sure it's always a bit relevant. 

I also do some writing whenever I can find time, so I'll share links to articles I've published and probably keep updating you on the progress of my second book (although it has stagnated for years, so now that it's moving forward again I don't want to jinx it by not shutting up about it). I'll also occasionally post shorter pieces that are observations or anecdotes from London, Beirut or the places I'm lucky enough to travel to. 

There, I hope that make sense. And I hope you'll feel this makes you want to connect and exchange ideas. 

See you out there. 

Recommended Video: The Man Who Cultivates Lebanon’s Wild Herb by Nasri Atallah

Absolutely beautiful film by Nay Aoun.

"Mohammad Ali Neimeh's — better known as Abu Kassem — life revolves around Za’atar, Lebanon wild thyme plant. During the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, he needed to change the way thyme was grown, out of fear he would be shot or shelled trying to get to his plants in the wild. The changes that he implemented have seen huge changes in the way that thyme is now grown in Lebanon. This is his story."

Nay has also produced and directed two other films about the slower, more meditative — and disappearing — side of Lebanon. The Backgammon Artisans (https://vimeo.com/208229697) and Keeping It In The Family: 100 Years of Dibs Kharroub (https://vimeo.com/196710217). 

What I really love about Nay's films is that they don't traffic in Lebanese nostalgia-porn, although the subjects would easily lend themselves to that. They tell human stories, and the truly affecting parts of them are about relationships and resilience and just putting up with life for ages. Truly beautiful.