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RIP George Whitman, owner of Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company

© Hind Mezaina - Shakespeare and Company, Paris (November 2011)

George Whitman, owner of one of my favourite bookstores and places in Paris, Shakespeare and Company passed away at the age of 98 on Wednesday in his apartment above the store. He opened the bookstore in 1951 (at the time it was called Le Mistral and was renamed to Shakespeare and Company in 1964).

“I came to Paris in 1946 and stayed on,” he told the Literary Review in 2003. “I started a little lending library for American GIs who had stayed on in Paris. I finally decided I’d open a bookstore here to make room for all my books.” via

Shakespeare and Company is a haven for book lovers. It's warm, cosy and smells of old books. With a sign on the wall that says “Be not inhospitable to strangers, lest they be angels in disguise.” - you can't but help fall in love with the place.

Besides the books, Shakespeare and Company hosts poetry readings and also offers accomodation to young writers in beds tucked amongst the bookshelves. All they need to do is "read one book a day and write a short autobiography before leaving Paris". Just marvellous. 

I stumbled upon Shakespeare and Company during one of my walks in Paris in November 2010. I wasn't intending to visit it, but there it was, greeting me with open arms on a cold night. I ended up spending my evening browsing through books and even sat through a poetry reading session. It's one of my favourite memories from Paris. Here are some photos I took from that evening which I've only shared with friends. I think it's quite befitting to share it on my blog today to honour George Whitman. 

I think 'free thinking bookstores' like Shakespeare and Company are a dying breed and it makes me sad to think that there aren't many George Whitmans in today's world. 

RIP George Whitman, 1913-2011.


© Hind Mezaina - Outside Shakespeare and Company. An adorable bench.


© Hind Mezaina - Outside Shakespeare and Company. © Hind Mezaina - Outside Shakespeare and Company. Poster announcing the poetry reading.




© Hind Mezaina - The sign that welcomes everyone to Shakespeare and Company. 

© Hind Mezaina - Inside Shakespeare and Company. One of my favourite things - vintage typewriters. They make me go weak at the knees.  

© Hind Mezaina - A reading room inside Shakespeare and Company. People can play on the piano if they like.

© Hind Mezaina - Inside Shakespeare and Company in the reading room. 

© Hind Mezaina - Inside Shakespeare and Company in the reading room. Yes, someone actually played on the piano. I wanted to hug him. But I didn't...


© Hind Mezaina - Inside Shakespeare and Company in the reading room, during the poetry reading session.


George Whitman, Paris Bookseller and Cultural Beacon, Is Dead at 98 
George Whitman, owner of Paris bookstore Shakespeare and Company, dies at 98


La Mer de Pianos (The Sea of Pianos)

Here's a short film about Marc Manceaux, the owner of the oldest piano shop in Paris. It's beautifully shot and edited by Tom Wrigglesworth and Mathieu Cuvelier


Trailer Tuesday - Miss Representation

Miss Representation is an important documentary that should be watched by young women around the world. It might look like it's an American-centric film, but I think its message is global. The documentary "explores how the media’s misrepresentations of women have led to the underrepresentation of women in positions of power and influence".

This quote from the trailer really touched me, "There's no appreciation for women intellectuals, it's all about the body and not about the brain."
The recent trend on TV does make me worry about the portrayal of images of women - and I'm not just talking about western shows. I can't think of any Middle Eastern TV shows that portrays women in inspiring roles. Maybe I'm out of touch with the recent shows on Middle Eastern TV channels, but with 1000s of channels with nothing to watch, I'd rather watch re-runs of old Egyptian films. Can't go wrong with the classics of which some were a lot more progressive compared to what I see in the current world of Middle Eastern media. 

About Miss Representation:

Like drawing back a curtain to let bright light stream in, Miss Representation uncovers a glaring reality we live with every day but fail to see. Written and directed by Jennifer Siebel Newsom, the film exposes how mainstream media contribute to the under-representation of women in positions of power and influence in America. The film challenges the media’s limited and often disparaging portrayals of women and girls, which make it difficult for women to achieve leadership positions and for the average woman to feel powerful herself.

In a society where media is the most persuasive force shaping cultural norms, the collective message that our young women and men overwhelmingly receive is that a woman’s value and power lie in her youth, beauty, and sexuality, and not in her capacity as a leader. While women have made great strides in leadership over the past few decades, the United States is still 90th in the world for women in national legislatures, women hold only 3% of clout positions in mainstream media, and 65% of women and girls have disordered eating behaviors.

Stories from teenage girls and provocative interviews with politicians, journalists, entertainers, activists and academics, like Condoleezza Rice, Nancy Pelosi, Katie Couric, Rachel Maddow, Margaret Cho, Rosario Dawson and Gloria Steinem build momentum as Miss Representation accumulates startling facts and statistics that will leave the audience shaken and armed with a new perspective.


[Warning: A few seconds of sexually offensive images appear at the beginning of the trailer.]


Music Monday - The Saint Petersburg Disco Spin Club

I really like this video for Love Spin by The Saint Petersburg Disco Spin Club. Hope you like it too.


The Culturist turns two - Yes, you are awesome for reading my blog.

I've been so busy watching movies at the Dubai International Film Festival since Wednesday that I almost forgot that this blog turned two yesterday. Turning one was an achievement and I'm still enjoying sharing what you read, hear, watch on The Culturist.

Thanks to everyone that continues following this blog, to all the new readers and to ones that take time to leave comments and send messages. 

I wanted to share a song that has the word "two" and this is the best one I could think of. So although it's not a 'brithday' song, it does express the birthday dance I'm doing now.

Hugs to all.



Wonder Object 

This video about artist Gary Schott using his skills as a Metalsmith to create playful mechanized objects is captivating. I love the craft and humour behind Schott's work. The objects look beautiful and I just want to get my hands on these objects to play with them.


Twinge DXB


TWINGE-DXB is a new urban arts and culture festival organized by the community of Dubai and for the community. Sherif Aibaza came up with the idea of the festival after he was inspired by his artist friends to showcase their work and he decided to put up this event to involve the wider creative community.

He hopes the festival will serve as a platform for the participating artists to grow their careers and grow within the local community, "If any of the participants sell a painting or gets commissioned for a job utilizing their talents due to their participation in Twinge, then we’ve achieved our objectives."

I was curious about the name of the fesival. Sherif explained it by saying "Social Media plays a very important part of our everyday lives. Twinge is a play on words between 'Fringe' referring to marginalized or underexposed talent and 'Twitter' a staple of the Social Media playground today." 

Personally, I'm not very convinced with the name "Twinge DXB" - we already have a Twestivals, Tweet ups, Twit Book Club - so it feels like yet another social media event. Some event organisers fall into the trap of trying to associate everything with social media - and for a festival like this, it could miss out on attracting an audience that isn't necessarily active on social media (and yes, there are people that don't use Twitter or Facebook). Nevertheless, I think this festival is a good initiative and it's great to see the creative community in a space that isn't in a gallery or theatre. I'am a big fan of taking art out to different and new locations, to engage with the city and it's people.

Here's the schedule of events:

10th-16th December 2011
During the whole week, you will see:

  • Painting by Noha Mourad.
  • Photography by Catalin Marin (I've featured his work on my blog before and he's very active in the photography community in Dubai. I am a big fan of his travel photography, so I strongly suggest you check out his work.
  • Mime artist Lara Matossian Roberts. "Artist Lara didn’t know she was in the box until she got out of it. She stumbled upon that imaginary rope and was bedazzled by the treasures held within the chest at its end, but she’s quite happy to share. Come and get bedecked."

© Catalin Marin 

10th December 2011 - Praise for Prose

Book readings by 

  • Alexander McNabb recently self publised his book Olives which is available on Kindle, Smashwords and internationally. TwingeDXB will mark the official UAE launch of the Middle East print edition and there will be copies of Olives on sale at the Festival. I enjoy Alexander's writing on his blog Fake Plastic Souks, so I am looking forward to getting my hand on a copy of Olives.
  • Frank Dullaghan is an Irish writer who has lived in the UAE since 2006. He has read at the Emirates Airline Festival of Literature (Fringe) in 2009 and 2010 and in the main festival as part of Poeticians in 2011. He is also a member of the Emirates Literay Group and Dubai Writers Group. Frank is widely published in literary journals and poetry magazines in the UK and Ireland. 
  • Sultan Al Darmaki, a freelance writer from the United Arab Emirates. His book "Under My Black Halo" is a collection of his thoughts that was self-published in November 2010. He currently writes for Gulf Today Panorama magazine, his column "Impromptu" features articles that deal with local and global social issues.




11th December 2011 - Music
The night will feature by Dubai based musicians


12th December 2011 - Fashion Night
The night will feature fashion by Sartori Sartori and jewellery by LOVE SONI.

Sartori Sartori


13th December 2011 - Comedy
There will be stand up comedy brought to us by Dubomedy, a collective of artists that aims to create more performance opportunities for local artists, provide professional performing arts training and put on original productions around the region.

14th December 2011 - Variety Night by Infusion
The night will feature stilt walkers, jugglers and fire dancers 

15th December - Poetry Night with the Poeticians

The Poeticians is a collective of poets and writers run by Hind Shoufani, who is also a filmmaker.

16th December - Film Night

Three short films willl be screened on the night:



Event details:
Date and time: 10th-16th December 2011. Doors open at 6pm, shows start at 7:30pm.
Venue: Wild Peeta at Dubai World Trade Centre (location map)
Free entry and suitable for all ages.




Trailer Tuesday - The Endless Winter - A Very British Surf Movie

The Endless Winter - A Very British Surf Movie is a forth coming feature length documentary and web-series the surfing scene in Britain and how it all started.

The documentary is still being made and you can follow it's progress through The Endless Winter website. Pro-surfers Mark 'Egor' Harris and Mitch Corbett are travelling across of the UK on a road trip tracing the wild and unusual roots of British surf culture.

I'm really looking forward to the final film.


24 Hours on an Aircraft Carrier


I've been secretly quite fascinated by aircraft carriers. They're such giant structures floating gently across our oceans. So I was quite amused to see this video that shows you a day in the life of an aircraft carrier. It's all very macho as I imagine it would be, but don't the crew get time to chill, eat, twiddle their thumbs during downtime?

While I ponder on these questons, please enjoy this beautifully shot video.


...and I simply cannot end this this post without making a reference to Top Gun.


Fiji Vignette by Riley Blakeway

I am in love with these 3 videos shot and edited by Riley Blakeway. You may know already that I love surf culture, not that I know how to surf, but these videos also made me realise how much I miss the beach.

If you are stuck at work or home and need an escape, watch these videos and dream of your next free spriited, fun loving summer holiday.


Fiji Vignette - Part 1
Music: Walk all over me by Sneakpeek


Fiji Vignette - Part 2
Music: Empty House by Matt Leech


Fiji Vignette - Part 3
Music: Frequency by Unouomedude