Amin’s Beautiful Family

Amin Maalouf and I.

The idea was to start our Arab Artists adventure with something extra special, with someone that could get us moving on the right foot, and that person turned out to be celebrated author and journalist Amin Maalouf.  So before flying down to Tunis, Chris and I met up in Paris for 2 days of preparation and conversation. 2 days during which, it turned out, we would get to spend some quality time with a very wise man and his inspiring family.

We were scheduled to meet for a morning session; a long interview covering the middle east in the present, recent past, and much more.  We hoped to talk history, arts, politics, and enjoy the life stories Amin might bring forth.  But instead of waiting for that morning appointment, the night before Chris tells me “we should just go over there, drop by, say hello, and see if we can’t get some ideas out for him to sleep on.”  My immediate reaction, even though I should realize Chris has been doing this very many decades, was to remind him that people are busy on Saturday nights, and he won’t be home (or he doesn’t want to see us until our agreed appointment).

We arrive at the address and sure enough realize we didn’t bring that essential Parisian tool, the door code. We stand at the door, periodically crossing the street and looking up at the window as if someone will look down and yell — “Oh its you guys, come on up!” – Right around then a neighbor opens the door and invites us in, “who are you looking for?” — Mr Maalouf, I explain. The woman doesn’t hesitate as she points me to the appropriate hallway. 30 seconds later, we’re warmly greeted by the sweetest couple that must have been a little shocked at this inter-generational journalist duo that just wandered in off the street. In his relaxed around the house clothes, Amin sat with us in the living room and immediately began to talk about a projects he is working on, people we have in common, and the latest updates about the US election race.

Not 12 hours later we are back in that same living room. This time Mr. Maalouf is sitting in the living room dressed nicely as I’ve often seen on BBC programs where he is interviewed.  He’s been thinking about some of the things we talked about, and just as I figure out the ins and outs of Chris’s recorder, off we go on a 2+ hour journey through time and space. I kept expecting him to run off needing water or to answer a phone, but instead he stays with us and considers every question carefully.  It was both exciting and exhausting as I reviewed in my head, every idea he put forward.

After those hours of holding the microphone and resisting the urges to comment, ask a question, or speak up in any way, Chris grabs the mic and puts me in his seat “Your turn Mark… time for you to let loose.”  To his credit and my surprise, even after such a long discussion, Amin looked at me with interest. As if to say, “yes, you’ve been sitting there nodding and almost talking for a while.. Id like to know what you have to say.”

The whole discussion was already a massive success in my mind. But just when i though it couldn’t get any better, Mrs. Maalouf comes to get us, to make a plate and join the family for lunch. Now we’re launched into conversations and creative back and forth idea sharing, as the rest of the family is just as kind and engaging as the man himself. It was as if I was speaking with old friends who have long been working on similar ideas.  Combine that with the best Lebanese food imaginable, and you get an afternoon that I hoped would never end.

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ctrp354 The Next Economic Meltdown & Cheesecake

From the Archives - Max in London

Max Kaiser’s website is among the most popular sites to visit in Washington DC among Homeland Security employees. They’re such regular and enthusiastic visitors, Max says they are helping to pay his salary, and they’re most welcome to do so.

Through his program on Russia Today and Press TV, Max Kaiser (along with Stacy Herbert) continues to expose the truth about the global economy and who is benefiting while so many lose everything. In this return appearance on citizenreporter.org Max gets into why he likes working for RT and Press TV, while telling the story of the only global media outlet to ever sensor his reporting.

In between, there is cheesecake.

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Inspiring versus Annoying

First of all welcome to all the new people who have probably met me at this conference here in Paris. Many of you probably aren’t into the world of blogs and podcasts, so the fact that you clicked over to my website is a major milestone… maybe.

It was day two of the transport strikes, and officially day 1 of the TBLI conference. I did my best not to go around handing people cards to explain who I am, I also avoided explaining myself too often. I’ve worked too dam hard and have too many issues on my mind to take the constant trouble of explaining what I do to strangers at conferences.

At one point I ran into some very laid back new friends who work in the world of press releases. They liked my flickr cards, the ones that I made purposely almost too small to read, with photos of my adventures on the back. In their case, I described what I do on this site, and the topic came up of what would I say if I were having a drink with one of the big corporate representatives at this conference. The thought was fairly disturbing.. to have a drink with the likes of Suez, Shell, Coca-Cola (ha!).. they’re all here.

As much as I might want to challenge them with questions about their human rights records and the human suffering their actions have caused in the world, I must admit I don’t think – in the moment – I would have the nerve. I bet they would even be polite, or charming in some way, so that I’d almost forget who they worked for. Thats the worst part, potentially, of attending too many of these events… you rub elbows with individuals working for some of the most notoriously inhumane companies in the world, and you might find – as if probably often the case- they are actually nice people. But then what happens to everything you know about their companies actions? You put it to the side maybe.. separate the person from the corporation, perhaps.

For my part I’ve steered clear of them. Instead I’ve enjoyed the company of people who work for organizations dedicated to making real change in the world, respecting the rights and health of humans everywhere. And let me tell you, there are some very inspiring individuals here.  In the coming days I will feature some of these stories in both text and podcasts, so stay tuned.

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Sustaining Paris

Greetings from Paris, where I’m spending a few days to have a few meetings and mainly, to attend a conference dedicated to sustainable investment and corporate social responsibility. Ha.. some people are thinking “those are buzzwords!”… you might be right, which is part of why I came down to see for myself.

Oui! Travelling down here by hitching a ride with friends and co-workers, I’m once again exposed to the huge elephant in the room for Europe (among the other elephants): automobiles. Everywhere I look, from the Netherlands through Belgium, and into France.. it is so painfully obvious that this part of the world is living beyond its means… it cannot sustain this many cars, and yet people keep right on driving. Some of the best train systems in the world, and they keep driving. Traffic jams everywhere, and yet they keep driving.

They love to point to the United States and say, “Americans and their cars.. ha!”… but when one looks around Central Europe.. especially this region… it is the pot calling the kettle black. And symbolic carbon trading, token political speeches, or pointing a finger and holding a nose towards the US… that isn’t going to solve what has become a cultural problem.. the culture of the car.

Of course I will try and bring this topic up as part of a few podcasts I intend to record from the conference. Many attendees are so-called experts, which might be interesting to talk to but as a podcaster, I’m as interested in the regular conference go-er working to make companies act responsibly as I am to speak with some CSI rockstars.

As an added bonus, I happen to have arrived in Paris during the largest labor struggle in a decade, *film at 11.

*=old American TV expression.

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