Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Interview with Egyptian journalist Pakinam Amer

Intro/lead: It’s in storytelling, verbal and visual, that Pakinam has found what she calls “personal legend,” a phrase first coined by author Paulo Coelho and describes a person’s proper path in life. It’s a path that, she says, has opened her eyes to both beautiful and unpleasant realities that this region is enduring. Nevertheless, the changing tides in the Middle East and the shifting political and social landscape, and the discovery of “new” freedoms in Egypt have continued to fuel her passion albeit the presence of challenges and difficulties born with the social and political experiment that people in Egypt are now undertaking.

Q: Pakinam, what kept you moving forward? Why didn’t you give up?

Well, I could have been driven off my path. But I have been lucky enough through journalism, blogging, and photography, to come in contact with incidents that gave me courage. Also, the people that I’ve met have made a huge difference. They made me witness a sort of … a modern-day miracle, you know, how the will of a few people, a few visionaries –,you know, human beings like you and me with ideas- can change the world.

Q: You’ve recently embarked upon a journey to the United Kingdom where you lived there for more than a year to do your masters in Investigative Journalism. As I understand it, it was a UK-based course that focused on UK law and politics and was meant to help you work in England. Why did you decide to come back?

Because no matter how much I spend there, I know I’ll be more of an expert on my country than anywhere else. I speak the language, well, it’s my mother tongue and I’ve already worked here for more than three years. And Egypt is rich with stories. It’s rife with political, social and faith-related stories, so is our region, the Middle East. It’s a reporter’s heaven.

Q: You’ve been taking some interest in filmmaking recently, am I right?

Yes, that’s correct. Well, I have started scratching the surface of filmmaking and shooting for television first during my post-graduate studies in the American University in Cairo (AUC). However, in London, where I was based until a month ago, I delved a little deeper. The close encounter with the world of TV and film, you know, working behind the camera and video editing was enough to make me yearn for more. I really felt that I had tapped into this fresh talent inside of me. I felt it was always there but it was hidden.

Q: Do you plan to work on it?

I already started to – slowly but surely. When I was in London, I didn’t waste much time. I started buying movies like crazy. My wallet and bank account suffered a lot because of this. I started watching many of the classics and international movies from France, Germany … Sweden, Russia. It’s a whole new world really. I’ve also taken two intensive workshops in filmmaking and directing at the London Film School, in addition to taking part in script clubs and Q&A sessions where everything, you know, from production, editing to lighting and sound or what have you, was discussed.

Q: So are you gonna start making your own movies now?

Well, not right away. I have a rather primitive video camera. But I plan to experiment with that first. I’m hoping that taking loads of short courses and workshops will prepare me for a full-blown study of filmmaking; perhaps back in the UK or even the US. I don’t want this to be a hobby that I do on the side. I plan to turn it into a career … and I don’t care how much time this will take. I know that most people don’t like starting from scratch. But I think it would be an interesting challenge.

Q: So do we understand that one day you plan to leave the journalism world and plunge into that of cinema?

Well, I’ll never stop becoming a journalist. As a journalist, I have naturally always been a storyteller. So no, I don’t see it that way. Plunging into the world of filmmaking is not a change of careers; I simply see it as an extension of my work as a journalist, perhaps an evolution, you know, a natural evolution into … using the full extent of my senses and talents to communicate, you know, my ideas to the masses … and … to help the masses communicate, you know, their dreams and fears to the world.

Pakinam has been an inpsiration to family and friends.

Q: What do you think of Pakinam?

As a mother, i can't be more proud of my daughter. I respect people who follow their dreams with a passion and that's what she's doing.


Running time: 4 min. 50 sec.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Love, Death, and Travel Through Imagination (Part 2 of 2)

Click on the link to read Part 1: 


The theme of voyage/travel is also present in A Simple Heart, because Felicite’s only way to escape boredom and the fact that she is being trapped in her inside world was by traveling with her imagination. Felicite too escapes her ‘inside’ world (her reality) by living and imagining the outside world. Imagination is the only way the outside world is entering her life. Flaubert was a master of rational and realistic details; he has provided many particulars to express and communicate the idea of how boring Felicite’s life is, and in turn transformer her into flesh and blood for the readers and made her tragedy almost touchable. Flaubert considered the visualization of scenes to be the most important so as the readers could identify with Felicite’s environment. The accumulation of details (like a lot of people dying around her, the cards, the clock, the rain) from the moment she was born until her death serves as physical representations of Ennui and Routine. From my point of view in Baudelaire‘s poems, travel with imagination to an “ideal” unrealistic world is a tragic flaw because it is what leads one again to a depressing “spleen”. While with Felicity, imagination is not her tragic flaw (in fact she doesn’t have a tragic flaw), her main (and arguably only) flaw might be her innocence. Her innocence, even if it leads her astray or more likely misleads her into escapism, is then again the origin of her simple heart and mind and her goodness.

Baudelaire uses the theme of love to make the comparison between the ideal and the spleen more noticeable. He is comparing good (beauty) with evil (sin) and shows how love for beauty tempts one to make sins and gradually makes one fall towards Satan. Women have a big role in Baudelaire’s love poems because they show how Baudelaire’s feelings towards them are quite contradictory. Baudelaire’s “love” is sexually explicit and romantic which is clear in his erotic imagery. Moreover, love reminds him of mortality as the poet remembers that love is impossible because of the cruel reality.

In A Simple Heart, the theme of love is used in an entirely different way. Felicite’s endless search for love despite all her losses leads to something more beautiful and more important than love itself. Felicite’s need for someone to give her great passion in return made her relate to a parrot, above all. Her parrot Loulou which entered her life was the only one who provided that to her to the extent that Felicite’s love for Loulou has gradually turned into an obsession and adoration.

Death is another theme present in both works. In Baudelaire poems, death is a theme that apparently he likes to use repeatedly. Baudelaire was fascinated with this theme and was dedicated to creating very shocking bizarre images of death. Although he talks about escaping death (spleen) by travel and imagination (ideal, by images of luxury and comfort), he also mentions dreadful images (agonized demons and phantoms) that makes the likelihood of fatality more pressing (and depressing) to the reader. It also shows –in a direct blatant manner- the fearful image of death and the loneliness and seclusion death could bring. To Baudelaire, the real journey of death is the complete opposite of the imagined journey to the “ideal” he talked about. On one hand, it’s a journey toward something that is completely unknown (presumably a horrifying destiny according to Baudelaire) and it being unknown is fear itself. On the other hand, “The voyage” explains the voyage of death, where he describes what is unknown ahead of us as neither good nor evil but simply different and new (a new experience). Baudelaire doesn’t believe in eternity, so death is the only truth one knows and there is no real way to escape it.

The theme of death in A Simple Heart is not very differently represented. Flaubert has a very realistic representation of death. Throughout the story, Flaubert constantly repeats the idea that death is in ones everyday life, and that innocence, purity and virtue (of Felicite) is frequently tied very tightly with dishonesty and selfishness (of the outside world and of people around Felicity). The theme of immortality lies subtly in this story, showed when Felicite’s beloved Loulou dies and she turns him into a stuffed animal and puts him in a high place in her room so that his image will be lying there forever and it also evokes the idea that she’ll always look up to him and remember him (could be related to looking up to heaven where our loved ones are believed to lie eternal in endless bliss, or where god himself and his close ones lie). It could be considered a far-fetched interpretation that Felicite really considers her parrot to be god at all, or heavenly-related but due to her limited comprehension of faith and religion, she only misinterpreted and misplaced Loulou with the incarnation of the Holy Ghost coming down from heaven.


Saturday, October 24, 2009

Long Form Documentary: Leila’s story (Listening journal- Entry #3)

Producer: Julian Ruck

Narrator: Siobhann Tighe

Title: Assignment – Leila’s story 6 Dec 2007

Length: 24 minutes.

Link to BBC documentaries:

Link to podcast:

The documentary tells the story of an Iranian girl who was forced into prostitution and sold for sex by her parents at the age of 9 and was later sentenced to death at 18. It sheds light on Modern Iran, the legal system there, the legal concept of child abuse and how the Iranian laws remain confused and inequitable to women and girls.

It started off by sound bites from the end of the documentary, which I thought was an excellent way to keep the listener’s attention through out the whole documentary, and these sound bites were very well chosen, because they were very intriguing. One was of Leila saying “it's fun. Don't you think it's cool?” when told that hurting herself and cutting her arm is not the answer.

The documentary was very interesting because it talked about the legal system in Iran, which is an important part of the story and at the same time the psychological state of this girl after all what she has been through.  Leila was raped by her brothers, sold for sex, used for years by the man of her town. I liked how personal they make the documentary, how they described Leila to the listener through people’s impression of her “dressed in black, large eyes, warm face, innocent and trusting”.

There were sound bites from Leila’s lawyer and from the founder of the day center that Leila is currently staying at. Sound bites from Leila’s lawyer were very helpful. We get to know the opinion of the person who saved Leila from her death sentence about the matter and why she appealed her sentence. She explained that to a poor family who suffers from drug addiction, their daughter is a property and can be sold. We then have a sound bite from Leila confirming that. She said that her whole family was suffering from an opium addiction, and through her prostitution’s money they paid for the drugs. Leila was sold to an Afghani man and she was his “temporary wife” for almost a year, when one day the police arrested everyone in the house, the temporary husband was jailed for 5 years and Leila was told that she was sentenced to 5 months in prison but she later knew she was going to be hanged. Lawyers believed that she wanted to be sold and that it was her choice and they blamed her for not leaving the house and informing the police.

The lawyer accused the judges of ignorance about what sexual charges are all about and for believing that the woman is always guilty and a woman’s testimony in court carries less weight than a man’s.  I believe a documentary like this can open people’s eyes on things that happen in Iran that often go unheard of. It was good to know how Leila is living her life now, things are better for her but we know that it will never be the way it should’ve been if she wasn’t been subject to all that she has been through. The girl is still learning the basics of life, how to express herself and how to overcome some behavioral problems.

The quality of the narration was very good and clear. The sound bites were placed very nicely in the documentary and helped it flow well. I like how personal they make the issue by bringing Leila and her case closer to you through her opening up and speaking about her story herself. They included little details that made the piece more emotional and created sympathy towards Leila, like how she had imaginary toys growing up and how naïve she sounds. The length of the piece was perfect; it had my attention through out because of how interesting and shocking the issue is so you naturally want to hear more about it and more about the girl (the victim).

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Why not?

I’ve always been fascinated with the supernatural, the things that I don’t quite understand.

I believe in magic, lucky charms, I wear a few amulets, I’m fascinated by Greek mythology, I’m partial to superstitions and I am aware of the fact that none of this might be true. But for some reason I want to believe in them. I like to believe in them.

We call all that “myths”, “illusions” and “superstitions.”
But because something sounds unfamiliar or illogical does not automatically mean it is fiction. I still remember X-Files’ Dana Scully’s famous quote: “Nothing happens in contradiction to nature, it happens in contradiction to what we know of it.”

Don’t get me wrong! I’m not asking people to have blind faith. Indeed, and as the saying goes, extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence. I’m only suggesting that we keep an open mind – or at least be a little bit more tolerant of personal quirks, like my affinity for everything fantastic.

For example, mirrors send my mind reeling with stories. In ancient times, mirrors were thought to be gateways to other worlds and realities, some believed they protected us from evil, told us the future, or revealed the truth. I am one of those who like to believe that they reflect back a glimpse of the human soul. The same applies to reflective objects, paintings and photographs. There’s more to a portrait painting than just color and form.

A mirror sure tells you something about yourself and it takes a lot out of you to give you back that simple reflection. It has been thought that a mirror, like a picture, keeps part of your soul. That’s why, sometimes, you can’t stop looking – you can’t get yourself to part with your twin, the one that seems to be trapped behind the shiny glass surface.

I personally have a love-hate relationship with mirrors. I am an actor, and when I was younger, performing and role-playing in front of a mirror was my life. From imitating people to making faces to reading the news to playing doctor to giving Oscar speeches and dressing up … it all happened in front of a mirror. Even so, I’m well aware of the power of reflections, the very thing that enthralled Narcissus and led him to pine away.

Let me tell you of a story that simply creeps the hell out of me. The story goes that there were days when the world of men and the world of mirrors were not as they are today. Once upon a time, the people behind the mirror invaded this world and after many battles, the world of men prevailed and stripped the creatures of the mirror from their own shape and reduced them to mere reflections. It is believed that one day they will throw off the spell and awaken once again. It says, “The first to awaken shall be the Fish. In the depths of the mirror, we shall perceive a faint, faint line, and the color of that line will not resemble any other. Then, other forms will begin to awaken. Gradually, they will become different from us; gradually they will no longer imitate us; they will break through the barriers of glass or metal, and this time they will not be conquered … some believed that before the their invasion, we will hear, from the depths of the mirrors, the sound of arms”.

In light of all the strangeness of our world, can’t there be a teeny tiny possibility of this actually being true? Why not? Hold that thought.

Love, Death, and Travel Through Imagination (Part 1 of 2)

“A Simple Heart”, a short story written by French poet Gustave Flaubert, is considered one of the best stories he had written; it was given excellent reviews and was admirably received. What is intriguing about it though is the fact that the approach to this tragic tale is rather new and is different; you see the story through the eyes of a woman who would not attract you if you passed her on the street, whose life story is not striking or is a subject of controversy. The protagonist, the center of both the story and the events and who readers are invited to see the world from her perspective and through her eyes, is a poor illiterate and humble woman. Her world is simply all about routine and her life is filled with the most boring details. Like the title suggests, the tale is as “simple” as the woman that Falubert describes and chooses to tell the readers about. In all her simplicity, Felicite has a power that most men –and many women- might not have: the ability to love –receiving and giving love- no matter what life brings. Although Felicite suffers the loss of her loved ones throughout the play, she never stops loving. Her love even becomes centered on a parrot, her Loulou, to the extent that she adores him like a god and is extremely devoted to him. Flaubert writing a simple story about love and goodness is something unusual, because it’s not usually one of his themes. In this story many themes are presented, like the theme of death for instance (how the death of Loulou affects Felicite), love and the idea of travel through imagination as a way of escaping reality. These are themes that were used by many poets too; one of these poets is French poet Charles Baudelaire who is called “Father of Modern Criticism”. In my opinion, Baudelaire is one of the most gifted of the French poets. He wrote The Flowers of Evil, a piece which had a lot of Flaubert themes. But despite the fact that these themes were presented differently, they had common thoughts or a common subtle “tone” nonetheless. One of the most interesting commonalities in themes to me was the idea of travel/voyage through imagination to escape the world we live in (a.k.a. Reality).

The theme of Travel/Voyage in Baudelaire’s poems especially “Spleen and the Ideal” is an escape of a world full of pessimistic themes of eviction, perish, decay, sin, pretense and deception that is controlled by the Devil. Baudelaire says that humans either use fantasy and imagination as an escape from all this or are always trapped in the boredom of Modernity/Modern life. According to Baudelaire, Perfection is only present in erotic love, voyages (imagined) and beauty (that is often extracted/ created from evil or the ugly reality). Traveling with your imagination to a mythical world or an ideal universe of one’s own creation will make one reach ultimate happiness, comfort and total perfection which is the poet’s dream (in other words Eden, which means “an ideal harmony of being”). While the latter option seems to be a good one, it’s not real and it’s not even close to reality. “Spleen” symbolizes everything that one doesn’t like in this world like death, loneliness, despair, pain, crime, and physical or psychological illness. It also symbolizes Modernity (the city) invading nature and infecting it with routine and boredom (Ennui).

Baudelaire provides excellent images to accomplish his aim of creating an ideal world to the reader.

“And of an infinite pervasiveness.
Like myrrh, or musk, or amber, that excite
The ecstasies of sense, the soul’s delight” (Correspondences 12-13)

He creates an image that successfully stimulates and arouses the reader’s senses as well as images of lavishness, bliss, comfort and warmth that serves well the description of the “ideal”. The “ideal” is like an escape from the “spleen” and the boredom of cruel reality. It’s an escape from this reality through travel for an example. Travel through imagination is nothing but a fantasy, at the end it is an imagined state of living in an ideal world full of delight and bliss where loss, death and mortality do not exist. Creating a fantasy by imagination and living it urges one to lose the sense of mortality - which is arguably a very illogical escape (or temporary escape) from the fear of death (Spleen) that fills a lot of people. It is a virtual escape from the inevitable, one can say, and a pretence that life’s tragedies do not exist (like putting your head in the sand plus dreaming and fantasizing about what life should or could be as opposed to what it really is). Consequently, Travel shapes the plot in a way that unavoidably leads to a disappointing and sad spleen.


Tuesday, October 13, 2009

Public Service Announcement: EFB's "Overcome Hunger" Campaign

Local Contact: 6 Nafoura St., Cairo, Moukatam.
Organization: EFB – Egyptian Food Bank
Contact Info: 16060,,

Heading: EFB’s “Overcome Hunger” Campaign.
Airdates(s): November 2009 – December 2009

40 seconds

SFX: (sound of plates and cutlery – dinner table being

Wow! Look at the amount of food left! What are you
gonna do with it?

LADY 2: I was gonna throw it away.

LADY 1: Think of all the poor and hungry.

LADY 2: But what can we do? We can’t donate food, can we?

MUSIC: (Fade in Gypsy King’s “Lord Of the Dance”)

ANNC 1: You wanna know how you can help?

ANNC 2: The Egyptian Food Bank is the answer.

ANNC 1: By your partnership with the EFB to overcome hunger in Egypt, you not only feed the needy, but also contribute to lessening crime rate and building a healthy society.

ANNC 2: And all this is one phone call away. You can send money or simply drop off food donations, any time, any day.

ANNC 1: For more details call 16-0-60

ANNC 2: Because it’s NOW more than ever that we need your help in this battle against hunger.

ANNC 1: Let’s make sure everyone in Egypt has enough to eat.

MUSIC: (ends)

World Vision Report: “Ultra-Orthodox Women Go to Work” (Radio Journal-Entry #2)

“Ultra-Orthodox Women Go to Work”
Length: 7 min.
Reporter: Daniel Estrin

The feature is about ultra-orthodox Jews in Israel and their approach to unemployment and work in general. It talks about how unemployment to them was never a problem because they spend their time studying their religion instead of holding down jobs and how this is starting to change when some women decided to lead the way and enter the job market. Some men devote their life to religious study and they get paid for it but the pay is so small that it doesn’t support the family well. Some men started seeking part time jobs.

I find this story very interesting because it’s very thought provoking to know how different women think about this. It’s interesting to see women from their backgrounds breaking from their traditional role in the house and going into the job market. You get to know how different women feel about it. Most of them have no skills but they get to take special courses to prepare them. Any job they take has to be rabbi approved and has to have a women-only environment. Some women think that they have a responsibility to support the house by financing it while their husbands are focused on religious studies. They believe that this is how they support the house with respect. Some women think it’s satisfying to work and are proud that they are doing what they do.

Quality of sound was very good. The sound bites and nat sounds were very smooth and fit very well with the story. The use of nat sounds was very good. I liked the nat sound of people praying at the beginning, the sounds from the supermarket and the sounds of someone teaching. The sound bites were very informative. They were all of women talking about their personal thoughts and experience on working. I liked the sound bites of the American Israeli ultra-orthodox Jew, I though it created diversity. I also liked the photographer’s sound bite and found it very interesting and used well in the story.

Quality of the reporter’s voice was very good. The length of the newscast was perfect and it was enough to create a well-rounded story.

NPR & BBC Newscasts (Radio Journal-Entry #2)

Title: NPR Hourly News Sum
Reporter: Paul Brown, from Washington.
Length: 4:45
Then click on “Hourly News”.

The newscast started by a story about president Obama speaking at Texas ANM University in college station. Obama was speaking on the subject of community service. The second story was about Afghani officials investigating the alleged fraud during the recent presidential elections and how the results, which will soon be reached, will determine whether there will be a run off election or not. Reporter Jackie Northam has more details on the story. The third story was about the search of an F16 pilot in the South Carolina coast after two military jets collided and then there was a short report from Catherine Welsh on the situation. The fourth story was about how senate democrats are trying to put together a health care bill that merges a finance committee with a health committee version. It was followed by a sound bite of Finance committee chairman talking about how optimistic he is on the passing of the resulting bill. The fifth story was about a bombing in Pakistan where at least 11 were killed. The sixth story was about a woman accused of kidnapping and assaulting Elizabeth Smart. Reporter Howard Burgess had more on the investigation of whether the woman is mentally incompetent or not. The seventh story was about the treasury secretary is saying that government support system for the economy should be removed or else the recovery would be slow and in danger. The last story was the recent sudden increase of oil prices.

The overall newscast was interesting, it had news from different places on different subjects, it had political, economic, financial and social news. The quality of the sound was very good. There weren’t enough sound bites in the piece. I was expecting nat sound of police and chaos on the streets in the Afghani bombing story. The announcer voice was very good and he had good delivery although he stuttered once in the newscast.
The newscast wasn’t too long or too short although I expected to hear a little more on the story about the oil prices increasing.

Title: BBC News Summary
Reporter: Sue Montgomery
Length: 5 min.

The newscast started with a story about the United Nation’s human rights council voting to endorse a report into the Israeli offenses in Gaza, it accuses both Israel and Hamas of war crimes. Sound bite of a reporter providing more information on the matter, the council urges them to conduct credible investigations and suggests referring them both to international criminal court if they don’t. The second story was about the suicide car bomb attack in Pakistan. It was followed by a sound bite of reporter Ali Makbour reporting from Islamabad. The third story was about the French foreign ministry urging its citizens to leave a state in West Africa for security reasons. A reporter reporting from West Africa followed it. The fourth story was about a review of primary education in England that recommends that children start school at the age of 6 instead of 5. The story was followed by a story about one of the leading banks in America, Bank of America, losing around 1 billion dollars. It was followed by a sound bite of a reporter stating that the Bank’s chief executive will receive no pay or bonus for 2009 and that it was announced that he would retire at the end of December. The following story was about the governments of Southern Sudan and its works for independence. The last story was about the memorial museum at Auschwitz, the Nazi concentration camp, launching a page on the social networking site Facebook to help engage a younger generation of people and to discuss potentially controversial renovation works at Auschwitz.

This newscast was interesting. It covered a variety of news. I was interested in the last two stories the most and I was disappointed to see that they had no sound bites at all. The quality of the sound is very good although the level of the sound was a bit low. Use of sound bites was good for the stories that had them. The quality of the announcer’s voice was very good. She stuttered a couple of times in the newscast, which I think, is fine. The length of the newscast was fine. All stories had almost equal amount of time. For some reason the language itself of the script is a lot simpler than the language of NPR. I had difficulty understanding some of the language in the NPR stories.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Unethical and Offensive Print and T.V. Advertisements: Offensive Portrayal of Women

Advertising is a very powerful and influential medium therefore it plays an important and great role in shaping society's views of women by how it portrays them. Unfortunately, most of the images of women in advertisements are unjust to the nature of women, negative and misrepresentative of women and their roles in society. The audience is usually large and ranges from people concerned with the ad to families and young teens.

The women in advertisements and ads usually are in their mid twenties wearing provocative and revealing clothes. Some of those models in advertisements have a pose and facial expression that are daring and sexually explicit which will surely offend women because these women are not conservative dress-wise and even in emotional communication and relationships. Generally, when women are seen as sexual objects, they are treated as such in society (Women's Images in Magazine Advertisements: How Far Have They Come?).

The Gucci print Ad:

This ad is definitely offensive to women because it tries to show the women’s ‘‘place’’ in the world which is at a man’s feet as shown in the picture above. In this picture, the women is visibly distressed and is using her right hand to hold her dress down and cover herself, clearly leaving you wondering in a series of events what might have occurred right before this women ended up on the ground. This ad enters into the ties commonly made between sex and violence in fashion advertising. This ad is totally humiliating to women. It shows that they are inferior human being which totally harms human rights. This is not the portrayal we-women-want to see in ads because it shows that we live in a very shallow minded society that is full of stereotypes and misrepresentation. Women must be given their right to be fairly represented in all media sources.

The Maker’s Mark print Ad:

This ad is also an offensive ad to women because of the words in it. What is it
about selling alcohol that makes advertisers want to belittle and insult women...does it really make men feel more powerful? This ad simply says that alcohol is apparently better than women (great body and fine character). Moreover, it promotes something that is unhealthy; drinking alcohol is very harmful to people’s health. This is an ad that encourages people especially teenagers (due to the use of the word ‘girlfriend; which applies mostly to teenagers or young adults) to drink alcohol. This ad doesn’t serve the welfare of our teenagers and young adults and is insulting women and encouraging the idea that it’s normal to belittle women and that it is accepted.

Winston’s print Ad:

In this ad, Winston tries to convince young women how tough and cool they can be by smoking while waiting for a man, we hope the man arrives soon before lung cancer sets in. This ad underestimates women intelligence by convincing them of silly, unhealthy and immature things to do. This ad also promotes an unhealthy habit that would really and is affecting people (especially teenagers and young adults). Smoking cigarettes is very unhealthy and causes young cancer. The ad encourages young women to smoke because this is way, they will look tough and cool which is a very vague, untrue and immature idea.

Dooney and Bourke’s print ad:

“Dooney and Bourke has been running a series of print ad similar to this in the past 6 months” ( The female model in the ad is positioned in a vulnerable way as if she is being threatened, she is naked (so possibly sexually threatened) and totally helpless, she has a large red star on her eye; evoking the idea she has been a victim of violence. I believe there is no effective point or reason for making the model pose nude even if she is covered (she is not fully covered though). The point actually is not that the female model is nude but her pose in general and how you get the feeling that she is threatened. I don’t know the reason why they always want to promote the idea that women are insecure.

BMW’s print Ad:

This ad for BMW serves to objectify women and particularly to objectify sexual relationships between men and women. According to BMW "the ultimate attraction" is their fancy car, women are still an attraction, but just not "the ultimate attraction". The car has the most power in this ad, then the man, then the women. Showing that an object (car) has the greatest power is simply unethical and illogical. Clearly, having a magazine photo on a women's face as you are having sexual intercourse with her is demeaning and degrading.

There are a lot of offensive T.V. ads; they all show women as only ‘sex objects’ and nothing more. They dress in a very provocative way, and totally revealing clothes and use facial expressions that are sexually explicit. The ad usually concentrates on the woman more than the product it advertises. They include female models dancing and the model talking in a sexy and attractive tone. I consider the people who like these kinds of ads totally pathetic and very shallow. Using sex in ads is totally unethical and not needed at all. The ad could be as effective and maybe more if it is clean and respectful.

These are the ads we want to see. Positive ads that make women look good and don’t demean women. The first is for Eileen Fisher, "Women change the world everyday." This is a very positive message and is showing women wearing respectful comfortable-looking clothing.

The second ad is for Liz Claiborne, "Feel comfortable." Finally, this is the message we-women-want to hear from a clothing ad.

The outrageous advertisements I showed earlier are ineffective and unethical because they demean and dehumanize women by reinforcing the stereotype that a women's primary identity relates to her being a sex object, harm women's right and is greatly offensive. Negative portrayals of women could greatly affect people and might convince some men (by putting a spotlight on such images of women for a long time) that these portrayals are actually true or at least have some truth or background to them. Generally, when women are seen as sexual objects, they are treated as such in society. These advertisements definitely harm women's rights because it promotes gender inequality and is totally disrespectful of women (especially to women activists and feminists). Valuing women only for their appearance and dehumanizing them is against women's rights. It also reflects an 'oppressive' view of women's role in society because in spite of all women's achievements in the work field that places them on an equal stance with men, she is still seen as someone whose basic role is providing physical pleasures and an inferior human being. This offensive, insulting and disgusting portrayal of women is completely unethical and doesn't give them their full rights as human beings.

Women should stand for their rights and fight back because they are creative human beings who deserve to be portrayed and treated as such so as to gain back their dignity, pride and self esteem. The portrayal of women and girls in advertisements as sex objects is a common form of violence against women and girls. Our society is supposed to be an enlightened and humane society where everybody, especially women and girls, are treated with decency and respect.

Media watch and monitoring systems should be supported and authorized. It is sad that these offensive and insulting ads of women are out there in the open. We strongly urge those concerned in the advertising industry to take the necessary action to ensure that these advertisements are stopped immediately. The media should be encouraged to avoid presenting women as inferior beings and should present them as creative human beings as well refrain from exploiting them as sexual objects and commodities. It is also really unfair that women are left out and not given the opportunity to contribute so women should have increasing and progressive participation in decision making at all levels in the media.

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

A Tribute to a Phenomenal Set Designer, Eugene Lee

I am just about to finish a set designing project and looking back at the process brings a smile to my face. It was a truly rewarding process and I've had a lot of fun with it. There were so many exciting challenges that reminded me of why I love theatre and why I love set design. This post is a tribute to a phenomenal set designer whose approach to theatre and set design never fails to influence and inspire me.

When asked about what he enjoys the most in his work, he answers, “Nothing makes me happier than an impossible space and an impossible project”. Eugene Lee, son of Eugene and Betty Lee was born in Bertoit, Wisconsin in March 9th, 1933. He got married to Franne Newman, a costume and set designer who he frequently co-designed shows with. Franne’s projects as a set designer were always co-designed with her husband at the time, Eugene Lee. Lee got married again to Brooke and lives with her in his home in Providence with their two sons. Brooke works as a painter and also works as Lee’s manager. Lee grew in quite a theatrical family. His father was an actor and his mother took backstage jobs in community theatre so theatre really ran his blood. When Lee was young he used to make little things and play with them. His family taught him that if he wants to learn something, he would have to buy a book and learn it from there. The way he learnt things was through a “learning by the book” method. He would buy a lot of books and figures out how to make things work.

Lee attended Berloit Memorial High school. He has BFA degrees from the Art institute of Chicago and Carnegie Mellon University. He has an MFA from Yale Drama School and three honorary PH.Ds.. At yale, he studied alongside legendary set and lighting designer Donald Oenslager. Lee has been resident designer at Trinity Rep since 1967. He is the production designer for NBC’s “Saturday Night Live”. Other New York theatre work includes Alice in Wonderland, The Normal Heart, Agnes of God, Ragtime, Uncle Vanya, Ruby Sunrise & A Number.His most notable credits are The Homecoming, Snow Boat, The Hothouse,The Pirate Queen, Wicked, Seussical, Ragtime, The Bells, A Moon for the Misbegotten, Sweeney Todd, the musical & Candide.Lee is on the faculty of Brown, Rhode Island School of Design (RISD) and Carnegie Mellon.When asked about what he has gotten from teaching, he said:
“You end up adopting half the people you teach. It’s such a funny, hard business to get going in”. As for himself, the people he knew at Yale where the ones who started Chelsea and produced Slave Ship and Candide.

Lee won three Tony awards for Bernestein’s Candide (1974), Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd (1979) and Wicked (2004).Those three shows won him three Drama Desk Award for Outstanding set designs. His set design for shows like The Ruby Sunrise, Ragtime, The Hothouse & Alice in Wonderland got him nominations for several prestigious awards.
Lees style is very unique and several directors and producers referred to him as a genius. He first came to international attention when he designed Slave Ship and Candide at the Chelsea Theatre Central in Brooklyn. His work on the musical Candide at the Chelsea Theatre Center of Brooklyn and on Broadway are chronicled in great detail in Davi Napolean’s book, Chelsea on the Edge: The Adventures of an American Theatre. The book also describes his work on Slave Ship and other productions at the Chelsea. He worked with light designer Kenneth Posner both on Wicked & The Pirate Queen.
When Lee designs a set, he often redesigns the theatre, repositioning exits, lights booths, even walls to accommodate the play. His audience frequently find themselves inside, on top or under sets that are not fixed. The computer has been the standard tool for set designers to create sketches but Lee is old fashioned and begins his process with a pencil and a sketch pad. He likes to use real material. He uses real, rusty metal, not painted wood. He creates set doors and windows that actually open and close. He puts the audience close to the actors and makes their seating uncomfortable if it’s right for the production.
Lee is a very unique and quite daring style when designing certain shows. His style is nowhere near traditional. His sets are very different from any set one might see before. He once designed a play called “The Visit” which is set in a train station. The play was performed in a real Providence train station, with passengers moving around the audience getting in and out of trains. The audiences were seated on benches.

Lee designed a play called A Moon for the Misbegotten in 2000, He said that the director was very specific about the environment of the set. Lee had six different ideas for the show and they all developed into models. He showed the models to the director and the director shows his favorite. The ideas he was playing with were all about whether he should go with inside the house or in front. He had terrible trouble deciding where the moon and where the sky is. At the end they settled on a house on a hillside of rocks and dirt. Although he likes to use real materials for his shows, for the dirt in this play they used dirt skins, they are like a rug and they come in rolled up. They looked like dirt and after working on them for a while; they were able to make it look very close to dirt. About using real materials, he said:
“I prefer to build out of real things. There is some humanity to it, some kind of history to the planks”. Lee wanted to tilt the house so “it looks as though it’s falling down and has an ‘earthquaky’ feeling, with landscape blocks that look like stones, like skulls, like the dead”.

Lee designed The Homecoming in 2007, Lee’s set had an enormous hole in the wall that apparently has been there for quite a while and seems to bother none of the four male residents. He was able to design a dirty floor of a suitably shabby and cut-down, post-war living room set. “Eugene Lee's setting did what was expected of it to suggest a home without a woman's touch, including the large gape in the plaster board wall that the men have no intention of ever fixing” - Simon Saltzman, a drama critic, said of the set.

Lee designed The Bells; it is set in an inn in a forgotten land on the edge of nowhere, as described in the script. Lee embodies this by creating a world of abstract reality. His color palette consists of shades of blacks and whites. Everything is meant to appear dead. The only colors that emerge in the frozen wasteland are those of blood.
Lee designed the set for The Pirate Queen in 2007, he has designed an impressively architectural setting that bursts through the proscenium. He redefined the proscenium of the Hilton Theatre with pieces of a period sailing ship, creating a frame that leaves room onstage for battle scenes and the show’s elaborate step-dancing numbers.The proscenium of The Pirate Queen is a kind of Elizabethan theatre made up of pieces of sailing ships. At stage right and left are imposing masts painted to look like faux-marbl. “The stage house of the Elizabethan theatre is supported by two large columns—they’re kind of like masts,” says Lee.

Lee designed a play called Mauritius, the most interesting part about the set of Mauritius is Lee creating a ceiling with light bulbs hanging down.The set changes into different places very quickly by pulling sets (a living room & a diner) out of the wall. Lee’s most successful design was the set design for Candide in 1974. He co-designed the show with his first wife Franne Lee. Lee revamped the Broadway theatre (a proscenium house) into one large playing arena with the audience seated on benches and stools. Planked platforms and levels from various patterns throughout the house. The orchestra is shown in the background.

Also one of his most successful projects is Wicked, the Musical.. Lee created a set and visual style for the play based on both W. W. Denslow’s original illustration of Baum’s novels and Maguire’s concept of the story being told through a giant clock. He defined his vision by creating a series of moving panels of gears and cog wheels that became the central image for the set. The panels and the wheels seem in constant motion during transitions from one song and scene to the next, rolling and sliding along the floor in grooves hidden by clouds of smoke. Monkeys fly from a tangle of vines that frames the giant fantasy clock. The set was made of steel, and other basic materials, aluminum, fiberglass, plastic, fabric and natural vines that serve as launching pads for the flying monkeys. The show has lots of crazy effects that one wouldn’t imagine possible. A witch in a sparkling blue gown a bubble blowing pendulum and a green witch in a black hat flies a broomstick through smoke were one of the most interesting spectacles. For the green witch’s flying scene, Lee designed a telescoping arm that the audience never sees because smoke and many fabrics of cloth hide it. They didn’t use a harness so that the actress would have freedom to sing.

*** For more information on the last play I set designed (opens Oct. 8th), check its Facebook event here:

Looking forward to seeing you at the show!

Saturday, October 3, 2009

Natural Sound

10 NAT sounds

To listen to the NAT sounds go to:
Click on the title of this blog post.


1. Traffic/Cars honking their horns. (10 sec.)
0 -10 sec.

2. Cat meowing. (7 sec.)
10 sec. - 17 sec.

3. Drill. (14 sec.)
17 sec. - 31 sec.

4. Washing dishes. (12 sec.)
31 sec. - 43 sec.

5. Scene from movie (dialogue). (20 sec.)
43 sec. - 1 min. 4 sec.

6. Channeling through the radio. (21 sec.)
1 min. 4 sec. - 1 min. 25 sec.

7. Mobile alarm clock. (11 sec.)
1 min. 25 - 1 min. 36 sec.

8. Phones ringing. (14 sec.)
1 min. 36 sec. - 1 min. 50 sec.

9. Toilet flushing. (11 sec.)
1 min. 50 sec. - 2 min. 1 sec.

10. Music (part of a song).
(19 sec.)
2 min. 1 sec - 2 min. 20 sec.

Poetry: Profit & Delight

Art or drama is without a doubt an important part of life. It is apparent that through art (of any kind) one can converse feelings, thoughts, uncertainties, anxieties, beliefs, values and much more. It is a medium where one is free to express feelings and ideas about personal and global issues and concerns. The aim of drama is something a huge number of theorists and dramatists has been arguing about for a long time now. In fact, considering the amount of different views and outlooks on the subject, it became very hard to determine what the aim of drama is or even narrow it down to one or two aspirations.
However, there have been a great number of views regarding whether the aim of drama is to entertain or instruct or both as well as debates on what brings pleasure to people. There have also been views on what drama reflects and if the reality it reflects can educate; if it is able to shape reality and if it has the power to change a person. One of the imminent theorists triggered a very interesting debate specifically on this subject. Horace argues in the Art of Poetry (The Epistle to the Pisos) that the poet’s aim when writing a dramatic piece is either to profit (instruct or teach) or please (delight or charm) or a good combination of the two.

“The poet’s aim is either to profit or to please or to blend in one the delightful and the useful” (Horace, pg. 74).
The first seperate two aims (profit or please) that Horace is referring too and the idea that drama might exist to accomplish one of these aims alone implies that pleasure and learning are two very different things and that they not associated to one another or even combined as one, thus proposing the idea that there is a contradiction between pleasure and learning. Therefore, it is important to analyze this contradiction.

“It is not just a matter of art presenting what needs to be learned in an enjoyable form. The contradiction between learning and enjoyment must be clearly grasped and its significance understood-in a period when knowledge is acquired in order to be resold for the highest possible price, and even a high price does not prevent further exploitation by those who pay it. Only once productivity has been set free can learning be transformed into enjoyment and vice versa”, Bertolt Brecht said.
When Horace triggered the debate of “profit or pleasure” a lot of questions relating to the relationship between pleasure and learning were immediately raised. The question of whether a relationship between them exists in the first place was also raised. According to Brecht, it is possible for learning to be consequently transformed into enjoyment unless the efficiency of the drama itself is set free. Therefore, even if learning and enjoyment are two different things, the possibility of them transforming into one another is tangible if set in the suitable environment (i.e. a good drama). One of the questions that the problem raises is: is it possible to instruct in a pleasurable form and consequently accomplish both aims of teaching and amusement? In fact, the solution can’t rely solely on this. Even if it is possible, it is not enough to transform learning into enjoyment and vice versa, it will only achieve both but there will be no transformation.
Brecht is actually referring to a certain class in society when he’s saying: “in a period when knowledge is acquired in order to be resold for the highest possible price..” , this makes us think about Horace possibly referring to a certain class in society, a class considering learning the useful and pleasure the useless thus creating the distinction between them. So this proposes the idea that the issue really depends on the audience.

Some theorists like Lodovico Castelvetro argued that drama and poetry is only created to amuse and delight; when people are presented with subject matters that they understand and are familiar with, they feel happy. This in fact is very true of the nature of drama and its effect on the audience. One of the main reasons why drama gives people pleasure is the fact that it is observed that it reflects and shapes reality and might actually cause change in who you are and what actions you choose to do. But does this amusement and entertainment educate you in any way is the question.
Some theorists like Diderot gave primacy to the knowledge one gets out of drama; Diderot claims that if pure amusement (even if incited by tragedy) doesn’t add something to the knowledge of the audience then it is simply useless and hollow. Some theorists like Juilius Ceasar Scaliger says drama can do both, but also gives primacy to the education poetry brings people. Scaliger supports his argument by saying that when poetry tells of tempests and wars; all is for the purpose of to teach and the way poetry is told is what’s pleasurable. John Dryden too believes that drama can achieve both instruction and pleasure.
“a just and lively image of human nature, representing its passions and humors, and the changes of fortune to which it is subject, for the delight and instruction of mankind”, (John Dyrden).

In order to answer the questions relating to learning and pleasure and if they can consequently lead to each other, it is important to identify what gives people pleasure. According to Aristotle the audience experience pleasure through “Catharsis”/”Katharsis” which is a dramatic term that refers to the purgation of emotions or an emotional climax that evokes the feelings of pity and fear in the audience. For example, in a tragedy the audience is relieved at the end because they detach themselves from the hero’s misfortune that they greatly identified with throughout the play. There is a certain pleasure that comes with the knowledge that you can actually detach yourself from the hero’s misfortunate situation so this could be an example of drama that amuses you through instruction and learning from the hero’s fault or basically making things clearer thus making the message more deep.

We also need to know what does drama really reflect and if what it reflects teaches people or not. Drama reflects the beliefs, issues and events of societies past and present. The subjects for theatrical representations include family, hard work, children, social struggles, war, disasters, the market…etc. These subjects come from the reality around us which when seen in front of our eyes in a theatrical work enlightens the audience and identifies right from wrong actions. The aim behind these representations is not only to explain and show the world as we see it but also to change it, which can force us as human beings to change in order to do that. So as a result we had instruction. The distinction that was created between learning and amusement is not set by an unbreakable rule; in fact it wasn’t always there and shall not continue to be. According to Brecht, knowledge is just a product. It is obtained in order to be resold.

One should understand that in the 16th century profit is greatly linked to values of a contemporary class of educated people while pleasure is linked to the values of the traditional aristocracy. If indeed enjoyment of learning depends on class situation then it is crucial to know what artistic appreciation depends on. Artistic appreciation can depend on one’s political stance for example. Artistic appreciation for a lot of people seems to be a product of extreme factors, like specific pressures, manipulations, popularity, exposure of a certain art, the like to follow the current going style, cultural bias and many other factors. I can’t deny that for a few it is due to a real desire to learn from art and appreciate it but unfortunately they are a minority. Some people actually do have a sense of like and dislike which they utilize when they are choosing art for the sake of their own pleasure. This is unfortunately missing or very weak in a lot of people and instead replaced by the factors I mentioned above. Prominence, taste and appreciation in art is totally subjective. It is almost impossible to establish a rule or an objective standard or norm to judge artistic greatness. Of course the consensus of critics is considered the common criteria. Therefore, the market is usually what determines what is great and what is not. It is apparent that there will never exist a work of a certain artist that everyone would like because the factors influencing their likes are very diverse.

Therefore, enjoyment of learning greatly depends on the class situation. There are at least two social groups. The conflict between the ability to entertain and instructive values in a piece of drama is constantly sharpened. The increase in instructive value means an immediate decrease in ability to entertain. Moreover, affecting the audience’s emotions directly means less chance there is of instruction. Conversely, the more instruction there is, the less artistic enjoyment you get.
Moreover, it depends of the age group you are targeting and the needs of this group. The older audience tends to want to be enlightened and educated while the younger audience wants to be entertained. Therefore, it all depends on the needs of the audience putting in mind their social class and age group.

Now we find an increasingly clear conflict between entertainment and instruction especially when the artistic factors were negatively affected by the instructive factors. This proves that sometimes instruction and entertainment fail to exist at the same time unless they succeed in not conflicting with one another. The rise of Expressionism benefited the theatre by enriching its means of expression but it failed to see the world as an object of human activity thus losing its instructive significance.

John Dryden was able to clarify why the two ends of drama should be well distinguished and how they are equally important. He says that the main end of the poet should be to please because at the end this is what establishes his reputation, which is very important to the welfare of the poet himself. The great end of the poet though is to instruct and that pleasure is only a tool to reach this instruction. He gives primacy to the ability to delight and gives instruction the second place because poetry’s ability to instruct is only there as long as it delights. He differentiates between the ends of tragedy and comedy by saying that the end of tragedy is instruction and the principal end of comedy is delight and that it is debatable if instruction should take part in the end of comedy at all. Comedy may instruct but it’s not the main purpose. He thinks that comedy should not be based on anything that is serious or has any moral principle. To conclude, Dryden believes that instruction comes unconsciously and that it comes through one’s admiration of what’s happening on stage (plot).

Another argument could support the opposite of what Dryden concluded. If a good dramatic piece was able to reach instruction, then pleasure is the thing that comes unconsciously because for many people education, instruction and the feeling that something new has been revealed to them brings them happiness. Therefore, the end of instruction should be happiness and happiness is nothing but another name for pleasure. Therefore, the end of instruction should be pleasure. This proves that pleasure and instruction are related and associated to one another because they automatically and unconsciously lead to each other thus inseparable.

Horace’s usage of poetry to “educate and delight” as he puts it, is to highlight the concept of the power of poetry on human thought and conduct. It is very important to be aware of the power of poetry and understand its significance. He wanted to focus on the likeability of poetry to positively influence human thought and conduct. Therefore, linking pleasure and learning together as the aim of a poet is a very smart way to achieve that. Horace’s idea to purposely utilize poetry in a didactic way identifies the need for poetry to be delightful and entertaining while simultaneously instructive and useful. Actually Horace was able to accomplish something more and bigger than that because merging the two ideas of education and entertainment/pleasure in a way founds a new vision of teaching.

Main Sources:

“Bertolt Brecht: The Modern Theatre is the Epic Theatre.” Dramatic Theory
and Criticism: Greeks to Grotowski. United States of America. Holt, Rinehart & Winston,inc. 1974.

“Horace: The Art of Poetry”. Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to
Grotowski. United States of America. Holt, Rinehart & Winston,inc. 1974.


“Artistotle: Poetics”. Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to Grotowski.
United States of America. Holt, Rinehart & Winston,inc. 1974.

“Denis Diderot: Encyclopedia”. Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to
Grotowski. United States of America. Holt, Rinehart & Winston,inc. 1974.

“John Dryden: An Essay of Dramartic Poesy”. Dramatic Theory and Criticism:
Greeks to Grotowski. United States of America. Holt, Rinehart & Winston,inc. 1974.

“Juilis Caesar Scaliger: Poetics”. Dramatic Theory and Criticism: Greeks to
Grotowski. United States of America. Holt, Rinehart & Winston,inc. 1974.

“Lodovico Castelvetro: On Aristotle’s Poetics”. Dramatic Theory and Criticism:
Greeks to Grotowski. United States of America. Holt, Rinehart & Winston,inc. 1974.