A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘Italy’ Category

the other marines in Lebanon

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on June 27, 2007

While waiting for my flight to depart last week, I picked up MEA’s in-flight magazine and began idly flipping through it.

Along with lavish coverage of this summer’s Beiteddine Festival program (do the Hariris own that, too?), I saw this advertisement:


Yes, its quite a piece of work.

Bracketing the obvious oddities – that the family is clearly not Lebanese and has a very curious role-playing hobby – what struck me most intensely was the brand name: Original Marines, accompanied by a stylized American flag.

The US Marines have a well-known history in Lebanon – so well known that it has become part of the United States’ subterranean memory. When I mention that I live in Beirut, this is what people ask about – and, of course, kidnapping. Despite all the events of the past year, what remains most deeply lodged in the American consciousness of Lebanon are the events of the early and mid 1980s.

When I saw this advertisement, I was horrified, imagining that some Lebanese entrepreneur had capitalized on the Marines’ name recognition (and the country’s loose interpretation of copyright law) to sell Swedish-ly preppy clothing.

But no. Original Marines, as it turns out, is an Italian company, with retail shops all over the region, from Morocco to the UAE. The promotional photograph on the corporate website is even loopier than the Cedar Wings ad.

What do Lebanon’s Original Marines wearers think of the brand name, I wonder. Do they think of the Marines’ history in Lebanon, or has it become just a name to them, much as Banana Republic is in the United States?


Posted in advertising, Americans, Arab world, art, Beirut, clothing, economics, family, fashion, Italy, Lebanon, media, photography, travel, words | 1 Comment »

Molto Bene: Q8 in Italy

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 21, 2007

Last night my father and I had supper with the Abu Owlfishes (my mother spent the evening trying to corral their unruly suburb into some semblance of order, by outlining a “comprehensive plan” to guide its development for the next decade).

Um Owlfish, who spent the evening sipping Norwegian sparkling water (yes – Norwegian water in Iowa. it was as much as mystery to us as we imagine it must be to the bottlers.), captured our beverage collection with her fountain pen while we lingered over coffee, and has now kindly posted her drawing at Printperson’s Journal.

At one point during a wide-ranging conversation whose topics ranged from water investment funds to rowboat maintenance (perhaps the evening did have a unifying theme: water & other liquids), the Owlfishes mentioned that one of Italy’s major gas station chains is Kuwaiti: Q8 Italia.


I had no idea and, since my command of Italian is really more a command of ancient Latin leavened with modern French, I had to search a bit further afield to find more information on the company. I found it on the website of a company called BEA, a software company (which describes itself a bit more eloquently as a world leader in enterprise infrastructure software, delivering powerful standards-based platforms for building enterprise applications and managing Service-Oriented Architectures even in heterogeneous IT environments. I have no idea what all that means, but I do know what software is.).

BEA developed a “unified integration platform” for Q8 Italia and cites the project as one of its customer case studies, all of which are, happily, written in English.

Its Customer Brief described Q8 Italia as follows:

Kuwait Petroleum International, under its ‘Q8 Sails’ brand, refines and markets fuel, lubricants, and other petroleum derivatives to a diverse customer base across Europe. 

With more than approximately 5,000 retail service stations (around  2,800 of them in Italy) as well as direct sales operations delivering fuel and heating oil to domestic and international users, Q8 is a well known, respected, and trusted supplier and business partner.

Kuwait Petroleum employs more than 7,000 staff worldwide; in Italy the company has more than 700 staff.

What Q8 Italia doesn’t have, according to the Owlfishes, is a pun that works well in Italian.

In English, Q8 sounds a lot like Kuwait: que-eight. In Italian, Abu Owlfish pointed out, Q8 sounds like coo-otto. Not like Kuwait at all!

Posted in Americans, blogging, childhood, family, food, friends, home, Iowa, Italy, Kuwait | 4 Comments »

Iowa: Pork Capital of the World

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 10, 2007

Thanks to my long-suffering friend A’s continued willingness to tolerate my blithe appropriation of his Beirut post office box, I enjoy a steady stream of US magazines, college alumni mailings, and scholarly journals.

They all piled up this fall, when I was in the states, and since returning to Beirut I have been diligently reading my way from August to January. Happily for me this meant that I was able to fast forward through some unappealing trends – super-skinny jeans, for example.

Tucked away in Jeffrey Steingarten’s December Vogue article on transportable gift foods was a delightful surprise: an Iowa connection! And an Owlfish Iowa connection, to boot!

Steingarten lists several artisanal outfits that sell cured and other gourmet meats, including one called La Quercia, about which he says:

The best prosciutto you can find in this country, imported or domestic, is made in … Iowa!

Iowa is the self-proclaimed Pork Capital of the US, and the headquarters of the National Pork Producers’ Council, so its not too far a stretch to imagine that it might produce the best prosciutto as well.

The real surprise came in the sentence that followed:

Herb Eckhouse spent five years figuring out what the best Italian producers do and adopting their methods to create Prosciutto Americano, … which Herb and his wife Kathy have been making and selling for about a year.

Herb Eckhouse? I thought. I know that name! The Eckhouses are old Owlfish family friends!

I remember playing badminton in their yard when I was twelve. And when I spent a long-ago summer in Berkeley, studying Arabic for the first time, Umm Owlfish put me in touch with Kathy Eckhouse’s mother. She invited me to several fantastic dinner parties at her house up in the Berkeley hills, each of which involved delicious food and great rollicking waves of wide-ranging conversation.

My father always says: everyone has an Iowa story. Most of them, of course, only involve driving through Iowa on the way to somewhere else :-). I’m so glad that Vogue‘s Iowa story makes the state a destination.

Posted in Americans, childhood, food, friends, home, Iowa, Italy, prosciutto | 3 Comments »