It was always going to be an interesting mixture, the rationalist historian with a fascination for one of the world's most ordered cultures meeting the columnist and socialite who pops and splutters with all of the glorious, random panache of Bollywood. Boris Akunin and Shobaa De were at loggerheads within seconds flat and this moderator's work was cut out trying to ensure that respected journalist Caroline Faraj and novelist Kathy Shalhoub weren't just buried in the fascinating conflict developing between the forces of chaos and those of order.
Akunin's blog pulls anything up to and beyond 1,000 comments a post. It's in Russian, but you can use Google translate to render his words into a strange quasi-blurt of odd and disconnected semi-English. With that amount of engagement, you're looking at a lot of space for trolls and fights breaking out and Akunin, a man with a deep distaste for contemporary Russian rudeness, has a tough rule for dealing with violent disagreement. He makes combative commenters play Russian roulette. Each of the combatants is offered a number, even or odd. Akunin chooses blind and the loser is blocked from the blog. It's certainly an effective way to settle debate!
We had fun. Shobaa is certainly a character and wasted no time toasting a young starlet who had dissed 'Shobaa Aunty' in a Bollywood spatette over a whitening cream endorsement, rolling out an amusing take on the role of conroversy in her life (key) and blog (even more key). We talked about CNN Arabic and its role in promoting Arab bloggers, about blogging in disapora, about pitting yourself against Putin and using blogs to promote books.
Today I'm co-hosting a show with Siobhan Leyden on Dubai Eye Radio from 1-3pm and then I'm on stage myself in what is undoubtedly going to descend with great speed into a glorious hour of mayhem, because Kamal Abdel Malek, that well known international criminal, is on there with me.
And then, dears, I'm going home for a Martini...