AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: February 2012 (Page 1 of 3)

A love ode to the silverleaf poplar (الحَوْر)

It’s early summer, and you’re basking in the crisp gusts of a cool breeze, very much characteristic of May in Amman. You close your eyes, allowing your other senses to play.

You listen to the leaves of the silverleaf poplars crashing and swooshing against each other. You take a moment to appreciate the fact that they sound more like tidal waves breaking against the sand than leaves rustling in the wind.

You enjoy the dry licks of the mildly-chilly wind against your naked arms. You chuckle at how the base of your body hairs becomes bumpy as soon as you bring your attention to the cool air. But winter is done, and the air is blanketed in warmth.

You flare out your nostrils, trying to take in the scent of Amman, but you can’t really smell anything distinctive. That’s more a winter thing in your city, when the dusty smell of pine trees and rain overtake the streets.

You open your eyes, and the first thing you see is the silverleaf poplars, twinkling in the sun. Their leaves are the very essence of magic, as they change colors with the wind. Each leaf is distinctively two-sided, one white and one dark. The silver leaves rustle with the gusts, creating the sound of waves as they glisten in the wind.

Greek mythology has it that Heracles himself created the silverleaf poplar at Olympia, when he founded the games. He wore a crown of its leaves when he when he saved Cerberus from Hades. That’s why the upper surface of the silverleaf poplar is dark; they were scalded by Hades’ burning fumes.

The silverleaf poplar is perhaps one of the most beautiful things commonly found in Amman. As we go through the last weeks of winter and as the trees begin to regain their foliage, take a minute to appreciate the beauty of “الحَوْر”.

Are You an Honest Person?

Question: Do you consider yourself to be an honest person?

More importantly, what is your definition of “honesty”?

You can add your answers in a comment before you proceed with reading.

The dictionary definition of “honest” is the following:
1. Direct and unreserved in speech.
2. Straightforward.
3. Sincere.

I always related most to the “unreserved” definition of honesty, because I’ve always been a very straightforward person when it comes to giving out my opinions, sometimes to the degree of harshness. I’ve always prided myself on that, because in the Arab world, especially in Jordan, people are not honest by culture.

In our culture, everything is shrouded in meaningless niceties. People are taught to be uselessly sweet. No one can handle criticism, even if it’s fair. Everyone hides their real thoughts and concerns, even with matters like money, in order to not be perceived as “cheap”, “weak”, “different”.

We lack honesty in every sense, and we are actually proud of that.

reality is a prison

But wait. That’s not the definition of “honest” that currently interests me. Instead, I am more interested in the idea of being honest with one’s feelings and thoughts.

It’s easier to hide your true feelings and thoughts, even from yourself, and deal with them by keeping them in check. Think about it. Are you really aware of everything you’re feeling and thinking?

It’s much harder to face your pain, your joy, your hurt, the hard decisions you have to make, your doubts.

It’s much harder to stop, take a deep breath, and let all the shit you feel just come out, whether it’s positive or negative, whether it’s commonly accepted, or totally “wrong”.

It’s hard enough to think about your feelings and thoughts, and it’s super hard to share these feelings and thoughts with the world.

But sharing the deepest intangible feelings and thoughts is the essence of creativity. It’s all about taking intensity and putting it into words that others can understand, into an oil painting, into a sonnet, into a scientific law.

the scream munch

I mean, capturing feelings is the essence of being a great artist: Van Gogh, Jackson Pollock, Chagall, DuChamp, El Greco.

It’s the essence of being a writer who captures the emotions of millions of people: Frank O’Hara, Ernest Hemingway, Leo Tolstoy, Emily Dickinson, Rumi, Jibran.

aretha

It’s the essence of great music: Ray Charles, Aretha Franklin, Adele, Queen, Jimi Hendrix, The Beatles.

It’s the essence of philosophy that changes the course of the world: Kant, Freud, Nietzsche, Avicenna, Confucius, Descartes, Socrates.

It’s the essence of scientific theory that shakes everything we ever knew: Newton, Galileo, Darwin, Einstein, Hawking, da Vinci.

Think about it. Being a great creative isn’t about technique. Hell, there are craftsmen who work on their craft with such skill that you can’t breathe from the beauty of what they do. But that isn’t what moves your soul. What moves your soul is another person’s honesty. Another person’s bravery. Another person’s ability to stand up and scream “THIS IS HOW I FEEL!”. “THIS IS WHAT I THINK!”

It is about feeling comfortable enough to think about concepts that other people take for granted; the earth not being flat, existence, religion, death, pain, joy.

Arabic probably describes it better: honesty is about “إحساس”.

I felt very enlightened when I made this realization. 

I say these words to myself, before I say them to you: Be honest. Think. Feel. Wonder. Doubt. It might hurt and take so much more effort, but it’s worth it. After all, without honesty, we are nothing. 

Oscar Outfit Frenzy 2012

It’s the Oscars! YAY!

As in previous years:

1)  I didn’t watch a single movie from the 2011 Oscar-nominated bunch, and for the most part, I hadn’t heard of 95% of them either.
2)  I have never ever watched the Oscars in my life, yesterday’s show included.
3)  I never check out the winners because frankly, I couldn’t care less.
4)  I don’t give three shits about fashion.

And finally:

5) I spend all year waiting for the Oscars, just because I love looking at what these beautiful plastic people wear and miswear.

Here are my previous bashings and lovings:
Oscars Outfit Frenzy 2007
Oscars Outfits Frenzy 2008
Oscars Outfit Frenzy 2009
Oscars Outfit Frenzy 2010
Oscars Outfit Frenzy 2011

The cool thing about this year’s Oscar outfits is that they appear to be sci-fi themed. Seriously. But anyway… enough blabbing. Ladies and gentlemen, behold:

The Went-to-the-Oscars-Drunk Group:

Judy Greer
Um. Aside from the fact that the dress is absolutely horrendous, I am equally horrified by the hair, the make-up, the expression, and the earrings. Seriously lady. WHY? Sci-fi theme gone wrong.

judy greer


Melanie Griffith:

Oh. My. God. I don’t know where to start on this one. Check out the weird arm-thing, the boob-top in a really weird location, the tie on her side, and the skirt/pants combo. Also, notice the shoes. And the desaturated black.  Ah, Melanie. STOP MAKING PUBLIC APPEARANCES.

melanie griffith

 

Sandra Bullock:
Why, Sandra, why? You were the perfect example of middle-aged grace. Now you look like you should be a 1980’s Arabic drama singer. Those gold things on the waist and shouldewrs are just… horrifying. 

warda


Cameron Diaz:

Boring. Plus, the dress also looks like she had to walk through muddy swamps to get to the Oscars. 

Cameron Diaz

 

Leslie Mann:
Two Words: Egyptian. Bellydancer. 

 

Jane Seymour
This dress actually makes me want to cry. It looks like someone took all the horrible aspects of a Disney dress and patched it together. The weird shiny material. The arrows. The center seam. The weird-ass collar. The tail. Eeeeek. Ugly overdose.

jane seymour

I think she was trying to go for the Jessica Rabbit look, but it really didn’t work out. 

 

Louise Roe:
Another dress that makes me want to cry. Someone please tell me that the 90’s aren’t making a comeback. Look at that belt! And that jacket! And those waves! And those fins! And that god awful material! And the color! And the ribbon! Holy lord. This is horrifying.

Louise Roe

 

Meryl Streep:
Someone should introduce Meryl to Sabbouha. With that fashion sense, I’m quite sure they’ll get along.

Meryl Streep

 

Michelle Williams:
Wow. Someone managed to create a dress that looks like a cross between a Russian doll and a cake. And someone actually WORE IT.

michelle williams


Missi Pyle:
The color. My eyes. The color. My eyes. The color. My eyes. Ouch.

missi pyle

 


The Fire-Your-Stylist Group:

Angelina Jolie:
I know, she looks stunning. But she also looks boring. It’s too safe, especially for one like Angelina. We demand more character.

angelina

 

Emma Stone
I’m not sure who this Emma Stone person is, and it would have been a nice dress, but it looks toooo much like the one that Nicole Kidman wore to the Oscars in 2007. Plus, the shade of red sucks. 

 Cameron Diaz: I know, she looks stunning. But she also looks boring. It's too safe, especially for one like Angelina. We demand more character.

Similar dresses in past Oscars:

 


Lily Collins 
Cool dress because of interestingness factor, but still quite ugly. 

lilly collins

 

Kate Mara
Although the color of the dress could have used a little more warmth, I think she looks pretty and surreal. I like it, but it is kind of boring.

kate mara oscars

 

Shailene Woodley
Yay, more sci-fi themes!

 

Stacy Keibler
This would have looked horrific if she didn’t carry it so well. And hey, another sci-fi themed dress!

 

 

 


Gorgeous Ladies Group:

Bingbing Li

Aside from the fact that this person has a really cool name, I also really like the fabric of her gown. It’s so pretty and ethereal. Nice!

Bingbing Li

 

Espernza Spalding
Again, no idea who this lady is, but she looks stunning. The hair, the shade of the dress, the non-Oscarish material and cut. I love it. It just looks so different.

Esperanza Spalding

 

Gwynth Paltrow
This must be my favorite dress at this year’s Oscars. The cape thing looks totally cool in a really awesome fantasy way, and look at the cuff! She could be a Star Trek princess. LOVE.

gwynth at the oscars

 

Jennifer Lopez
I think she looks stunning. I love the curvature in the dress, as well as the material. It really accentuates her figure. And the color goes really well with her skin pallette.  

jennifer lopez oscar

 

Kelly Osbourne
Kelly looks kick ass, I love it. Fantasy theme done really well. The color of her hair with the turquoise beading makes Kelly look like she should be on the cover of a book called “The Trip to Ashantra”. 

 kate osbourne


Leila Hatami 
This one is a bit weird because it looks a lot like a wedding dress, especially with the veil, but I like that she can pull it off. Again, perfect for the sci-fi/fantasy theme.

leila hatami oscars

 

Milla Jovovich 
Gorgeous as always. And the shoulder of the dress has an awesome Star Trek taste to it. Love it. 

mila

 

Natalie Portman 
Natalie is growing older, isn’t she? I still like this dress. It’s pretty in a very understated way. 

natalie portman

 

Penelope Cruz 
Not a typical Oscar choice, especially with that gloomy color, but I love this dress. Cruz looks like she could be Mistress of the Wind or something. Nice. 

penelope

 


Dabkeh by the Sea in Yafa

Scientists

The thing I really love about scientists like Carl Sagan is that they have so much passion towards science that you can’t help but get goosebumps. There’s something in their eyes and in their tone – a certain level of amazement – that makes me want to break down in awe of the world.

Check this out:

Did you get goosebumps too?

I wish I was a smarter person because I know that I’d really enjoy deeply understanding scientific and philosophical concepts that generally fly over my head.

Paper Crafted Sneakers by Mike Leavitt

These shoes are all made from paper, by artist Mike Leavitt. The level of detail is amazing. They might as well not be made out of paper.

Paper Adidas Superstars Mike Leavitt

Mike Leavitt Paper Converse
Mike Leavitt Paper Jordans
Mike Leavitt Paper Nikes
Mike Leavitt Paper Vans

You can view more paper shoes by artist on this website: Mike Leavitt

Something that can always make me grin

And We Grow Older: A Facebook Pictures Experimentation

I’m turning 27 in a few months. I know, that’s not old. Yet, for the first time, I feel that I’ve reached a tipping point in my life.

I am not young anymore.

Think of it this way. I started this blog when I was 18. I was in the summer semester of my freshman year in college. We had just moved to Jordan. I had bought a car a few months earlier, and I was excited to explore the world I knew nothing about.

Today, almost 10 years later, I am a different person. The world isn’t the mystery it used to be. I did a little traveling. I’ve been pulling 9-to-6 shifts for five years, working with people who have almost put a dent in the universe. I’ve been through death, divorce, and dire situations. My friends have thinning hair, children, and loans.

In the past 10 years, my life changed, and not just because of age and experience. Today, there’s Facebook, Twitter, and 3G smartphones.  The Arab Spring has changed my part of the world, and everyone’s outlook on life. The Internet is maturing, and with its maturity, the world continues to experience new things.

You know when the feeling of age settles in? When I Google pop culture icons from my youth. Long gone are the carefree, youthful rebels. They simply look like they’re out of place. Remnants of a bygone era. Britney. Green Day. Joey. Madonna. Leo.

You know what’s worse though? Going through my own life and the lives of my friends, as told by Facebook. Facebook does, after all, conveniently display pictures in chronological order: your life, passing by, as quickly as the pictures load. Sagging smiles, thinning hair, eyes whose brightness has dimmed. Faces with no more baby fat, noses that have grown larger with the years. Friendships lost, friendships gained. Experiences dead and buried.

Life is so short. And we’re growing old.

No Honor in Crime: Add Your Name to the Petition

Over 112 Jordanian women were brutally murdered by their own families for “honor” in the past 10 years.

It’s disgusting. It’s deplorable. It’s horrifying.

As Jordanians, we need to keep actively speaking up against the lax rules when it comes to honor crime penalties.

Please add your name to this petition, which aims to collect over half a million Jordanian signatures in protest. Please share this petition with as many people as you can; share it on your Facebook and Twitter accounts, email it to everyone you know, and tell everyone about it.

It is 2012, and we are an educated country. We can’t keep quite about such disgrace and inhumanity.

SIGN PETITION HERE

—-

Her name was Farah, she was 26. She was a bride. Her white dress would have remained white, and the happiness would have been completed if there wasn’t a plan to ensure otherwise.

Her name was Aisha. She was 16. She was a student. If her father, who had sexually harassed her, did not murder her by shooting seven bullets, she would have been 17, and a studying to be a pharmacist. Aisha dreamt of being a pharmacist.

Her name was Madina, and she was 37. She was pregnant. Her husband killed her and then tried to burn her, dumping her body on Airport road. She would have been 38 today, experiencing motherhood for the first time. Her unborn child would have been 11 months old.

Her name was Ayat. She was 20. She was a dreamer. If her brother did not drown her in the Dead Sea, Ayat would have been 23. She used to dream of becoming a pilot. She would have remembered a picture of her and her brother laughing and playing on the shores of the Dead Sea.

Her name was Rima. She was 35. She was a teacher who had won Queen Rania’s Award for Excellence. She would have been alive today if her husband did not torture her and shoot her. She would have been 36. She would have still been teaching new generations of Jordanians.


Photoessay translated from a “La Sharafa Fil Jareemah” initiative.

Oh, the horror.
SIGN PETITION HERE

Related:
Her Name was Madinah
Pain: To Know Reema
Dis-Honor Murder By Bicycle Tire
Women’s March in Tahrir: Free Women, Free the World
As a Woman, I’m a Second Class Citizen in Jordan
Disgrace: I’m Jordanian, Why Can’t My Children be Jordanian?

Corporate Twitter Accounts Are Stupid

Dear Social-Media-Bandwagon Jumpers,

Your restaurant, printing house, or engineering firm account on Twitter is stupid. Plus, most people I surveyed who actually know how to use Twitter generally think that your account is stupid too. Unless, of course, this person who knows how to use Twitter is a self-professed “social media specialist” who makes money off of your account’s stupidity.

Let me list some of the reasons as to why it’s stupid:

1. No one cares what the orange juice they drink has to say. A person who claims they care has no idea how to use the Internet.

2. It is really creepy when a restaurant tells you to “drive safely”.

3. Twitter is timely. Tweets are displayed on timelines the instant they are published, and then they disappear forever, unless someone checks your Twitter page on purpose. Thus, sharing offers, deals, etc. is counter intuitive (read: stupid) because it would make so much more sense to post these on a website that is designed to display offers, or on Facebook, which has an advanced algorithm that ensures that users actually see your offers.

4. Twitter is about conversations. It is not a one-way-stream of push media for your advertising purposes. If you want to advertise, Al-Waseet is probably a better medium.

5. Having a Twitter corporate account that is run by a social media company is really freakin’ lazy, and completely irrelevant to the idea of Twitter. Again, I repeat, Twitter is about conversations.

Now that you know why it’s stupid, let me give you a few ideas on how your business can make use of Twitter:

1. Get a Twitter account, but for heaven’s sake, tie it to a person: it could be the CEO of your company, the social media manager, the hot guy at the reception. I don’t care. But as Internet users, we want to talk to people, and we want to know their names, or at least, their nicknames.

And I’m not just pulling rules out of my ass. If you look at this list of best corporate Twitter accounts from Mashable, you will notice that many of them use real names:

Come on, it’s commonly accepted wisdom that we as humans like to talk to a person, and not an anonymous collective. “Hello, my name is Roba.”

2. I can think of a few exceptions to the above rule:

  • Your company or service provides constant, timely, and objective updates, like a news site or a newspaper. Then, you can just plug in your RSS feed.
  • Your Twitter account is actually maintained by several people who REALLY WORK WITH YOU, and then you can just use add the word “team” somewhere, but the account must be obviously your own, and not run by a third-party that has no knowledge of what you do.

I’m sure there are some other exceptions, but you know what they need? Lack of laziness from your part.

3. Once you tie your account to a real person, you must engage in conversations. Read what other people are saying. Say what’s on your mind. Make sure your “advertising” is relevant to people’s needs. Be human.

4. Don’t be cliché. Most corporate Twitter accounts post the same updates. I’m guessing they come from a masterlist of “fill in the blanks with company name”.

  • “Good morning, #CityName!”
  • “Come to ___________ today to do ___________.”
  • “Drive safely, ___________!”
  • “Beautiful weather in ___________ today!”
  • “Have you visited our ___________ this week? We have a new offer!”
  • “What is your favorite ___________ at our store/restaurant/etc.?”
  • “We are so proud of our country ___________!”

Urgh.

So, in a nut shell, if you’re going to:

a) be lazy (i.e. outsource your social media activity, post nothing but offers)

b) have nothing to say (i.e. beautiful weather!)

c) outsource your activity to a random social media company that has nothing to do with your office culture

d) have no time to tweet with meaning

Then for frack’s sake, just don’t get a Twitter account.

Thanks,
A Concerned Twitter User Who Does Not Classify Herself as a Social-Media-Specialist

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