AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: November 2013 (Page 1 of 2)

Dubai is a nerd, and nerds are awesome

Today I realized that if Dubai were a person, it would be the nerd. The little kid in elementary school that no one noticed, but that worked really, really hard and did really, really well and then you know, became Bill Gates.

All the cool people go to Dubai-the-person’s parties, because even though he might not be inherently cool, the parties are awesome. They’re all about rubbing shoulders with the rich people in style, and if you have a great idea (or enough charisma), you might just make the right friends.

The campaign for the Dubai Expo was freaking awesome. Did you see the campaigns for the other countries bidding? They put no effort. But Dubai, being the nerd he is, turned his bidding project into something gorgeous.

Ahh… You know what I’ve been saying for years. Nerds make better lovers.

Hats off to Dubai.

Now that I’ve realized you’re a nerd… I might just start to understand you better… And then – gasp – perhaps even like you.

HelloFood Launches in Jordan

So, if you, like me, would rather not pick up a phone and have to deal with explaining what you want and what you don’t want when ordering food, HelloFood will come as fantastic news. All you have to do is log on to the website, enter your area, and then choose from the tens of restaurants available on the site. The best part is… they have menus.

Your lunch hour at the office has just gotten an upgrade.

They have an app coming soon too.

THEY KILLED BRIAN!

Ok, I know I haven’t watched Family Guy in over five years, but there is always the warm, comforting thought that I can laugh my ass off any time over Brain’s witty jokes by getting a DVD from Hammoudeh. And now they’ve gone ahead and killed the ultimate voice of reason, the always-drunk, alcoholic, atheist Brian.

RIP Brian. You were the best dog ever.

Another Cover Interview: OnCampus Magazine

It’s strange having your face on the cover of a magazine, but here we go again, for the second time this year.

You can read the interview on their website here.

Caramelt’s website is now online, and ready to deliver in Jordan

You can now order delicious caramels, toffees, and candied apples online. The online shop is run by the awesome ShopGo.

Interview about Amman on Belgian TV

If you speak Flemish, you might enjoy this travel documentary on Belgian TV about Amman. If you don’t speak Flemish, you can forward to minute 8 and watch me “blog” on TV, without a computer or a keyboard or any other digital prop I love.


(Click to play)

How to Feel Blissfully Insignificant: This Gorgeous Picture of Saturn

So Cassini took this amazing shot of Saturn this July. Look how small we are. I am always so fascinated by how pictures of Saturn looks like CGI.

I strongly recommend you click on the image and enjoy Saturn in all its high-res glory.

Must-watch Genre Movie of the Month: Thor 2, the Dark World

I’m not sure what’s wrong with me, but I went ahead and watched Thor 2 yesterday (bringing my total movie count to THREE, which is one movie more than my total movie count for 2011 and 2012 combined). Verdict: Screw both Gravity and Ender’s Game, nothing beats the emotional satisfaction of of comic-book inspired, kick-ass fantasy.

I’ve always been a huge fan of the Marvel universe, and the second Thor movie made me realize why. The backstory/history research in the Marvel universe is always brilliant, and everything is so rich and imaginative.

Anyway… yeah… if you want to go watch a sci-fi or fantasy movie this weekend, watch Thor. Wonderful visuals, witty writing, good acting, and a good old good-versus-evil storyline.

The Day I Tried to Be a Food Stylist

A few weeks ago, I had a long argument with a friend about what it takes to become really, really good at something.

No, I told him, that 10,000-hour rule of doing something to become good at it is kinda stupid. I don’t think it takes 10,000 hours. It can take much less, depending on what else you’re already good at.

You know, one of my all-time fantasies is to become a food stylist. There’s something so dazzling about making food beautiful. About setting up the scene to deliver a certain message (this is healthy food, this is traditional food, this is fancy food). About appealing visually to the most wonderful sense of all: taste.

It’s just such a delicious job.

My first experience with food styling was in 2009, when I was branding The Cakery at Syntax. We needed photographs of the items in the catalog, so I worked with a photographer and professional food stylist to come up with pictures.

It was a fascinating experience that started my obsession with collecting pictures of beautiful food. There are SO MANY THINGS involved in food photography. The lighting has to be perfect. The reflections on the food have to be studied and analyzed. You need to work with the colors in ways you never experience when working with Photoshop. You have to try to make the viewer taste and smell the photograph, by using certain visual tricks. Ahh… I felt like a child who just discovered chocolate.

A few months ago, I volunteered my non-existent food-styling skills to Caramelt, a caramel and toffee brand that I designed earlier this year. When I design brands, I get obsessive about how I want EVERYTHING to feel. So, I jumped at the opportunity of staging the photographs, as opposed to just providing photo guidelines. I spent hours pouring over the images I’ve collected of desserts looking gorgeous. I spent even more hours sketching the exact layout of how I wanted each photo to look. White vase here, chocolate chopped this way there, the caramels looking exactly like this sketch in the right-hand corner.

We then set up a home studio in the kitchen with lamps and headlights, using the help of my awesome photographer friend Shady Adwan.

The results were cool. It was fun trying to be all artsy-fartsy:

Yet, the home set-up meant that we weren’t able to capture proper depth of field, color tonality, and shade/shadow play. So, when we got the chance to shoot in a properly-equipped studio with Bashar Alaeddine from Adasat (with all his food photography experience!), I got very, very excited.

For the compositions, we decided to stay away from the dark wooden backgrounds and the “process” concept, and opted for simple white compositions that show how fresh and natural all Caramelt’s products are. Instead of butter and sugar, we used fresh fruits and nuts. It was awesome, and I am really happy with the results:


My need to add rainbows to everything shines through in this picture of caramel apples


Raspberry caramels


Chili dark chocolate caramels


Original caramels


Pistachio toffee crunch


Mango caramels


Candy apple fun

Of course, these were shot with Bashar’s fantastic experience and Caramelt’s already-gorgeous products, but for my second food styling experience, I can say that I’m very, very happy. Maybe one day I will quit my job and become a food stylist.

Which brings me back to the debate I was having with my friend. Do you need to do something for 10,000 hours to become good at it? No, you don’t. You can instead spend 10,000 hours looking at pictures of this something, and then you’ll probably become good at it too.

When I was in college, one of my favorite (and most useful) design classes simply involved looking at pictures of well-designed things. The instructor would come into the class, turn on the projector, and spend the entirety of the hour-and-a-half flipping through pictures. Sometimes, she’d stop on one for a whole 10 minutes. I can still see her standing back from the wall, looking at the images like some people look at works of art at the Louvre. It was in that class that I realized that the best way to learn anything is to actively see. You know, even if you spend 10,000 hours designing, you won’t produce good work unless you know what good work looks like. The technical aspects are always easy to learn. It’s the strategic thinking that’s tough to master.

As a child, I learned to write by reading a lot, and noticing the syntax of everything I read. There was no Internet then, so I couldn’t Google why punctuation works the way it does, or how to make a text come to life. I knew how to use an em dash and en dash at 11, but I didn’t know what they were called until I was 22. I would read, read, read, and often write my favorite paragraphs down and replace some of the words and ideas with my own. I still remember my favorite opening paragraph in a book, because I played with it in my head so often as a child:

“Most people would call me a ghost. I am, after all, dead. But I don’t think of myself that way. It wasn’t so long ago that I was alive, you see. I was only eighteen. I had my whole life in front of me. Now I suppose you could say I have all of eternity before me. I’m not sure exactly what that means yet. I’m told everything’s going to be fine. But I have to wonder what I would have done with my life, who I might have been. That’s what saddens me most about dying — that I’ll never know.”

Maybe that paragraph is why I use “you see” a lot when I write.

Yes, don’t do something for 10,000 hours. You’re alive, reading, watching, and looking all day. Use that time to see instead.

You can see all the photographs of the Caramelt photoshoot on the Caramelt website.

So apparently, we are very, very depressed

So according to this research paper, people in Jordan are very, very depressed.

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