AndFarAway

A Blog from Amman, Jordan, Online Since 2004.

Month: March 2014 (Page 1 of 2)

Motion-picture industry reports super-high income… even with piracy

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Via BoingBoing:

Once again, the “piracy-stricken” motion picture association has had a banner year, with box office revenue breaking all records (as they’ve done in most recent years). The biggest gains this year come from China — a market condemned by the studios as a hive of piracy.

See the Singularity Form in News Clippings In Front of Your Eyes

oculus

My life is now complete… Anne Rice has shared AndFarAway

You know what one of the best feelings ever is?

When one of your all-time word heroes shares your words.

anne rice

OHMYGOD.

I’ve written a hundred million times about how important Anne Rice has been in life. She influenced many of my choices, from why I decided to study the fine arts to my fascination with ancient history to my feeling towards religion.

Then one day, 16 years after I read “Pandora”, Anne Rice shared AndFarAway.

Stop Stretching Images

I know that not everyone is a trained designer, but my mind absolutely refuses to accept some things, like stretched images.

FOR HEAVEN’S SAKE, CAN’T YOU TELL THAT YOU SHOULDN’T STRETCH AN IMAGE? THE HEIGHT AND THE WIDTH SHOULD ALWAYS REMAIN PROPORTIONAL CAUSE IT LOOKS REALLY WARPED OTHERWISE, WHICH JUST DOESN’T WORK. HOW DO YOU FEEL WHEN YOU TURN ON YOUR FRONT-FACING CAMERA AND YOUR FACE IS SKEWED OUT OF PROPORTION? NOT NICE, RIGHT? THAT’S HOW IMAGES FEEL TOO. SO STOP STRETCHING IMAGES.

I mean, it’s common visual sense, no?

Why are Amman officials so obsessed with super-tacky lights?

What is it with government officials and really ugly lighting in the city? For the past ten years, there’s always been a new and hideous way to pollute the city with horrendous light decoration.

Eight years ago, it was “xenon” stringy lights over all the bridges and tunnels in the city.

Three years ago, it was those Independence Day lights on every single street pole in town. It would have been okay if they were there for a month, but they stayed up for an entire YEAR. Last year, they turned the 8th Circle into a scene from an horror movie with waterfalls of string light attacking the trees.

It never ends.

Yesterday, I was driving home and I saw them install a BACKLIT SIDEWALK on the 5th Circle. In BLUE AND WHITE.

Aside from the ugliness… let’s talk about usability. Why the hell is this backlit sidewalk on a roundabout? What if someone crashes into the roundabout tomorrow or hits it by mistake? IT’S A ROUNDABOUT FOR GOD’S SAKE. People crash into roundabouts all the damn time. Vulnerable, backlit plastic just doesn’t work.

What is this stuff.

WHO DOES THAT? WHO DECIDED TO DO THAT? WHAT THE HELL WAS HE OR SHE THINKING?

tacky
Image by Luma from BeAmman

Stop wasting the thousands of JDs I pay in damn tax money on wasted energy and ugliness.

Coolest Visual Illusion I’ve Seen in a While

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All Night I Dream of… Solutions

I think I have a superpower. I can’t really be sure, but I never met anyone else who also uses their brain best when they’re sleeping.

You see, I almost never dream.

At least, I never have those story-like dreams where I’m in a particular scene in my head, living life normally in a parallel universe.

Instead, my brain seems to continue to function normally when I sleep, and I have no problems whatsoever remembering my exact thoughts when I wake up the next morning.

I first discovered my night-time superpowers when I was a highschool student. I noticed that when I have an exam, all I had to do was read over the parts I needed to know right before going to sleep. When I would wake up the next day, the information would have “settled in” nicely into my repertoire of data.

When I went into design schcool and we were assigned particularly difficult projects that needed a lot of creative thinking, I would always wake up with the perfect solution, even if it was just after a nap. It worked like a charm. Even today at work, when I’m stuck with something or when I have a task that needs inventive solutions, the answer always comes to me at night.

It’s convenient, to say the least.

I’m not sure if this is related to the way my family sleeps. One of the perks of being a Assi is what I refer to as “conscious sleeping”. We all sleep with our eyes open, talk in our sleep, and have the wonderfully powerful ability to carry out proper conversations while completely unconscious. It was brilliantly practical when we were kids. Whenever I’d do something I wasn’t too proud of, I would tell my mother about it when she was napping. When she’d later ask me why I didn’t tell her, I’d say “But mama, I told you the other day after lunch.” She’d have a vague recollection of the conversation, and I’d be on the safe side because she knows that her eyes were open and that she was talking back in her sleep.

The funniest part though is when I wake up and my brain is still stuck on the last word I had thought of before it dozed off, even if it’s midsentence.

Happy birthday to the first love of my life

I was 12 when I met you. I already knew a little about you. I was so excited.

My father brought you home that night. He was sitting on my favorite chair, the one with the red metal legs, and the computer’s screen reflected brightly on his face. He fiddled with the wires of the modem, configured the NoorNet dial-up connection, and lo and behold… I heard the magical sound of connectivity for the first time in my life. It was a sound that would become dearer to my heart than any song or television show or jingle. It was the sound of the beginning of you, the beginning of the Internet.

Beep booop eeeeeeeeee beep boop.

Imagine the scene. My father, in front of a big, fat computer screen, excited to show his little kids this new genius technology called the World Wide Web. I was 12. My youngest brother was six. How do you show your kids the potential of the early, text-heavy web?

We were lucky that my father worked at a company that was the first to bring the Internet to Saudi Arabia, and we were among the first familites to “test it”, before it was rolled out to the public. But none of our friends had Internet connections yet, and so we had no idea this new, virtual thing was.

But back to the question. How do you show your little kids the potential of the Web? My father being my father, he opened the website of CNN. Look, he said. You enter an address here by typing it, and it takes you to a website.

As the website rendered (it took 15 minutes), a button clicked in my head. The magazines I read had recently started including a little string of characters starting with “http://” every now and then, and I knew they were related to the Internet. But I had never seen the Internet, and I didn’t understand how it functioned or what you could possibly do with a string of characters starting with “http://”. I ran to my room and pulled out one of the magazines, and insisted that we all visit the website of the Spice Girls.

It was much less entertaining than my CD of Encarta 1995.

That’s when my father had a genius idea. He called his cousin, who also had an Internet connection, and asked him to log on to Yahoo! Games. There, they played a game of cards simultaneously together, while we watched with amazement.

This was 1997, and IT WAS THE MOST MAGICAL THING I HAD EVER SEEN IN MY LIFE. There couldn’t have been a better way for my dad to make us all fall in love with the Web. Again, it was 1997, and that shit was straight out of science fiction. I instantly fell in love, and I knew that the Web was what I wanted to do for the rest of my life.

Today, it’s the web’s 25th birthday, and 17 years since that fateful day when we hovered around my dad as he played cards with his cousin online. A long 17 years.

Happy birthday, Web. You were the first love of my life.

And you will always be the love of my life.

Back from the Dead: Lestat

You know, before vampires were shiny, cool, and on mainstream TV, there was Anne Rice and her vampires. Before Twilight. Before True Blood. Before Buffy. Before The Vampire Diaries (though I must admit I read those books as a child before I read Rice).

Anne’s vampires were sophisticated. They loved Vivaldi and Bottecili. They read Dante and Ovid. They roamed around Ancient Egypt and Antioch in the times of Isis, Paris in the years of serfdom, and New Orleans in the age of rock. They wondered about right and wrong, God and the Devil, morality and ethics.

I learned a lot of what I know today from Anne Rice’s Vampire Chronicles, first published in 1976.

So… In this week’s most-exciting news, Anne Rice, one of my all-time literature heroes, is bringing back Lestat and The Vampire Chronicles from the dead.

“Blood Canticle”, published in 2003, was supposed to be the final volume of the Chronicles, but Rice just surprised her long-time fans with “Prince Lestat”, due in October 2014.

Yay.

For those of us who started reading before Harry Potter, it’s like Harry’s alive again. In a way, it’s even better, because there wasn’t a grand finale with the Chronicles after Rice found God in the series’ latter years, ditching vampires, gothic fiction, atheism, and erotica in favor of Christian fiction (yes, seriously). In 2010, Rice decided to stop being Christian and apparently started writing more Chronicles.

About the book:

“…a big Vampire Chronicle, and it’s all about Lestat and all about the vampires and what they’re doing right now, how they’re coming to terms with everything that’s happened to them and how Lestat is dealing with the demand from all sides that he step forward and become some sort of leader of the tribe.”

Anne Rice is definitely one of the major influences on my life; I was a little girl out of reading options when I first picked up “Pandora”. I’ve written a lot about how her books have affected me before:

From “Lending Shelf”, written in 2010:

I was 12 and quickly growing over books written for girls my age.

That year, during the bi-weekly trips to Jareer Bookstore that my parents always made sure I took, I spotted a book with a purple cover with “Pandora” typed in blackletter.

By that time, thanks to years of reading Christopher Pike, I was very much obsessed with mythology. And I remember looking at the cover and thinking, “Cool! Now I can read about the myth of Pandora’s Box”. Internet was too expensive and too slow to be used for research, at that point.

Thus started a youth heavily influenced by the skillfully written prose of Anne Rice.

At 13, I learned what it meant to be a “virtuouso”, that the Italian master Vivaldi wooed the world with Four Seasons, that Bottecili painted the most beautiful artworks ever seen. I learned about the philosophy of Ovid, the historical significance of the Egyptian goddess Isis, and how a Stradivarius is one of the most precious objects on earth. I have to say – I owe Anne Rice my A’s in art history classes.

I was enraptured by Anne Rice and the characters she created, and I hungrily devoured every book she wrote, up until she found God in the early 2000′s, dumping her characters of 30 years to write about biblical figures (very amusing, as it was also in her books that I was first exposed to the idea of logic versus faith).

I’m so excited that my favorite vampire in the history of vampires is back from the dead.

Autism Therapy Through Disney Movies

I was greatly moved by this beautiful piece written by the father of an autistic child, on how they learned to communicate through Disney movies.

It’s long, but worth every second.

In our first year in Washington, our son disappeared.

Just shy of his 3rd birthday, an engaged, chatty child, full of typical speech — “I love you,” “Where are my Ninja Turtles?” “Let’s get ice cream!” — fell silent. He cried, inconsolably. Didn’t sleep. Wouldn’t make eye contact. His only word was “juice.”

I had just started a job as The Wall Street Journal’s national affairs reporter. My wife, Cornelia, a former journalist, was home with him — a new story every day, a new horror. He could barely use a sippy cup, though he’d long ago graduated to a big-boy cup. He wove about like someone walking with his eyes shut. “It doesn’t make sense,” I’d say at night. “You don’t grow backward.” Had he been injured somehow when he was out of our sight, banged his head, swallowed something poisonous? It was like searching for clues to a kidnapping.

After visits to several doctors, we first heard the word “autism.” Later, it would be fine-tuned to “regressive autism,” now affecting roughly a third of children with the disorder. Unlike the kids born with it, this group seems typical until somewhere between 18 and 36 months — then they vanish. Some never get their speech back. Families stop watching those early videos, their child waving to the camera. Too painful. That child’s gone.

In the year since his diagnosis, Owen’s only activity with his brother, Walt, is something they did before the autism struck: watching Disney movies. “The Little Mermaid,” “Beauty and the Beast,” “Aladdin” — it was a boom time for Disney — and also the old classics: “Dumbo,” “Fantasia,” “Pinocchio,” “Bambi.” They watch on a television bracketed to the wall in a high corner of our smallish bedroom in Georgetown. It is hard to know all the things going through the mind of our 6-year-old, Walt, about how his little brother, now nearly 4, is changing. They pile up pillows on our bed and sit close, Walt often with his arm around Owen’s shoulders, trying to hold him — and the shifting world — in place.

Read the rest of it here.

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