Archive for Roba

On October


10 Years of AndFarAway

I want to take a minute to muse on the fact that its been ten years of AndFarAway.

Can you imagine? This blog belongs to a world before YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter. A world when Sharon was still PM, and when suicide bombings in the Arab world were news. Michael Jackson, Christopher Reeve, and Sadam Hussein were alive. Pluto was a planet. The TV show “Friends” aired on TV. iPhones, tablets, and Android were yet to be invented.

This was me around the same week I started AndFarAway, in a university exhibition with a drawing of mine:

I had just turned 19. I’m now 29.


Happy birthday, AndFarAway.

Oh, how we have grown.

Nine Years Running
AndFarAway is now 8
Seven Years Together, You and I
Anniversary Number 3
And Now We Turn Two
The Anniversary Post

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The Pain of Noise

My first memory of getting enraged by noise goes back to when I was 11 years old.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

It was the sound of a rubber ball being kicked consistently against the wall by my brothers.

Thud. Thud. Thud.

I was only 11, but I vividly remember what I felt. I was uncharacteristically enraged. It hurt, physically. Like someone was kicking a ball inside my head, bouncing it against the walls of my cranium.

Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud. Thud.

I remember being so angry that I started feeling hot. The heat slowly went up through my body, starting in my toes and inching to my head. I remember trying to control the anger. I remember the insane rage. That’s it though.

The next thing I remember is finding myself standing in the kitchen, staring blankly at my crying brother. A limp green rubber ball lay stabbed open in one hand, and a knife in my other hand.

In my rage, I had subconsciously destroyed my 6-year-old brother’s green rubber ball.

But there was no more thudding. It felt so good.

It didn’t feel good for long, course. My mother was SO angry with me that I never dared to do such a thing again, ever. No more balls were popped at the Al-Assi household.

But the physical pain and rage I feel towards certain kinds of sound have not become any better. In fact, I think my problem is only getting worse with time.

My friends like to play music on their phones when we play cards. Sadly for them, I instantly lose my ability to focus on anything but the horrible sound. I can hear every hiss and every flat tone. The music simply loses all its aesthetic qualities and sounds like a disgusting blob of mismatched noise.

For the first few seconds, it is annoying. I tell myself to shut up and deal with it. It’s just music. Yeah, the sound is crap, but the song is crap anyway. This pristine logic doesn’t work for long though. My emotions are quickly overrun, and I lose my ability to focus on anything other than how horrible the music sounds. Like someone is sticking long rods of metal in my ears. That’s when I start getting angry and irritated. I ask my friends to please turn it off. They usually give me a hard time.

In my head, I know they don’t understand. To them, it does not sound like someone is consistently scraping a million nails against a chalkboard plastered over every surface of their body. You know, it’s just music. They want to play music, because music is nice and stuff. So what if the sound is just slightly crap? Roba is just being a brat. But I really am not being a brat. By this time, the pain in my ears and head is so intense that I almost feel like crying. So I go to the toilet and disappear for a while.

It’s weird, because I don’t have problems with most sorts of noise. I attended a horrendously loud and cacophonous metal concert last month. I enjoyed every second of it. I love parties, and my favorite, favorite thing about bars and restaurants is the buzz of people when combined with the crinkling of dinnerware. It’s what I miss most when I don’t go out.

It’s really weird.

And really annoying.

And I hope my friends stop playing loud music using their phones or their car’s crappy sound systems. And I hope all cars that make shrill noises disappear completely overnight, including motorcycles/scooters/etc. I hope all people who eat really loudly or drag their feet when they walk all get a really bad cold today.

I wish all bad noises would disappear.

Then I think I be much happier.

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My Top 10 Most Influential Books

As a child:
The Berenstain Bears Books, Stan and Jan Berenstain
The Naughtiest Girl in School, Enid Blyton
The Fear Street Saga, R. L. Stine
Remember ME, Christopher Pike

As a teenager:
Pandora, Anne Rice
The Harry Potter series, J. K. Rowling
The Lord of the Rings, J. R. R. Tolkein

As an adult:
The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol
Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card

This is the story of the books that influenced me the most. There were lots of them.

You see, I fell in love with books way before I learned to read.

I was just a little girl, and there were two things I really, really wanted. Mountains and mountains of candy was the first thing, but it’s the second thing that counts: I wanted to grow up so I could learn how to read all by myself.

I loved books with all my heart and soul, thanks to my mother’s unlimited patience. Every night, she and I would huddle across from her painting of Snow White on my bedroom wall, and we would read from a book with a silver spine. I was three years old.

Then I learned how to read, and what followed was a life full of books. Here are the ones that influenced me most.

The painting of Snow White

1. The Berenstein Bears

Right around the time I turned six, I discovered picture books, and became obsessed with the Berenstein Bears. I have no idea how I got my hands on them, but I had the entire series, and I read them over and over again. This was my favorite book:

It had my two favorite things in the world. It was a book with gorgeous illustrations of candy all over. I loved re-drawing that book. My favorite part to re-draw was the candy typography:

2. Enid Blyton
I was maybe 8 or 9 when I decided I was too old for picture books and moved to Enid Blyton. She had a gazillion titles under her belt, and more importantly, her books were well-stocked in my favorite bookstore. I read “The Naughtiest Girl in School” series several times, and I loved it so much that I tried to mimic her writing style and write my own books.

3 and 4. Fear Street Saga and Christopher Pike
Inevitably, books written around World War II stopped being cool and I started reading more contemporary fiction.

I started with Goosebumps and The Baby Sitters’ Club, but my favorite was The Fear Street Saga. It was full of history, magic, and a rich timeline.

When I became a little older (11 to be precise), I switched to Christopher Pike, a FANTASTIC writer of young adult sci-fi/fantasy. He had dozens of books revolving around vampires, the colonization of space, witches, magic, and technology.

It was certainly R. L. Stine and Christopher Pike that turned me into the hardcore lover of fantasy and science fiction that I am today. I still re-read old books of theirs when I have an hour to kill (especially when I’m at the beach), and both writers are excellent.

5. Pandora by Anne Rice
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 black letter. Thus started my love story with Anne Rice. It’s hard to explain how much Rice influenced my life’s choices, my beliefs, and my interests. Her words were such a big part of shaping the person I am today.

I learned what it meant to be a “virtuouso”, that the Italian master Vivaldi wooed the world with Four Seasons, that Botticelli 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.

6. Harry Potter
I was 14 when I was first introduced to Harry. I spent the next 13 years eagerly awaiting Harry again. You see, I grew up with him. With Harry, I finished middle school, started high school, applied to universities, got a degree in Fine Arts and Design, went through my first job ever. It is not often that a story becomes so embedded in one’s life. I still miss Harry.

7. The Lord of the Rings
1136 pages of pure euphoria. One of my the most beautiful times of my teenage years is those few weeks when I completely got lost in Tolkien’s work. I literally got lost. I don’t think I did anything else that summer vacation. I just read and re-read The Lord of the Rings until I had my favorite parts memorized. I fell in love with his syntax, his languages, his characters, his world. Becoming a Tolkien fan changes you. “The Lord of the Rings” is the best literary work of all time.

8. The Philosophy of Andy Warhol, Andy Warhol
This is the outlier in the list, but for god’s sake, it’s ANDY WARHOL and I LOVE Andy Warhol. This random book of random thoughts is one of my favorite reads. The random wisdom is crazy. I know most of it by heart, and sometimes I have conversations with Andy in my head based on quotes from the book.

Roba: “People are so stupid.”
Andy: “I think everybody should be a machine.”
Roba: “Yes, you’re right. I love robots, everyone should be a robot. Robots are better than people, Isaac would also agree. Sometimes, people drive me so crazy it’s a miracle I don’t fall apart.”
Andy: “I never fall apart, because I never fall together.”
Roba: “Yeah… you taught me that well. There’s no need to assume that anything is together in the first place. People think too much.”
Andy: “I really do live for the future, because when I’m eating a box of candy, I can’t wait to taste the last piece. I don’t even taste any of the other pieces, I just want to finish and throw the box away and not have to have it on my mind any more.”

9. Foundation Trilogy, Isaac Asimov
Isaac Asimov is a personal hero of mine. I’ve never read an Asimov book that I did not enjoy, but his “Foundation” series just BLEW ME AWAY. It’s so rich and philosophically beautiful. I wish I had his talent for delivering difficult abstract concepts in easy and fun language.

10. Ender’s Game, Orson Scott Card
One of the best writers of the past 50 years. I spent a month reading every single book and short story he ever wrote. I couldn’t get enough of his words.

So, there you go. My list of top ten books that have influenced me. What are yours?

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On August

Oh, my God. It’s the last days of summer.


Lisa Frank.

The days of TBA are over, my love.

Patterns of hunger

Impatience ruining an otherwise lovely picture

Yes, I actually bought this

E-ink is magic

Thursday and the living is easy

Askimo in my fridge

Ben Zheiman


Pictorial Archive of Life

2007: On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2008: On January | On February | On March | On April | On May | On June | On August On September | On October | On November

2009: On July  | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2010: On January | On February | On March | On April | On May | On June | A Captioned July An UnCaptioned August  | On September  | On October | On November | On December

2011: On January  |  On February   |   On March   |  On April  |  On May  |   On July

2012: On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2013: On January | On Februaury | On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August | On September | On October | On November | On December

2014: On January | On Februaury | On March | On April | On May | On June | On July | On August


Here’s what it feels like to really, really love a font

For starters, if you really love fonts, you won’t be using the word “fonts” at all. You will use the word “typeface”, which is much more dignified, and well, correct. Calling a typeface a font is like saying “Internet Explorer” when you want to refer to the World Wide Web.

A font — like an mp3 — is what you use. A typeface — like a song — is what you see. This matters. You’ll really appreciate the linguistics, if you really love typefaces.

You’ll also appreciate the details. Oh, the details! They are what make typefaces so beautiful. Some typefaces have counters more beautiful than Zooey Deschanel’s eyes, and others have finials that make your heart melt. You enlarge these typefaces on your screen, appreciating each ear and hairline. You obsess over the ligatures and the tails.

The smallest details make you squeal with delight, because you know it’s these details that will make a typeface render optimally on your screen, or help maintain each letter’s identity when printed on paper. You’ll type “AV” and “f)” and admire the genius of a well-kerned typeface. After all, the theory of visual chaos and randomness holds true with typefaces too. Nothing is ever really random, and simply drawing letters that are mathematically correct yields results that look wrong. So everything is a careful experiment in faking randomness and that just dazzles you. It takes your breath away. It makes your heart shiver slightly.

Typefaces are like movies, in a way. There are some classics that you might not love, but that you know are important, so you appreciate them. You know that Bembo is a 1929 revival of an old-style humanist typeface cut by Francesco Griffo around 1495. It’s a good book face, and that’s really cool. Even cooler is how the 19th century changed typefaces too, where newspaper fonts had lengthened serifs to prevent damage during the printing process (and that’s why we have slab seris like Clarendon).

You love typefaces so much they make you feel things. You can recognize the ones you love from miles away. They are a celebration of detail, functionality, and legibility. All in the smallest, most invisible visual element.

That’s why you get so excited when you stumble upon a new amazing typeface. It feels like Christmas! You instantly download it, lovingly storing it with the rest of your font collection, saved in alphabetical order. You design a few quick things, just for fun. You check it out when it’s really large and really small.

And you excitedly wait for a new project to test it out on.

Usually though, when the project comes, you end up resorting to your favorite typefaces. Your friends laugh when they see you use DIN. But Roba, they say, DIN doesn’t work so well in this project!

Shut up, you say. DIN always works. DIN is my best friend. DIN always looks perfect.

And you want to hug DIN and tell it you love it. It was the first typeface you ever fell in love with. You’ve fallen in love with others over the years too, of course. But it was your first love, when you were young and had just stumbled upon the crazy world of typography.

And that’s what it feels like to really, really love something as invisible as typography.

It feels like… a lot.


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