Jan 31, 2013

The Poetry of Creatures

It's one of those evenings that make me content with the choice I made over a year ago: to come back to Lebanon.

Sara Sibai

I had promised both poets I'd make them look like legends. Matter of fact they didn't need my help, they were there. I already hold deep admiration to Sara Sibai's performance. In fact I was just thinking of asking her later on to send me one of the poems she recited that night, but then, the idea got kicked out by the fact that a few lines won't simply do, I'd need a video recording, better yet, I'd need to watch her performing live. As for Omar, he shone like I've never seen a person shine before. I'm known for my bluntness, my abstention to compliment people; Omar was truly an energetic human, whose light was reflected within the letters of every word he recited.

Omar BR
I felt a bit uncomfortable though, embarrassed with the noise my camera's shutter kept making, such noise that broke the calamity of the evening and the serenity of Dar Bistro, but then, the scene I was having pictured in mind needed to be caught on camera. I knew everyone would excuse me and understand.

Throughout the evening, both poets invited the audience for some contribution as well, and what contribution that was! Last thing I expected was to witness the rogue dance of both emotions and reason in front of my eyes whenever a poem was screamed out loud. The amount of sorrow, hatred, love and peace kept popping out dandling tenderly on the coffee tables; some heads were looking up onto one direction, others were simply reaching out for an unseen world where the poem was taking place.

I hold but pure respect to both Sara and Omar, for their initiative replenished my faith in my choice and this tiny country, all drenched in chaos.

Jan 20, 2013

"Sk8 961" in Tripoli

First of all there's a statement I need to make, Ameena Barakeh is a Champion. Is being a veiled skater enough to earn that title? Is coaching a HUGE number of teenage boys in their beloved hobby - skateboarding - enough? Is it putting all her efforts and savings into making an old dream come true, and waking up one day to find the dream is happening indeed, isn't it all enough to entitle her as a champion? Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Ameena, the young ambitious Graphic Designer from Saida, whose dream was to create a community of skaters around Lebanon, and that is only the beginning. Check her page Sk8 961 (Lebanese Skateboarders) on Facebook.

At 7:30 AM this morning, a message on my phone was telling me that Ameena, along with a few guys, are coming to spend the day in Tripoli to team up with a few local guys around town. Sunday being always my only friend among weekdays, I didn't see the message until it was 10:30 AM. The skaters had already been in Azmi Street, their loud noise lead me their direction. Ameena was the coach indeed, but was the director, photographer and videographer as well that morning. I found out later that she was setting up a documentary about the Skaters in Lebanon. Such a loud noise on a Sunday morning wasn't welcome between the tight districts of the city, neither on the premises of the official Tripoli Exhibition Center (Maarad). Skaters were constantly on the move to avoid the repetitive dismissal, and to find the "stairs" that would please their taste, and satisfy their crave for skating.

I learned that 5 to 7 steps is the golden number for such skaters, a height that is probably enough to ollie (jump) and perform backflips and many other tricks. A rail on the side is also preferable; in the end, a skater that can't grind is no skater at all. Manuals are also a masterpiece: the longer the manual, the better the skater is.

Keep in mind that there is no such thing as a perfect skater. To Ameena and the other guys, if you don't mess up and fall down, you're still not ready to be called a skater. Scars and blood are their daily bread. Broken bones to them is your bi-annual visit to your older aunt. It's all part of the fun, all part of being called a Skater.

Hassan, Robby, Omar and the others were fascinating. They surely had it going on long before we came with our expensive cameras. Their whole gear is their board, and one GoPro camera that's passed among them in order to record as much action footage as possible. All thanks to every single one of them, and of course, to Ameena, for giving out such an outrageous performance in the streets of dear Tripoli

Definition of a skater by the Urban Dictionary:
A skater is a human being who enjoys riding a skateboard because it is fun. a lot of skaters could be classified as 'punks' but this is just a stereotype. true, some skaters so wear tight jeans and a pair of emericas, but a lot of them just dress 'normally'.
there are vert skaters and street skaters. vert skaters skate in halfpipes. street skaters skate stairs and ledges and such. street is currently more popular than vert, mainly because it is easier to do. not to say that it requires less skill; I mean that street requires no ramp, therefore it can be done in more places that vert. 
I leave you with the rest of the photos, some of them already published on my Facebook album:

Jan 11, 2013

Shaping History

Ever wondered what the bunch of great people that came to knowing and carved their names in history would've felt like during the course of their days? What was Einstein's bath like? Did he just plunge his body inside the hot-water-filled tub and leave his thoughts for time to dismantle while he soaks? Were he concerned if he ever forgot the towel? Or was he the type of people to overjoy about the bits and pieces in absurd reality trying to give it some essence while waiting for some achievement to kick in?

How did Jesus's face feel like? Did he ever trim his beard? Ever cut his hair? How? What was seeing him from afar like? Did he ever cough? How did he smell like? Was he of a deep toned voice or slightly thinner? Would he rather skip around of joy or hide the feeling for the sake of his divine emblem? Didn't he ever pick a rose to smell? Did he ever have a deja-vu? How was it like?

What would Muhammad have done if he ever stepped in poop? How would he react to a child hitting him innocently on the knee? How were his eyes like? How often did he blink? Did he ever dream of owning an expensive possession? Did he chase out that idea for the sake of his message? Did he ever get embarrassed? Did he ever sneeze? Did he have chest hair? Did he have any scar on his left foot? Were he ever cold? How did his right thumb look like?
I was thrilled to know that Gandhi's secretary has published his/her observations of that era, but the questions are and will always still be there. Did Gandhi ever feel sorry for losing his hair? How did he behave in front of beautiful girls? Did he ever need any ego boost?

Each of us is a Christ, a Muhammad, a Gandhi and a mother Theresa  Each of us is as important and valuable. I was born totally naked, same as all of them. I had to sneeze when I got the flu, same as these people, most probably. I had gone through anger, love, sadness, loneliness and relief, and I hope all of the great people would've gone through the same.

Hassan Kamel Sabbah - حسن كامل الصباح
Each of us is a Napoleon, an Ibn Battouta, an Osho and a Martin King. What made them whatever they became is their perception, their wisdom, and their patience, all of which are acquired through a series of challenging and outstanding daily life hurdles, starting with finding water to drink, to feeling the racing heart beats upon hearing the enemy's horn right before the fight. Having inherited the Muslim belief, I have learned in my early years that Muhammad had said the following:
"I am but a human just like you"
My only wish is to have had lived in the proximity of any of those people, I might've taken a few beautiful portraits, who knows? :-)


Jan 7, 2013

When The Bride Came

How usual is it to see Lebanon flooded in rain and sewage water?
The "Bride" had stepped foot in Lebanon over the weekend and apparently will not leave before another two or three days, as predicted by local weather reports. Having gotten stuck at Dbayyeh, I decided to go all the way back to Jounieh to spend the day at my friend's and finish my work from there, ever since the other lane had no traffic at all.
Dbayeh this morning, Spinneys Bridge
Local traffic and casualty report by LebanonFiles.com
Those who had left their houses as early as 6:00 to 6:30AM managed to escape the traffic that built up so quickly, traffic began getting blocked gradually starting around 7:00AM and eventually most major roads were blocked. Tweets and Facebook posts indicated that, for instance, a trip from Tripoli to the Museum area took about 3 to 4 hours. "Yasa" has warned citizens to stay at home on its Facebook page, unless there's an urgent situation, while minister of interior Marwan Charbel has advised lebanese citizens to think twice before heading to the karantina (Quarantaine) area.

Photo from Saida - Courtesy of LBCI
Photo from Tyre (Sour)
"Driving in the mist! #Lebanon Visibility sucks! #drivesafe" by Rita Kamel
 What surprised me the most is, among all the damage and the single casualty during the latest floods, Lebanese know not to remain miserable, a good joke always finds its way here or there even when the sky is grey.
"welcome to Lebanon, the biggest water park in the world!!!" - Ghassan el Bakri

Courtesy to Salim al Lawzi مدونة جدار برسم الايجار
Courtesy to Hummus Nation
as seen on the Lebanese Memes page, Courtesy to Patrick Kay
Getting ready to get out. Courtesy to Tripoli FB Page

Jan 2, 2013

Hello D80!

YES I finally own a DSLR!

Everything happened in the blink of an eye.
Sitting here remembering all the time I spent on comparing cameras, features, learning about the latest technology in photography, and adapting my wishlist to my budget, I truly feel what happened has been both an achievement and a slap to the face. Achievement in terms of finance and quality vs. money. And yet it was a slap to teach me that extensive planning is a waste of time in most cases, leave it sharp and short.

I finally got hit by a chance from up above. Two shares on my FB timeline announced a person is selling his D80 gear. After doing my personal research on both the camera AND on the person selling it, not believing the price he was asking for, I decided to contact him. One hour later, the cam is mine.

Screenshot of the original Facebook post
It turned out later that the seller is Georges, he was selling everything in order to leave permanently to live in Africa, which explained the low price he was asking.

The Nikon D80 is a 2006 release, 10MP CCD camera, with the minimum requirements that would fulfill my needs at the time being. A CCD for god's sake! An incomparable quality delivered by the discontinued sensor technology for its high power consumption, compared to the newest, but of less quality, CMOS sensor, which apparently saved battery power. That alone was a relief and a cause for satisfaction

D80 Expert Design... Use With PassionFor passionate photographers a D-SLR with a 10.2-MP DX-Format CCD, Nikon's high-resolution Image Processing Engine and 3 fps continuous firing.

Here's what the dpreview website had to say when the camera was announced:
"Nikon has today put the end to the speculation and announced the new ten megapixel D80 digital SLR. This new camera is the natural successor to the D70/D70s with a refreshed design, user interface and a wide range of new features. Headline improvements are; 10.2 mp CCD, new image processing engine, 3D Color Matrix Metering II, 11-area AF system, configurable Auto ISO, configurable high ISO NR, a larger and brighter viewfinder, in-camera retouching (including D-Lighting), built-in wireless flash commander, SD card storage (with SD-HC support) and the D200's higher capacity battery."
As you may have noticed, I had tried all major brands for photography cameras, starting from the Canon, Kodak, Sony, and I kept thinking I wanted a Nikon. Here it was, the D80 topped my gear like a queen.

Battery life for the D80 is astonishing, one charge could last for days, especially with the lack of the high-end sophisticated processes inside the camera, including Videography. The camera surprisingly had no drawback, all in all it was the deal of a lifetime so far. In addition to the camera, I received the standard 18-55, a prime 50mm f/1.4 (yes, I now have a prime, that I'm still unfamiliar with), and an external Metz flash unit which needed a bit of cleaning.

Here are some of the best photos I've taken so far using my new D80. Enjoy