Sunday, August 31, 2008

The Happy Homemaker

I must confess. I have a bad case of the happy homemaker. The worst of it is freaking out when empty beer bottles are left by the sink instead of in the recycling bin or when a half a bag of mini bagels needs to be put in the freezer to avoid mold. That, and the fact that I read "decorating on the cheap" magazines in the grocery store aisle. Recent finds that turned into purchases are 100 Decorations Ideas for under $100 and ReadyMade. Both Better Homes and Gardens magazines I come to find out. If this isn't proof of my affliction, I don't know what is.

I am so ready to take an adjustable curtain rod, a piece of red lace that I got at a pulga, "flea market," in South Texas and hide our garbage can and recycling. Or, use magnetic blackboard paint on SOMETHING.

In the meantime, I found a sturdy wooden chair for $15 at a garage sale (We needed some seating after the poop debacle.) The upholstery was less than appealing but after Maya snuggled on it and confirmed that she was not going to use it as her litter box, I shooed her off to clean and cover it. I covered the bottom with a fabric that I had from Guatemala that I would use to carry my clothes to the river, cover my desk, etc.. I used a keffiyeh I bought this summer at a tourist shop in Lebanon for the the top. The keffiyeh is a symbol of the Palestinian struggle even though they are usually black and white or red and white, not purple. I balanced the two fabrics with a morral, "bag," that I crocheted in Guatemala that I have converted into a pillow. It reads "paz" on one side and "junkulal" on the other -peace in Spanish and Kanjobal Maya.

At least my travel experiences influence my decorating. I am looking for some support for my current condition.

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

Peace Flags Abound

I have been less of an internet junky of late because I went back to work and at the same time started moving both heavy and E.'s stuff. Now it really feels like we are moving with all the moments of stress when I see piles of everything that is not mine scattered on all available flat surfaces. For some reason, mess never seems as bad when it is yours.

Plus, Maya may appear well adjusted and happy as usual as her big green eyes and gregarious personality lead one to believe. Nevertheless, she has somehow come to the conclusion that the old used red couch that we bought from a friend should now serve as her litter box. I have awakened to poop and a not so savoury aroma every morning. She pees in her box and poops on the couch. Go figure.

In the mean time, Silver lives under the basement stairs and growls whenever Maya tries to befriend. Change can be challenging for most of us.

I am missing being creative. Yesterday, I tried to write who knows what great thought I had in one of my journals. I woke up curled over it instead. The weekend is near and I am beginning to see over all of our piles. There is hope.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

My First Family

I want this family in the White House. I didn't even hear Michelle Obama's speech last night. E. and I had gone out to eat and the image of Michelle and the two girls on the screen in the bar in the distance brought tears to my eyes. It's about time. That's all I can say.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Cover it with beads and glitter

I was born in war.

Everything around me now is war.

War has always been.

I cannot remember a time when there was no war.

-Zena el Khalil

From the Kalashin' Series (A Test Run for Something Bigger To Come)Mixed media on wood and foam. each gun 100 x 50 cm. 2008

There is a side of me that scoffs at non-high art materials such as glitter, plastic beads, fake flowers, and doilies. "Oh this isn't real art," the critic in me says. But let's face it. I love and am drawn to these materials precisely because of their kitschy Easter Sunday dollar store quality. And when they say something that makes sense to me, I laugh loudly, cackle really, in a healing kind of way.

These mixed media pieces by Zena el Khalil make me even happier because they get at some of my raw unsanitized reactions to gender, politics and war.

"If men had no one watching them kill, they would stop just like little children do when no one reacts to their acting up."

"If only men would show their emotions."

"Its all about who has bigger balls."

"Women are stuck in their little Barbie doll outfits being virginal and nice wearing tight clothes, bikinis, and high heels."

Men, Men, Men... Mixed media on wood. 25 x 25 cm. 2007

And The Girls Watch On... Mixed media on wood. 25 x 25 cm. 2007

I also like what I perceive as Zena el Khalil's vindication for my own creative obsessing:

In the beginning I was creating so that people would remember. But now, I have to be honest with myself; I am caught up in existential unrest and I find myself creating these images and forms because I cannot physically do anything else. It is no longer about right and wrong. It is not an intellectual debate. It is a creative offering I make to help maintain balance and order in the world around me.

Laugh a loud annoying laugh that cuts through stagnancy, both yours and others, shattering like glass.


Wednesday, August 13, 2008

Randa Mirza

It seems that I am perpetually playing catch up. I have been wanting to share Randa Mirza's photography for over a month now. The two black and whites were taken from Pigeon Rock which is an enormous rock off the coast of Beirut. The rocks on it and around the Beirut coastline are popular with fishermen, divers and swimmers. In terms of image, I love how much the men look like birds and this fact contrasts so nicely with what else I know about this area. I may have missed it, but I have never seen a woman fish, dive, or swim from these rocks. Even Randa Mirza says that it is through photography that she as a woman is able to share in this experience. The photos also bring class to the forefront. Most of those that can afford it go to the many beach clubs to swim instead of these dirty dangerous rocks. And, I have made a point to provide links on the photos so just click on them if you want to see the rest of the series.

The two color photographs from the series "Parallel Universes" make me laugh in a sick kind of way. She has superimposed tourist poses onto images of war.

In explaining the photos, the artist quotes Susan Sontag's Regarding the Pain of Others:

We view the horrors that take place throughout the world on a daily basis and our knowledge of what is happening in neighboring countries makes us responsible for our ignorance, our passivity and our indifference. And yet, our ultimate response is a floating feeling of total incapacity!

How can we live in a world where daily disasters are continuously broadcast? What responsibility do we bear for the availability of such knowledge? Do we enjoy observing the 'pain of others' from a position removed in time and space? What is being communicated and what is not being transmitted? Are armed conflicts a new source of entertainment? Why and how do the media participate in this paradox? And what is so exotic about war, anyway?

What I love most about these photos is that we consumers of images look and we see ourselves looking. It makes us have to really think about why we are looking, how we are looking , and what we are going to do about it. Because, as far as I am concerned we are all responsible.

I had been wondering, "What if?" What if we stopped watching and consuming these atrocities? What if there was no longer an audience for them would they cease to exist? I think about how much of the atrocities in the world we, and specifically I, pass over such as Darfur and Georgia to name only two. I realize that not showing these images and not letting the larger global community know about what is happening is not an option. I was seeking easy solutions to complicated situations. I too am overwhelmed and these photos remind me of this.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

More for the Mix

I haven't thrown this into the mix of things that I am doing during my time off, but E. and I are moving into a house together! Maya (above) and her cat (Silver) are joining us but that is another story. I am trying to pace myself with both the writing and the packing and when I get frustrated with one, I work on the other instead. Today is writing day.

One piece of wisdom that I heard in the last few days is that a writer has to accept that the story may not have the ending that she/he anticipated. The writer has to be willing for the characters to determine where the story should go. I wasn't yet willing to do this with any of my writings on Lebanon and so I am switching to another theme for awhile. I'll see how that goes.

And also, I have received quite a few e-mails from friends regarding my last two posts. One friend suggested The Creative Habit by Twyla Tharp. I haven't read it but it looks like it could be helpful to creative types who are going through a funk. He said it was much less fuffy than Julia Cameron's books. This made me laugh.

Friday, August 08, 2008

The Gift of Being Lazy

I received this e-mail response to my last post. The author has a good point. Since it is about the creative process and production, I thought that I would share it. It is from L. Those of you who have been checking in on my blog may recognize her as the person that I dated for two months over a year ago and was quite smitten with. I don't know if I can follow her advice but I will logically consider it.

I read your blog post about writing last night. What immediately came up for me is the thought: can you be ok with yourself even if you don't "produce" something during your time off??? Why do you feel like you HAVE to write something? It sounded like if you didn't produce some writing you would think less of yourself. And I'm just wondering if you can give yourself the gift of being lazy?!?!?! :-) And that's not being lazy anyway.

Thursday, August 07, 2008

Writing Frustrations

I have a little over a week before I have to go back to work and am beginning to stress myself out as to whether I am utilizing my time off as effectively as possible. I have been trying to write since I returned from Lebanon and have started many word documents on various themes and in various genres. This is my biggest frustration! I can't even decide if I should be writing a nonfiction essay, poems, or a short story. It always amazes me that the more importance I give a project, the harder it is to get it done. Let's not even mention giving it a form. At least I can say that I have chosen my medium, words. This is pretty amazing for me. I am getting closer.

Part of my issue is that I want to confront any nostalgia and romaticization that I feel about where I grew up. But every time I write, I feel that what I produce is just what I am trying desperately to avoid doing. Plus, I may be being a bit too methodical. I have gone through my journals and color coded all of the main themes and have been typing the best written moments into various word documents. I am feeling overwhelmed. One of my friends, hearing my frustration suggested that I take a three-hour minimum hike. It could be a walking meditation since I do not do well sitting still. Did I? No. I stared at the computer screen again and got nowhere. I am pitiful at balance.

Wednesday, August 06, 2008

Miscellaneous Images That I Like

Pink and polka dots
along with neon green

reinforced concrete, rebar
and shattered anything come to mind

Add barbed wire
some sleek and gnarly line

a bit of overgrown green
perhaps a little magenta

and you have

Tuesday, August 05, 2008


Gemayze is a neighborhood just east of Downtown Beirut. After around 9:00 pm on almost every night of the week, the street is crowded with people enjoying the many bars and restaurants with friends. During the day, it is quieter and more conducive to exploring its visual treats.

Sunday, August 03, 2008

Randy Pausch Last Lecture: Achieving Your Childhood Dreams

One of my classmates in Lebanon had this video on his facebook page. Since I have a little time and needed some inspiration, I watched the whole thing. It's an hour and 16 minutes long but is well worth watching, in my humble opinion. I sent it to a few of my friends and one has raved about it. The most powerful line for me is when Randy Pausch tells us that brick walls are not there to stop us from achieving our dreams. They are just there to stop all of the people who don't want the dream bad enough!