Thursday, 30 August 2012

sketch skeleton and life

I had this sketch drawn in my sketchbook for a while. Drawn at 37º in Monot.

Decided to digitalise and try a different illustration style.
And hey presto:

Sorry for the lack of posts.

There's one coming up shortly, as soon as I draw the illustration for it.

Friday, 6 July 2012

Birthday Letter 2012

Where do I begin.

It's been one hell of a year since I last wrote to you.  So much has happened, and I'm not sure where to start.
It's been a year of lessons I guess. Tough ones, but necessary ones none the less, and I believe now more than ever that things tend to fall in place one way or another. Some ways more painfully, some ways more rudely awakening than others, some just magically I suppose. At many instances I really would have liked for you to be there. I think your insight would have been indispensable, then again, I think you were there.

There has been a real change in me. I don't know where to pinpoint it, I don't know where the beginning happened and I'm pretty sure the end is not that near. There is something in me that has changed. I am more of myself. More at peace with my mind, my heart, my soul. I feel that of the many paths that come up day to day, I have patiently and serenely chosen the ones that lead to dark dismal places, that take me away from what I know is where I should be going, wherever that may be, whatever that is, and blocked them off one by one. My head is less scattered, I now know that when my being is haywire, I am doing something wrong, or at least something is wrong, and I need to change it.

Perhaps that's why I'm at peace.

I found my footing again. I don't know where that takes me, but I'm no longer doubtful that I'm getting there on steady feet.

I've become more patient. (I can see your face as I write that. Yep. Me. Patient)
It's one of those things that have changed in me. I'm not sure how or why, sometimes I think it's because a part of me has given up on slamming my head against walls and worrying. I surrender to whatever must be, making sure before I do that I've done what I can to ensure that when I place my head against my pillow at night, I'm at peace. Part of that is sad, because part of it was truly me giving up. Simply put.
Then again, I guess when those dark thoughts subside, I find that it's just a matter of me walking the path, not worrying where it goes. It'll go somewhere worth going as long as I step steadily. Right?

A lot of new friends have entered my life this year too. And I wish you could've met them, I think they would have loved you, and you them. I always get a little hiccup in my throat when I find myself saying "I wish you'd met my dad", or "My dad would've had something to tell you about that!" or simply "My dad would've loved you."
My curiosity drowns me when I think of that. Perhaps also because I would have liked to get your impression on them, to read your face.

But I think you'd be proud of what I am now. Where I am, at least in some aspects. My mind is more focused, or at least has cut away a lot of what was weighing it down. And when I do what I must, as painful as it sometimes tends to be for me, I have a silent voice, a faded image, a nod of approval in the back of my mind. All yours. And it helps me know I've taken a step in the right direction.  I had lost myself somewhere along the way in the past few years, but now I'm closer to being me than I ever was. And I wish you could be here to confirm that somehow.

The football was going on recently. And being at Brick's watching a lot of the games, I noticed how a friend of mine would always end up watching the game with his father. It didn't get to me till one of the last games was on. I think it was just the sight of his father walking in, and my friend being in the corner, having saved him a seat, calling him over. Something about them finding each other and having a place to sit I guess that is meaningful in some sappy soppy hypersensitive way. One of those things that comes to me, you know.
It was then I wished we had something like that. You weren't really into football, you had the boxing thing. Man, how mum and I would wonder how someone like you, against mindless physical violence, could enjoy such a "sport". But I remember when I asked you once, semi disgusted as the sight of a boxer having his lower jaw punched so hard I swore it wrapped around his neck. You answered something along the lines of how it was not the violence that you enjoyed, but that it was a "smart" sport, boxers studying each other's moves, a game of wit and swift dance. Knowing when, where, how to hit. A physical chess, yes granted, with sweat and blood. However you managed to explain, it was a good answer, and although I would flinch every once in a while, I no longer complained when you were watching.
Maybe we could have the boxing thing. A bar, a beer, and the boxing.

I went to the office recently. I've decided to use a room to work in. One of the things I'm doing to try and keep focused.
I  can't lie, I thought I'd take it with a heavier heart than I did. It didn't make me sad. But I walked lightly, rediscovering it again through new eyes, looking for you in a new way so you could be my companion there in a new way.
Thanks for helping me find the switch for the air conditioning by the way. You know how I am with heat.

Otherwise, things are moving. Things are going. I keep saying it, but perhaps I can't help be happy that I feel I'm going the right way, or at least not the wrong way anymore. Mama and I are better. We have our slips, but she has been so supportive at certain times this year, and I am grateful for that. She is slowly finding the right ground to reach me, and I am slowly trying to be better at taking it too.  That too is going more or less on a better path.

I miss you differently this year.
Yes, I wish you were around. But I don't find myself wishing it naively. I don't get weepy at the idea of your loss. I just, miss you I suppose. And it annoys me that I have to focus sometimes to hear your voice the way it was. But it's still there.

Although July loomed at me in the distance this year, and I could see it creep up on me sadly, it once again passes with grace.
I wish you a happy birthday baba.
Till next year.

I love you so very very much.


Bintak Karma

Birthday Letter 2011
Birthday Letter 2010
Birthday Letter 2009

Saturday, 16 June 2012

football: notes & observations

I'm not really one to write about football. I'm no fanatic and my knowledge doesn't really go much further than knowing who wears what colours, and a few names. But I do enjoy watching a game every once in a while. Doing this has resulted in many a conclusion deduced by observation during this year's 2012 Euro Cup around Beirut. I couldn't help myself.

It's very possible more points will be added to this list as the games continue... So keep an eye out.

1) Don't mess with Germany supporters. Ever. Those dudes are nuts.

2) A lot of Italian supporters tend to be of the female variety. You can tell this by the "Oooh"s and "Yiiiii"s every time there are closeups on the field.

3) Swedes are sore losers.

4) It doesn't matter how many times you explain it to me, I still don't understand offsides.

5) Footballers make the most ridiculous faces.

6) Slow motion replays look so dramatic and serious that it ends up looking epic. (slightly makes up for point 5)

7) Angry Swedish sounds funny. (check point number 3)

8) There are more Germans in Lebanon than I realised. They stand up when their Anthem is played. And they really do drink a lot of beer.

9) Flags flood the city. They're everywhere. Cars, shop fronts, bars, facebook profiles, mopeds. Well, every flag but the Lebanese one.

10) Sleazy, snide remarks vocalised by Lebanese men during Russian games are guaranteed. During closeups of the female audience of course. Good to know macho stereotypes are still alive and kicking.

11) The Arab commentators speak at the rate of 10 words per second, volume control is lost on them, and the amount of knowledge they have about the competing countries is scary. Screw the history books, you want to know about a country? Watch a game, listen and learn.

12) The music a DJ plays after a game is directly related to whether or not the team they're supporting wins or loses. You better hope it's the former. (Trust me, I would know)

13) Nearly every Lebanese viewer has a back up team in case their primary one loses. This confuses the hell out of me.

14) When someone's team of preference is not playing, their choice of who to support during a game is usually NOT the team their friend/s is/are supporting.  Team choice is a weapon of mass spite/taunter.

15) Lebanese supporters of the French team forget how to speak Arabic during games.

16) French supporters automatically sneer dismissively at you when you say you're an England supporter. They must've forgotten they're French supporters.

17) Every player with a remotely Arab name is pointed out with pride. Relentlessly.

18) While Lebanon was playing to qualify for the Asian Cup, #GoLebanon was trending on Twitter, and a waterfall of support flooded all social media. Well, at least till the Euro Cup started.

19) Cristiano Ronaldo is a douche. That's a fact no matter how many times he changes his hairstyle during a match.


20) Ibrahimovic is 1 metre 95 cm tall. Do not discuss football with anyone who takes it literally and gives that reply when you say "Oh my lord that dude is a giant! How tall is he??". Anyone who has that amount of information about football is dangerous, and could probably bury you.

21) The amount of female supporters a team has is porportional to the number of good looking players it has. And their average collective hair length, of course.

22) If you are out somewhere that isn't showing the games when a match with Germany is happening, don't fret. Hear those loud shouts in unison that happen every once in a while? That's a goal for Germany. Count them, and you know the score. (note:if Germany and another popular team are playing, the Louder shouts will always be Germany)

23) The chance that someone who owns a BMW is a Germany supporter is very, very high.

24) Sorry France, but quesadillas are way yummier than snails. Viva España.

25) I was wrong. Italian supporters are way nuttier than the German ones. It must be the Mediterranean in them.

26) Apparently a good hairstyle is not a factor in how successful a football player you are. Look at Balotelli.

27) If their team hasn't made it to the finals, the Lebanese tend to support whoever is against the team that kicked their team out. Hence all German fans became Spanish, and all the French fans supported Italy.

28) No. 27 doesn't apply to women. They still go for who has more good looking players/coaches (refer to point 21). The dilemma was Italy vs Spain. I swore I could hear heads explode.

29) At the end of it all,  at least we'll still have pizza.

Saturday, 5 May 2012

I won't forget.

I remember.

I remember the first day we met.
I was intimidated by you. You didn't seem very friendly at the time.
But then again, I remember the day we really met. I spilled my woes, and you spilled yours. And they took time.

I remember the night I gave you your improvised birthday gift.

I remember how you gave me your first gift, that now stares at me from my mirror frame every morning, reminding me of magnets and compasses and how they react when they're around each other.

I remember how we comfortably moved into each others lives, and then drowned in them.

I remember the night I semi skipped like a sheep on a Rage Against The Machine cover in the middle of an abandoned street.

I remember you saying how my dog was "Alright, as far as dogs go", and letting it slide.

I remember the many, many bottles of wine. But specifically how I was never drunk on them, but on something else.

I remember how you defended my dental structure one night, by refusing to tell me of the threats spoken against me by short drunken wenches with cruel tongues.

I remember how you straight out told a stranger you loved me.

I remember the book you gave me. And how I'm afraid to finish it.

I remember the book I gave you. And how I'm afraid you'll forget it.

I remember more than one movie a night.
And I definitely remember watching the first 10 minutes of the wrong movie at the cinema.

I remember being shooed out of bars because we wouldn't leave.

I remember our songs. And what they mean. And although they hurt to listen to sometimes, they remind me of beautiful things that I don't want to give up.

I remember our long talks in empty spaces with empty cars that lasted till the light signaled that it was time to (perhaps) go home.

I remember how you once told me you fantasise about my eyes, and I always remember yours.

I remember your scent, and how it would envelope me as I drifted to sleep, and how it translated into comfort.

I remember sitting doing crosswords and watching movies, and how that was more than enough. 

I remember how you would sit across me for hours on end while I worked, in silence, just so you could be there. And I remember how thankful I was for that.

I remember the night I lost one of my favourite lighters, and how I caught you googling a replacement.

I remember the timbre in your voice over the phone the day that was our last.

I remember the way we think things at the same time, in the same way.

I remember how you passed by just to say hello, but ended up staying.

I remember how you kept my cranes, and how much that meant to me, because they mean so much to me.

I remember how you made me feel. Happy.

I remember all the words felt, not necessarily said.

I remember always thinking I was crazy, and you assuring me I was not.

I remember us not needing to talk to know, and to be content.
And yet how it sucked to be us.

I remember how we never really got that chance..

I remember our many farewells.
And then I remember my last. And sometimes I wish I didn't.

I remember all these things and more. I fold them delicately and place them into a beautiful silver box, one after the other, and close the lid, and turn the key to lock them safe, and place them near my heart. Far enough to let me go, but close enough to keep it beating and warm.
I treasure them.

I remember all these things.
And I won't forget.

I won't forget.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

a few things you should know about me

I believe in unicorns,
but I know they don't exist.

I've fallen in love once,
but my heart has been broken way more times than that.

I cannot tell a lie,
but I've heard more lies than I should or can take.

I cannot tell a lie,
And I doubt I ever will.
(I said that twice for emphasis)

I have many friends, to whom I'm thankful,
but most of the time I feel very, very alone.

I do what I studied to do,
but not what I should be doing.
I'm still working on figuring out what that is.

I love books,
but I read way less than I should.

I love to draw,
but I don't draw nearly enough as I know I should.

I have pale white skin,
but most of the times I'm not comfortable in it.

I love music, it is easily my religion,
but I cannot play an instrument to save my life.
(save a handful of chords on the guitar, and the "snake dance" on the piano)

I have grown up in London and in Beirut,
but still cannot decide which is home.

I cannot remember what I had for lunch a week ago,
but I can remember the phone number of the home I grew up in.
(998 9954)

I have a dog, and I know she's only a "pet" to you,
but she means a hell of a lot more to me.

I don't have any siblings,
but I've chosen my brothers and sisters.

I am young,
but oh do I feel old. So old.

I have helped put many-a-person back together again,
but cannot start to figure out how to put together the pieces that I'm in.

I dream a lot,
but don't sleep enough.
I also have my share of nightmares.

I have experienced sleep paralysis,
and would not wish it on my worse enemies.
I hope you never experience it either.

I have never broken a bone in my body,
but sometimes I wonder if that would hurt less than the things I have broken.

I treat people as I would want to be treated,
but find that not many share that ideal.

I tend to come off as a tough cookie,
but as far as I know, cookies crumble.

I have an irrational fear of cockroaches.
I really do.

I love gummy bears. I love them,
but specifically when they've been in the fridge.

I sometimes drink more than you think I should,
but never more than I can take.

I talk to myself a lot more than I should,
but it doesn't bother us.

I sometimes feel I am owed a break,
but I am constantly being dealt tough cards.

I am constantly being dealt tough cards,
but I don't know how to gamble.

I am facing a long, winding, convoluted and terrifying road,
but I'm doing the only thing I can do. I'm walking.

I should be asleep,
but I'm writing this instead.

I am wishing you goodnight,
but dawn is breaking..

I will always believe in unicorns.

Sunday, 19 February 2012

a letter to a voice

Dear Cat, Yusuf, whatever you prefer,

Thank you.

For an evening, you took me places I haven't visited in a long time and probably would not have found their path without the help of the timbre of your voice which, incidentally, has not changed one bit since I first began hearing it. That must've been around 16 years ago, through small black earphones connecting to a basic black Sony walkman with a wonky play button and a battery cover held in place with scotch tape.

Your self titled album was one of the first 3 albums I ever listened to (the other two being Bob Dylan's greatest hits, and Don McLean's American Pie) and they had been given, well perhaps lent is more accurate a word, to me by my father. I listened to those tapes religiously and in no time had pretty much all of the lyrics down and the melodies committed to memory.

For an evening I saw my younger self slouched in the back seat of our Daewoo, looking out at the dark sky with my cheek leaning against the car door, as my mother drove us back to Beirut from a weekend in the mountains. Nothing but landscape and stretches of road to look at, and 6 sides of tape to listen to. I remember how I used to rewind to the beginning of Matthew and Son at least twice every time I heard it.

For an evening I saw myself being dropped home by the school bus, walkman in hand, uniform shirt tails popping out the top of a pleated skirt, and sitting on the concierge's sofa with her 13 cats sprawled around listening to "The Days of the Old School Yard" as I waited for my mother to arrive from work with the house keys.

For an evening I saw myself at my first art class sessions in Beirut where I had to replicate classical looking drawings of corny scenes (like a boat on a sunset stained sea). My only consolation being "Morning has Broken". I think I even remember a specific moment where the colour of the pencil i was using was a ochre-y brown.

For an evening I saw my 16 year old self scribbling on her new guitar's cloth case with a tippex corrector pen, writing "I MY DOG" and humming it in her head as she glanced over at her Labrador licking his paws. And on that same guitar she would eventually learn to play "Wild World" and "The First Cut is the Deepest".

But most important of them all, for an evening you had my father sitting right next to me.
I could see him there, in the corner of my eye. I could feel his chest rising and falling at certain words of certain songs, and see him bopping his head, eyes closed sometimes, at other times open and smiling and smiling and shining.

I sat silently at moments absorbing every vibration, hoping that by doing that somehow my father would hear it too, perhaps I could do it on his behalf if I focused enough. I thought how he would have loved to see you there on stage, right here in Beirut. I sat silently at moments and let the tears that formed roll and fall, because ultimately they were not my tears.

For an evening my father was there again, the father I have missed for so long, the one with the music and the smiling and the out of tune voice that was not afraid to sing. The one with music tapes he had reclaimed as his own long after I upgraded to a discman, stashed in an office drawer ready to be played out and heard as he worked.

For an evening, missing my father was a sad, but beautiful, beautiful thing to do.
And as you sang "Father and Son" your voice became my father's, and I sat and listened to everything he could never say. And how he had to go.

I have to admit that I was secretly scared of going to your concert. Secretly afraid of all these things that you've helped me revisit. Scared to remember the warmth of those moments and the details in my dad's features, the sound of his voice as he sang along, the tapping of his hand to the beat on the arm of whatever chair he was sitting in.

But I was wrong to be.
And I sang along to every song I knew.
And I remembered. I saw. I cherished.

And for that I thank you, from the bottom of my heart.

I can only wait for the time I give my son or my daughter a collection of music, including yours, hoping they carry it with them for me like I do for my father.

Much love from Beirut,


Monday, 16 January 2012

echoes in 3's

Wine and cigarettes and thoughts and thoughts and thoughts.
Sadness and happiness and all those in between.
Rain storms and thunder and lightening and the calm that is before the storm that never really exists, because it's always calm before a storm. There is no such thing. It just is.

* * *

Music and words and words and words.
"You have a lot you want to say don't you?" she asked me without expecting a reply.
And it was cold and the words in my head made me shiver. The dogs were antsy.
And my silence was heavy and I nodded slightly, but it was the weight of the words I had in my head that made it move. They swirled and panicked and crashed into each other and got louder.
Yes, yes, yes I had a lot to say. yes. Yes I wanted to release them because they were so heavy.
My heart was so heavy.
Some one share the burden. Some one help me with this.
But instead I limply waved it away, and walked to the car with no one to hear me but the absent passenger sitting right next to me.

* * *

Dawn is breaking, and there are skips that have been done in the middle of the road among a haze of white wine, but I'm not drunk, not on wine. No, not on wine.
Laughter is drowning the ticking of clocks, and the passing of time.
And the dawn is breaking, breaking, breaking.
and in breaking it made me whole again.

* * *

This is where I am. This place is somewhere, and nowhere, and here.
And in it's novelty it is so familiar like deja vu, or a recurring dream, or your reflection in the mirror.
And you are somewhere, nowhere, and here.
Until you are elsewhere.

And that adds them all up, collapses them all into "where?"

And I wish I knew.
I am Somewhere, Nowhere, and Here.

Sunday, 15 January 2012

I once heard... About the compass that didn't point North

I once heard about a worn down compass that never pointed North.
In fact, where it pointed was relative to whoever held it in their palm.

They say it finally made its way to a small shop that sold pretty much anything and everything from old horseshoes made of "good energy" metal, to toy light sabers, to espresso machines, and even iPods.
It wasn't a very distinctive compass when it came to its appearance, made of cheap metal and plastic, nothing made it stand out. Its skinny needle sat in lightly tinted water that had developed a couple of air bubbles over time (something that had caused many a potential buyer to put it back with a grunt) and its dial was very simple, no ornamentation or decorative nature to it at all.

It really was a pretty basic, mundane compass. Except for the fact of course that it never pointed North.
No one really knew where it pointed, since it would change its direction depending on who held it, its needle teetering one way or the other slightly at ever exchange of hands.
Some blamed the air bubbles that floated around in its water, while others said it must have been put together in some far off country with no quality control, and some even blamed global warming (how this was relevant, no one knew, but there is always someone who blames global warming).

Magnets did not hinder it in any way either. All sorts of magnets were introduced to try and tamper with its curious way-finding to no avail. While other compasses went haywire under the pull of magnetism, this one simply kept pointing wherever it was pointing.

They say that on a dreary day in November, a young woman walked into the shop having passed it many times before, finally surrendering to her curiosity and her bizarre urge to rummage among its knick-knacks.
After picking up a few old movie posters and a piggy bank in the shape of an oversized gummy bear, she spotted the compass lying on a shelf collecting dust.

I heard that as she picked it up in her free hand, its needle spun around frantically for a few seconds before pointing somewhere, nowhere, not North.
They say the shop keeper warned her that it didn't work from behind his wiry spectacles, to which someone overheard her reply, "It has to point somewhere, right?" before making the purchase and leaving.

They say she followed the compass' needle many, many days. Some say it was over the course of a year, others say it was only a month. No one really is certain, and at the end of it all, it really didn't matter. It pointed her to different places and new faces, but always shifting slightly as though its destination had not been discovered. Of course, until she bumped into him.

Being taken by the compass' mystery, it's said she had become focused on its face, and one day while maneuvering her way along the streets of the city, head down (as she now had a habit of doing), bumped into a tall stranger. Apologising under her breath, they both carried on their separate ways, only for her to get an odd feeling, and to hastily notice the compass' needle swerve the complete opposite direction. She paused, slightly baffled, before changing her course which led her to a nearby café.
And in the café the compass led her to a table.
And sitting at the table was the tall stranger, a cup of coffee, and a book.
Not really aware of herself, she set the compass in the centre of the table, and sat across from him.

They say that she didn't need the compass to tell her where to go anymore.
No one knew why the compass had led her this way, no one asked, no one had to.
It was not the force of a magnet, or air bubbles, or global warming.
It was something else, and that was all anybody really knew. Nothing more.

I once heard of a compass that didn't point North but pointed somewhere else.
And of the young woman that wears it around her neck to remind her that she is exactly where she should be.