Cross-stitch - part II

Finally, one dress is starting to come together. It took a while until we could get some sort of result, as it was required to try some colour combinations and patterns before actually starting with the real thing. I must say, it was not easy!

You might think that by picking out some matching colours, you would have a perfect dress, but it turns out that these colours do not translate on canvas exactly the way you first see them. I've realised that it takes a real expert to tell you if these colours will make a nice dress or not, and, which colour should dominate and which should be used in very small amounts.

What is so special about having a dress made by one of these Palestinian women is that you really feel that every stitch is made with ultimate sincerity and care. They are all mothers and housewives, gathering every early morning in this special place to work on different embroidered items. They are very underpaid (due to the difficult financial situation), and yet they put their sweat and tears into their work.

The woman working on my dress now is very kind-hearted. She has blue-green eyes, and a smile that never fades. She tries her best to create what I want, and her efforts are so tremendous. I feel very appreciative.

Now back to our progress...

After lengthy discussions about how the dress should be made, the woman in charge told my mother and I that she would call as soon as she had something ready. So, we waited.

Last week, she asked us to go visit. It's still in pieces and the embroidery is not quite done yet, but I can see where it's going now.


Stay with me for more progress in the parts to come.


I should say that if it was not for Leila El Khalidi's book entitled The Art of Palestinian Embroidery, I would not have known what I know now about Palestinian Embroidery. I highly recommend that you read it if you can. In the book, she researches embroidery and reflects on her own personal experience. Inevitably, politics also have their share. It is a very comprehensive book, containing many old pictures and illustrations of old dresses and folk appellations.

For those who don't know her, Leila El Khalidi is a very prominent woman in Palestinian society. She has worked in many establishments dedicated to Palestinian Folklore and is now working in the non-profit field in Amman.


Rhapsody in Blue!

What triggered me to write this post was a story a fellow blogger posted on his blog a few days ago. I'm so glad this happened, since what you are about to read in this post still fascinates me everytime.

As a child, Disney's "Fantasia" was one of my all time favorites. Due to my mother's passion for music, we always enjoyed very musical cartoons, and she'd be watching and humming along with us. I still enjoy watching it till this day, and thanks to the post I read, I now watched my ultimate favorite sketch again.

If you don't know about "Fantasia", it is a wonderful project where some of the greatest masterpieces in classical music are combined with Disney cartoons. If you watch it, you will see cartoon sketches, accompanied by a live orchestra led by a conductor who moves in complete harmony with the cartoons. At some point, you would not know which one accompanies the other, they are totally in sync. The creators of "Fantasia" describe this as an attempt to interpret these great musical masterpieces in a way which suits the cartoons. I think it's genius.

Again, because of that post I read which talked about how robotic and banal a person's life can be, I decided to share my favorite "Fantasia" cartoon. It tells the story of four different characters, who each dream about a different life but can't escape reality. One character, I found, was very similar to what the blogger described in his story.
Life can get so monotonous and we can almost measure our steps with our eyes closed. You will be able to see that in this cartoon throughout the various elements mimicking daily routine.

Lastly and before you see the cartoon, I should mention the accompanying music. What was chosen for this cartoon was Gershwin's  Rhapsody in Blue - written in the 1920's. I first heard Rhapsody in Blue as a child in this cartoon. I then went on studying the composer later (while I studied music) and grew to love the piece even more. I was even lucky enough to see a live performance of it. Why this piece for this sketch? Because all the instruments are echoing the monotony in the story. Make sure to lisen for that while you watch.

Before composing Rhapsody in Blue Gershwin said: "It was on the train, with its steely rhythms, its rattle-ty bang, that is so often so stimulating to a composer – I frequently hear music in the very heart of the noise... And there I suddenly heard, and even saw on paper – the complete construction of the Rhapsody, from beginning to end. No new themes came to me, but I worked on the thematic material already in my mind and tried to conceive the composition as a whole. I heard it as a sort of musical kaleidoscope of America, of our vast melting pot, of our unduplicated national pep, of our blues, our metropolitan madness."

... and now for the interpreted version of Rhapsody in Blue. I hope you appreciate it the same way I do!

*Note that the funny-looking character playing the piano half way along the cartoon is a caricature of Gershwin himself!
*The orchestra isn't visible here, as the scene has been omitted. The music you hear though is a live accompaniment of the cartoon!



Criminal Cats!

This got me laughing to bits. A friend with whom I share my obsession with cats sent this to me last night. I guess you'll have to be a crazy cat lover to laugh at this joke!

Click on the link:


Enjoy it!

Finding Nemo!

Last month, I went diving in the Red Sea with my family. As an inside joke, we called the diving trip "Finding Nemo". It was my father's attempt to lighten up the atmosphere; I was about to choke.

Before going into the sea, we listened to very detailed explanations by the professional divers who took us on the trip. There are many things to be aware of if you want to dive. You need to know how to use and adjust all the equipment you're wearing very swiftly, because you will constantly need to do that under water. If you don't, then you will not be able to fight back the water attacking your eyes, nose and mouth and impeding your movement. You also won't be able to adjust the level you are diving at, which might result in you colliding with coral and therefore destroying it.

A series of very short and simple gestures made under water serve as communication. Body language really means nothing down there. We learnt four gestures made by hand; Im ok, I'm not ok, I need to go to the surface, I need to go deeper down. Those were more than enough to communicate our needs. Another challenge we needed to know about was the pressure applied by the water onto our ears. That is why we were constantly reminded to equalize by closing our noses and blowing inwards until our ears opened up again.

Before going down, we practiced breathing from the oxygen cylinders through our mouths. This was not easy at all. All of these sudden changes to your breathing can cause a panic attack, which in turn causes you to hyperventilate. The very loud bubbles caused by exhalation under water can also make you panic. Once you get that under control, your whole body will start to relax.

So after getting used to that for a while, we took off!

 I cannot deny that I was feeling terrified most of the time. Just minutes before, I was on the ground, surrounded by air, then I found myself about 10 to 12 meters under water, breathing through a cylinder!

We were told that the water naturally magnifies everything. That means fish will look bigger than they actually are, and so we should not be afraid at all. Since water will magnify everything, the professional divers told us that it will be very easy for them to detect whether or not we feel scared, because our dilated pupils will instantly indicate that. My sister exploded with laughter (and swallowed water) when she looked into my pupils (which she said looked huge), but I was too busy feeling scared to laugh at hers.

Moving under water is very difficult. Any attempt to swim using your arms will not get you anywhere. You should swim using only your legs alternating in an up - down motion. Although we struggled a little with that and with other things as well, we still managed to explore sea life. I sat down next to that fish which looks like a snake (I felt like my life would end there and then). It had a large smiling clown-like face- although this could completely be one of my hallucinations! We saw beautiful coral, and amazing coloured fish. It was such a fantastic experience!

Before we knew it, the journey came to an end. We were slowly guided back and in no time above water again. Though for a very brief time, I felt like I visited another world. I went on thinking of how extraordinary it is that all this lies under there. We would only need to dive under the sea and many wonders will unfold!


The Gazan Tunnel Rats

So little is being said when it comes to Gaza's recovery after the war. With a population coming up to 3 million now, and with huge growth and birth rates, Gaza is solely depending on aid arriving through the tunnels dug underneath the border with Egypt, and on the insufficient aid arriving through the UN, due to strict Israeli border control.

Click on the link below to watch an Australian reportage on tunnel traffic in Gaza. I hope this tragic matter catches the attention of people everywhere, as it is not that easy to know what really goes on.



The Imagined Mind

While I was in London, I attended an intruiging workshop entitled 'The Imagined Mind', which took place at the London School of Economics. This was part of the Literary Festival organised by the school. I thought the panel was very interesting. The speakers had different backgrounds, but they all played an essential role in helping to understand the topic. There was a bestselling author, an anthropologist, a psychologist and a psychoanalyst.

The workshop revolved around two basic questions : Can there be an actual connection between what is imagined and what is real in the human mind? and, Is there a link between our world as percieved through scientific knowledge and our world as percieved through fiction?

I was bewildered! I've always been a lover of the beautiful imagery in literature, which often comes from imagination. Could this possibly be anything beyond just only fiction? Or better yet, could it actually have an actual role in real life?

That would be an ultimate dream for me.

It is said that there is a direct link between childhood and imagination. Usually, it is thought that children don't have a real grasp on reality, but some experts think it is just the opposite. Some even feel that, by imagining things that are not real, children can actually develop moral awarness. For example, if a child imagines the severe consequences of doing what he or she was strictly forbidden to do, then he or she would not do it in the first place. Imagination can help children tell right from wrong!
Most importantly, and this I found particularly interesting, the panel questioned whether childhood is real. They said it is both. A child usually has the wildest of imaginations, and only becomes realistic much later. After all, who can guarentee that everything they remember from their childhood is real? It could simply be an exaggerated image and nothing more. I remember once thinking that I was about to be kidnapped by a builder when I was very little. I rushed back to my family and claimed that he had started to attack my sister, cousin and myself, but then  he decided that he felt sorry for us in the end. I was just a little girl, nothing more or less, and this could easily be coming from my dynamic imagination as a child. I can never tell now if this was actually true! Was I about to be kidnapped or not?
So childhood is both real and unreal.

Unto the second question, regarding science and fiction and the link between them. The panel said that science and the imagination go together. They invited people to not get stuck in the idea of seperating them from eachother. Not only that, they said that language and fiction can help understand the human mind when science falls short! Some even felt that fiction is superior. Here is why: science nowadays has become so advanced in analysing the wonders of the human mind, but that can never replace the role of language, which communicates images inside the mind to the outer world. In evidence of that being true, the author on the panel explained how he was able to understand the mind of his challenged brother through writing a novel about what it was like growing up together. In ways, that could also help his readers understand his own mind.

Fascinating, isn't it?

After this workshop I was left to ponder on my own. I was so taken by the idea of mixing the real with the unreal, and by the power of imagery. Now, when I read literature and plunge into its imagery, I find that it helps me discover how genius, sane or insane the writer is, and more importantly, it gives me hints about what that writer is like. Just as eyes are a window to the soul, words are a window to the mind.


The Fun Theory

I have stumbled upon the most delightful thing!

Have you heard of The Fun Theory? If not, then you should definitely check it out!

The website is self - explanatory, but the whole concept is basically to make things more fun to do, so that  people's behaviour can be improved.  I can't believe how simple yet incredibly creative this is!

My personal favorite was the staircase turned into a piano. Check and see why that was done!

Here is the link: http://thefuntheory.com/

Enjoy and tell me what you think!