A Diamond’s Eye View of the World

a multi-faceted look at the middle east, and the middle west

Archive for the ‘art’ Category

Bleaching Beirut: Curtis Mann’s photo prints

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on April 8, 2009


This morning I happened upon the Boston Globe‘s review of a gallery exhibit with an intriguing premise:

Details erased, obscured, and bleached into a sea of white like the glaring desert sun can tell a story just as intriguing as one packed with information. Chicago artist Curtis … Mann’s [photo-based art] work is particularly searing. He downloads photos of sites of conflict taken by amateur photographers who have posted their images on Flickr. He drops his disk off at the drugstore and has prints made. Then he takes them home, coats pieces of them with varnish, and pours bleach over them in the sink. The bleach washes away the parts of an image not protected with varnish.

The results, jagged scenes that pop off pages of white shimmering into yellow and red, effectively convey landscapes stripped by battle. Mann has washed out some of the supports holding up the subject of “Building, Standing (Beirut),” [the piece shown above] so the crumbling structure barely holds itself up amid the unearthly white. Above, the sky is blue, bleached at the bottom edge to party-girl pink, smearing into the white.

Mann uses bleach as if it were paint, and his most ambitious piece, “After the Dust When You Come Over the Hill (Beirut),” has a gorgeous painterly quality in the way he uses his bleach and in the way the image flutters between representation and abstraction. The piece features 84 8-by-10-inch photos in a grid. The pink-fringed blue sky is a banner at the top; dry earth and rubble cross the bottom. In between, shards of photographs trail across the whiteness, as if a blast has just occurred and we’re in the pocket of silence and disbelief just afterward, with these shreds of images like shrapnel.

I want to like Mann’s work: the combination of ‘found’ images and artistic intervention to me is incredibly rich. But Beirut is more than merely a conflict zone, and I feel that his pieces, while visually striking, turn Lebanon into a deeply alien space.

I’m curious to know what you all, my US-, UK, Norway- (go figure), Lebanon-, Gulf-, and elsewhere-based readers, think. (More samples of Mann’s work can be found on his website.) Do these images speak to you?


Posted in art, Beirut | 1 Comment »

Everything gets better with olive oil

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on March 8, 2009

Its been one of those weekends: I brought work home, a semi-common occurrence, and have been dancing more or less efficiently between that and the usual thrilling mix of laundry, grocery-shopping, and other errands.

By mid-afternoon yesterday, I desperately needed to get away from the computer and to do something active. Well, semi-desperately: I didn’t find myself rushing off scrub the floor, for example, but I did find myself pulling out the bottle of “Copper Brite” that the Iowa Santa had put in my Christmas stocking.

I’ve mentioned my bargain brass table before, as well as my various efforts to restore it to shiny glory. I’ve polished it with polish and lemons, and it has gotten better looking with every bit of elbow grease. But it was more than time for another go with sweat and chemicals.

Here is the table half-way through the scrubbing process:


It looks like the table version of a “before and after” laundry soap ad, doesn’t it?

When I finished, I thought back to my aunt’s description of what women she has known do with their polished brass: rub it with olive oil.

Ordinarily, I would have googled “olive oil” and “brass” in advance, but this was a somewhat on-the-fly decision, and I hesitated to open my laptop with traces of Copper Brite on my fingers.

Feeling somewhat foolish, I washed my hands, grabbed my bottle of olive oil and a set of fresh paper towels, and began rubbing a thin coat on my table.

To be honest, it felt like a more metallic version of rubbing oil on the Thanksgiving turkey, which made me feel even sillier. But the table looks great, and I understand from my post-oiling google that the oil will help keep it from tarnishing again.

Brass: one more item made better with olive oil 🙂 .

Posted in Arab world, art, Brooklyn, home, time, women | 2 Comments »

the art of war

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 27, 2009

For the past several months, I have been resisting the urge to shop. Its easier than I thought: I’m parsimonious by nature, and the current size of my closet (small) and bookshelves (ditto) are further disincentives.

But Sporty Diamond turns 30 tomorrow, and in search of a treasure for her, I have been doing some serious hunting online. And since we have overlapping interests, shopping for a gift for her has led to some sideline searching for objects of interest to me. Its a slippery slope, as they say …

Thus I found myself the other day typing “Lebanon painting” into Ebay’s search engine – after, I must confess, first typing in “Beirut painting” (which produced one wan seascape) and “Damascus painting” (which produced nothing). When shopping, I take a spray the field approach.

What came up was this:


Its beautiful, isn’t it? Vibrant colors and a mountainscape, all for $6,499 + shipping. Would you like to know its title? The painting is called “Lebanon War 2”, and the artist is an Israeli man named Dan Rapaport. (You can see the full listing here.)

Rapaport has evidently done several pieces that reflect on the war, including an intellectually thoughtful but artistically naive sculpture depicting the exchange of rocket-fire through arrows and the war’s net effect through the number zero. (You can also purchase this sculpture on Ebay.)

This isn’t a negative post: I’m certainly not against Israeli artists reflecting on the 2006 war. But it does return me to a question I had after watching Waltz With Bashir, whose soundtrack featured something totally new to me several songs with a Lebanon theme. I don’t know anything about the degree to which the Lebanon invasion and occupation has become a theme in Israeli art and music, and I would greatly appreciate tips on where I might go to learn more.

Posted in advertising, art, Beirut, Israel, Lebanon | 1 Comment »

the mechanical Turk

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 19, 2009

I’ve been on an Ottoman kick recently, as you may have noticed. One of my more recent Ottoman jags started with a magazine’s casual reference to Amazon’s work-for-hire service, “Mechanical Turk“. The site, whose motto is “Artificial Artificial Intelligence”, connects employers and independent contractors willing to do online tasks that require human, rather than machine, intelligence for piecework rates.

Amazon’s enterprise is always interesting, but what made me curious was the name. What is a mechanical Turk, and why is it Turkish?

Since I was on Amazon’s website anyway, I turned to its book offerings, and found:


It turns out that the “mechanical Turk” was a machine designed by an Austrian tinkerer and scientist in the late 1700s – a time when machines that could simulate some aspect of animal or human life were apparently all the rage at Europe’s courts. On the more charming side was a torso of a boy playing the flute, whose wind-up gears actually produced a flute-like sound. On the less charming side was a replica of a duck, whose primary enchantment was that when fed, his wind-up gears took the food through the process of digestion, including the excretions at the end. Ugh.

The mechanical Turk was something else – more impressive than any other machine of its day, because it seemed to be able to think. The machine (see image on the book cover above) was a large contraption: a semi-solid table, which housed the machine’s gears, and the figure of an Ottoman Turk. What the machine did was to play chess.

I’m not much of a chess player, but apparently the ability to play chess is one litmus test for machine intelligence, because chess requires strategic thinking. In other words, the mechanical Turk seemed to possess artificial intelligence.

What we know now – and what Amazon’s Mechanical Turk plays with – is that the machine’s gears were just for show. A person hid inside the box and manipulated the Ottoman Turk’s arm to make each chess move – meaning that this artificial intelligence was really human intelligence supported by artifice.

I don’t have anything insightful to say about the science side of this story, and I’m not too impressed by the mechanical Turk’s creator. Why didn’t he put his skills to work designing a machine that did work, even if it couldn’t play chess? I found myself wondering as I read the book.

Maybe that question shows my own lack of imagination – or my own hidebound morality. In any case, what really interests me is why he decided to make the figure Turkish – why not dress him as a fellow Austrian, or even another European?

I think I know the answer: the Ottoman Empire was Austria’s historic rival. An Ottoman Turk must have appeared a much more intimidating competitor than a Frenchman, or even a British subject. From the descriptions that cropped up in the book, however, it also made him seem much more alien – and maybe a bit sinister.

Here is one example:

An article [published in 1820] in the [London-based] New Monthly Magazine … proclaimed that “this cunning infidel (for he assumes the figure of a Turk) drives kings, and castles, and knights before him with more than moral sagacity, and with his inferior hand; and, except in a very few instances of drawn games, has beaten the most skillful chess-players in Europe.” (p. 128)

Ah, infidel – one of my favorite, we’re-all-cousins-under-Abraham, words.

Here is another, taken from the mechanical Turk’s tour of Philadelphia, Boston, and New York in the 1830s:

Silas Weir Mitchell, a Philadelphia doctor who attended Maelzel’s show as a child, later recallted that “the Turk, with his oriental silence and rolling eyes, would haunt your nightly visions for many an evening thereafter.” (p. 172)

Glad to see that we Americans were so free of stereotypes. If the figure had been dressed as an Austrian, would Dr. Mitchell have referred to his “Tyrolean silence”, do you think?

Posted in Americans, art, construction, religion, research, time, Turkey | 1 Comment »

Beirut: banding together

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on February 10, 2009

One of the many events currently taking place in New York’s busy cultural scene is a music festival called “Sounds Like Brooklyn“, which features musicians from – yes, you guessed it – Brooklyn. And the headliner band, which played a concert this past weekend, is called Beirut.

The first time I heard of this band was – appropriately enough – in Beirut, during drinks at Bardo. An incredibly lush piece came over the sound system (a nice break from the usual music played there) and B, whose blushing description of meeting his girlfriend’s parents belied my friend A’s description of him as “a total rogue”, smiled and said, That’s Beirut.

The song was “Scenic World”, and the lyrics are actually quite depressing – but the music is stunning. (You can listen to it here.) Does it sound Lebanese? Not at all – and that’s the rub.

Beirut-the-band has no connection to Beirut-the-city. No Lebanese musicians, no Lebanese musical influences, although the group does claim a strong interest in Balkan harmonies. I wish there were a deeper connection – as do the numerous journalists who have asked Zach Condon, the band’s founder, to explain its name. Perhaps its the fault of youth: Condon was only 18 or 20 when he chose the name, and (thanks perhaps to beer pong?) he seems to have thought nothing more than: “sounds cool”.

Of all the articles I found that addressed the group’s name, this one – a feature in the August 6, 2006 issue of New York Magazine – made me the saddest. I know where I was on August 6, 2006, and I know how I felt about “the Beirut situation”.

Here’s what Condon had to say:

Condon’s band has grown to ten members—just in time, it would seem, to defend its name. “You know, it’s ironic,” he says, addressing the “Beirut situation” before a rehearsal in his Bushwick loft. (Spackle covers everything, including the pots and pans. He and his roommates are trying to build individual bungalows, maybe buy a pool table.) “One of the reasons I named the band after that city was the fact that it’s seen a lot of conflict. It’s not a political position. I worried about that from the beginning. But it was such a catchy name. I mean, if things go down that are truly horrible, I’ll change it. But not now. It’s still a good analogy for my music. I haven’t been to Beirut, but I imagine it as this chic urban city surrounded by the ancient Muslim world. The place where things collide.”

I still like “Scenic World”, but I’ll wait to hear Beirut play live until they do a bit more research into their city.

Posted in Americans, Arab world, Arabic, art, beer, Beirut, Brooklyn, Israel, media, music, news, words | Leave a Comment »

Waving the flag

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 30, 2009

This week has been one inordinately rich in flag imagery. On Wednesday, B kindly pointed me to this article from Now Lebanon, about a new “Arab Islamic Resistance Party” founded as a Shia alternative to Hizbullah. The party, which seems to have come out of nowhere, burst on to the scene last week with the claim that it has over 3,000 armed fighters, and that it might – it suggests coyly – have had something to do with the rockets fired into Israel during its bloody Gaza invasion.

Despite the press coverage, AIR-P (my suggested acronym) is having trouble getting itself taken seriously. Even Now Lebanon, which slavishly supports any non-Hizbullah Shia group, titled the article “Party of Odd”. As for Hizbullah (which translates to “Party of God”), its spokespeople have had nothing to say. As the article states:

Despite the Arab Islamic Resistance’s open and vocal opposition to Hezbollah, the Party of God has remained silent. They have not threatened Husseini as they are accused of doing to other anti-Hezbollah Shia politicians and religious figures. A Hezbollah press spokeswoman told NOW the party had no comment on Husseini or his new Resistance.

I don’t think AIR-P requires threats. In this case, I imagine that silence equals pity. The chattering class of Lebanese political commentators seem to have had much the same reaction:

Resistance watchers – analysts, authors and journalists – contacted by NOW said they’d never heard of Husseini and found it strange it took a television interview to bring a 3,000-strong actively-training force to come to light. Wouldn’t someone have noticed them earlier, was the resounding refrain.

As the author finally concludes:

it was quite a challenge finding people who knew much about Husseini.

“I doubt his wife supports him,” one religious leader said, after making yet another phone call on the ancient Panasonic fax machine at his side to a colleague in search of information on Husseini. In fact, interview after interview ended with the same conclusion: This is mostly talk.

The only person who seems to take AIR-P seriously sounds like a total oddball:

One person contacted for this article, Sam Bazzi, a Lebanese living in America who runs a website that monitors terrorist activities, claimed Husseini’s money comes from Iran and that he is, in fact, an undercover Hezbollah agent.


As far as B and I are concerned, the best part about AIR-P is its flag:


Where to begin?

First, the new resistance is partly armed with a pencil. As a writer, I am a strong believer in the idea that the pen is mightier than the sword. But a pencil? In the age of computers, this seems seriously retrograde. Also, this pencil has no eraser. Is AIR-P infallible?

And – not to quibble – the pencil and the gun are the same size. AIR-P is either planning to resist with one giant pencil or one very small gun.

Ah, the gun. I’m not an expert, but that looks much more like a M16 (American assault rifle) than an AK-47 (Kalashnikov). What self-respecting resistance uses U.S.-made weapons?

Next, the lettering. This script to me looks like the Arabic equivalent of bubble letters. I don’t find anything fierce, strong, upright, or resistant about those rounded qaffs and taa marboutas – they look like they belong on a twelve year-old girl’s school notebook.

Finallt, the rose dripping blood. Leaving aside the fact that the rose should also be red (historically, a yellow rose means happiness and/or friendship), the red of the blood means that this flag is a three-color print job – which is much more costly than a two-color job. As a budding resistance movement facing a tough economic climate, shouldn’t AIR-P focus on demonstrating fiscal prudence?

AIR-P is the most entertaining resistance movement that Lebanon has had in some time – or at least since Wiam Wahhab faded back into the woodwork. I can’t wait for Husseini’s next interview.

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Arabic, art, Beirut, friends, Lebanon, politics, research, rumors, vanity, words | 2 Comments »

Waltz with Bashir

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 24, 2009

I’ve been meaning to write about Waltz with Bashir for the past two weeks or so, but my good intentions have gone nowhere. Thank goodness for my friend N, who had a piece about its screening at a Beirut non-profit in this past week’s Variety:

Lebanese auds have finally been able to “Waltz With Bashir” despite the fact that Israeli helmer Ari Folman’s Oscar-nommed pic is officially banned in the country.

UMAM, an org that archives Lebanon’s history and war memory through written and audiovisual materials, screened the film at its cultural center, a restored warehouse in a southern suburb of Beirut that is home to Hezbollah’s headquarters.

UMAM’s name is derived from the Arabic word for “nations.”

Banned by the censorship board of Lebanon’s Security Directorate, Ari Folman’s film also passed under the radar of Hezbollah at the semi-private Jan . 17 screening, to which 40 people were invited by the nonprofit org but about 90 attended.

(You can read the rest of the article here.)

I’m not surprised that there was so much interest in the film, but I would love to have heard what viewers said about it afterwards. For me, the biggest shock was partly self-induced: I had been thinking of Waltz as a film about Lebanon. But it isn’t: its a film about Israel, in which Lebanon is merely a foil for national reflection.

Its an interesting film, although “documentary” is not the word I would have chosen for it. Folman plays with the backgrounds of the people he interviews – some are reproduced faithfully, putting them in normal contexts that suggest their professional or domestic worlds, while others are not. The ones whose backgrounds are not reproduced appear to be in prison, or perhaps a hospital – which they are not. In other words, Folman’s choice regarding what to include or exclude from the interviewee’s surroundings frames how the viewer interprets his or her words.

Nor is the history told fully accurate. For example, there is an extended sequence at the Beirut airport, which shows it occupied exclusively by Israelis. As an American, I consider this a historical injustice: when Folman was there, the U.S. Marines were very much a presence at the airport.

In another sequence, repeated several times throughout the movie, Folman “remembers” walking through a group of chadored, mourning women. This makes no sense, historically or geographically: in 1982 women in chadors were not roaming the streets of Ramlet el-Baida. His “memory” reflects his own inability to separate later fears of Iran and Hizbullah from actual history; which is fine, except that as a documentarian he should frame his narrative more carefully – i.e., more accurately.

(FYI: small spoiler alert ahead)

Those of you who have read the reviews and/or seen the movie know that it ends with actual footage of Sabra and Shatila, post-massacre. I don’t find this a terribly compelling cinematic choice: the footage is early 1980s, and as grainy and choppy as war footage of that era seems to have been. Also, it was clearly filmed after the massacre was known, so while the mourning is real, the immediacy of shock has been lost. (I’m leaving aside here my comments on the totally rubbish portrayal of the Israeli role in this, in which the massacre stops because a heroic Israel commander finally drives up to the camp and yells at the Kataeb through a bullhorn.)

The camera follows several women as they walk through the camp, crying at the loss. Palestinian women, speaking – unsurprisingly – in Arabic.

Yet my latest copy of the New Yorker notes that the film is “In Hebrew, German, and English.” When the characters speak in Hebrew, their words are subtitled in English. When they speak German (don’t ask), their words are subtitled in English. When they speak English, obviously, there are no subtitles.

And when the women speak in Arabic?

No subtitles – and no sign from any U.S. media critic that this is an injustice. But it is: the lack of translation reduces these women from mourning women to screaming animals, with meaningless noises.

What they say is actually very interesting: they speak directly to the camera, and ask: Where are the Arabs? Why is it only foreigners here? And they tell the cameraman: Film this; film all of this.

Folman makes several irresponsible decisions as a “documentarian”, but for me this is the worst of all. By choosing not to translate their words, he denies them – the victims of a massacre the Israeli Army helped perpetuate – their voice. And he confirms that this is not a film about Lebanon.

Posted in animals, art, Beirut, film, Israel, Lebanon, Palestine, women | 8 Comments »

Lebanon envy: the “Lighting Lamps” exhibit

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on January 2, 2009

If I were in Lebanon this week, I know what would be on my calendar: a fantastic exhibit of Arab cartoonists. “Lighting Lamps: Cartoons from the Arab World” will be at LAU Beirut January 8-18, after which it moves north to Tripoli for another short run (where, I do not know, although I imagine Balamand).

Editorial cartoonists, as they are called in the U.S., have a very important role to play. They use satire and other forms of humor to make people think: about world events, about local injustices, about hypocrisy. Lebanon is very lucky to have this exhibit – and if you are in Lebanon now, you are very lucky to be able to see it (and I am very envious of you!).

A sample of the cartoons you are likely to see – this one by the very courageous Ali Ferzat:


Here’s the review from the Guardian, which hosted the exhibit in its news offices this past summer:

It could be an airport security check or a border crossing and the subject could be anyone — a heavily-moustachioed everyman patiently opening his suitcase for inspection while an armed, elaborately-uniformed guard peers instead deep into the traveller’s brain, which is hinged open absurdly across his bowed head.

The image is a universal one but it has a special resonance across the Arab world. Its creator, Syrian Ali Ferzat, is the doyen of Arab cartoonists, justly famed for highlighting the absurdities, miseries and injustices of daily life. And the drawing’s the thing: no words or captions are necessary to make his point.

Ferzat, one of the stars of Lighting Lamps, a new exhibition at the Guardian’s Newsroom, has produced thousands of silent cartoons that speak volumes by lampooning corrupt leaders, torture, venality and oppression — yet (with some gaps) has still managed to carry on working in a political environment where creativity, wit and strongly-held views do not always sit happily together.

Other cartoonists from Egypt, Jordan, Palestine, Lebanon and Saudi Arabia may be blunter. But all tiptoe to some degree around the sensitivities of regimes which will tolerate mild criticism of social and economic issues — and hostility to Israel and America — but do not hesitate to censor and punish when domestic taboos are tackled.

On their home turf, Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad, President Hosni Mubarak of Egypt are never caricatured like Gordon Brown, George Bush or Nicolas Sarkozy. The authoritarian Arab republics have made lese-majeste a crime, as it is in monarchical Saudi Arabia, Jordan and Morocco. Steve Bell, the Guardian cartoonist, worked with the participants in this exhibition. But none have produced the equivalent of John Major wearing his underpants outside his trousers.

Mustafa Hussein, a veteran of Egypt’s semi-official al-Akhbar newspaper, deploys his caustic talent to expose the multiple failures of the state — over unemployment, price rises, bread queues and sheer inefficiency — that exploded into riots earlier this year. Hussein’s cartoons are wry and troubling images in a country where the gap between rich and poor has never felt so wide and the sense of stagnation in the political system is crippling to the point of paralysis.

Jordan’s Imad Hajjaj takes well-aimed potshots at western power in the Middle East, drawing bloodstained Christmas stockings for the suffering children of Palestine and Iraq and a fine rear view of George Bush and Osama bin Laden milking the cow of the 9/11 attacks for all it is worth. His Wedding Security cartoon is a poignant take on the al-Qaida suicide bombings that killed 60 innocent wedding guests in Amman in 2005. Israel, as ever, is a source of anger and resentment: one recent Hajjaj cartoon portrays Barack Obama declaring Jerusalem the capital of Israel — while collecting a shower of banknotes marked with a Star of David.

Jalal al-Rifai, a Palestinian-born cartoonist with Jordan’s ad-Dustour, also keeps up withering eye on the Americans in Iraq and Israel in the Palestinian territories. But he is renowned too for tackling unemployment and poverty, favouritism, the use of connections (“wasta”) and malpractice in the public sector. Zan Studio (Amer Shomali and Basel Nasr) in the West Bank town of Ramallah focus sharply on the conflict on their doorstep — producing bold graphics in support of ending the occupation and pressuring Israel.

Lebanon’s Armand Homsi, who works mostly for the Beirut daily an-Nahar, takes a darkly humorous view of the volatile confessional and political divisions that have seen assassinations, sectarian incitement and fears of a return to open civil war. Yazeed Alharthi from Saudi Arabia stays closest to the “safety zone” drawn up by the British Council sponsors of this exhibition — looking exclusively at “soft” social issues such as marriage, charity and conspicuous consumption. Politics and religion do not even get a look in in that most conservative and deferential of Arab societies.

It’s a reasonably representative selection, though it would also have been good to see some of the recent cartoons from Morocco and Algeria condemning takfiri terrorism as a distortion of Islam and criticism of the clergy’s acquiescence in the face of violence.

Lighting Lamps grew out of the British Council’s four-year Media in Society project, designed to improve “the effectiveness of the media in raising awareness of key social issues” in six Arab countries. Iraq was unable to take part because of the security situation.

Rereading this review’s description of the cartoonists and their work as I paste it in to this blog post makes me envious all over again. If you are in Beirut or Tripoli, please make a point of stopping by this exhibition. These artists are very brave, and their work does a great service to society.

Posted in advertising, Arab world, Arabic, art, citizenship, humor, politics | Leave a Comment »

Ottomans on the Mall

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on December 14, 2008

Earlier this month I heard a fascinating talk on Islamic calligraphy given at New York’s Asia Society by the very well known American calligrapher Mohamed Zakariya. Zakariya spoke passionately and humanely about calligraphy – from the visual joy of seeing Arabic-script calligraphy start to experiment with spacing (rather than cramming letters all together) in the 15th century, to his house-clearing effort to make fixative by boiling snails.

But for me one of the most richly intriguing tidbits I left the museum with was the fact that the Washington Monument has Ottoman calligraphy in it.

Why? Because building the monument was expensive, and after the first few years, the money that the “Washington National Monument Society” raised for the foundation and initial construction had run out. In order to continue building, the Society in 1849 began soliciting donations – not so much of money, but of stone. The Society asked for donations from various state governments – “states” in the American sense and “states” in the foreign country sense – and along with their building stones, the donors often included commemorative plaques.  The Ottoman Empire, whose leaders were heavily engaged in trying to reform and modernize its government, economy, and society, was one of the donors. (You can read more about this history and the domestic controversies it generated at the Washington Monument’s official website.)

On the Monument’s official website, the Ottoman Empire is listed as the “Country of Turkey” – perhaps an early indication of Americans’ weakness in geography. You can see the beautiful Ottoman commemorative plaque here. And if you visit Washington, D.C., you can see the plaque in person by taking the daily walking tour, which takes visitors down the Monument step by step, past each of the donor plaques.

Posted in advertising, Americans, Arabic, art, research, time | 3 Comments »

lemony Levantine treasures

Posted by adiamondinsunlight on November 9, 2008

H is away this weekend, so I decided to put my solo time to good use and finish up a few loose ends – including the final polishing of my Middle Eastern junk shop treasure.

My aunt had recommended using lemons and salt, which she described as a Palestinian method. But I remember watching Med polish a brass astrolabe (yep, that’s right: an astrolabe. our friendship is a celebration of geek-ness.) with sour naranjes taken from the naranj tree in her backyard. So perhaps it is also a Syrian method – or maybe just the normal historical method for dealing with brass.

The fruits & veggie bakkala I frequent had a a four-for-one-dollar special on lemons yesterday morning, which I took as a good sign. And of course I had plenty of salt.

My new-old (and eco-friendly) cleaning products, ready for use:


Polishing is hard, hard work – but doing it with lemon and salt smelled a whole lot better than doing it with brass polish.

After about forty minutes, I had eight squeezed-out lemon halves, a living room floor peppered with salt, two rejuvenated hands (lemon juice is supposed to be good for your skin), and one super-shiny brass tray.

The photo I took unfortunately doesn’t do it justice – I was going for “moody” with the flash but instead produced a “my home is a cave” effect. But the tray is beautiful beautiful beautiful – and full of Vitamin C, besides.


Posted in Americans, Arab world, art, Canadians, Damascus, family, friends, home, Palestine, Syria, women, words | 1 Comment »