Saturday, May 12, 2007

Magritte and me

And Bjork, Tina Brown, Goldie Hawn and Voltaire! All born on November 21st.

All Scorpios,

and therefore

'a unique mix of playfulness and passion. Although [we] can light up a room with our sunny personalit[ies], [we] are also determined, deep, and ambitious. [We] will often deliberate on a problem for some time, and then ignore our analyses and jump into a decision impulsively. Our desires are deep, and [we] want to experience life on all levels. No one can rightfully label [us] superficial!'

(Ok, enough of the []s!)

Also, there's the little matter of 'Sun Conjunct Toliman.

This fixed star has a Venus-Jupiter influence, and suggests we have a great love of freedom, we make friends easily, we possess strength of character, we have refined tastes, and we are tenacious and determined. Enviousness is a potential downfall when expressed negatively. Our spiritual growth is important to us, and we revel in learning the lessons of experience and of life itself.'


'Our progressed Sun enters Aquarius at age 60. The ages of 59 to 61 mark a critical turning point in the development of our personalities. We become more humanitarian, somewhat detached, and independent. Some may become self-righteous and fixed during this phase, while others learn to detach themselves from situations and loosen up. We kick up our heels and enjoy life with a certain level of detachment and confidence that we hadn't discovered before this time.'


'Born on the 21st day of the month, which reduces to a 3, we radiate warmth, enthusiasm, and good cheer, and others are instinctively drawn to us. We enjoy people immensely, and we light up a room when we enter it. We are entertaining and charming conversationalists, always ready for a good time, and we thrive on conviviality. Factoring in the 11th month of November, we are number 5s, suggesting that we are multi-talented and we have an unmistakable independent streak.'

Hmmmm........... It doesn't sound bad, does it? My mother always said I was wonderful. I like the bit about turning 60!

Just one thing. There's a breakdown of levels and types of attraction. Here's Habibi and me:

'On-again, off-again attraction. This is a complex connection, and you make an odd yet interested (ing?) couple. April 17-21, June 17-21, October 20-24, December 20-24'

Double Hmmmm........... Sounds like married life to me!

And where did I find all this? Drop into Cafe Astrology, fellow traveller, and see for yourself!
Then again, there's this version, but it obviously only applies to men!
On the other hand, given that I'm job-hunting at the start of a new life (and Hilaroscope is a Spanish website - Is it a sign?!?!?!), perhaps I should consider their recommendations, you know? Get out of the rut? Forget conventional wisdom, and pursue something I have a real affinity for?
How to maximise my potential, that's the question.
Politician, banker, entrepreneur or assassin?
I'll have to think about it.

Me and Magritte

I came across a print of 'The Human Condition', by Rene Magritte, in a textbook recently. I can't say that I like it, exactly, but it strikes me as a a visual metaphor for blogging. I did an online search. Voila.

Here's a variation, which reminds me of Edward Hopper's sunnier work.

I liked these very much.

And how about this as a cross between a medieval painting, and a Harvey Nicks Christmas window?

Friday, May 11, 2007

A la Recherche des Taxis Perdus

I find that the process of leaving feels similar to the process of settling. Our imminent departure re-invests the now familiar landscape and personnel of daily life with all the vivid detail it had in the early years; storing faces and places, stirring memories and inviting comparisons. We’ve been here almost thirteen years, and in a few weeks we’ll be gone. Coo!

When we first arrived here from England, everything was new, strange, and full of promise, and I soaked up all the details of my new environment. Riding through Karama, Satwa and Jumeirah with a tourist map open beside me, en route for the personal landmarks of Habibi’s office, Habibibaba’s school, the British Council, Magrudy’s, Jumeirah Beach and Creekside Park, I took in the grid layout of compounds and apartment buildings, punctuated by pastel-toned villas plonked on sandy lots like shopping bags dumped on a kitchen floor; I squinted at street signs, perplexed by the incomprehensible numbering system, and intrigued by the complexities of names like ‘Al Ittihad Street’, ‘Al Wasl Road’ and ‘Khaled bin Al Waleed Street’. What did ittihad and wasl mean? Who was Khaled bin Al Waleed? What a sense of achievement came from getting my mouth around these, and being understood! Then there was the next level, learning the ‘real’ names, all based on landmarks or a concentration of activity: Irani Hospital Road, Bank Street, the plant souk, computer souk, Bidet Roundabout, Budgie Roundabout, Defence Roundabout, Satwa Racetrack etc. One day, to my surprise, the straggling web of one-way streets resolved itself into a mental map of a familiar town that was quite lot smaller than it had first appeared – the way a film always seems much shorter, the second time you watch it.

Since then, of course, the town has expanded into a city, and outgrown pet-names. Ramada Roundabout has become a crossroads, Abela Supermarket, whose memory lingered as Old Abela Supermarket through a couple of incarnations – Habitat & a Natural Health Supermarket – conjures up a time and atmosphere, rather than a T junction on Al Wasl Road, and as for Defence Roundabout, notable for its distinctive cruciform, and a definite military……. absence….., that’s Intersection 2!

We’ve also seen the closure of the small private cab companies and one-man operations, and the development of a centrally controlled, metered taxi network employing thousands of men to work twelve-hour shifts. I’m a big fan of road-worthy, air-conditioned vehicles, and most of the drivers are nice guys, but you don’t get the best out of a driver who’s underpaid, tired and stressed. I used to sit in the front seat because I like an unobstructed view and I like to chat, but these days, it’s more like riding shotgun. Unfavourite experiences on a 10-12 lane highway at 120 km/ph: tailgating; ‘precision’ overtaking, mobile phone use; the driver with one hand on the wheel and the other supporting his eyelids; having the radio on really loud to keep him awake.

Ah, I remember the olden days.

Taxis were safer back then, when they couldn’t get out of second gear without the engine falling out. I remember acetate silk roses, velour dashboard covers and gilded plastic tissue box covers offsetting the general grime of the interiors. Wind-down air-conditioning. Concave seating. Maroon vinyl and transparent plastic. Grey sheepskin on the back sill. The family photos tucked behind the sunshade. I remember conversations with men who’d been here for years, about home, family, and other taxi drivers (‘Too many Irani’ confides the Afghan; ‘Too many Afghani.’ the Iranian grins.). I remember the richly textured olfactory adventure of hot rubber, hot oil, ancient vinyl, carbon monoxide, mildew, My Shaldan in Citron, Rose or Strawberry, and the accumulation of years one man’s sweat, cigarettes and lunchbreaks. Vive la nostalgie…….

Friday, May 04, 2007

Digital Photography 101

Step 1. Purchase DC (Digital Camera).

Step 2. RTFM (Read the For-Heaven's-Sake Manual).

Step 3. Insert B (Batteries)

Step 4. Select S (Subject).

Step 5. Research VP (Vantage Point).

Step 6. Monitor AC (Atmospheric Conditions).

Step 7. When AC appear optimal, place self and DC at VP.

Step 8. Press small button to switch on DC.
(If this step fails, go to nearest supermarket and buy the expensive B this time. Repeat Step 8.) (Cheapskate.)

Step 9. Point DC at S.

Step 10. Shoot.

Works every time.

(Actually, I had a little help with this one.)