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Estoy disfrutando español

Estoy disfrutando español

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I started Spanish lessons about a year ago and am really enjoying it. Our class is small, just about 7 people so we have almost a one-to-one relationship with our teacher Niurka who is a Cuban married to a Bahraini. We take the lessons every Saturday morning at the Hiraf Aldiyar in Muharraq. It’s part of the Shaikh Ebrahim conglomerate.

I’m going to write some more about my experience with this later, for now, I want to share with you this week’s homework, which is writing a postcard to a friend telling them what I’ve been up to.

José Feliciano
San José, CA

Querido José:

El verano en Bahrein es muy calor. La temperatura esta poco menos que el infierno! Hay porque permanecer en el interior. El perro murio pero se secó en un día y no hay malos olores… !Pequeñas misericordias!

Comó estás?

What do you think? Shall I continue with Spanish?

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Outliers. How Success is a Community Sport

Outliers. How Success is a Community Sport

Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell is an interesting read. It provides a different interpretation on the reasons for success and emphasises the fact of how wrong the adage “self made man/woman” is.

Gladwell argues that success is never overnight but is deeply dependent on several factors from culture, society, education, and even the year of birth and then the preceding hard and dedicated work of some 10,000 hours required to achieve mastery. Then and only then having the presence of recognising and tenaciously gripping opportunities to make them stressful.

He outlines several fundamental research to support his theories and observations, the most eye-opening for me was how there are essentially only two ways children are raised, in this context, of that how poor families tend to raise their children and hour to the rich did and how those affected the psyche and ultimately the opportunities that become available for either in their lives.

There are so many lessons and thoughts to evaluate and gain from in this book. I very much recommend it.

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Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

Uncommon Type by Tom Hanks

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Tom Hanks doesn’t much act in his movies and is not type-cast. He is just a naturally good human being! That’s the simple fact, and his writing completely confirms this too.

As I read his stories in Uncommon Type, I was almost urging him to put in some drama at this point, or do a plot twist there, to no avail though, as the stories are just “nice”, and some would say rather bland.

We’re trained to expect and demand drama in fiction and that’s what’s dished out to us. However, reading beyond that expectation in the first two or three stories, I find myself accepting that yes, the world indeed has more good than bad, and people are naturally kind. By then, I was cringing whenever I came across a cuss word – sparingly used through his text as they are – I actually felt that he was compelled to use them to show some form or “badness”. I’m happy to say that even with those, he can’t be, not with his kind and trusting nature.

Later on by the fifth or sixth story, the pace was picking up, and my realization that no earth-shattering drama is about to happen, made me relax even more. That relaxation led to sinking even deeper in my seat as I continued reading this nice book. Even his attempts at injecting a twist on the story, almost always at the very end with the last sentence, didn’t shake that sense of goodness in the world.

Uncommon Type is light reading that doesn’t tax one’s brain much, and some of its stories would certainly benefit from better plot twists and drama to make them even more enjoyable.

What you get with this book, I guess, is the calming influence one might expect from Xanax.

Thank you Mr Hanks.

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Why 56? Why?

Why 56? Why?

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To anyone who has spent even a little time in Bahrain recently, they would probably be familiar with, or have been taken to the now pretty famous closed shop in the old Manama souq to stand against it and take some pictures.

The abandoned shop’s door was taken over by Bahraini artist Ahmed Anan as an art installation. In the artist’s mind, he was asking the question “why” the shop was closed? The artist artfully depicts various characters tying to get the open the closed and shuttered shop; from one scaling the door to the air conditioning opening, to another trying to unlock the padlock.

This shop has become a landmark in the souq and many people make a point to try to find it to enjoy its art and take some pictures.

If you haven’t seen it, this is what it looks like:

I fell in love with the work the moment I stumbled across it a few of years ago. I had since taken many of my friends and visitors to that door to enjoy and take some pictures with it as a background.

I only recently discovered that the artist who painted it was Mr Ahmed Anan. However, I never had the pleasure of meeting him.

Mahmood Al-Yousif (l) and Ahmed Anan (r)
Artist Ahmed Anan who painted “Why 56” with me at my photography exhibition at Mashq Art Space on 15.4.’18

Lo and behold, he gets introduce to me at my photography exhibition at Mashq Art Space while he was admiring my picture of his door which is placed in the centre of my installation! That was such a nice surprise.

I wanted to know more about his work and asked him a few questions. I soon got immersed in his story and wanted to archive it for posterity. So I quickly whipped out my iPhone to video the interview. And here it is, enjoy:

You can buy my limited edition print of “Why 56” from artprints.me. Click here to get a framed and signed limited edition high quality art print.

 

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A Global Perspective Photography Exhibition

A Global Perspective Photography Exhibition

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I consider my photography exhibition currently at Mashq Art Space entitled A Global Perspective as my first “real” exhibition. I’m happy with the impact it has had and the number of visitors who have dropped in. I’m also thrilled to have received some valuable feedback and comments from visitors. I highly value their opinions.

I also want to make it clear that I am not discounting the smaller exhibition I have held at More Words Pop-up Shop. Not in the least. In fact, it was an excellent experience regardless of the number of people who actually visited. Seeing my photographs displayed on their wall was a good feeling of success. I would not hesitate to exhibit there again.

The best part of having an exhibition of my work is of course meeting a variety of people and having the opportunity to listen to them comment and even critique my work. I have been taking pictures since I was six, and apart from the customer virtual venues of my websites and the various other photography platforms I have tried over the years, I have never exhibited my work. This has now changed and I’m already thinking of future themes and pictures I can exhibit at physical venues. I didn’t expect it to be this much fun!

I dedicate both of these exhibitions to the memory of my late father, the great Bahraini pioneering artist Nasser Al-Yousif, who nurtured my talent and supported me in every way he could.

My interest in photography all started when I asked my father how was a photograph made. That was when I was six or seven years old I think. He explained it simplistically to me by saying that you put something called a negative on paper, then shine a light on it and the positive picture will come out on the paper.

Little did he know that I discussed this with my cousin Mohammed and I found one of dad’s negatives, got a piece of paper and we both sat on the stairs in our old home in the sun, exposing the negative and the paper to the sun. We sat there for ages and kept checking the paper for any hint of a picture developing. We even convinced ourselves that it was working! I can’t remember whether dad saw us sitting there on the stair in the sun when he came back home from work – he was a teacher at that time – or that I had gone to him with the negative and paper complaining that we sat there all day and nothing happened. But that experience resulted in my dad buying me my first camera.

And that’s how my passion for photography started.

A few years later, he even built me a dark room in a corner of his studio and bought me the projector and the chemicals so I started developing my own films. Photography has been part of me since then.

I kept my photography to myself until I got to high school where I suggested to the principal Mr Alsammak that I could start a photography club at the school – partly to get away from the hated physical education class which I felt was a waste of time! – and he agreed. He asked me what I needed and I gave him a list of equipment which he got supplied through the Ministry of Education and provided us with a room that we converted into a working darkroom. I got a few fellow students interested and that’s how the first photography club in a Bahraini school started.

I continued taking pictures and I think we exhibited some of our work at school functions and even participated in international competitions which we got to know about through photography magazines.

At university in Scotland, photography was an entrenched passion. The beauty of Scotland provided all the necessary inspiration to continue to take photographs at every opportunity I had. I constantly travelled all over Scotland with the goal of taking more pictures. I used to look forward to weekends so that I can go visit a loch or a farm or just a village or city to take pictures. I loved that time and have thousands of slides to prove it.

Once I retuned home after university I continued to practice photography and participated in the first photography exhibition by the Bahrain Art Society and one of my photographs won second place, and another won a consolation prize. I remember that my winning picture called Red Street – a long exposure of the in-construction highway going to Saudi. The long exposure and the street lights combined to provide a halo of red which was beautiful and etherial. That photograph was purchased by Shaikh Rashid Alkhalifa, and it was the very first picture I have ever sold. The consolation prize was a picture of the Bahrain Fort at Moonrise and it is actually exhibited now at the current exhibition. I love the purple hue of the picture and its a good documentary picture of how the fort used to be before it was renovated.

I’m grateful for the opportunity to exhibit again. This too was a chance encounter. I was visiting my brother Jamal’s (whose birthday is tomorrow, happy birthday bro!) excellent exhibition at Mashq Art Space when its owner artist and calligrapher Ali Albazzaz approached me to have a chat. I suggested that I would like to see my work exhibited at his space, half jokingly at the time. He responded by saying that he has a slot in April and for me to send him a portfolio to have a look at. I sent him a portfolio I created earlier and he accepted to provide me an exhibition slot.

I was thrilled. I was going to have my first photography exhibition!

Unfortunately he informed me later that the slot was no longer available. So as I had my portfolio ready, and at the encouragement of my wife, I sent it to Words which they accepted immediately, and I met with them to make the arrangements and agree on the other parameters.

I proceeded to print my portfolio and got the photographs framed in time for the exhibition at More Words which took place from 11 – 14 April 2018. As I was making the final arrangements, I got another call from Ali who informed me that the slot at Mashq was available again if I wanted it. That put me in a quandary. I had already committed to Words and I knew that if I accept Mashq’s slot – which is from 15 – 23 April – it will confuse people who might like to visit, and will also present a challenge for advertising both!

Me being me, I didn’t want to squander the opportunity and accepted both. I threw myself at the job of printing a bigger selection for Mashq as the space is quite larger than Words, and ran around ensuring that everything was taken care of.

I’m glad with how everything worked out in the end. Both experiences were valuable and both have now prepared me for future exhibitions which I am determined to do.

If you have a chance, please drop by Mashq until 23 April. I normally am there from around 7pm having their excellent chai karak and meeting with fellow photographers, artists and guests.

They will also be screening my film Triumph of Insight tomorrow night (18.4.18) at 8.30pm which will be followed by a question and answer session with me.

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First Photography Exhibition

First Photography Exhibition

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I’m thrilled to announce that a collection of my photography will be exhibited from 11 – 14 April 2018 at Words Bookstore & Café in Palm Square on the Budaiya highway. Please visit if you can.

A Global Perspective: A collection of photographs from around the world by Mahmood Al-Yousif

A photograph is a deeply intimate look at the subject being photographed; it is a discovery of the person behind the lens too. Through specially curated photographs by Mahmood Al-Yousif we get a glimpse of the artist beyond his blogging fame. These photographs were taken over several years in locations from Seoul, South Korea to Vancouver Island, BC, Canada, and Moscow to Cape Town in South Africa and through them Mahmood shares his love of people, nature, customs and traditions.

All are welcome! [ map ]

 

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Art. As a utility to fill space.

Art. As a utility to fill space.

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Art is in the eye of the beholder. True. No one can define what is and what is not art either as it is a very subjective and emotive thing.

To me, art must serve a purpose. And it must raise more questions than provide answers. It is this particular faculty that elevates a society; when even just one person within it starts questioning accepted norms as a result of witnessing, interacting or engaging with art.

Will society change because of this occurrence? Maybe. The butterfly effect might take years to accumulate the momentum necessary to effect change, but those little reverberations are needed to start the process. Those frequencies are amplified by art. Mature art. One that compels its observers to ask the difficult questions.

That was not the case with the latest exhibition at the Art Centre by the National Museum.

Nashaz – an Arabic word signifying the lack of harmony between sounds – is an exhibition by a group of Bahraini creatives who produced “art installations reflecting dissonance in societies through social norms and attitudes often overseen in daily lives” but falls short of its title and objectives, simply because all the exhibits are predictable, lack depth and sophistication and are glaringly obvious. None of the art displayed prompts a question in a viewer’s mind, and most certainly don’t provide any answers either.

I left acutely aware of the immaturity of the experience, and honestly wishing them well in their future.

The artists participating in this display shouldn’t feel dismayed though, and they most certainly celebrate this failure. Taking this as constructive criticism, they might well evolve into more sophisticated artists at some point in the future whose art can actually serve a purpose other than just filling space.

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Scratching head and wondering if that is Art.

Scratching head and wondering if that is Art.

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Help. I’m confused. Is this really art?

This is an honest question. I have no answer other than being left wondering what is art in general, and if this “work” and others like it actually lowers the bar of what should be regarded as art.

To me, it a badly shot and edited video that would not have gain more than a few views on YouTube, yet, a whole section of Alrewaq – a well known and respected gallery – has been dedicated to it. The other parts of this “installation” is a few architectural and simple drawings of the steps in addition to a few photographs. Nothing that would draw people’s attention in a normal sense.

So what is it that classified this “work” as one of art?

Someone please educate me.

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Reel Bad Arabs. The propagation of discrimination

Reel Bad Arabs. The propagation of discrimination

Reel Bad Arabs book by Jack ShaheenMy son Arif’s Christmas gift to me was the book “Reel Bad Arabs, how Hollywood vilifies a people” by Jack Shaheen (it was made into a film as well – vimeo). It is a fascinating reference which took the author more than two decades to compile. In it, he reviewed over 1,000 Hollywood films which have denigrated Arabs, our culture and traditions, religion and way of life. The films reviewed were from the start of the age of cinema through to the present day. The amount of hate carried through these films – sometimes un-intentioned – is mind-boggling.

The book poses many important questions and premises which are worthy of consideration. The author’s considerable work was primarily to challenge stereotypes propagated by Hollywood because this challenge is extremely important. Left unchallenged, these stereotypes can devolve into violence against a whole people whose numbers exceed 300 million and the vast majority of which are “normal” human beings who want a “normal” life and who abhor violence. The vast majority are peace loving and peaceful and do not deserve to be singled out discriminated against.

He proposes that lobbying is necessary to correct this situation, just as others have successfully done like African Americans, Jews and other minorities who stood up to Hollywood’s vilification.

The author notes that:

Damaging portraits, notably those presenting Arabs as America’s enemy, affect all people, influencing world public opinion and policy. Given the pervasive stereotype, it comes as not surprise that some of us – and the US State Department – find it difficult to accept Egyptians, Moroccans, Palestinians, and other Arabs as friends.

Not only do these violence news images of extremists reinforce and exacerbate already prevalent stereotypes, but they serve as both a source and excuse for continued Arab-bashing by those filmmakers eager to exploit the issue. In particular, the news programs are used by some producers and directors to deny they are actually engaged in stereotyping. “We’re not stereotyping,” they object. “Just look at your television set. Those are real Arabs.”

Such responses are disingenuous and dishonest. As we know, news reports by their very nature cover extraordinary events. We should not expect reporters to inundate the airwaves with lives of ordinary Arabs. But filmmakers have a moral obligation not to advance the news media’s sins of omission and commission, not to tar an entire group of people on the basis of the crimes and the alleged crimes of a few.

Taken together, news and movie images wrench the truth out of shape to influence billions of people. Regrettably, gross misrepresentation abound and continue to plaster on movie screens those distorted “pictures in our heads” that Walter Lippmann bemoaned some 70 years ago.

I agree with this assessment. I have come across this prejudice in this very blog across many threads. My intention right from when I started blogging was to try to address this issue and to show that we Arabs are just regular folks. We have the good and the bad. We have the same aspirations and dreams. And we have the same basic human needs. No more and no less.

I’ve tried to provide a platform to bring our cultures together on the same platform so that people from both camps can come to this conclusion. I’ll leave it to you to decide wether I have succeeded. In fact, success is not really relevant as the issue is immense. What I would be happy with is if I had engendered conversations that allowed people to see the other’s point of view and accept them as human beings and view them as they too could be seen as possible friends.

I highly recommend reading the book and going through some of its observations in the film reference section. You will soon realise how big this vilification problem is to this day in Hollywood and other productions against Arabs.

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#TryThisThursday

#TryThisThursday

Mahmood and the dogs at Duraz beach

#TryThisThursday is an opportunity for people to try something different, to expand their horizons and take them out of their own boxes. It is to get people to stretch beyond their comfort zones and move away from their usual routines, and to have a bit of fun too!

Every Thursday, Frances urges her Meditation classes at Serenity Meditation, Yoga and Reiki Centre to try something new. She is expanding that now and inviting members of this group to participate too.

The idea behind this initiative is to get people to stretch beyond their comfort zones and do something different and away from their usual routines. She has been assigning this “homework” for a few years now and the response is overwhelmingly positive.

One that people seemed to have had real fun with was to create something out of clay. The art pieces that some people created were stunning! More recent #TryThisThursday assignments included “Praise someone for a job well done”, “Spend time going around an art gallery” and “Just be you”.

It appears that an incredibly challenging assignment was an instruction to walk around a mall and not buy anything! Some people had an almost allergic reaction to that one. Some failed and succumbed and bought little things; while others resisted the urge and came back feeling like champions. This particular assignment resulted in lightbulb moments for a lot of the participants as it changed the way they shopped. Their realisation that they can enjoy the mall atmosphere without having to actually buy anything was their watershed moment as it resulted in them breaking the habit of shopping.

Putting on loud music and dancing for five minutes a day was a fun assignment that a lot of people enjoyed. Reporting back, some felt freed and liberated by this assignment not just for those five short minutes, but for the whole day afterwards.

The power of positivity is truly miraculous.

I personally experienced this when I joined the “90 Days of Gratitude” Facebook Group. In that Group, members are encouraged to post five things they are grateful for every day for 90 days. If one misses a single day, the 90-day count must be reset and you will have to restart the experience all over again.

Let me tell you that being consciously grateful allowed me to remain calmer throughout the day as it helped me put things into perspective. It allowed me to concentrate on the important rather than continuously react to the urgent. I believe that this is becoming one of my good habits. I highly recommend you join that group. As you can see, I found it very worthwhile.

This most recent #TryThisThursday assignment is “Untangle from Drama. No one can ruin your day without your permission.” Who of us can’t relate to this one? I encourage you to relate your experiences for this assignment on the Facebook TryThisThursday Group, or if you wish, you may add your experiences in a comment here too.

This invitation is open to all of you to share your experiences and insights on a weekly basis once an assignment is posted, until the next one is published on next Thursday. Your experiences will inspire more people to lead a fuller life.

Please spread the word and invite your friends and trusted acquaintances to join this group. The more members there are the better.

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