Positive Psychology

In the Hollywood classic White Christmas, Bing Crosby's character sings a song to Rosemary Clooney about how he deals with anxiety-driven insomnia. It's actually a highly forgettable song, just filler like many others in that movie.

But, since I've brought it up I'll go ahead and tell you that Bing Crosby's character overcame his worries by counting his blessings. If he's running short of cash, he remembers times when he was broke and then things seem better. It's a simple exercise in positive psychology, choosing to notice the good in life and allowing that to encourage happy thoughts and well-being.

It works, at least that's what the social scientist say. And I'm inclined to agree with them.

It's what I'm doing with this picture.


Keeping Up Appearances

The other day I noticed this little remnant of a facade with not much behind it. It's fun to see it from this angle, because you can tell. Head on, you might not know.

There a lot of things in life that are like that, different behind the facade. Some things are better once you get past the surface, others aren't. And some things are just different, not better, not worse, just unexpectedly different.


In Transition

Tomorrow is winter solstice, the shortest day. Thereafter the days will grow longer, the sun will rise higher. Spring will come.

Seasons are in constant flux, transition.

Behind the little wall, a grape vine is declining into a brief dormancy. And behind it, an orange tree bears fruit.

Nothing stays the same.


'Tis the Season

Last week, little winter wonderlands sprang up around town. Pictured below is the one in Celemenceau's Gefinor center, a smaller version of another one at Zaitunay Bay. When I first heard of these markets I was immediately hopeful. We used to live in Germany, and the Christmas markets there are almost magical. I'd love to have that here in Beirut.  But my hopefulness eroded slowly as well-intentioned yet skeptical friends warned me that it wouldn't be like Germany.

A few days ago I went to the market at Zaitunay. The kids had a nice time, but I felt a little empty inside. Santa was there, but the Christmas spirit (whatever that is) wasn't. I left feeling sad.

But wait, that is not where the story ends!

I happened to pass by the market at Gefinor yesterday evening. I didn't expect to like it, after all it looked almost identical to the market at Zaitunay.

But I couldn't help liking it. Not because of the imported wooden chalets and not because of the dressed-up bell-ringing Santa. Not because of all the delicious things on sale or the festive music playing in the background.

I liked it because I saw families and friends, happy to be together, enjoying the season and a pleasant time together. That was it, the christmas spirit I'd been looking for.

If you're in Beirut, you should go. Go with friends.  Friday's your last chance.


Looking Down

Hello again.

Mostly in Beirut, I take pictures on the street looking up. Not this time. This time, I was up in a flat, and then we went to the roof of one of the tallest buildings in my part of town. Those pictures are coming soon.

It was wonderful, looking down on things I'd seen from below over and over again.


Sunny Picture, Rainy Day

It's cold and rainy out. Not a very nice day to go looking for a picture. Instead, here's one from yesterday, a day that was clear and sunny.

Maybe when the sun comes out again I'll post a picture of the rain.


Pink Face

Pink is such a nice color. It makes a cheery backdrop for age, wear, dirt, and deterioration.

It was mid-day when I took this photo and there was way too much light to capture the gradations of color across the face of this building--the very thing that drew me to it.

So I came home and edited the photo to within an inch of its life to bring out the facade as I remember it. And I feel a little guilty about that. I prefer to leave photos alone as much as possible.


No Place

Oh, Beirut.

There's no place quite like it.


Kitchy, Wonderful, Awkward, and Foreign

Being stuck in traffic is pretty normal in Beirut, especially if you have to commute to school or work. Turns out most everyone else in the city had to get somewhere too.

So, recent bad traffic had me stopped next to this little statuette, camera at the ready. It's Mary, gazing out over the highway. I feel quite conflicted about roadside shrines. For me they're at once kitchy, wonderful, awkward, and foreign. It's complicated.

I'm fond of this one, though I'm sure a big part of that feeling comes from the candy striped awning below.

For most people, there's neither school nor work tomorrow. It's Ashoura, wikipedia can teach you about it if you're curious.


It Helps

We have had very irregular and lengthy blackouts lately that have proven to be quite disruptive.

I hope things will be getting back to normal soon. Meanwhile, oranges are ripening on the trees. This is the season when you can get clementines of other-worldly deliciousness in every market and on nearly every corner.

It's one of the things that makes December in Lebanon perfect.


Corbels in Brown

In case you though I was done with this, here's your proof that I'm not.

Corbels in Brown. To see corbels in almost every other color, click here.


My Kind of Action

Usually when it's the first of the month I participate in City Daily Photo's them day.

Not this first of the month, though. Why? Because the theme is action shots, and everyone is being very literal about it. I mean, this is an action shot too. But what we've got are the slow, patient actions of peeling, rusting, deteriorating, and most of all, the act of surviving.

That's my kind of action.