by Omar Ayoub
Looming above what feels like a post-apocalyptic coastal wasteland, the “Mountain of Trash” (as the local Sidonians call it) is a testament to the horrors of pollution, poverty, and political apathy.
For more than fifteen years, the people of Sidon have been petitioning for the removal of the mountain at their municipality. There have been countless cases of terminal cancer as well as a plethora of diseases among the neighboring families. The stench travels for many miles in each direction. Every winter when the rain comes, a huge chunk of the mountain falls into the sea. Politicians have shown no interest in resolving the matter except for a few pre-electoral empty promises.
During my visit, I learned that people and businesses from neighboring villages come all the way to Sidon to dispose of their waste. I saw that the mountain contained a lot of decaying animal carcasses which contribute to the reek.
From all sides, the mountain oozes of a black oily fluid which has made any kind of marine life impossible.
Perhaps the most disturbing thing about the mountain is that there are several families who are against its removal. With many of them living in abject poverty, the mountain has come to represent their livelihood, providing them with rubber, plastic, and various metals for them to sell. On a daily basis, they spend several hours collecting these materials from the coastline, scurrying away when the waves come crashing in.
I also learned of a man who has been living inside the mountain for several years. His dogs would bark at me whenever I approached the Eastern “slope”.
I met a 12-year old boy who works full-time at collecting cables and wires to support his family. Although I did manage to take a few pictures of him at work, he wouldn’t let me photograph him up-close, telling me that he wanted to remain “faceless”.
On the back of his jacket, perhaps ironically, were the words “Magic Land.”
“ Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.”
“ We think we understand the rules when we become adults, but what we really experience is a narrowing of the imagination.”
May 17, 2012
I never really expected to find myself giving advice to people graduating from an establishment of higher education. I never graduated from any such establishment. I never even started at one. I escaped from school as soon as I could, when the prospect of four more years of enforced learning before I’d become the writer I wanted to be was stifling.
I got out into the world, I wrote, and I became a better writer the more I wrote, and I wrote some more, and nobody ever seemed to mind that I was making it up as I went along, they just read what I wrote and they paid for it, or they didn’t, and often they commissioned me to write something else for them.
Which has left me with a healthy respect and fondness for higher education that those of my friends and family, who attended Universities, were cured of long ago.
Looking back, I’ve had a remarkable ride. I’m not sure I can call it a career, because a career implies that I had some kind of career plan, and I never did. The nearest thing I had was a list I made when I was 15 of everything I wanted to do: to write an adult novel, a children’s book, a comic, a movie, record an audiobook, write an episode of Doctor Who… and so on. I didn’t have a career. I just did the next thing on the list.
So I thought I’d tell you everything I wish I’d known starting out, and a few things that, looking back on it, I suppose that I did know. And that I would also give you the best piece of advice I’d ever got, which I completely failed to follow.
First of all: When you start out on a career in the arts you have no idea what you are doing.
This is great. People who know what they are doing know the rules, and know what is possible and impossible. You do not. And you should not. The rules on what is possible and impossible in the arts were made by people who had not tested the bounds of the possible by going beyond them. And you can.
If you don’t know it’s impossible it’s easier to do. And because nobody’s done it before, they haven’t made up rules to stop anyone doing that again, yet.
Samuel P. Huntington’s 1993 essay “The Clash of Civilizations?” that was later expanded into a book with the same title (but without the question mark) is often regarded as the bible of Western policy makers. This is the late Professor Edward Said’s response to Huntington’s premise.
NPR’s “Planet Money” blog/podcast covers the manufacturing process behind a simple T-shirt in five chapters.
Part I: Cotton
Part II: Machines
Part III: People
Part IV: Boxes
Part V: You
“ To say that a work of art is good, but incomprehensible to the majority of men, is the same as saying of some kind of food that it is very good but that most people can’t eat it.”
“I still enjoy doing design work but I realized a few years ago that you have a time-limit in the design world as it’s inherently focused on youth and youth product. At some point, I’m no longer young and that runs out. Unless you make the decision to start your own studio and really commit to it, you can’t really survive forever. I guess you just become irrelevant, which is totally understandable. Instead you’re left as this little blip of a trend. Being tied to product and fashion, it’s inherently going to have a time limit attached to it. Just how music becomes representative of a time.
You get to the point where when you’re too aware of trends then it becomes your doom. For a long time I was completely unaware of it and then maybe in recent years figured it out a lot more. When the illusion’s gone, the appeal is gone and it’s no longer interesting. And you become incapable of thinking for yourself and coming up with your own ideas because your brain’s preoccupied with the trends that are happening and how what you’re doing fits in with that. It’s good being away from it all.
When I do design work now I have complete freedom of headspace to interpret a brief purely for the problems that are in it, not for any other thing I want to add to it. Not because I’ve seen something I liked that I really wish I had done and gone off to try and mimic it. I guess that’s how things become trends anyway. You wished you’d done something, so you do something like it, which just reinforces the trend.”
— Jonathan Zawada, Surface To Air interview
“ The true, prescriptive artist strives after artistic truth; the lawless artist, following blind instinct, after an appearance of naturalness. The one leads to the highest peaks of art, the other to its lowest depths.”
“Storytelling — is joke telling. It’s knowing your punchline, your ending, knowing that everything you’re saying, from the first sentence to the last, is leading to a singular goal, and ideally confirming some truth that deepens our understandings of who we are as human beings. We all love stories. We’re born for them. Stories affirm who we are. We all want affirmations that our lives have meaning. And nothing does a greater affirmation than when we connect through stories. It can cross the barriers of time, past, present and future, and allow us to experience the similarities between ourselves and through others, real and imagined.
The children’s television host Mr. Rogers always carried in his wallet a quote from a social worker that said, “Frankly, there isn’t anyone you couldn’t learn to love once you’ve heard their story.” And the way I like to interpret that is probably the greatest story commandment, which is “Make me care” — please, emotionally, intellectually, aesthetically, just make me care. We all know what it’s like to not care. You’ve gone through hundreds of TV channels, just switching channel after channel, and then suddenly you actually stop on one. It’s already halfway over, but something’s caught you and you’re drawn in and you care. That’s not by chance, that’s by design.”
— Andrew Stanton