ArchitectureTravel

Beirut – A Visual Tribute

Looking northeast along the Mediterranean coastline from Beirut’s Dar Mreisse district. Photo: Henry Lewis

From the foundations of the ancient Phoenician Empire to occupations by the Greeks, Romans, Arabs, Ottoman Turks and French, Beirut was destined to become a cosmopolitan city with a rich cultural history.

The 20th century witnessed rapid change in almost every area of life for Beirut’s residents, particularly following WWI when treaties granted France power over the future territories of Lebanon and Syria.

After independence in 1943, Lebanon’s capital developed into an entertainment oasis that attracted Europeans looking to experience the exotic Middle East and Arabs seeking the forbidden fruits offered by the city’s nightlife districts.

However, Beirut’s privileged location on the Mediterranean Sea directly north of Israel and west of Syria also brought destabilizing forces that eventually erupted into the prolonged Lebanon Civil War from 1975 to 1990.

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ComedyFilm

The Neighbor–A Comedy in 5 nights

The Neighbor–A Comedy in 5 Nights is an original short video produced by Henry Lewis in collaboration with Colombian friends Martha Pulido and Alejandro Aristizábal. In English with Spanish subtitles.

Synopsis:

Apartment living can be challenging even in the best of times. Add two newly arrived tenants, a downstairs neighbor with multiple textbook neuroses and the stress of a pandemic quarantine and you have the perfect recipe for a quirky dilemma. Even when temperaments skew to the dark side, what’s most important is our ability to laugh and not take ourselves too seriously.

Please subscribe to my YouTube channel for future video productions. I am hopeless when it comes to promotion!

https://www.youtube.com/channel/UCCFprpnGg6XYegNlPAQHcLQ

peace~henry

ArchitectureTravel

The Ancient Egyptian Time Machine

The ancient Egyptians believed that the essence of a deity could inhabit an image of that deity, or, in the case of mere mortals, part of that deceased human being’s soul could inhabit a statue inscribed for that particular person.

Edward Bleiberg: Curator of Egyptian, Classical and Near Eastern Art

Blame it on my love of adventure films such as Raiders of the Lost Ark and Curse of the Mummy, but I actually got a bit spooked wandering alone deep inside the tomb of Pharaoh Ramses IV in Egypt’s legendary Valley of the Kings. Should I defy the tourist signs and take a photo of the 3,000 plus-year old sarcophagus, risking my own curse? I snapped a few. The temptation was simply too much to overcome.

The more than 3,000-year old carved stone sarcophagus of New Kingdom Pharaoh Ramses IV located within his burial chamber in the Valley of the Kings just outside present day Luxor, Egypt. Can you feel the vibe? Photo: Henry Lewis.

I recalled reading that Ramses IV had impatiently waited for his father to die in order to create his own historic legacy by building monumental structures that would bear witness to his greatness for millennia after his time. Unfortunately for him, Ramses III – whom scholars call the last great monarch of the New Kingdom – lived a long life, leaving his son only six years to rule before his own death. Perhaps the restless spirit of Ramses IV still inhabited the tomb, forever longing to fulfill his lost promise.

Standing in the crypt’s shadowed stillness, my attention was drawn upward to a row of hieroglyphs near the top of the stone wall. As my eyes carefully examined each detail, my mind drifted off in a sea of daydreams. Physical awareness slowly melted away until I was no longer conscious of my mind’s connection to an earthly body. Until, that is, I suddenly felt something grasp my left shoulder as I let out an audible scream.

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CultureHuman Rights

Book Review: Under the Tamarind Tree–A Novel

Short Review

Under the Tamarind Tree: A Novel

By Rosaliene Bacchus

In her novel Under the Tamarind Tree, Guayanese-born author Rosaliene Bacchus has spun a fascinating tale of family feuding, personal loss and a longing for love and self-acceptance, all set against the backdrop of crumbling Colonial power in British Guiana during the two-decade period between 1950 and 1970. Wonderfully descriptive, the novel immerses the reader in all aspects of the extremely diverse Guyanese culture – from the local food to the colorful colloquial language.

Divided into short, easily digestible chapters, we organically grow attached to Richard Cheong, the novel’s main character, and slowly come to understand (and feel) the sources of his deep pain and suffering. Ms Bacchus takes the reader on a journey of discovery that exposes the very heart of what makes humans capable of expressing both great love and harrowing evil.

I must admit I’m normally a non-fiction fan, but Under the Tamarind Tree had me hooked from the first chapter. If this novel has a shortcoming, it’s in the surprise ending which left me with a seemingly unquenchable thirst for more. My wish is that Ms Bacchus will follow up with a sequel. 🙂

Note: Please don’t let the brevity of my review color your curiosity for this marvelous literary work. I have purposely limited my words because I feel completely inadequate to convey the depth of human suffering and redemption so meticulously crafted by the author.

The novel can be previewed from Rosaliene’s writer’s site at the following address:

http://www.rosalienebacchus.com/writer/UndertheTamarindTree_ANovelbyRosalieneBacchus.html

peace~henry

 

Health and Well-beingNature

I Want To Be A Mountain Goat

“And into the forest I go, to lose my mind and find my soul”
― John Muir

After more than two months of quarantine – under very strict rules – in my small apartment in Rionegro, Colombia, I long to go for a rugged hike in the mountains or a walk along a sandy beach while listening to the soothing sound of breaking waves. Unfortunately, all non-essential travel is still banned in the region, with checkpoints set up to prevent unnecessary contact between people from different towns. With the healthcare disaster taking place in neighboring Brazil very much on people’s minds, the government of Colombia is taking the transmission of Covid-19 very seriously.

But, hey, I’m not complaining. Compared to the millions around the world who are currently suffering serious illness or feverishly searching for their next meal, I know I’m very lucky. And, while I’m grateful to be in a country where the government is placing the health of citizens first, my spirit needs to fly free for a while.

Despite feeling alone, distracted and at times disoriented, I’ve been finding a degree of solace in the 25,000+ photos on my hard drive which allow me to relive memorable past adventures. Even though I’m not a prolific selfie taker, I must admit that seeing photos of myself surrounded by magical landscapes makes it easier for me to visualize an escape from the reality of the moment.

Snowshoeing on the southern slope of Mount St. Helens, Washington, in America’s mystical Pacific Northwest. Photo: Dave Jones.

Discovering the Pacific Northwest

In 1988, I moved to Seattle, a tolerant, diverse city with thriving art and music scenes. While I immediately felt as if I’d found my home, it was what lay just beyond the urban area that fully ticked all the boxes on my best places to live list. Gazing in any direction from one of the city’s seven hills, there were splendid views of snow-capped mountains and glistening water – a true wilderness lovers paradise.

The mineral-tinted waters of Ross Lake with Ruby Peak in the background in North Cascades National Park. There are three national parks within a 2-hour drive of the Seattle metropolitan area. Photo: Henry Lewis.

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FilmHopePerforming Arts

My Friend, Killer Bob

While the 1930s to 1950s were the heyday of movie stars being randomly ‘discovered’ at places such as Schwab’s Pharmacy on Hollywood’s Sunset Boulevard, such serendipitous circumstances have continued to occur in the wacky world of Hollywood entertainment. One lucky recipient of almost instant fame was my friend Frank Silva.

Frank came from a theatrical background and had once longed – like so many other Hollywood hopefuls – to be a working film and TV actor. The stereotype of an actor sitting by the phone waiting for their agent to call is the reality faced by most individuals seeking a ‘break’ in the business. And, as is true of the vast majority of such hopefuls who find hunger and near-homelessness less than desirable, Frank eventually settled for a more reliable role as part of a film crew working behind the camera.

From the moment I met Frank in his home base of Los Angeles in 1988 on the set of the film Tap, it was clear that his larger-than-life personality and passion for living dramatically set him apart from most other crew members. Indeed, while Frank was kind and generous in most situations, he could be a force of nature when things didn’t go his way. It was impossible to be in a group without Frank quickly becoming the center of attention. Such was the exuberance of his demeanor.

In addition to his strong personality, Frank’s appearance was striking with his prominent facial features and thick shoulder length hair, tinted lightly with natural streaks of gray. Add his deep resonant voice to the mix and Frank surely possessed the qualities required to be a professional actor. Frank was proud of the Portuguese heritage and genes passed on from his parents and often talked about his formative years growing up in California’s Central Valley.

Frank Silva 1992

David Lynch’s “Twin Peaks”

By late 1989, Frank and I – along with several other close Seattle friends – were once again working together, this time on David Lynch’s 2-hour TV pilot Twin Peaks. On a work-related shopping trip to Vancouver, BC during the show’s pre-production period, Frank’s free-spirited nature was on full display.

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Health and Well-beingPolitics

Being Humbled By The Universe

As a child, I remember laying in my grandparents yard on delightfully dark nights while gazing at the clearly visible glow of our galaxy – the Milky Way – and the sparkle of uncountable twinkling stars. Star-gazing gave me a sense of wholeness and complete peace and calm, as any earthly problems I had lost their significance when compared to the vastness and timelessness of space itself.

Unfortunately, suburban sprawl and accompanying light pollution have enveloped the area where I grew up, making it impossible to view the contours of our galaxy without the aid of a telescope. Still, that feeling of personal insignificance in the larger scheme of the universe has stayed with me throughout my life.

After seeing images of a distant Earth taken by Voyager 1 in 1990 as it headed for the outer limits of our solar system, American astronomer and well-known science educator Carl Sagan eloquently summed up my feelings.

Our posturings, our imagined self-importance, the delusion that we have some privileged position in the Universe, are challenged by this point of pale light. Our planet is a lonely speck in the great enveloping cosmic dark. In our obscurity, in all this vastness, there is no hint that help will come from elsewhere to save us from ourselves.
-Carl Sagan

Sagan’s words seem particularly notable during our current time of crisis as governments and citizens bicker over the perceived best way forward when faced with the difficult choice between saving human lives or protecting livelihoods. While individuals and organizations in many regions of the world are coming together to support those in need, there are some who are using the current situation to further their own narrow political agenda with little regard for the rights of others or the greater good.

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CultureTravel

The Camel Beauty Pageant

As the Monty Python crew used to say, “And now for something completely different!”

Let’s escape to the deserts of southern Oman to participate in one of the locals’ favorite events – a camel beauty contest. Mind you, these descendants of Bedouin tribes take camel raising very seriously as the princely sums paid for a prime specimen indicate. Contestants – lovely one-humped dromedary camels with long double sets of eyelashes – are judged on the fullness of their chests and downward curve of their lower lips, among other distinctive qualities.

As you’ll see in the following video, the owners and other audience members create a party atmosphere, filled with dancing and lots of cheering for their favorite contestant.

Be sure to crank up the volume!

peace~henry

Covid-19Health and Well-beingPolitics

Covid-19: The Next Phase

While some areas of Europe and the USA are beginning to see a flattening of the Covid-19 transmission curve and subsequent death rates, much of the rest of the world is still in the early stages of the pandemic’s first wave. Business lock-downs and population quarantines have become the widely accepted means of reducing the spread of infections across the globe. Governments — in countries both rich and poor — are now grappling with how to restart sagging economies without risking an overwhelmed healthcare sector.

Meanwhile, millions of workers in the informal economies of the developing world — who scrape together what they and their families need to survive on a daily basis — are becoming increasingly restless as insufficient government efforts fail to supply food to the neediest across the globe. Many governments in Latin America are facing the threat of medical worker strikes unless they can provide the personal protective equipment (PPE) desperately needed by staff.

As rich and poor countries compete for the same limited international supplies of PPE as well as ventilators for the most severely ill patients, a pattern is beginning to form. The developing world is being priced out of the very supplies necessary to fight the pandemic.

As infections and deaths continue to increase in the poorest regions of the world, indications are that social unrest will grow as well. This is especially true in countries such as Chile and Ecuador that saw weeks of protests, rioting and looting during last fall’s uprising against corrupt, institutionalized systems that have always favored the wealthy, leading to some of the world’s most dramatic economic inequality. Such raw feelings will be easily reawakened by the ongoing ravages of hunger, illness and death associated with Covid-19.

Here are some of the stories I followed for readers this week across Latin America and beyond.

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