Oh-Hiya, Ohio!

Last week I was visiting my sister in Ohio where she was graduating from her med program. We found out that our flight was delayed by a few hours so we decided to make the most of it and see some of Cleveland.

We stopped by the house where Superman’s was born: 10622 Kimberly Ave. Jerry Siegel invented the Man of Steel in this house back in 1932. I love me some Cavill puppy eyes but the original will always win in a fight.

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We also found some amazing cultural gardens in Rockefeller Park. Since they were culture, and books have been a part of every nation’s culture since waaaaaay back, naturally I found some old friends. Ahhh, gotta love the smell of literature in the morning.

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Good old, depressing Goethe. Famous for “The Sorrows of Young Werther”

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Pondering Dante, of (in)famous acclaim around the world.

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Multi-tasking! Reflecting the sun’s rays and Virgil’s works

Go Set a Watchman

 

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Harper Lee’s second, and last novel Go Set A Watchman was received with mixed reviews by the critics. My favorite part had to be what made others cringe the most. The complete deconstruction of the one character most near and dear to our hearts, Atticus Finch. Over time, Atticus has become the epitome of a great father and a just and fair lawyer. Lee takes this man who so many have put on a pedestal, and through Scout’s eyes, bring that pedestal crashing down on all of us.

Just like Scout, we had to come to terms with the fact that no man, not even Atticus Finch, is perfectly just, perfectly good. To hold anyone on a pedestal like that is a form of worship, not admiration, and worshiping humans is a dangerous thing.

While I, ever the cynical one, could see the “fall from grace” a long time coming, it took Uncle Jack’s unnervingly winding conversations with her to get her to realize that it’s OK. Everyone has their own opinions and they may be right, they may be wrong, or they may just be different from your own, but that does not mean you have to cut them out of your life for having those opinions. You choose the battles you fight. You don’t choose the battles for you likelihood of winning, you choose them for the benefit of those voiceless whom you choose to represent.

Interestingly enough, Lee’s novel was released amidst intense controversy over the Confederate flag & several celebrated pro-slave historical statues around the USA. A considerable piece of that argument had to do with why the Civil War even happened. Was it just to preserve slavery? Or was there another reason that so many in the South chose to fight and die by the swords of their brothers in the North?

While the country fought over whether these symbols were actively encouraging acts of racism and discrimination or simply relics of the Civil War and Southern Pride, Scout Finch and Uncle Jack fought over the after-effects of the South losing that war and the reality that Atticus was NOT color-blind as Scout claims to be. I must admit, while at first, I strongly sided with those calling for the removal of the Confederate flag and statues from their government building, after reading Go Set A Watchman, I really understood the other side’s argument–or what it should have been, anyways.

I agree with the critics, it will not be a classic like To Kill A Mockingbird. But it was one hell of a good read.

You’re Not A Kid Anymore.

I have this problem where I perpetually think I’m younger than I am. Being the youngest of 4, I suppose it’s ingrained in me. All through my first two years of college I felt like a kid still in high school. When my niece turned one, I had just come to accept that my sister was a mother. I’ve been in the working world for almost a year and a half and I still feel like a college intern some of the time. Until yesterday. Yesterday a colleague of mine mimicked what I sound like back to me in a meeting. It was over-exaggerated and not meant to be malicious in any way, but it knocked me for a loop. I sounded like a meek, whiny, pushover–wringing my hands at the smallest request! I’ve always been described as a friendly, if not a bit direct, leader. To see someone portray me in such a different way was shocking. Here’s what I realized I was doing wrong:

“Never Say No” doesn’t mean what you think it does. I’d been told that when you start off in a new job, you should present yourself as open and eager to offer your time to assist in any project that presents itself. “Never say No”. I’d done just that, but what I didn’t realize was that I was sacrificing my assertive nature while doing it. I’m not saying that the advice I got wasn’t good, I just did it wrong. My biggest mistake was thinking “Never say no” meant “Always say Yes”. Now, this may be correct for the first few months when you’re figuring out what your responsibilities are and where your manager thinks your skills would best fit but this is also the time when you need to be watching to see what everyone else is accountable for, too. So when someone else makes a mistake and then says they don’t have time to fix it, you should know that they are responsible for their work and that they need to take ownership of it. You DON’T offer to fix their work for them.

You’re not in college anymore. While the dreaded popularity contest is still prevalent in the office space, it’s not as important as your work. Whether you realize it or not, your work helps your company make money. So, if your work is outstanding and you’re continually looking for new opportunities to shine, you’ll stand out. Your colleagues are not trying to be your best friend and you don’t have to try either. Common fact in the workplace: everyone’s here to work and they won’t put your friendship above their mid-year review.  So the next time you feel like you’re being given the runaround, take a pause, even in mid conversation, and assess how you’re speaking to the other person. Are you giving them a lot of power in the conversation to say Yes or No? Or is the other person genuinely busy? The simple way to find out is by stating (not asking) that you would be happy to set up a meeting to talk about the project. If they resist, that’s your answer. In order to make sh*t happen, make sure to draft an agenda for meetings and communicate any reading they need to do ahead of time.

There is no  student-master dynamic and your co-workers are not “your elders” that need to be respected like your parents. You’re co-workers. You’re part of a team. It felt so odd to me when a friend of mine told me I was another co-worker’s equal. I thought to myself, surely not! They’ve got years of experience on me. I need to suck up as much information as I can from them. They’re the smart ones. But while it may be true that they have experience on you, they find it just as strange when someone treats them as their superior. DON’T DO IT! It just fills their head with has and you become the weirdo wringing her hands in the corner when you need work done by your team.  If they have the same title as you, they’re your equal. Feel free to learn what they know, but don’t feel like you’re bring given the privilege of their company.

CC’ing your boss in tough conversations isn’t “snitching”. If you’re finding someone too difficult to manage on your own, ask your boss their advice. How would they deal with a situation like the one you’re facing? And there’s no need to avoid naming names when you’re talking to the boss. You’re not going to be considered a tattle tail by your boss or your colleague as long as you’re asking for some constructive advice on how to handle a difficult situation on your own. The worst that can happen is that your colleague takes offense and doesn’t do the work. The big plus in this “worst-case scenario” is that your boss knows you’re side of the story and can back you up if you face repercussions for it.

I’m going to give these a go at the office to see if people start taking me more seriously.  If I start seeing more results, faster, I’ll know it’s working. What do you think? Have you struggled with any of these mindsets? If so, what did you do to get out of these mindsets? Let me know in the comments below!

An Exercise in Directing

Last weekend, I held a photo shoot with a new, up-and-coming line of elegant evening wear, Soiree. Knowing that this was their first time investing in a model and photo shoot, I brought a ton of fun accessories that I thought might come in handy. We were all beyond excited at how well they worked with the outfits.

In fact, I was given a lot of leeway on what we did with the shoot. I got a chance to really let my creative juices flow. I played with color contrast, shapes and got more into character for each article of clothing I put on. The geometric shapes on one dress felt like something a confident woman with places to go would wear. I felt like Serena Van der Woodsen in the more flowy gowns, a slightly detached “It Girl”. I hope I communicated that feeling in my modeling.

I love being spontaneous and think pictures come out best when they capture those moments, so I tried that. However, I took my spontaneity down a notch, letting the photographer know what I planned to do before I did it so she could find the best angle for the picture I was imagining. We had a lot of fun; like in my shoot with Miss Lavaliere, I was again scaring away cute little animals… Seems to be a trend. This time it was a group of little pigeons that had taken refuge in the fountain near us. lol.

Hair & Makeup by Me
Clothing courtesy of Soiree.

What do you guys think? Yay or nay?

 

Does that make me Crazy? –Sincerely, Hamlet

This Thursday I went to my very first theatre performance that wasn’t held in a school auditorium–it was held in a cinema… lol! The National Theatre Live broadcast of Hamlet, starring Benedict Cumberbatch as young Hamlet, was playing in my local movie theatre and I jumped on the opportunity to watch it. Because, really, what’s better than popcorn and a play?

(Scroll to the end for a message from Benedict Cumberbatch!)

Benedict Cumberbatch as Hamlet

Benedict Cumberbatch is Hamlet

The creative decisions in set design and wardrobe stood out in the play. Both Hamlet and Ophelia were often dressed in Mad Men-era clothing, Ophelia had an old-school SLR strapped to her neck almost the whole length of the play, telephones were often used by the ensemble in the backdrop, and Horatio looked quintessentially hipster all the way through, flaunting his beanie and spider web elbow tattoo. And Gertrude’s dresses!! To die for. Simply stunning.

Classic Shakespearean dress was usually used either in jest or during the play Hamlet holds within the play. Unlike the abominable 1996 screen adaptation Romeo + Juliet, these additions were subtle instead of garish. An interesting but overall appealing visual production.

Now I start raving. Ready?

OMG, I ALMOST DIED AT THE END OF ACT I!! Right before the intermission, Ciarán Hinds as King Claudius makes this bone-rattling speech about his plans for Young Hamlet, how he’s sent him off to England only to be killed on orders from the King. And right at the apex of his speech, before the curtain falls, there’s a loud boom that shakes the room and the stage erupts in what looks like black gunpowder and ash, exploding onto stage from stage right. I thought for sure that the director had deviated from the script and was implying that Claudius had blown up the ship instead of having Hamlet quietly killed. In the world we live in, honestly, it would have been an extremely powerful and relevant adaptation of the murder plot. It would have immediately labeled King Claudius as the ultimate terrorist in our minds. But, alas, ’twas not to be.

End of Act I: Shit goes down

End of Act I: Shit goes down

‘Twas better. When the curtain rose at the beginning of Act II, I couldn’t stop grinning at the pure genius of it all. I had expected the black dust to have been cleaned up and pushed off stage during intermission. Instead, the whole second act was held among mountains and mountains of the stuff. Chairs were haphazardly toppled to the sides as if thrown from the explosion and the cast walked upon the ashes, oblivious to it. The dark debris was a symbol of the shattered state of mind every character is living in through the end of the play. Brilliant. Beautiful. Tragedy. It was perfect.

Okay, now that I’m done raving about that… let’s talk about the acting! I thought I would be fangirling over Benedict Cumberbatch the whole time–and he was brilliant!–but several other characters stood out as well.

Ciarán Hinds as King Claudius was amazing. His repentance attempt is still replaying in my mind; i felt so badly for Hamlet when he decided against killing Claudius in that moment, especially when Hinds delivered the lines “My words fly up, my thoughts remain below: Words without thoughts never to heaven go”. Sian Brooke’s Ophelia brought me to tears as she wandered off to her death. Her sorrowful song… 😥  However, the resemblance to Zoe Deschanel was so strong that it took me a while to figure out they weren’t one and the same.

Cumberbatch playing with Toy Soldiers

Cumberbatch playing with toy soldiers

Finally, we come to Mr. Cumberbatch. I thought he was over-doing some of his dialogues in the beginning–he would randomly start shouting at the top of his lungs and I couldn’t understand why–but as the play took in its own rhythm, so did he, it seems. Now, I’ve read Hamlet but I never found very much humor in it except for the occasional jab at the dim-witted Polonius. Cumberbatch, however, did a marvelous job of finding humor where I would never have seen it. He had the audience both in theatre and in cinema in an uproar at times. His every monologue was a thing to behold. The desperation in his eyes during “To Be or not To Be”, his rage while delivering his plans for revenge against Claudius while Claudius is kneeling to pray, the aching in his speech of his love for the now-dead Ophelia; the acting feels so true you can see nothing else in those moments. When scenes weren’t as intense though, something I couldn’t help but notice was that he was sweating… A LOT. It was kind of gross. He’d soaked through his shirt halfway through Act I and I’m pretty sure the new shirt he changed into was some crew guy’s from behind the scenes… lol.

As with every new actor’s performance of Hamlet, the question on everyone’s mind is “How will he interpret Hamlet’s state of mind?”. Some argue that the grief of his father’s death caused him to go mad, others choose to believe that he steadily goes mad over the course of the play, and others still argue that it was, as Hamlet tells his mother and friends, all a ruse–that he is perfectly in control of his wits. I think Cumberbatch chooses to leave that question just as vague in his acting as it is in the play. He does this with such skill, though, that the character doesn’t feel incomplete or confused, instead he feels deep. It’s like he says to Guildenstern:

Why, look you now, how unworthy a thing you make of me! You would play upon me. You would seem to know my stops. You would pluck out the heart of my mystery. You would sound me from my lowest note to the top of my compass. And there is much music, excellent voice, in this little organ, yet cannot you make it speak? ‘Sblood, do you think I am easier to be played on than a pipe? Call me what instrument you will, though you can fret me, yet you cannot play upon me.

At times Hamlet seems completely in control of himself–mostly seen this way in his monologues with a few exceptions–while other times worries us with strange acts of irrationality. And one will follow the other, there is no steady decline into madness, just enough of a randomness to keep us as involved as the other characters in trying to figure out if he’s gone mad or not. A stellar performance by Benedict Cumberbatch, without a doubt.

Did you catch your city’s showing of Hamlet? If so, what are your thoughts on the end of Act I? Let me know in the comments!

P.S. Dear Reader, please donate to http://www.savethechildren.co.uk/hamlet to support the aid efforts of Save The Children for the Syrian refugees. This is a request straight from the mouth of Mr. Cumberbatch, given at the end of the NT Live performance. Thank you.

The Benefits of #FancyFriday

You all know how much I despise the term “Casual Friday”. I like to think of Fridays as a day to dress your best, since it’s the start of the weekend, and we all know trekking through the last day before the weekend can be a struggle. I like to kick off the weekend in style, hence Fancy Fridays was born. Plus, it’s Jummah, so, we’re kind of expected to do that… 🙂

Well, a couple Fridays ago, I was doing just that. I had found my latest Pinterest inspo and took the time to wake up early, do my hair and my makeup, iron my clothes (I know, I’m proud of myself when I do that too 😉 lol) and I set off to work. I was dressed in black, head to toe in a fancy little jumpsuit ❤ and I walk in to find that my teammates are dressed the same! We looked fantastic, let me tell you.

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My Pinterest Inspiration

People kept asking if we’d planned out our looks together and one of my co-workers said, “No, we’re dressed like this because we’re going to a client meeting. But Zahra looks like she could be going too…” And then it happened. It was like a light bulb went off in her head. “Actually, Zahra, I think it would be good if you did come!”

Before she’d even posed the question, I had confirmed that yes, I would most certainly love to come. 😀 And just like that, I was part of an intimate, face-to-face meeting with the client. I was learning new things and getting insight into strategies that would affect multiple campaigns to come! So, ladies and gentlemen, THAT is how Fancy Friday got me into my first client meeting.

The End.

The Girl On The Train

Paula Hawkins’ The Girl on the Train is as eerie and unsettling as the blackouts we experience with Rachel, the main character. Hawkins’ novel plays with unreliable narratives, shifting POVs, and time skips to amplify the book’s building suspense. A true crime novel has a red herring or two and The Girl on the Train has several.

I wasn’t a huge fan of how Rachel would often describe events in the passive tense. Granted, it was a clever little way to express Rachel’s passivity and sadly pathetic state–i just didn’t love reading it all the time. Especially when it popped up in stressful, action-packed moments of the novel.

Like Red Queen I didn’t see the ending coming. Unlike Red Queen I was pleasantly surprised after the reveal. The clues were all there but carefully couched in trivial details, unsuspecting, waiting to come to the forefront like those optical illusions where the image is revealed only after you’re told what you should be seeing.

And the very last few pages of the book…HAUNTING.

I’d give it a solid 4 stars. Gone Girl was better. 😉

A Study in Hues

My latest photo shoot was a makeup one. A budding bridal makeup artist wanted to see how her art looks in photos so she hired Beenaz Photography for the shoot. Beena, whom I worked with on the Miss Lavalier shoot (see here), was kind enough to recommend me.

A bridal look isn’t just makeup though; the stylist provided all the jewelry for both looks as well.  I’ve gotten my makeup done for my sisters’ weddings so I know that it takes a while and you have to be still, but I’d never been in the position of the BRIDE. Makeup can take ages for them! I never realized! Also, setting spray is a life saver, especially in the heat. I’ll have to invest in some for my next shoot.

Beena also had a serious conversation with me on posing for shots. We decided that it was time for me to take the wheel with modeling. She encouraged me to begin working on poses and coming up with some of my own. I’ve got a few in my back pocket now, Beena!

So back to the shoot. I loved how the skin glows in these photos. What do you think, readers? I’ll be sure to send back any feedback to the artist! 🙂

Makeup by Sidra

Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard

I haven’t really been  to a Barnes & Noble in about 4 years. And all my readers out there know that I don’t mean I haven’t been inside one in 4 years. I haven’t sat for hours in a deliciously soft leather couch, with a sweating Java Chip Frap in one hand and a hardcover in the other, flipping through page after chapter after book to the tune of a soft banjo playing an indie beat through the speakers. Sounds amazing, right?

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Well, after 4 years, and a really crappy day at work, I drove over to the nearest Barnes & Noble and treated myself to that special “me-time”. I bought a lot of books that day… lol. Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard was one of them.

I was drawn in by a promising beginning and an amazing reference from abookutopia on Youtube. She claimed it had one of the biggest plot twists she’d ever stumbled onto so I was intrigued.

The middle turned out to be ok. There were lots of awkward situations where I felt distant from the main character. It bothered me that she was placed in such an incredibly powerful position but instead of taking advantage of it, making friends of those around her (she’s not anti-social like Katniss), she instead chooses to skulk around and live in a state of perpetual fear. Yes, we’re seeing more “strong, female protagonists” in books these days, but why do they all have to be so…detached? Can’t we have a strong, female protagonist that uses charm to her advantage in difficult situations that she’s facing? Am I reaching for the stars?

Sadly, I knew about halfway through that I was going to be given a terrible ending. At least that met my expectations! 😦 I think the author lost touch of her characters’ personalities in her scramble to give us a plot twist. A good reader knows that anything is fair game if the characters no longer seem to be who they were at the beginning of the book… #disappointed

But hey, at least #therewasblood! (*cough cough* Breaking Dawn *cough cough*)

Have you read Red Queen? If so, what did you think of it? Did the plot twist take you by surprise? Did you feel like there were a lot of similarities between Red Queen and The Hunger Games? Let me know in the comments below!

Branching Out

Sara Sheikh, the owner of Covered Bliss, reached out to me not too long after our shoot together to ask me if I would shoot for Miss Lavalier. When I said yes to this shoot, I realized this wasn’t a onesie-twosie thing that I did randomly anymore. I was signing on to be a model.

While the first two shoots I’d done had provided a makeup artist, this shoot required that I do my own makeup. If you don’t already know, photo makeup is very different from day-to-day makeup. The lines of contouring have to be harsher, the colors you put on your face, brighter, and it takes more liner than you’re used to to make your eyes pop in a photo. It’s because photo makeup needs to catch light and dimension in your face that artificial light washes out. Needless to say, I watched a LOT of beauty makeup tutorials on Youtube to prepare…

The day of the shoot was stiflingly hot. We had problems with makeup melting, sweaty upper lips, & the unfortunate truth of modeling–it’s never seasonally appropriate. Especially when you wear modest attire. lol. The photographer was more laid-back and expected her models to do their own poses, which was a challenge, but I think the photos turned out quite nice, don’t you?

Check out their site at http://www.misslavalier.com/