Lebanon

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Photojournalism professor Eli Reed recently released his book, “A Long Walk Home,” which chronicles his experiences through 261 black-and-white images in an attempt to represent what it means to be human. Reed’s images will be exhibited at the Leica Gallery in SoHo, New York, and will run until the end of June.
Photo Credit: Marshall Tidrick | Daily Texan Staff

Photojournalism professor Eli Reed’s sharp eye and natural curiosity keep him behind the lens and on the move. From violence in war-torn Lebanon to portraits of Hollywood movie stars, he has captured meaningful moments around the world. 

In his retrospective photo book, “A Long Walk Home,” released May 4, the Magnum photographer chronicled a wide range of life experiences through 261 black and white images, which he said represented what it means to be a human being.

“It’s not something that’s just flowery,” Reed said. “I want to get people to think.” 

Reed’s 40-year career has taken him from his hometown in Perth Amboy, New Jersey, to witness dramatic struggles and scenes of everyday life in countries around the world. Reed’s photographs will be exhibited at the Leica Gallery in SoHo, New York, which opens Thursday and runs through June 20.

At 68, Reed cannot flip through his book without pausing to tell a story or two about his adventures. Each image, from a soldier blissed out amongst hippies to two bratty kids peering through a window, has a rich story behind it.

“I didn’t just want to do a retrospective of my favorite pictures,” Reed said. “Everything that’s ever been written, shot or filmed, wouldn’t you want to know what’s going on and see it?” 

Reed is rarely seen without his signature mammoth tusk necklace or Sony camera strapped to his side, always ready to snap a photo at a moment’s notice. Reed said his job as a photographer is to document history and answer life’s basic questions.

“In a way, all photographers are aliens; all writers are aliens,” Reed said. “Because you observe stuff and report back to the masses.”

Reed dedicated “A Long Walk Home” to his mother and father. The preface of the book reads like an intimate letter to his mother, who died when he was 12. Reed calls it his “personal poem.” 

“I have tried to capture the complicated beauty of life in a visual form,” Reed wrote. “I continue the search and live and breathe and wonder at the beauty of it all.” 

Colleen Devine Ellis, the UT Press publicist behind Reed’s book, said his work stands out among the four to five photography books they publish a year because the photographs span across a large time period and cover such a wide range subjects. She said Reed’s technical skills and unique perspective result in truly affecting images.  

“There’s a lot of emotion and sensitivity in his photos,” Ellis said. “His concern with the poor and with children, [especially]. He treats those subjects with a lot of sensitivity and respect.” 

When Reed is not off on an assignment, he’s in front of the classroom teaching. He hopes his students learn how to follow their instincts and form their own opinions about photography. 

“The biggest thing is thinking past this technical stuff — understanding the value of saying something and not just being like everyone else,” Reed said. 

Photojournalism senior Hannah Vickers took Reed’s darkroom class when she first arrived at UT. She said having Reed as a professor taught her to constantly seek out new perspectives because although everyone has a camera, not everyone is a photojournalist. 

“He opened my eyes to the fact that only the people who are working the hardest will succeed,” Vickers said. “I feel like being taught under him has given me the idea that you should always strive to be different.” 

Reed said moments that reveal the human spirit inspire him. He said he is interested in how people live their lives and the legacies they leave behind. 

“I don’t look for a commonality,” Reed said. “Everyone has their preconceived notions, but you have to look past that and see what is the reality.” 

A Free Syrian Army fighter runs for cover as another fires his weapon during heavy clashes with government forces in Aleppo, Syria, Sunday. The revolt against President Bashar Assad began in March 2011 with peaceful protests but morphed into a civil war.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BEIRUT — Russia said Monday it is sending two planes to Lebanon to start evacuating its citizens from Syria, the strongest sign yet that President Bashar Assad’s most important international ally has serious doubts about his ability to cling to power.

The Russian announcement came as anti-government activists reported violence around the country, including air raids on the town of Beit Sahm near Damascus International Airport, just south of the capital.

Russian officials said about 100 of the tens of thousands of Russian nationals in the country will be taken out overland to Lebanon and flown home from there, presumably because renewed fighting near the airport in Damascus has made it too dangerous for the foreigners to use that route out of the Syrian capital.

Assad has dismissed calls that he step down. He has proposed a national reconciliation conference, elections and a new constitution, but the opposition insists he play no role in a resolution to the conflict. The U.N. says more than 60,000 people have died in the civil war since March 2011.

Russia has been Assad’s main ally since the conflict began, using its veto power in the U.N. Security Council to shield Damascus from international sanctions.

Russia recently started to distance itself from the Syrian ruler, signaling that it is resigned to him losing power. Russian President Vladimir Putin said last month that he understands Syria needs change and that he was not protecting Assad.

Russian officials say the evacuation of thousands of its citizens from Syria — many of them Russian women married to Syrians — could be by both air and sea.

A squadron of Russian Navy ships currently is in the Mediterranean for a planned exercise near Syrian shores later this month. Military officials earlier said that the exercise will simulate marines landing and taking people on board from the shore.

Earlier this month, Lakhdar Brahimi, who is the joint U.N.-Arab League envoy for Syria, said that Russia seemed as determined as the United States to end Syria’s civil war, but that he didn’t expect a political solution to emerge anytime soon.

The Arab League chief said Monday that Brahimi’s mission had not yielded even a “flicker of hope.”

In Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Nabil Elaraby proposed that the heads of state gathered there at an economic summit call for an immediate meeting of the U.N. Security Council. He suggested the security council adopt a resolution calling for a cease-fire in Syria and establish a monitoring force to ensure compliance.

Syria’s defense minister said Monday that the army would keep chasing rebels all over the country “until it achieves victory and thwarts the conspiracy that Syria is being subjected to.”

Gen. Fahd Jassem al-Freij’s comments came as activists reported air raids and shelling around the nation.

Monday’s fighting included a helicopter raid in the northeastern town of Tabqa that killed eight people, according to the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights.

The Observatory also reported a car bombing in the Damascus neighborhood of Dummar and said another car bomb exploded late Monday in central Syria, killing at least 30 pro-government gunmen in Salamiyeh.

In this Saturday photo, a Syrian elder sits on a hospital trolley suffering partial loss of memory after was shot in the head by a sniper while walking on a street in Bustan Al-Pasha, Aleppo, Syria.

Photo Credit: The Associated Press

BEIRUT — Syria’s air force fired missiles and dropped barrel bombs on rebel strongholds while opposition fighters attacked regime positions Sunday, flouting a U.N.-backed cease-fire that was supposed to quiet fighting over a long holiday weekend but never took hold.

The failure to push through a truce so limited in its ambitions — just four days — has been a sobering reflection of the international community’s inability to ease 19 months of bloodshed in Syria. It also suggests that the stalemated civil war will drag on, threatening to draw in Syria’s neighbors in this highly combustible region such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan.

“This conflict has now taken a dynamic of its own which should be worrying to everyone,” said Salman Shaikh, director of the Brookings Doha Center think tank.

The U.N. tried to broker a halt to fighting over the four-day Eid al-Adha Muslim feast that began Friday, one of the holiest times of the Islamic calendar. But the truce was violated almost immediately after it was supposed to take effect, the same fate other cease-fires in Syria have met.

Activists said at least 110 people were killed Sunday, a toll similar to previous daily casualty tolls. They include 16 who died in an airstrike on the village of al-Barra in northern Syria’s mountainous Jabal al-Zawiya region.

The Observatory also reported a car bomb that exploded in a residential area in the Damascus neighborhood of Barzeh and wounded 15 people, but the target was not immediately clear.

Though Syria’s death toll has topped 35,000, the bloodiest and most protracted crisis of the Arab Spring, the West has been wary of intervening. There is concern about sparking a wider conflagration because Syria borders Israel and is allied with Iran and the powerful Lebanese militant group Hezbollah.

There are already increasing incidents of the civil war spilling across borders.

Many in Lebanon blame Syria and Hezbollah for the Oct. 19 car bomb that killed the country’s intelligence chief. The assassination stirred up sectarian tensions in Lebanon.

Lebanon’s two largest political coalitions have lined up on opposite sides of Syria’s civil war. Hezbollah and its partners who dominate the government have stood by Assad’s regime, while the Sunni-led opposition backs the rebels seeking to topple the Syrian government. Assad and many in his inner circle are Alawites — an offshoot of Shiite Islam and a minority in Syria — while the rebels come mostly from the country’s Sunni majority.

Iraqi Shiites also increasingly fear a spillover from Syria. Iraqi authorities on Sunday forced an Iranian cargo plane heading to Syria to land for inspection in Baghdad to ensure it was not carrying weapons, the second such forced landing this month. The move appeared aimed at easing U.S. concerns that Iraq has become a route for shipments of Iranian military supplies that could help Assad battle rebels.

In Jordan, concern over stability was underlined last month, when its U.S., British and French allies quickly dispatched their military experts to help Jordanian commandos devise plans to shield the population in case of a chemical attack from neighboring Syria.

Turkey’s support for the Syrian rebel movement is another point of tension, and Turkey has reinforced its border and fired into Syria on several occasions recently in response to shells that have landed from Syria inside Turkish territory.

The U.S. administration says it remains opposed to military action in Syria and politicians have been preoccupied this year with the presidential election, now a few weeks away. On Sunday, Syrian warplanes struck the eastern Damascus suburbs of Arbeen, Harasta and Zamalka to try to drive out rebels, according to activists in those areas and the Britain-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, which compiles information from activists in Syria.

In Douma, another Damascus suburb, rebels wrested three positions from regime forces, including an unfinished high-rise building that had been used by regime snipers, according to the Observatory and Mohammed Saeed, a local activist.

Fighting was also reported near Maaret al-Numan, a strategic town along the Aleppo-Damascus highway that rebels seized earlier this month. Opposition fighters including the al-Qaida-inspired Jabhat al-Nusra, have also besieged a nearby military base and repeatedly attacked government supply convoys heading there. The Observatory said the Syrian air force fired missiles and dropped barrel bombs — makeshift weapons made of explosives stuffed into barrels — on villages near the base.

The cease-fire was seen as a long shot from the outset. International peace envoy Lakhdar Brahimi failed to get firm commitments from all combatants, and no mechanism to monitor violations was put in place.
Jabhat al-Nusra rejected the truce outright. In a video posted this week, the leader of al-Qaida, Ayman al-Zawahri, urged Muslims everywhere to support Syria’s uprising.

“It’s not just about the Syria military and the army defectors that form the backbone of the Free Syrian Army rebel group anymore,” said Hassan Abdul-Azim, a Damascus-based opposition leader. He said there were so many foreign fighters and external actors now involved in the Syrian civil war that only an agreement among the various international and regional powers could put an end to the fighting.

“The truce was merely an attempt by Brahimi to try and temporarily ease the people’s suffering in the lost time until the U.S. elections, in the hope that the international community can then get its act together and agree on a diplomatic solution for Syria,” he told The Associated Press.

But with the unraveling of the cease-fire, it’s unclear what the international community can do next.

Assad allies Russia and China have shielded his regime against harsher U.N. Security Council sanctions, while the rebels’ foreign backers including neighboring Turkey have shied away from military intervention. Iran, which is embroiled in its own diplomatic standoff with the West over its suspect nuclear program, is also a staunch supporter of Assad’s regime.

The U.S., meanwhile, is averse to sending strategic weapons to help the rebels break the battlefield stalemate, fearing they will fall into the hands of militant Islamists, who are increasingly active in rebel ranks.
“There has been a lack of desire to take the tough decisions,” said Shaikh.

“In Washington, they’ve only been focused on the narrow political goal of their own elections, trying to convince a war-wary public inside the U.S. that we are actually disengaging from the conflicts of the Middle East,” he said.

The truce was called as the two sides were battling over strategic targets in a largely deadlocked civil war. They include a military base near a main north-south highway, the main supply route to Aleppo, Syria’s largest city, where regime forces and rebels have been fighting house-to-house. It appears each side feared the other could exploit a lull to improve its positions.

Brahimi has not said what would follow a cease-fire. Talks between Assad and the Syrian opposition on a peaceful transition are blocked, since the Syrian leader’s opponents say they will not negotiate unless Assad resigns, something he has always refused to do.

In April, Brahimi’s predecessor as Syria mediator, former U.N. chief Kofi Annan, tried to launch a more comprehensive plan — an open-ended cease-fire to be enforced by hundreds of U.N. monitors, followed by talks on a political transition. Annan’s plan failed to gain traction, and after an initial decrease in violence, his proposed cease-fire collapsed.

On Sunday, amateur videos posted online showed warplanes flying over the eastern suburbs of Damascus. One video showed two huge clouds of smoke rising from what was said to be Arbeen, and the sound of an airplane could be heard in the background. It was not clear if the video showed the aftermath of shelling or an airstrike.

Another video showed destruction inside the Sheikh Moussa mosque in Harasta. Windows and doors were blown out, glass and debris scattered across the mosque’s floor. The narrator broke down as he was heard saying: “Where are the Muslims? Our mosques are being bombed and no one cares.”

The videos appeared consistent with Associated Press reporting in the area.

The Syrian government has accused the rebels of violating the cease-fire from the start. The state-run news agency SANA said opposition fighters carried out attacks in a number of areas, including in Aleppo and the eastern town of Deir el-Zour

The Basement Tapes: The Lovely Sparrows

Local indie folk-pop band the Lovely Sparrows have graced the Austin scene for more than half a decade, creating tracks that embrace lead singer Shawn Jones’ melancholy lyrics, Southern spirit, classical music performance training and whimsical imagination.

From the music video for their popular single, “The Year of the Dog,” where in a paper-constructed forest, Jones sings about his loyalty to love to Jones’ latest project multimedia project for the band’s second LP, music from the Lovely Sparrows is more than just songs and lyrics.

The band will be releasing their EP, Tall Cedars of Lebanon, in the upcoming month and their second LP tentatively in October.

The Lovely Sparrows will be playing with fellow local bands at Scoot Inn this weekend and will be kicking off their tour this month.

The Texan interviewed band mates Shawn Jones and Lauryn Gould, as well as the band’s upcoming book illustrator Derek Van Giesen, about their upcoming EP, LP and the album’s analogous art book.

Daily Texan: You were telling me how there’s a delay in the EP, hence why the performance Saturday is now more just a concert than a release party. So what has the recording process been like?

Shawn Jones: Well, I didn’t even think we were going to put out an EP because normally, I just have the right amount of songs for the full length — that we’ve been working forever on, but this time we had a bunch of songs. A lot of them are older stuff that we never put out. A couple other ones that kind of end with being mellower, slower that was bogging down the full length. I want this full length to be another kind of break. I’m very much like ‘OK, I did that, now I want this to be something different,’ or ‘oh OK, we’re a quiet, go-to-the-bathroom folk band, well no, not anymore,’ or ‘Lovely Sparrows are this, and I’m like no.’

Lauryn Gould: We just want to make people dance.

Jones: Yeah, we’ve turned into a dance band.

DT: What’s each of your favorite song to dance to?

Jones: Well she’s like a dancer dancer, so maybe something from the ‘20s.

Gould: Yeah, I like to swing dance, so I like jazz.

Jones: I’ve only got like tiny movements; that’s about all I have. [laughs]

Gould: You know, I can even dance to some bhangra. I can dance to some Indian hip-hop.

Jones: Yeah, I don’t know. That last Destroyer show was fun.

Gould: We had our own little dance party.

DT: So what’s the inspiration behind the upcoming LP? And do you have a name for it yet?

Jones: The EP, we have a name for. It’s going to be called Tall Cedars of Lebanon.

DT: That’s beautiful.

Jones: Why, thank you. Just wait, you’ll soon know why. The LP, I’m thinking right now should be self-titled cause it’s coming out with that book. I think I just want to call the book and the LP, “the Lovely Sparrows.” So Derek’s doing all the art for the book.

DT: So what made you decide to just make a book with the LP?

Jones: I guess right now after Bury the Cynics came out, I had writer’s block for like three or four months and I was like ‘gah, I don’t want to do this anymore,’ so I just started writing these little short stories, kind of like exaggerated autobiography stuff and ended up working on that for three months and at one time it was like a 20,000 words little novella. So I called Derek and left this 15 to 20 minute rant on his machine saying ‘oh, you know, I got this idea, and its going to be this multimedia project, and oh yeah, I can’t pay you in advance, but you’re the only person I want for the job so, uh you don’t want to do it, I don’t want to do it.’

DT: So how did you feel about that, Derek? That’s a lot of pressure.

Derek Van Giesen: Well, there was a lot of back and forth to reigning back into something I could just sink my teeth into.

Jones: Reign into a 160-page book. [laughs]

DT: What are some of the stories about?

Jones: I guess the last couple of years I really got into David Lynch and Twin Peaks, and I don’t want to say too much cause it’s still in the process and it won’t be until October before it comes out. Solely possibly that this week, it’ll take another left turn. But it’s kind of a dark comedy. It’s got a loose plot that shifts through this weird other place, other world maybe.

Ghoul: Science fiction? Kurt Vonnegut style?

Jones: Science fiction, I don’t know about that. There’s definitely some Vonnegut in there.

DT: Going back, can you tell me more about the inspiration behind the LP?

Jones: Well, working on that book kind of got me out of that writer’s block and so I started writing songs with that in mind and I didn’t really realize that those were going to go together yet. It hadn’t dawn on me that giving someone a 20,000 page, sorry, [laughs], that would be crazy! 20,000 word book and saying, ‘hey, you have to read this to get what’s happening on the record,’ that might be a little pretentious. But I was drawn from that to get the songs. But the songs are more — there’s stuff from growing up in the South, weird religious imageries and working with perspective… not making anyone a martyr, a delicate balance to not make anyone weepy.

DT: So having been in the Austin music scene for quite some time, how would you describe the scene when you first got here and how it is now?

Jones: I had a really, really good time there for a long time. It was actually with a lot of KVRX kids and stuff. There was this house venue called Jessie’s Bed and Breakfast that our friend Michael Landon ran out of his house and he got all of these great K Records people like Phil Elverum and the Microphones, Karl Blau, Moldy Peaches, and all of those northwest folk bands to come through and we opened for them and stuff.

Ghoul: Those were the days!

Jones: Those were the days. And it was really fun and it kind of bottomed out for a while and actually the last couple of years have been awesome too. Made a lot of friends, like with the Sour Notes and Eastern Sea.