We’re asking the journalists on the Epica Awards jury about their daily lives during lockdown. Tarek Chemaly is a well-known freelance journalist and blogger based in Beirut.
What’s the view from your home office? In words or in a picture.
Well, it’s my back porch! It allows me to check the weather; to see if it’s generator or state electricity depending whether the municipality lamp is on; to see the light of day. My desk is a vintage metal desk painted vivid orange so unconsciously my mood gets brightened.
What story are you working on right now?
One about a brand (luxury chewing gum) that just advertised “Buy two for the price of two” which I thought was hilarious! I love irony and self-depreciation in advertising. I compiled some in an old post here.
What do you do to stay focused and avoid distractions?
I have a mild case of OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) and crisis situations make me over-productive. Apart from the blog I am also a multimedia artist and since lockdown broke I’ve created 124 new video artworks. Actually, I am also hard of hearing, which makes me insulated from the outside world. Side note: I can neither recommend OCD or being hard of hearing, but this works for me.
The crisis has inspired a lot of creativity. What ad or social media post in Lebanon has impressed you?
Lebanon had its fair share of brands deconstructing their logos to imply social distancing, but there was a specific ad for an NGO focusing on autism called OpenMinds. There is no good way to translate this to English, but let me break it down: “we7de” in Arabic means “solitude” or “to be alone”, whereas “tawa7od” means autism. “To be alone is a necessity today. To fight autism is a necessity every day.” Boom! Excellent. Naturally this comes with a video that at first glance one mistakes for a simple reading of the events in Lebanon today, until one rereads it backwards to understand it correctly. Please see it here.
I survived the big Lebanese war and I live in a nice house, so I keep a stiff upper lip
What’s your top tip for adapting to the situation, either professionally or personally?
Lebanon is in the middle of a financial crisis on top of the corona and despite all the measures I took to protect myself I am in the quagmire. Still, I wrote a rather emotional post two days ago about the past and time when in lockdown.
At the end of the day, you guys at Epica know how sensitive I am when it comes to comparing everything and anything to a war. Basically, I survived the big Lebanese war and I live in a nice house, so I keep a stiff upper lip and say that one way or another, this too shall pass.
Recommend a book that will take our minds off the situation.
I am a voracious reader, so by the time this article is published I might have found a new gem. But when I read Adland (yes, by Epica editorial director Mark Tungate) I did gain a new perspective on things (for example, I honestly never knew TBWA were actually people!). So indeed, I do recommend this one!