The last day of the decade

Tree of Life (Greenwood cemetery, Brooklyn, New York)

Tree of Life (Greenwood cemetery, Brooklyn, New York)

December 31, 2019. New York, New York. 

And so it has come to the closing of a chapter. And yes, I will avoid the cliche of saying that a new chapter begins (except I just said that. Oof!)

The teen years of the 21st century come to a close. Onward we move to 2020. Albeit, it can be argued that these numbers are only from the Gregorian calendar, but for the sake of  convenience we’ll stick to that for now and not go off on a geeky/nerdy sidetracked vortex into various year numbering systems. (Check out the chart of different calendars at the end of this post though.)

[A note first. Ever since WordPress began to run ads on their free site, I admit that the visual cleanliness of reading its blogs has been immensely lost. Alas, since I already pay for two work-related websites, I am not going to dole out the now-required $80 annually to have an ad-free site + domain that WordPress asks you to go for. So sadly, I’ll stick to this randomly-popping-weird-ads-as-you-scroll-blog. Onward.]

So….. I suppose, like many a year-end-pondering-post – even more ubiquitous with almost every social-media friend, non-friend, media person/celebrity, non-celebrity, stranger and/or acquaintance on some posting spree – I have to blab how it is time for reassessment. reflection, rumination, regrets, non-regrets, gratefulness, gratitude, looking back, moving forward, speculation, celebration and all that jazz and fiz. And also that smug, oft-nauseating crowing of personal and/or career achievements, back-patting, name-dropping, self-soothing, barely disguised self-promotion along with some self-loathing meta-analyses – the latter for those who can look past the pompousness and approval-fishing or the general non-consequential-banality-in-the-long-run of the former.

Well, in some ways it IS time for all that pondering and processing and meta-analyses….it is but some long-induced part-habit, part-social-protocol, part-personal-mulling….as though a number on the calendar can magically change all our bad habits, re-consolidate our soon-to-vaporize New Year resolutions or reset our Optimism Bias buttons at the click of the midnight clock on New Year’s Eve.

As though posting a list of all our hits and misses – mostly hits to show the happy-happy-peppy-peppy ultra-annoying American expectation of the smiley-face frontage – will show the world: “Look-ey how great I am! Look-ey – I’ve done this, this and that, worn ma’ boots and ma’ hat, lookey – how fancy I am!” in some blithe spectacle of self-soothing deceptions of grandeur.

I’m not saying that sprinkling some optimism and benign narcissism around doesn’t work – i.e. it works in showing your friends and strangers that you’re upbeat and accomplished and not about to off yourself as some of those apparent bon-vivants who crowed and puffed and for various-whatever-reasons wore external fake masks of joy while hiding their pain/depression/self-loathing until it was too late. After all, even when it’s not that extreme and can be classified under benign preening and posturing, even in the parade of those who post constant “happy couple” posts, studies have shown that most truly happy couples don’t post as much or rarely post about their couplehood or their relationship on social media, although some do, of course; and while the virtual image is close to the reality for only a few, in a majority of cases, overt-relationship photo-posting is also a sign of insecurity and seeking external validation while undergoing internal turmoil.https://bit.ly/2ZEnGyphttps://bit.ly/35b3F3B )

So perhaps what I am in some way trying to communicate is that IT’S OKAY to rip off those masks….it’s okay to purge the facades and unearth the truth….it’s okay to throw away those pretenses of the happy-happy-lookey-me-did-this-and-that….it’s okay to abolish that need for external approval…..it’s okay to state the truth for what it is. The truth – from your  blogging Gipsy-Geek friendly neighborhood misanthrope ;-) :

The pithy truth – if I may use a slang verb – is that the human species by and large really, truly sucks. Big time. 

We were a flawed fatal accident of Evolution. Ticking time bombs of planetary destruction. A locust-like herd, with year-round/ day-round capacity to breed and procreate, with lifelines prolonged thanks to the scientific brains and hard work of a few, a herd that has spawned at exponential rates to deplete the world of its natural resources, its natural beauty of splendorous magnificence, to rape its forests and grasslands and oceans, purge its mineral-rich mountaintops, tunnel through its mantle and core for shiny objects-of-greed-and-exploitation, devastated & eviscerated and near-driven to extinction its blameless, wondrous, spectacular animal kingdom; tortured, maimed and heinously skinned-alive/amputated-alive/hellishly-murdered billions and billions of sweet, innocent, sentient beings for food and fur and labor and entertainment and false ritualistic beliefs; poisoned its waters, chopped-off its old-growth trees, polluted its air, infected its soil; killed, enslaved, imprisoned, violated other humans since millennia in the name of race, religion, caste, creed, sexual orientation, ideology, greed, envy……….a warring, destructive, polluting species – consuming and buying and wasting like no tomorrow……….never satisfied, never content, accumulating more than it needs, wasting more than it should; apathetic to inequalities, to injustices; and worse, often worshiping demagogues and dictators and following murderous hateful ideologies; and killing or casting out those who DO care, those who DO dare to speak the truth, those who defend the voiceless, those who love and empathize and work to fix and rescue and save.

There is no Hell in the skies or the afterlife. Hell is created by the brutality of the human species on this very earth.

Want proof? I can post a thousand links of the history of violence and human rights’ abuses. And for anyone who watches the news or has the guts to look up sites that defend animals and outline their abuse – check out the pages of Anti-Fur Society Mercy For Animals Animal Save Movement
Toronto Pig Save among many others The cruelty of humans to sentient beings on a daily basis is easy to see.

Do you know that besides all the thousand heinous ways of torture inflicted upon them in industrial farming, even in non-industrial butchery gentle animals are skinned alive, fully conscious with their legs chopped off so they can’t escape while a crowd gathers in delight watching its suffering????!!!https://bit.ly/2SJbMSm – photo) Bleating baby lambs, dog-like pigs, gentle calves beaten and eaten on a daily basis, and even millions of dogs brutally skinned alive and boiled alive to be eaten (https://bit.ly/2MGtnqg and https://bit.ly/2Qcwush )? I have blogged about the cruelty of the meat and fur industry previously here, and I will continue to – as well as join my fellow animal rights’ activists in their activism – till the day I die. There is NO excuse for this type of animal abuse except sheer apathy and psychopathy. No, Really!

If you wonder why animal activists feel the rage they do – frankly – let me ask YOU – if you know the facts, SEE the facts – the question rather is where is YOUR outrage? And Will to act? To choose to act with empathy? To prevent such hellish torture and not give up trying?

And then……

Then there is this: In all its ugliness, in all its ghastly concoctions of terror and torture, war and strife – there are those among humans who CREATE – works of brilliance, of wonder and immaculate beauty – Music that takes you to some metaphorical heaven, Art that explodes the very depths of your consciousness, Architecture that leaves you speechless in its sheer structural and spatial achievement, writings, Literature and Philosophy that nourish the soul, dancers and Dances that lift you to exquisite wonderlands, films, photography and cinematography that reach the very heights of Imagination and yonder, man-made means of transport that fly and swim and breeze to carry you across the world (and pollute plenty too – except the bicycle), the very internet through which I’m communicating now – despite both the pros and cons of this world-transforming-cyber-network, scientific discoveries and inventions that not just reveal the marvels and mysteries of the Blue Planet itself but of the Universe and propel one across the galaxy, acts of Love and Kindness and sacrifice and bravery that display the miraculous capacities of the human heart……

Were I to be a hopeless romantic, or more so – delusional – I’d have dwelt on all our so-called glories…..but sadly, when it comes to cost vs benefit – the Benefit of the human species is much, much less to the Cost it inflicts by its very polluting, destructive, cruelty-fueled existence on this planet.

In fact it is safe to say that we humans are at this point a virus on this planet. No, really. A demonic tribe that laughs and gloats while innocents suffer. Take a look at that photo of that cow linked earlier or the dogs being skinned alive and boiled alive. As crude and heinous as it is – it is an analogy of how our species, by and large, has treated Mother Earth. Torturing the Milk-givers, the Love-givers in acts of selfish, ungrateful heinousness for a moment of greed on their taste buds.

And you have to remember – yes, you HAVE to remember – that let alone those without the capacity to create – even the creators of art and science – may be quite flawed themselves when it comes to kindness and ethics, jealousies and greed, consumerism and narcissism. You have to separate the art from the person who makes it; the music from the madness; the invention from the innovator’s personal shortcomings…..

Do not make the mistake to fall for the halo effect; to lionize another human for a single-issue facet.

Where kindness and empathy and love and ethical thinking are absent from an artist or inventor or creator – learn to acknowledge and appreciate the aesthetics and functionality of the creation without attachment to its creator.

That is often hard to do for many, because we often make the mistake of believing that beautiful works may also come from beautiful hearts – and while, in some fortunate circumstances that is true, in many occurrences that may not be the case. There can quite frequently be a disconnect from the aesthetic beauty of someone’s work and the sheer brilliance of their brain-power from a lack of compassion within their hearts. I don’t need to say this – but humans are complex, complicated, contradictory, often chaotic and more often than not – cruel and corrupt and conniving. Bad apples exist in every race, country, religion. Because wherever there are humans – regardless of their gender or race – there will always be conflict, cruelties and injustices (albeit statistically, physical acts of violence are more often caused by men, but women who endorse and partake in cruelty are just as bad. A prime example is the fur industry – the men may be committing the acts of trapping, amputating and skinning-alive innocents, but the women who wear and covet fur are fully participating in this barbarism.)

If you look for salvation in the members of the human species – you shall, you will be disappointed. Such is the nature of their nature – a tragedy of Evolution. Too bad that a larger percentage of humans perhaps took after the warring chimps unlike the peaceful bonobos.

Complete Compassion – the one that envelopes all living creatures on the planet is an exception, not the norm. True empathy and the will to fight for injustices in action is rarer than it’s presumed to be…..if the world was truly fair and ethical and kind – the man-made horrors that exist today and have always existed (remember the Dark Ages and Medieval times?) would not be there.

We are a deeply flawed species, despite all the capacities of the high-functioning human brain. As an organism, a group – we don’t have the efficiency of ants, we are incapable of the pure, heavenly, unconditional love that dogs possess and we lack the ability to get along simply and lovingly like so many animals effortlessly do (if you’ve ever watched the Odd Couples segment on the Dodo….a lighthearted segway to link here – but necessary if you need some mood-lifting therapy)

And so. Here we are…

Ten years spent.

Ten years flown by, or grinded by….a mere insignificant infinitesimally small fraction of a nano-nano-nano second if you think back to Carl Sagan’s Cosmic calendar….

….Whereupon I am supposed to wax eloquent about the last decade about personal milestones, while politely kvetching about its socio-political horrors. I should speak of the countries I have traveled to, the panels I have been on, the speeches I have given, the protests I have marched in, the stalwarts in their respective fields and/or the celebrities I have met and befriended and/or already have a close personal relationship with, the newspapers (or in this case the newspaper – a.k.a the New York Times -) that quoted me and invited me, the lectures I’ve given at some university, the publications I’ve featured in, the journalists and writers I’ve rubbed shoulders with and had deep conversations with, the shows I have seen, the shows I have attended as a guest, a TV appearance or two, the places I have been to, the projects I have undertaken….inflate my ego in some delusion of misplaced self-importance, oblivious of the insignificance of it all, really.

I am supposed to display it all in carefully curated and filtered photos or a collage, if you will, with eloquent brief descriptive paragraphs of gushing joy and humble-bragging vignettes – head cocked on the side, face semi-profile, smiling-yet-serene, hands on hip or neatly folder in front in an “I-am-woman-hear-me-roarrrr”-pose, displaying the societal “image” of success and relative well-being – some form of show-and-tell for adults in a hierarchical world – consisting both of ass-kissing hierarchies and status-conscious social stratification – they’ve/we’ve created for “signalling” (albeit such hierarchies in other forms exist in the animal world too – we may not be going around sniffing butts or chest-thumping…and while the format or expressions may be different – the goal is the same – to show dominance or fertility in one way or another)……

(Trivia wisdom: It actually requires a very healthy dose of self-esteem to be very content with humility & the perspective to laugh at the posturing or d*ck-measuring-contests and displays that go on. 😂😄
– 😏 You’re welcome!)

And in the same manner in which I should put forth my “shiny-happy-lookey-me-so-cheerful” appearance, I should neatly “edit” out those “darker” sides of life which may not look appetizing or appealing or appeasing enough in the past decade – the professional worries during the Great Recession at the start of the decade, being attacked on the street by a felon, the grief at the death of my dad, the days where certain challenges had to be worked out with my romantic partner, the ever-present very real sorrow I feel as I sob at the constant cruelty meted out on animals across the world (along with my fellow animal rights’ activists), those PMS-fueled painfully debilitating 48 hour-long migraine headaches, the fatigue of fighting against becoming jaded and cynical, the realization on how much I agree with (and always thought similarly, even when I’d become a Buddhist monk in the Himalayas for a few months in my very-early 20s) philosopher/author David Benatar when it comes to the case of (against?) human birth..and so many other factoids. No, those are “supposed” to be edited out in the “framing” of “happy-happy” times!

But then again, if the above paragraph were my only string of woes (amid others, too boring and silly to even post, let alone elaborate) how indeed fortunate I am! No truly, I am being serious and not sarcastic here….it is hard not to feel utterly grateful for being so much luckier both through chance, choices, work and circumstance than live in the horrors of reality that so many across the planet face. My limbs are intact, so far, I have food on my table, a roof over my head, educational degrees, I’m not living in a war zone, I can read, write, kvetch and have no addictions (other than an earlier voracious encyclopedia-reading and later Wikipedia-binging addiction) and am more than content with all that I own (to the extend that I have hardly bought anything new in items of clothing, bags etc. in the last 12 years or so), am grateful for my loving partner, for my parents who exposed me to good books early on, grateful for my friends and very grateful for certain wonderful former teachers and professors.

But then who says I have to speak, let alone write about those “happy” moments outlined earlier, and let alone post curated or non-curated photos? The only interlocutor here is me myself asking a rhetorical question in some neurotic loop in a vortex of cyberspace in a blogosphere that houses several millions or on social media which contains billions?

Technically, I am not required to speak of anything at all, to write nothing at all – except as my own outlet. And if I don’t take out the time to post and “curate” photos, it is out of my own reluctance, or more specifically – some languishing laziness – the lethargy of which I’m quite embarrassed by, afflicted as I am by it … a nonchalance that is part instigated by some pathological innate proclivity to procrastinate when it comes to personal preening (as well as several other activities) but mostly an astounding amount of laziness when it comes to organizing and selecting photos of fellow-humans – my own included.

Because, you see – the most liberating of mental and emotional Freedoms, one of the great secrets of happiness (which I’ve long known since childhood – maybe by default being quasi-Aspie-ish) is to not give an iota of weightage to seeking approval from other humans….to not care about impressing, of status-signalling, nor caring to rock the boat and calling out the so-called “polite” outward pretenses of others hiding their apathy or cruelty underneath.

I don’t really care for the approval of other humans. I prefer enjoying the approval of animals. 

If social media has shown us anything at all in the past decade – it is the immense amount of narcissism tied to keeping up appearances – an entire industry of (often idiotic) “influencers”- who don’t care about the suffering inflicted on billions of innocents across the world – as they pose and preen, puff-up and peddle – their “perfect” selfies and pouted portraits placed along backdrops – real or fake – as they wrap their bodies in the skin and hair of tortured innocents….peddle “lifestyles” under idiotic hashtags of #lifestyle as they espouse an overtly consumerist and materialistic “aspirational” persona that is often times as fake as it is destructive to the pristine landscapes that get defiled in the process. (Please read this excellent article on “selfie”-tourism: https://beside.media/dossier/spoils-of-nature-on-instagram/)

Which brings me to: The secret – or rather my personal secret of joy. Yes, yes, while I do have the true love of my human partner and the well-wishes of true friends – my secret of joy truly comes from not really relying on any human for my internal state of happiness. Never did, even as a child as much as was possible. I derive joy internally from that space of silence and solitude within and externally from the company of animals and trees. Anyone who has had or deeply loved a dog or cat or any other non-human family member will understand this. And even more so – those who have loved ALL animals – their love and empathy not just restricted to their pets.

Numerous studies (to be listed at a later date here) have shown the therapeutic, healing, incredibly powerful mental, physical, emotional benefits of the true angels in our midst – animals – and the TRUE giver of unconditional love – D-O-G.

Has there been anyone so innocent, so unconditionally loving, so supportive, so beautiful, so life-nourishing, so healing, so loyal as an animal – especially a non-human mammal – you’ve cherished or known?

Of course if you’re a parent or have a child – a lot of this may not be applicable, as while you may love and be loved by a family pet – you’ll always feel more bonded to your child. It is after all the strongest evolutionary bond, and placing the focus of one’s very life to the immediate needs and caring of one’s offspring has got to be the greatest distraction and savior from existential angst and pondering for sure, even while it exponentially increases material worry for provision and upkeep (if you are a good parent obviously). There is no time to think about many other problems of the world when one’s purpose is to to raise one’s dear child.

And yet, and yet….the same human parents who could never think of any harm befalling upon their own child often have no qualms of snatching away a milk-suckling baby from his/her mother – an innocent lamb, a baby calf, a little baby goat or a suckling piglet and putting them through unbearable harm and torture for eating their body parts! With no concern of the pain and suffering of their mothers who too are tortured, miked dry and brutally killed off! Have you ever wondered just how barbaric the process is? They are fellow mammal babies and mothers for goodness’ sake. And yes, they absolutely DO feel the same feelings of love and bonding to their children as you do and unbearable physical pain when slaughtered.
Evolve. Indeed – Evolve already!

All these gentle creatures ever wanted was just to live and to love and be free and the human species decided to take away even that basic right from them. (Yes, carnivore animals do hunt in nature – but…just binge watch BBC Earth’s Planet Earth series to realize the very STARK difference between how they do it vs. how humans do it if you don’t know so already. Also, unlike big cats and other carnivores we certainly do not require meat to survive.)

But to return to the point of the innate love humans feel for their children – for those who relate with Benatar’s views (a few quotes here: https://bit.ly/39BcVRS and feel ambivalent about parenthood, you know what I mean. To quote Anatole France: “Until one has loved an animal a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.”

But though animals bring so much joy with their very sweet dispositions and presence, there again is the source of my great sorrow and for those like me….for when you love animals and trees you feel that unbearable pain when you see their deaths and their suffering and worse, feel the helplessness when you can’t stop it all….and in many ways you are tied to that pain forever…until it is your own time. An existential certainty tied to love and pain. To attachment. To bonding.

At least you know that your dog will never be disloyal….something which cannot be said even about human childre

And so, as the last teen decade ends – the decade of Haitian earthquakes, Filipino typhoons, Australian wildfires, Brazil’s Amazon burning and depleting, BP’s and other “natural” gas companies’ oil spills, the Arctic melting, civil unrest, the rise of right-wing populism, the ever-present terrorist bombings by fundamentalists of all kinds around the world, of psychopathic world leaders and their army of Orcs, of Orange idiots and power-hungry dictators, of divisiveness and irrationality, of increasing populations in many places with decreasing population in others, with uprisings of concerned citizens who are much younger than the elder-folk but generally far more aware of the science of climate change and our biodiversity’s degradation, of the ever-increasing shortages of resources, of territorial conflicts, the humanitarian crises of refugees and migrants only increasing around the world (and obviously the torture of animals which I don’t see ever ending – for if there is one thing in common among people of all races, regions, countries, religions (except Jainism), ethnicities around the world – except for the minority who have evolved enough to be truly kind – it is the horrendous apathy and psychopathy meted out on animals) – just remember that environmentally, and let’s accept it – the world won’t get any better. We’re past the tipping point (https://www.spiegel.de/…/is-it-too-late-to-save-the-climate…)

Short of some scientific miracle – that fundamentally exorcises the cruelty and greed and stupidity of the human species – the pillage of our natural landscapes and our wild and domestic animal-world will not stop in the future. Even if certain states or cities bring in more ethical regulations just like a few recently have (finally having developed some awareness thanks to the relentless work of activists), there are vast swaths of entire countries and people, who, well – really don’t give a damn about their flora and fauna. Sad, but completely true.

I so admire the brave and wonderfully optimistic scientists, designers, ecologists, inventors and doers who are bravely trying in so many ways to improve or heal our ecosystems. And I salute the medical scientists throughout history who substantially worked to alleviate physical human suffering….and yet, how sad it is that in a resurgence of anti-science, anti-intellectual, anti-kindness demagoguery of the ever-increasing masses who exhibit stronger traits of dumbness, cruelty and/or both – there is a denial of the wisdom of proven science – the very science that doubled their life-spans…..

Is it wrong for me to sometimes wonder if humans should have ever come into existence at all?

Is is wrong for me to often state that I so wish that Evolution had stopped at the Bonobos?

Is it wrong for me that when I hear of self-induced “selfie”-deaths occurring by slippage or mauling, I say under my breath: “Darwin” (as in the Darwin Awards.)

Is it wrong of me to have a fantasy that somehow the human species had evolved in a way that it could be fertile only every 10 years only twice in their lifetime? I mean they could have sex whenever they chose but except for once or twice in their life they would be sterile the rest of the time? 

Obviously I’m not asking for anyone’s opinion of whether my rhetoric is right or wrong. I already know the answer 

For many of us who live in the USA, it was one of the darkest days in American history when the vomitous Orange Goon became Peesident.

But for those who have studied Ecology in-depth (myself included) the dice had already been cast when Al Gore lost the crucial election in 2000 thanks again to the outdated Electoral College system and the infamous Florida recount. Because he knew the precariousness of our environmental fragility.

The ultra-capitalist ruthlessness of Reaganism (not that morbid Stalinesque-style socialism or Maoist Communism are any better) had already set in motion much of the damage that unbridled greed would cause, but Gore at least understood the science behind climate change. He would have worked for environmental protectionism and conservation which he continued to do even without holding political office.

Instead, the devastating Bush Jr. years and its resulting chaos, wars and reversal of environmental policies, followed by Obama’s luminous personal presence and intellect – which brought back a glimmer of Hope – (but sadly most of his time in office spent in cleaning up and recovering from the mess of the Bush years with antagonistic opposition from a Republican House and Senate because the idiotic (yes in this case) and complacent liberals had not turned up in the midterms to vote for the Democrats) – was followed by the Army of Orcs installing their Orange sociopath-moron in the White House despite him losing the popular vote in 2016, fueled by their hatred for a far superior Black President and their misogyny against a whipper-smart (albeit with past political baggage-thanks-to-husband) woman candidate.

Trump is the ultimate rabid bull in the porcelain shop of our fragile ecosystems – which had already been subjected to cracks from years in advance and harmed even more once Gore lost in 2000. (Let me not even get into animal-rights issues in this paragraph, because we already know the truth on that.) If you don’t have eco-anxiety already, which several ecologists and land planners had for eons – then I assure you – following long-time environmentally-aware actor Leonardo DiCaprio’s facebook or instagram feed is sure to give you Eco Depression. Because the latest news stories about our depleting landscapes and fauna are always on his feed. One may choose NOT to see that of course, but avoiding reality won’t necessarily change Reality.

The precipice has been reached.

The only way is a wild ride as the roller coaster hurtles downwards, and then hopefully (hoping against Hope) perhaps, perhaps it rides up again? Humans won’t go extinct – fear not. They are far too resilient and far too numerous. Like in earlier times and in the past century – the innovations of a few in the future will carry on the survival of the multitudes. The plot-lines of Sci-Fi movies like “Elysium” will likely be a reality, albeit conditions in “The Road” are just as likely while “Idiocracy” turned out to be the most prophetic of all.

No, our species won’t go extinct. It is too resilient – or rather with too much of a killer’s or psychopath’s survival instinct. But what it will do is drive most of the rest of our beautiful, unique, innocent life forms to extinction. It already has done so for millions. And it will only continue to do so.

Until then, all you can do is choose Kindness. And choose to fight against barbarism. Because every individual act of kindness counts. Every drop counts. Believe it. After all, it is a multitude of drops that make the ocean.

Every plastic bag NOT taken from the grocery, every act of not creating waste, every act of ethical ecological responsibility counts.

Make that choice to not endorse the murder and torture of absolute innocents; to not pollute the planet with more plastic; to reuse clothing; to sip from the cup and not use plastic straws; to stop rabid consumerism, your lust for crystals and diamonds; your lust for always bigger, for more, more, more…the list goes on and it’s simple (https://bit.ly/35bzMjD); to choose ethics over greed and shallow posturing.

Is that really that hard to do? 

Here’s to #2020 ahead and to 2020 hindsight.

**************

 

Choose Life

As 2020 comes in, if you haven’t already -Choose life over death; choose compassion over torture…. ……and you don’t need Paul McCartney or Prince or Mr. Rogers or Benedict Cumberbatch or Peter Dinklage or Jon Stewart or Joaquin Phoenix or Anoushka Shankar or Billie Ellish or Natalie Portman or Carl Lewis or Venus Williams or Martina Navratilova or Novak Djokovic….you get the point – many others who do it for the animals and/or their health – to say so. 😄 Basically, if your brain’s not wired like a psychopath or Narcissist and if functioning properly in the empathy-area – watching any animal raising+slaughtering or fur video or dairy industry calf-killing should make you reconsider partaking in this heinous abhorrent theriocide…. But if even after knowing/seeing, it doesn’t rankle the empathy area in the brain – then, well – no words really. (And no – those who say they love their dogs and cats – but are absolutely okay wearing fur and eating animals who are intelligent, compassionate mammals just like their dogs and cats are just plain hypocrites – yup – pretty much) (Won’t post horrific slaughterhouse videos obviously – as there are SO many truth-exposing vids and even documentaries out there – but you can always see where your meat and fur and down and fancy croc+ostrich/lamb/calf leather purses or Ugg boots come from – straight out of the worst horror shows on earth involving the horrendous torture of absolute innocents in the most heinous ways. For those who are not hypocrites or apathetic you can go to Mercy For Animals or Anti-Fur Society or Animal Save Movement and several others. There is no shortage of information. ) …and if you’re of an older generation – be prepared one day when your grand children and Gen Z – most of them way more aware and FAR more outspoken than older generations of the heinousness of the meat and fur industry – look at you in disgust one day and ask you: “Mom/dad/grandpa/grandma how COULD you?!!??? How COULD you – you horrible, disgusting, cruel people?!! You ruined the planet for us! You eat innocent BABIES!! You wear the fur of dogs skinned alive!! You’re cruel beyond words!! You’re cruel beyond words…” #ChooseLife #ChooseCompassion #ChooseTRUELOVEforALLanimals 🍏🍊🍋🍎🥦🍇🥭🌶🌽🍆🍅🥕🍐🥑🍉🥒🍍🍒🍑🥂🍾🍷

 


* Calendars from various systems:

2019 in various calendars
Gregorian calendar 2019
MMXIX
Ab urbe condita 2772
Armenian calendar 1468
ԹՎ ՌՆԿԸ
Assyrian calendar 6769
Bahá’í calendar 175–176
Balinese saka calendar 1940–1941
Bengali calendar 1426
Berber calendar 2969
British Regnal year 67 Eliz. 2 – 68 Eliz. 2
Buddhist calendar 2563
Burmese calendar 1381
Byzantine calendar 7527–7528
Chinese calendar 戊戌年 (Earth Dog)
4715 or 4655
— to —
己亥年 (Earth Pig)
4716 or 4656
Coptic calendar 1735–1736
Discordian calendar 3185
Ethiopian calendar 2011–2012
Hebrew calendar 5779–5780
Hindu calendars
 – Vikram Samvat 2075–2076
 – Shaka Samvat 1940–1941
 – Kali Yuga 5119–5120
Holocene calendar 12019
Igbo calendar 1019–1020
Iranian calendar 1397–1398
Islamic calendar 1440–1441
Japanese calendar Heisei 31 / Reiwa 1
(令和元年)
Javanese calendar 1952–1953
Juche calendar 108
Julian calendar Gregorian minus 13 days
Korean calendar 4352
Minguo calendar ROC 108
民國108年
Nanakshahi calendar 551
Thai solar calendar 2562
Tibetan calendar 阳土狗年
(male Earth-Dog)
2145 or 1764 or 992
— to —
阴土猪年
(female Earth-Pig)
2146 or 1765 or 993
Unix time 1546300800 – 1577836799

Another Spin Around the Sun

Pink Flower

June 9, 2019.

Another spin round the sun….here’s to getting older and ever-wiser but also more openly curmudgeon-ish in other ways..?

Truly, sometimes I wonder how/when did this shy optimistic “Amelie”-girl turn into a caustic “Dr House”?… I mean with my verbal comebacks in person…

At least this formerly relentlessly-bullied oddball introverted girl learned a while back to fight back with lethal zingers…so I take that as a good sign. 

At least the preference for the company of animals to 90% of humans, the utter love for solitude.. and the pessimism about the planet’s environmental future and the aghastness at ubridled population-growth/lack of human-population-control hasn’t changed since age 5 (yeah, wasn’t I a cheery kid? 😉 )………. nor the love for sunflowers and any-flowers (on trees and bushes, NOT fresh-cut-plucked-away-from-life-in-bouquets-in-store-aisles), bees and butterflies, solitary hikes through hills and mountains and meadows or city streets, good poetry and prose and good books and comics, tea and jazz, Bach and Beatles (and too many others to name), the smell of first-rain’d-upon-earth, the wonder at our Universe, the love for shows by Carl Sagan and David Attenborough, the marveling at the serrations and beauty of geological stone, at the sinuous curves of trees..their fractal branches and leaves, for Spock and Sherlock, silly walks and ni!! ni!…and so many, many other petits plaisirs de la vie….those pleasures still remain….more are added or reduced as the years go by, yet the fundamentals resonate.
Always.

It’s good to be alive….as opposed to dead, I guess…🙄 even though I too am a part of this unbridled-population growth on the planet…(at least my parents produced just two and not a bunny brood, albeit humans are so much more annoying than bunnies, generally speaking…)…and so here’s to another spin around the sun, alive and kicking; amiable yet kvetching; happy to be loved deeply and to love deeply; getting deeply dippy and dopey and deliriously dendrite….as I go on a-rambling on a random rattle…voicing words into some vortex of cyberspace just because sometimes the act of writing takes off on its own, a frenzied galloping along and against the breeze, that can’t be bridled back…. 🐎🐎🐎

….neigh, neigh, ni, ni, ekki-ekki-ekki-p’tang-zoom-boing…z’nourrwringmm….

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June Noon

And just like that, it’s June.

Brooklyn, New York. June 1, 2019. Just a smattering of the numerous colorful blooms in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

The flowers in the photos above are Spanish bluebells, California poppies, Aubrieta and Primula Rosea (Himalayan primrose) respectively. Btw, “June Noon” is the name of a trichosereus hybrid flower that blooms in the cacti genus echinopsis.

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Bonjour from Montreal

#tbt  I had written the post linked under this introduction a year after my dad’s death.

Today, 7 years since his passing, instead of Paris, it is Bonjour from Montreal – where today’s snowfall covers the ground, trees and car-hoods….Yes, my New York friends – enjoy those soft pink cherry blossoms, those joyous tulips, daffodils and bluebells and that lovely Spring weather you have down there – there is still snow in Canada! 😅

The strange aspect about the gap, la distance des années from a loved one’s death is that the years make their absence sting more in some weird way.
They say time heals – and indeed, time certainly heals the initial shock and pain of loss….but time also simply seems to increase the chasm from the moments you last heard their voice, saw them in person, hugged them or held them….and that distance of their tangible, tactile existence just keeps growing more with each passing year….in this case objects in the rear view mirror keep appearing further away.

Everyone loses their parents at some point – it is but an inevitable cycle of life, and it’s extra painful for those who lost a parent when they were only a child. So the death of a parent is such an inevitable part of all humans and animals, that in some ways it is even silly to mourn the fact itself, because it is what it is. I mean it is normal to feel sad and miss, but death of someone older is a definite given as aging occurs….and while my dad died in his 70s, for those who pass away in their 90s – that’s a good run worth celebrating.

But the most poignant part perhaps that sends a pang much more is that we don’t really tell our parents (especially if they are/were good parents) how much they mean/meant to us when they were/are alive….I certainly hadn’t. I always presumed, foolishly – partly because he was SO full of life – that he would make it past 80…perhaps it is much harder to imagine the death of extremely animated people…the stillness and finality of death seems almost contrary to their natural state of existence.

Go on and do it, i.e. tell them what they mean to you….or like me someday, you will wish you had told them more that you loved them and how grateful you were/are to them for having given you the gift of life itself and for having raised you.

Do it before you wax poetic or rather wax nostalgic on a blog….instead blab away on the phone/skype or better still in person and let them know how much you love and appreciate them.

From Montreal with love – m

The Gipsy Geek

montmartre steps

Paris. France. April 9, 2013. I have been travelling through various cities in Europe since mid-March, both for work and rest. This post is written from my current city – Paris;  sitting right next to the steps of Square Caulaincourt, Rue Lamarck, Montmartre. 

While in later posts, I shall post pictures from the travels, today marks the first death anniversary of my father, who passed away due to a sudden swift heart attack last year.  Youthful, hyper-active and conspicuously full of life – he remained that way right up till the very end – bursting with frank, undiplomatic outspoken chutzpah, never afraid to call a spade a spade, and  so vibrant that friends, neighbours and his loved ones still miss his vivacity and near-comical foot-in-mouth well-intended but bluntly-phrased verbal gaffes even today.

This morning I had a long talk with my mother – my parents had eloped and got married in their 20s and remained…

View original post 921 more words

Blue skies and Freedom

February 1, 2019. New York, New York.  Ah, that majestic southern Manhattan skyline towering over the frigid waters of the harbor, a sight that no photograph can do justice to, as the scale can be experienced only in person.

The first four photographs were taken from a ferry on a bitterly cold but sunny winter day.

As I was sailing past the Statue of Liberty, it was a poignant reminder of the hope it symbolized for the many who glimpsed it for the first time as they pulled into the New York harbor, after escaping war, death, persecution with nothing but their lives, holding on to nothing but their dreams. 

(Click on any pic to start the slideshow, descriptions are underneath each photo)

In the past two days, the city saw its first snowfall, with temperatures plummeting to -14 Celsius – the coldest it has been so far this year. While the polar vortex gripped Mid-West USA, many New Yorkers – who were not so badly hit, wrote and posted and complained a lot about the cold.

And yet, and yet…… you see – I DO think it was much ado about nothing.

Because of this:

I lived in Winnipeg, Canada for around two years and lived through three of its winters. Days with -30 c and -40 c were common with the windchill factor making it even lower. 
A friend who lives there posted the temperature yesterday: -40c BEFORE windchill…another friend who lives there said it was -53 Celsius (-63.4 °Fahrenheit) WITH the windchill. In Churchill where you can see polar bears, around 1000 km north of Winnipeg, – 60c (-76° Fahrenheit) used to be common. As you can see here, it says that currently Winnipeg is colder than the North Pole and as cold as Mars https://globalnews.ca/news/4906382/prairies-cold-north-pole-mars/  and that in February, ’twill be -70 Celsius in certain cities https://bit.ly/2DOR6k7  

I lived in Montreal, Canada, for many years…the cold was wetter, and though it wouldn’t quite go to -40c, days with WET -28 Celsius, were quite common, and in some ways more agonizing than the dry Canadian Prairie winters. Days when you’d see that the “high” was -19c and the low was a wet bone-chilling -33c  Luckily, most of the city is accessible through underground walkways.

In typical hardy Canadian fashion, no schools, universities or workplaces would be closed in either city. People would be going around playing ice hockey. Outside. No, really.

I am so, so grateful for my years in Canada (along with my love for high-altitude mountaineering, which I did aplenty in the Himalayas, Rockies and northern Canada, plus an innate high-resistance to cold)…because thanks to it, any blustery wintry day in NYC feels balmy  (And yes, I do share jokes with my Canadian friends on how temperatures that would be considered “highs” in Canada, fluster many Americans.) 

Admitted, the American Mid-West were Canadian-cold for a couple of days this week. And when I lived in the Boston area, those New England winters were much colder than the Big Apple’s.
 

But thank you dear (and friendly) Winnipeg for teaching me to never, ever complain about the cold in any other part of the world – and ESPECIALLY in balmy New York City  where ’twill be a “warm” -12 Celsius overnight. 

Most experiences in life are truly relative…..☃️❄️⛄️

Thank you Canada 🇨🇦 For your cold I shall always be grateful, among of course, several other gifts from you.

But thank you New York City for that unbridled sense of Freedom one feels within your fulcrum, that infectious energy emanating from the entire City – second to no other urban center of the world, and for that sense of awe your skyline always inspires and has, for generations, for all those who land on your shores and who sail by that Lady in the Harbor.

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Year-end-year-ahead Conundrum

Gotham City Conundrum by the Gipsy GeekDecember 31, 2018. New York, New York. So here’s something to end the year with…and ring in the New Year. (I’ll spare explanations of why I’ve been tardy in posting regularly in this space….but in a nutshell – Life and Procrastination. And travel. Lots of it…..to Zurich, Bombay, Baroda, London, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Toulouse, Bordeaux in that order just in the past three months alone. And earlier in the year, time spent in New York, short stints near Chicago and briefly Montreal and Toronto.)

In early fall, before the mid-term elections, I was proud to give a speech for women’s rights and a call to political unity among liberals at Union Square, NYC, as the gathered throngs chanted in unison against the political and environmental degradation in this country, as we marched from Union Square to Times Square; And earlier in spring I joined many, many of my fellow women architects (including many older women architects I’ve long admired as inspiring icons) at the annual AIA meeting in New York to make the voices of women architects heard and to demand equity, visibility and due credit for our work in our very sexist profession. If anything at all, it is always cathartic to speak up…to speak up FACTS, that is.

Many of my stronger opinions and political views were shared with friends on my personal Facebook page (which is why, perhaps, I am guilty of not posting here), even as I continue to maintain another page on this link (this one is public and not related to my personal FB page) –  https://www.facebook.com/DonaldTrumpShutUp/  – can you believe it will be 9 years since I started it?!! It was the first of its kind on social media, before pages like that sprung up aplenty in 2017.  However, I can say with certainty that early-a**hole-personality-detection runs in my DNA. My maternal forefather – a leader in European politics – had written a book, a scathing critique against fascism –  years before the Holocaust foretelling that Hitler was a grave danger – at the time when people thought he was good for the economy.

End rant.

On to reflection.

As every year ends, as we grow another year older, and often another year sadder or wiser, or for some – especially for those whose neurotransmitters+receptors (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins) are working in a balanced and healthy way – another year happier – we get into that time when we reflect on what we’ve gained and what we’ve lost, the past that cannot be changed and the future that is yet to unfold, the conundrum of the choices we’ve made or are to make, unsure at times if they are the right ones……..even as we try to keep Hope and Optimism alive as we always do when we step into something new – like a new year; in this case, the last of the teens of this century, before the start of a new decade (2020).

So to end this year, and ring it in with some New York jazz from New York – the city where I live and which is closest to my heart – here’re two videos that I edited for a very dear person and his jazz trio. If you like their music, give their official facebook page a “like” to keep up with their upcoming concert dates – https://www.facebook.com/alexskolnick/

The name of the album is Conundrum. Regarding its name and content, says Skolnick:

“It represents the sense of confusion many of us are feeling in the midst of the strangest sociopolitical upheavals of our lifetimes….This album captures many styles in an effort to channel that angst into art and inspire others to do likewise.”

The album, released in September went on to No.2 on i-tunes jazz charts on the very week of its release, preceded by Miles Davis (Kind of Blue) at no. 1 and followed by John Coltrane (the Best of Coltrane) at no. 3.  Not bad company! ;-) Of course,  the greats who always are at the top 10 soon took over their original positions but the exhilaration to see its rise upon its release was nice. If you want to support independent artists, please buy their albums – don’t stream on youtube, unless it’s a promo video – such as these ones :-) (Links to purchase are found underneath the videos on youtube and on the fb page, but as a repeat here they are as shortlinks: https://amzn.to/2Qjk1Qz  and https://apple.co/2Napfw7 )

Enjoy, expand to full screen and turn the volume up! The first is of the complete album excerpts; the second of possibly the liveliest tune of the album. (Videos edited, along with additional videography, photography, album design etc. by yours truly – Maddy, the Gipsy Geek.)

Here’s saying goodbye to 2018….and reflecting on the conundrum in the year that was and the year(s) to come…..and, in the process, using music as therapy.

The 2nd video is the full performance of a lively song “Culture Shock” which has received thousands of views and is one of the album’s favorites…the music combines eastern (you can hear the Oriental and Middle-eastern melody) and western (jazz and Americana) styles, along with a dash of southern bluegrass and blends them into a harmonious whole. The title of the track also loosely references Herbie Hancock’s “Future Shock.” The guitars used are a semi-hollowbody-acoustic & a vintage telecaster.

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Méliès Magic meilleures tours de magie

Today’s Google Doodle is SO cool! A tribute to Georges Méliès’ 100th birth anniversary.

More details on this link here: https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/comic-riffs/wp/2018/05/03/georges-melies-google-creates-its-first-vr360-doodle-to-salute-the-film-pioneer/

Excerpt from an article on the same in Billboard magazine:

For the first time ever, to celebrate the work of French visionary Georges Méliès, Google premiered a VR film for today’s Google Doodle (May 3.) The doodle — titled Back to the Moon, and inspired by Méliès’ iconic 1902 silent film A Trip to the Moon — is a digital animation packed with multiple references to Méliès’ innovative characters and work.

“George Méliès transformed the world of cinema more than a century ago,” wrote the Doodle art director Helene Leroux. “Melies brought magic to filmmaking through dozens of tricks and illusions. What better way to pay homage to this then by using one of the most innovative and immersive tools we have for storytelling today? Virtual Reality!” 

“The magic of George Lucas and Steven Spielberg today could not have been possible without Méliès’ development of techniques across theatrical machinery,” said Laurent Manonni, Director of Heritage at The Cinémathèque Française.

Méliès passed away from cancer at the age of 76 in 1938. His last recorded words were “Laugh, my friends. Laugh with me, laugh for me, because I dream your dreams.”

Make sure to span/spin around on the 360 degree animated tribute doodle to Georges Méliès and also the fantastic “making of” video.(…and ok – I’ve watched Melies’ films and also Martin Scorsese’s “Hugo” based on him, the latter thrice in fact – it contained one of the very, very few girl characters in film I could relate to, and brought back such wonderful memories of childhood.)

Here’s the VR 360 degree animated doodle where you need to span the skit as it moves along to see how the story develops. Just use the arrows to follow the two lead characters as they run across the “set.”

 

And equally engrossing is the “making of” or “behind the scenes” video:

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May Day Ma(y)genta

New York, May 1, 2018. And once again a new month breezed in – the merriest spring weather in the city so far………..cherry blossoms abloom, winter coats and trousers abandoned, the aroma of macaroons and mead and mayflowers on the streets, the chirps of baby birds emitting from every nesting tree, and most of all – a mist of pinks: in the flowers, on the trees, in the gaiety of garments – soft roses and fuscias, corals and strawberries, pink like the lips whispering love and secret promises, pink like the soft sunset clouds……Here’s to a “May”genta May Day! 

For fellow geeks – a color chart:

Shades-of-Pink


Feeling like reading a long poem from yesteryear? Here’s Ralph Waldo Emerson’s (1803-1882) poem May Day: http://www.blackcatpoems.com/e/may_day.html


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For Earth Day – Earth as Art

RANDOM ACTS OF PLANET EARTH

or

CHOPIN FOR EROS

(Earth Resources Observation and Science)

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Best viewed full screen with the volume up 

#EarthDay The images in this little video I compiled are all from NASA & USGS’ project ‘Earth as Art.’ Click here  (https://eros.usgs.gov/imagegallery/) to find out the locations of these stunning images and the various countries these landscapes belong to. The link is worth it and my main reason for using these images is so people can check their informative, amazing websites, but if you’re too lazy to click there – here is the image key:

1.Aleutian Clouds: These cloud formations were seen over the western Aleutian Islands. Their color variations are probably due to differences in temperature and in the size of water droplets that make up the clouds.

2. Volcanoes: Steep-sided volcanic cones along the Chilean-Argentinean border add texture to this “study in blues.” Of approximately 1,800 volcanoes scattered across this region, 28 are active.

3. Gineau-Bissau: Guinea-Bissau is a small country in West Africa. Complex patterns can be seen in the shallow waters along its coastline, where silt carried by the Geba and other rivers washes out into the Atlantic Ocean.

4. Campeche: Named after the ancient Mayan Province of Kimpech, the state of Campeche comprises much of the western half of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Rivers in southern Campeche drain into the immense Terminos Lagoon, the entrance to which is protected by a long barrier island, Isla Del Carmen.

5. Jordan: Meandering wadis combine to form dense, branching networks across the stark, arid landscape of southeastern Jordan. The Arabic word “wadi” means a gulley or streambed that typically remains dry except after drenching, seasonal rains.

6. Desolation Canyon: Utah’s Green River flows south across the Tavaputs Plateau (top) before entering Desolation Canyon (center). The Canyon slices through the Roan and Book Cliff–two long, staircase-like escarpments. Nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon, Desolation Canyon is one of the largest unprotected wilderness areas in the American West.

7. Bogda: The Turpan Depression, nestled at the foot of China’s Bogda Mountains, is a strange mix of salt lakes and sand dunes, and is one of the few places in the world that lies below sea level.

8. Akpatok:  Akpatok Island lies in Ungava Bay in northern Quebec, Canada. Accessible only by air, Akpatok Island rises out of the water as sheer cliffs that soar 500 to 800 feet (150 to 243m) above the sea surface. The island is an important sanctuary for cliff-nesting seabirds. Numerous ice floes around the island attract walrus and whales, making Akpatok a traditional hunting ground for native Inuit people.

9. Namib desert: Namib-Naukluft National Park is an ecological preserve in Namibia’s vast Namib Desert. Coastal winds create the tallest sand dunes in the world here, with some dunes reaching 980 feet (300 meters) in height.

10. Andes: Vivid colors belie the arid landscape of northern Chile where the Atacama Desert, one of the world’s driest, meets the foothills of the Andes. Here salt pans and gorges choked with mineral-streaked sediments give way to white-capped volcanoes.

11. Sahara: The mountainous outcrops of Jebel Auenat rise 6000 feet above the barren, uninhabited plains of the Libyan Desert. The frontiers of Libya, Egypt and Sudan meet amidst the rugged granite of Jebel Auenat. The mountains are remnants of an ancient granitic dome. Rivers of sand meander around them, swept across the desert pavement by northeasterly winds.

12. Alluvial fan: A vast alluvial fan blossoms across the desolate landscape between the Kunlun and Altun mountain ranges that form the southern border of the Taklimakan Desert in China’s XinJiang Province.

13. Kamchatka: The eastern side of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean west of Alaska. In this winter image, a volcanic terrain is hidden under snow-covered peaks and valley glaciers feed blue ice into coastal waters.

 


For my post on satellite imagery and the process through which RGB composites are made from Landsat and Aster images, as well as my long-time love affair with the same, click here.

The composition of Chopin has been played here by the inimitable Arthur Rubinstein.

http://eros.usgs.gov/imagegallery/

https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/03/27/hello-world/

For the video ‘Random Acts of Sunshine’ click here

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Alexander’s Guichet

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

December 9, 2017. How often have I passed by “Le Guichet” – a 1963 sculpture by Alexander Calder! Located in the plaza of the Lincoln Center in front of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. And how often have I passed by without pausing to take a photo or post one. Until now.

During daytime and evenings the plaza is bustling; its lively fountain and surrounding performance halls drawing in large omnipresent swaths of people like moths to a flame. But I like wandering there at night, at times just before midnight. When the crowds have lulled, the patrons of the theater long gone, the library closed and the plaza stands near-empty except for a handful of people passing by…..

In that solitude of night, in that vacancy and stillness of space – a rarity in a city that never sleeps, I like to walk around Le Guichet, taking in its sinuous curves and voids, its alienesque tentacles tiptoeing on the concrete pavers, a silent witness in stoic steel, unlike Calder’s playful mobiles; painted pitch dark like a galactic black hole unlike his vibrant red Flamingo and Eagle in Chicago and Seattle respectively. This one is not about to soar off; it has just landed. A “box office” selling tickets to another world. Far away.

 

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

 

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

 

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

 


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