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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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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Celebrating a 3 year anniversary of a Musical Movement

“Planetary Coalition.” In our current times, we need this even more. 

So happy to be a part of this massive project since its inception & create its album artwork and much more. With nearly 30 musicians from 5 continents. 

11/11 marks another anniversary of the release which Guitar World listed as one of the top 10 albums of 2014 & Bluenote/Artistshare selected it for the Grammys. Where USA, Canada, Argentina, Turkey, Greece, India, China, Japan, Israel, Palestine, Mexico, Cuba, Mali & other parts of Africa, France, Spain, Albania, Macedonia, Poland…the Balkans & the Baltic…& many other countries came together in the spirit of jazz/gypsy/klezmer/ragas/sufi/flamenco & so many other styles. And the Liberty Science Center & some universities arranged live lecture/performances.

The Facebook page for the project is at http://bit.ly/2zvqoM9

Also, it’s not everyday that a musical piece (“Sleeping Gypsy,” the project’s signature tune which got Union Square dancing) has been written/composed for yours truly. 

#MakeMusicNotWar #SupporttheindependentArts

Here’s an updated video of the complete album. Obviously, it has far fewer views than on its FB fan page.

For the album artwork, go to: http://bit.ly/2i9Ghha


 

Masquerades

Venice carnival "Masked Man". Photo by Maddy SJ for Nomad 9 Design. Featured in https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing in https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com web site are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com

The Venice Carnival is currently on. A spectacular splash of color and splendor, costumes and masks, masquerade balls and parades and parties on the streets and waterways, inside grand villas and palaces – it is a custom dating from the 12th century. There are several different types of Venetian masks, each type with its own purpose and symbolism. A mask for every occasion, for every personality-type, giving concrete form and literal manifestations to the masks people wear in everyday life…….

Venice Carnival - Masked Man© 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing in https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com web site are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com

Venetian Masks © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing in https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com web site are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.

Venice Carnival St Marco Square © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing on the website https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com

Venice Carnival St Marco Square © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing on the website https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com“The closing years of life are like a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Note: © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing on the website https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com  are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.
The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com


 

 

 

11/11 and 1 year

Exactly one year ago on 11/11 we released Planetary Coalition’s debut CD, and what an unexpected and exhilarating journey it has been! A huge thank-you to all who supported, encouraged and participated in this project and appreciated the music we offered and continue to do so.

We are honored and humbled by the reception we’ve received from the public, press and peers. Concerts at Union Square New York, at NAMM venues in California, invitations and sold-out lecture/presentations/audio-visual performances at the Liberty Science Center, NJ, at the ArtsVille series at the University of Dayton, OH, glowing reviews in many local, national and international publications, recognition by Guitar World magazine as one of the top 50 releases of 2014, Acoustic Nation’s pick as the top 10 acoustic guitar albums of 2014, and submitted by our ArtistShare/Bluenote record label in several categories for the upcoming 58th Grammy awards.

For more information on the project, vignettes, news and updates – go to the website http://planetarycoalition.com/

Since an invaluable amount of sweat, blood, creativity. effort and expenses went into this mammoth project, please support the work of independent artists and musicians and not online illegal uploads or ripped CDs.

For the holiday season, share our labor of love as the perfect gift.
Available on i-TUNES here: http://apple.co/1zB0qiN
On AMAZON here: http://amzn.to/1ASdNg4

If i-tunes and Amazon options do not cover your country, you can order directly from ArtistShare here: http://artistshare.com/v4/Projects/OfferDetails/325/439/2186/1/6

Make music, not war! Support the independent Arts!

Here’s a video of the complete album excerpts, compiled & edited by yours truly: 


Planetary Coalition – Album Excerpts 3

This is the last of the album excerpts’ series for Planetary Coalition – with glimpses of the last 5 songs on the album. On Novermber 25, 2014, our itunes sales commenced and within a day the album had already climbed to the top 20 world music albums at number 13. Please help support the project – the link to buy the album on Amazon is here: http://www.amazon.com/Planetary-Coalition-Alex-Skolnick/dp/B00OTVQ0L4 and on itunes here: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/planetary-coalition/id934930381

This series of excerpts begins with a composition with Cuban influences – with the great Grammy award-winning Cuban percussionist Horacio “el Negro” Hernandez and his daughter Jennifer who co-wrote the piece with Skolnick. The photos of Cuba (except three) are ones I had taken during a 2006 trip to that country.

Following this, both countries of the Holy Land – Israel and Palestine are featured – with renowned Palestinian oud player Adnan Joubran of Le Trio Joubran co-composing a track with Skolnick (a piece with surprises in its full version where the melody takes a rather unexpected turn) followed by a duet with famed Israeli percussionist Gadi Seri (a frequent accompanist in the group of Israeli singing sensation Noa) in a piece inspired by travelling through the Negev desert. Initially both Seri and Joubran were to feature on the same track but, due to different rhythm styles, decided to have two separate pieces.

The fourth excerpt is the first guitar-pipa duet ever performed of a popular Chinese melody – with Skolnick and pipa virtuoso Yihan Chen playing on a variation of Wang Huiran’s tune Dance of the Yi People as “Return of the Yi People” and the colorful landscapes featured in the video are indeed from the region of South China where the Yi people reside. There is a previous post in this blog on the pipa – an ancient Chinese instrument more than 2000 years old.

And finally, an excerpt of the popular signature tune of the project – the first track which Skolnick had composed in 2012 when he conceived of the Planetary Coalition series: Sleeping Gypsy, which I feel both happy and shy to mention was composed for your nomadic neighborhood artist and blogger – the Gypsy Geek :)

Here goes:

On Saturday November 29, 2014, about seven of the twenty seven musicians of Planetary Coalition will play at the Liberty Science Center coinciding with an event on the history and development of the acoustic and electric guitar. We also have a Planetary Coalition website where more details are available on the project.

I’ve said it here before, and I’ll say it again once more: Support independent authentic musicians, artists and Art! Make Music, Not War! :)


Planetary Coalition – Album Excerpts I

First of a short series of audio-visual album previews and track excerpts, including scenes from the recording studio, compiled by yours truly.

These excerpts include famed guitar duo Ridrigo y Gabriela – who, among many sold-out concerts and tours – have played for President Obama himself and are two-time guests on the David Letterman Show. In fact this recording with Skolnick was made a day before their Letterman appearance. As teenagers, they were inspired by Skolnick’s playing before becoming professional musicians themselves.

The video also includes glimpses of other great world musicians like Argentine bass player Pablo Aslan and pianist Dario Boente, African kora player and singer Yacouba Sissoko (who has played with Paul Simon, Harry Belafonte et al among others), members of the New York Gypsy All Stars (Vasko Dukovski, Panagiotis Andreou, Engin Kaan Gunaydin), accordian maestro Raif Hyseni, Max ZT who learned his craft from pre-eminent Indian santoor maestro Shiv Kumar Sharma; and violinist Rachel Golub who is also the world record holder in open cold water swimming and has performed with artists ranging from Sting, Elton John and Lady Gaga to Jay-Z, Andrea Bocelli et al and in shows like Saturday Night Live among others; also New York based versatile Japanese bassist Moto Fukushima (a summa cum laude graduate alumni of the prestigious Berklee College of Music) and drummer-percussionist Luke Notary who has previously worked with Cirque du Soleil.

All compositions and arrangement by Alex Skolnick, except Alla La K’e – which is a take on a traditional Malinese song – and this is the first time it has been performed as a guitar-kora duet.

I have been deeply involved artistically with this project since 2012, as artist, consultant and documentarain, and the previous post carries my album artwork.

The CD can be ordered here:

Through ArtistShare: http://artistshare.com/v4/Projects/Experience/325/439/1/Alex-Skolnick-Planetary-Coalition?v=2 (Also includes ways to support the project or get a signed copy of the CD)

Through Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/Planetary-Coalition-Alex-Skolnick/dp/B00OTVQ0L4/ref=sr_1_1?s=music&ie=UTF8&qid=1415952919&sr=1-1&keywords=planetary+coalition

Through i-tunes pre-order: https://itunes.apple.com/us/album/planetary-coalition/id934930381

Support independent authentic Art! Make Music, Not War! :)


Make Music, Not War – II

New York, August 5, 2014. In my previous blog post (here) I explained the premise behind melding my work life, creative endeavors and blog life all together due to a shortage of time. Last week’s blog featured a video with Mali’s world-renowned Kora player Yacouba Sissoko.

Today’s blog post features a rehearsal for the project “Planetary Coalition” with eminent Chinese Pipa player Yihan Chen. See for yourself!

This was during the very first meeting between guitarist Alex Skolnick and Ms. Chen. The music had a feeling of water, just as the African one from last week had a more earthy vibe. The final track with Yihan has already been recorded in the studio. Did you know that the Chinese Pipa is an instrument more than 2000 years old? For fact geeks like me, here’s a history of the Pipa: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pipa

As mentioned earlier, these videos are very exclusive and have not been released yet to a larger audience as we are waiting to do so after the release of the CD. But since I made them, I am showcasing it in a very limited platform through this blog, as a glimpse of what is taking shape.

And more importantly, it is about documenting the dynamic and dialogue between the artists during the process of melody-creation or “feeling out” the music, of creating “conversations” between the instruments and exploring possibilities.  

There is still time to support the project through our ArtistShare website http://www.artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6 or directly contact Alex (http://alexskolnick.com/) or me (gipsygeek at gmail dot com) if you’d like to help us out. Or at most, even get the word around.

As another prosaic and tumultuously violent week in world events passed us by, once again – how much better the world would have been or would be if we created art, found common ground and made music instead of war.

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Make Music, Not War – I

New York, July 27, 2014. Luckily, like most of us – I never had to experience any war zone or heinous crime directly – but the last two weeks probably there were some of the most depressing and horrific events featured in the news one after another, with no end in sight….and all of those caused by the barbarism, territoriality and deliberate cruelty of humans. Large number of pedophiles working in children’s amusement parks, the never-ending Middle East conflict, more murder/kidnappings in Mexico, child rape in India, the new horrors in Ukraine – and then as the finale – the horrendous Malaysian airline shooting due to the Russian-Ukrainian conflict. 

If some universal force or system of justice existed (and it does not – no matter how much some self-soothe through the placebo effect of a non-existent entity) then instead of peaceful citizens, innocent children on the beach, the AIDS researchers on the plane, and the countless individual and collective innocent victims who died of murder, war, missiles and rapes, it’s the murderers, kidnappers, pedophiles. fanatics, violence-provoking fundamentalists and cold blooded killers who should have died instead.

No man/woman is perfect (and even our so-called “great leaders” or “saints” have had appalling personal failures and hypocrisies especially when it came to their sex-life hypocrisies or messiah-complex ruthless narcissism) but in the last few days that saying by Mohandas Gandhi (who alas, also had some lapses in his public preaching vs. his private weaknesses) keeps running in my head: “An eye for an eye makes the whole world blind.”

And then that inner Seinfeld/Monty Python part of me thinks – well, logically if that quote’s taken literally- if it’s “an” eye, that will just leave tons of one-eyed people – with eye patches, and they won’t quite look or feel like Sir Stuffington (see link here)…….. and then I find myself looking at the faces of puppies, kittens, baby animals and baby humans, and flowers – to remember there is still such innocence and beauty in the world……..which, for petty reasons, the miserable destroyers of peace and life wish to take away…

A gentle little bunny reaches out on my lap at an animal farm in Wisconsin.

A gentle little bunny reaches out on my lap at an animal farm in Wisconsin.

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Make music, not war.

And so, it is with a heartening sense of relief that I find myself (since the summer of 2012) being heavily involved in a wonderful world music project started by jazz/metal/world/any-style guitarist Alex Skolnick.

What had begun as an idealistic, optimistic and genuinely concerned project about environmental and social issues and bridging the gap between different countries, cultures and topographies through music – and which was first showcased in Union Square in NYC on June 21,2012, in the annual Make Music festival on summer solstice day – has now grown into an exciting saga, with nearly 30 diverse musicians from all over the world joining in and contributing to musical tracks with traditional instruments and rhythms which Alex has incorporated in his compositions.

I have been both elated and exhausted documenting the project, discussing musical ideas and line-ups, designing the upcoming album cover, sitting in the recording sessions and editing process and very excited at how this project has grown into something truly global in line with its initial goal.

This summer in Union Square, as there was another performance with a limited set of musicians, the crowds went wild and there was joyous dancing to the melodies. We now have stellar and multi-award winning musicians (including a legendary drummer from Cuba, a renowned Palestinian oud player, an eminent Israeli percussionist, a Grammy winner who played along side Yo Yo Ma and a two-time Indo-Canadian Juno award winner who is renowned for her vocal chops, as well as a dynamic guitar duo who have played for President Obama himself) among the many musical artists ranging from countries such as Argentina, India, Turkey, China, Mexico, Mali, Israel, Palestine, Cuba and the Balkan region who will feature in the project.

Good music is truly healing and brings unity in diversity like no other tool. Why can’t we all make music, not war? Why can’t we celebrate our musical diversities and soak in its beauty and creativity instead of the digging deeper of discord and disparities which lead to so much violence and destruction?

In the coming weeks and months a lot of my focus will be on this project, besides the time and energy that goes in my day job as an architectural/interior/landscape planner and designer.  So I will have to meld my projects into this blog and will feature some of the videos from the project Planetary Coalition. There is still time to support the project through our ArtistShare website http://www.artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6 or directly contact Alex or me if you’d like to help us out. Or at most, even get the word around.

The following video features a rehearsal with renowned Kora player Yacouba Sissoko of Mali who has played with stalwarts like Paul Simon, and Harry Belafonte among others. The final recording (not featured here, where he also sings) is one of my favorite tracks from our upcoming CD.

These videos are very exclusive and have not been released yet to a larger audience as we are waiting to do so after the release of the CD. But since I made them, I am showcasing it in a very limited platform through this blog, as a glimpse of what is taking shape.

More importantly – these are about documenting how musical melodies take place, the dynamic between the artists and the process that goes into the making of a finished product, from rehearsals to recordings. It’s more the behind-the-scenes look at the process of music-making rather than the smooth, CGI-effect “final product” of a music video. And there will be others featured in the coming weeks with other artists. Spread the word about the project and the upcoming CD, and as mentioned above with the link – there is still time to support the arts!

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Once again, make music, not war.

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Spring in The City

 

New York , April 2014. Some photos taken by a very talented friend of mine – an architect-turned-software-engineer who lives and works in New York. Start the slideshow by clicking on any picture. (All images are under copyright. Please do not copy, reuse, print or save.) 

 

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“So I went to New York City to be born again. It was and remains easy for most Americans to go somewhere else and start anew. I wasn’t like my parents. I didn’t have any supposedly sacred piece of land or shoals of friends to leave behind. Nowhere has the number zero been of more philosophical value than in the United States…. and when the [train] plunged into a tunnel under New York City, with its lining of pipes and wires, I was out of the womb and into the birth canal.” – Kurt Vonnegut in Bluebeard

Train in Tunnel - New York City

Of Spice and Spain

February 27, 2014. Google’s commemorative doodle honoring the 112th birthday of author John Steinbeck really, truly rocks……of mice and men, in the grapes of wrath, and travels with Charley – “it is the hour of the pearl – the interval between day and night when time stops and examines itself.” 

It brought back memories of my adolescent years when Hesse and Nietzsche, Steinbeck and Salinger, Emerson and Thoreau, Tagore and Vonnegut, Austen and Bronte, Christie and Doyle, Emily Dickinson and Christina Rossetti and so many, many more beloved authors and poets quenched the thirst for searching wonder, which, thankfully, still prevails, and looks forward to reading many, many more words of wisdom and introspection; war and peace; undersea and over-skies….

Since the doodle could be viewed only on Google USA, I have placed the screenshots as a slide show. (Click on the first to start the slideshow)

The illustrations are so beautiful – in the old-book-style when hand and paper still made direct contact without the medium of computer graphics.  I remember discovering the libraries in both my grandparents’ homes as a kid and finding those books, among many others, and later books of my parents – and  being lost for hours in that world of tales and travels through the beauty of the written word. Lazy carefree summer vacations spent reading sitting under a tree or up in a balcony licking creamsicles or pickles, voraciously reading as though time was endless, optimism abundant. Same on Christmas vacations – as the sounds of chatting relatives would fill the downstairs hallways, I’d find a secret corner in a secluded room and, snuggled in winter mittens and sweater, discover the magic of life and love, anguish and exhilaration, and adventures yet to be experienced on growing up some day…..

Whoever or whichever team decides the artwork of Google doodles definitely seems to have good taste. They never fail to amuse or impress, or at most bring back the whiff of nostalgia. 

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It was also with some sadness I was informed this day that Spain’s and the world’s foremost Flamenco guitarist Paco de Lucia had passed away. Just last year I was working on a video of the music of Paco de Lucia with Al di Meola (who I’ve been fortunate enough to meet in person thanks to guitarist Alex Skolnick), for the world music project Planetary Coalition. Paco was quite simply put – an absolute musical genius.

I had become a student of the dance form of Spanish Gypsy Flamenco since 2004 – earlier having been a disciple and stage performer of classical Bharatnatyam which I’d started at the age of 4 and continued for 19 years – under the tutelage of, and often as a lead dancer for the large stage productions by the highly venerated dance couple Jaya and C.V Chandrasekhar (before architectural pressures disallowed time for anything else…..much to the disappointment of my teachers who had hoped that I would continue in the strict Kalakshetra-school discipline and become a full-time professional dancer.)  However, after a break from formal dance, Flamenco is the form that I had chosen on my very own and which remains closest to my heart, and Paco de Lucia’s playing was one of the seducers to understand the nuances and fire (duende) of this incredibly Dionysian music and follow its call through dance.

Flamenco Dancers: Paintings by Fabian Perez and Anastassia Art respectively.

Flamenco Dancers: Paintings by Fabian Perez and Anastassia Art respectively.

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Though incredibly revered and well-known in the flamenco and jazz world, most others may unknowingly have come across Paco’s strumming in the hit Bryan Adams song “Have you ever loved a woman.” Unlike the dynamic, daring public image which he felt people had unfairly “lionized” by his stage presence, in real life Paco was shy, “timid and retiring”, introverted and extremely private.

Age 66 is relatively young by today’s standards to pass away. He will be deeply missed, but thankfully – his music will live on and inspire generations to come.

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One more for Flamenco lovers with gypsy hearts and nomadic feet…..

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