There is always Hope…..

New York, December 25, 2012. I had first placed this little French film in my post Red December – Post 3, Love and the Red Balloon. But in light of this strange Christmas season, where the end of the year saw the unimaginably tragic deaths of several young innocents in the Connecticut school shootings, and the nation stands poised for a fiscal cliff, and despite the festivities of the holidays, a strange uncertainty and poignancy and sadness hangs like a shroud upon our future, I thought I would place this…..It captures the purity, the beauty, the joys and cruelty of childhood all at once. When I was a little girl, this was the first film I saw (on TV) which made a lasting impression and still does. Albert Lamorisse’s 34 minute gem….

“The Red Balloon” – In memory of the young innocents here and elsewhere…..In memory of love, and childhood’s simple pleasures and indescribable pains, and in hope towards healing, and finding it in our hearts to be uplifted again, when the time comes on its own…….

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For the innocents in childhood’s kingdom. Banksy’s graffiti – “There is always hope.”

banksy-there-is-always-hope

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Pascal and the Red Balloon

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And, I hope, there is kindness for the innocents in the animal kingdom too

all-I-want-for-Christmas-is-my-life

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Oasis

Desert(ed) Dreams

“Sandstorm Erasure” – photography collage (click to enlarge)

Ce qui embellit le désert, dit le petit prince, c’est qu’il cache un puits quelque part…

“What makes the desert beautiful,” said the little prince, “is that somewhere it hides a well.” – Antoine de St. Exupery in The Little Prince

“I have always loved the desert. One sits down on a desert sand dune, sees nothing, hears nothing. Yet through the silence something throbs, and gleams…”  – Antoine de St. Exupery 

“……… he learned the most important part of the language that all the world spoke-the language that everyone on earth was capable of understanding in their heart. It was love. Something older than humanity, more ancient than the desert….”Paulo Coelho in The Alchemist

“WIDE, the margin between carte blanche and the white page. Nevertheless it is not in the margin that you can find me, but in the yet whiter one that separates the word-strewn sheet from the transparent, the written page from the one to be written in the infinite space where the eye turns back to the eye, and the hand to the pen, where all we write is erased, even as you write it. For the book imperceptibly takes shape within the book we will never finish.

There is my desert.”                                                             –  Edmond Jabès

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.November 20, 2012. Wishing there was peace in those countries in the desert lands, instead of the war that never ends…..

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An alternative, at last!

 ‎”Speak softly but carry a big can of paint.” – Banksy.

www.i-graffiti.com The new social network for free thinkers, artists, scientists, innovators and those who believe in rational ethics. It’s about quality, not quantity. If you don’t want to share the same network which also houses fundamentalist nuts, pro-fur cruellas and bullies or stalkers – an alternative is here. At last.

Clean, clear graphics in the site, very user-friendly and most of all NO ads and secure privacy. Check out the video on vimeo and youtube. Beta-launch and testing begins on November 9, 2011 – Carl Sagan’s birthday, and full launch on February 12 – yep – Charles Darwin’s birthday – whatever year it is.

Spread it around,  folks! the (R)Evolution is Here.

Don’t forget to turn up the speakers and watch in full screen mode.

i-graffiti.com

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i-graffiti.com

i-graffiti.com

i-graffiti.com

i-graffiti.com

i-graffiti.com

i-graffiti.com

i-graffiti.com

Musings on an August morning…


“Transformation” (acrylic on cardboard. click to enlarge)

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august      morning

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Last night, I saw your smile.
That incipient curve
Crooked at first
Before it  burst
Full force
like a radiant ray of sunshine
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And you spoke of random acts
Of travel
life, love, learning
Of wandering
And wondering….
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Over a glass of velvet wine
While Jarrett jammed Jazz
In Pandora’s box
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Do you know what you mean to me?
The joy you bring through Our 
Aberrant moments together?
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Carousing through this city
Those carefree conversations?
And tumbling-spontaneous-endless-unexpected sensations?
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And I am once again that girl
Who whirl’d on a quiet cloudy beach one afternoon
without a care in the worl’
Drunk in the joy
Of unchained abandon
Letting the waves of the surf-speckled ocean
Kiss her skin on the salted sand….
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And I feel those kisses again
In the touch of your hand….
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That hand that makes your music
That breathes life into this thirsty August air
With notes that pull my heartstrings
And ripple through your careless hair
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And the innocence of a connection
That has no name, no heed.
Yet binded by our laughter
And similarities that exceed
Beyond our wildest expectations
A surprise each time we meet
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Ah! The beauty of the written word,
Of letters, and of longing
You’re far again, yet in my thoughts
Every single morning………
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Junipers in June – 2

JUNIPERS IN JUNE – 2

Mad scars o’ Madagascar

For Junipers in June – 1 click  here.

This blog has mostly been my escape from work, but since last month, I’ve decided to place certain stories from times related to travels due to it. Through my years both as an architect and landscape architect & planner in the last decade, I have been lucky to work in over 80 projects spread across over a dozen countries in five continents. I thank my lucky stars for the exposure it provided me to so many different countries and cultures, landscapes and urban realities, the textures of myriad earths, the scents of many-splendoured forests and the colours and chaos and calm of lands distant and warm, as well as close-by and pristine. There are so many stories, too many tales, so many tears and smiles…..life, despite its ups and downs, has been full, for various reasons and in myriad ways.

As I mentioned earlier, June is my birthday month, so I get to write more as an indulgence. No-holds bar ricocheting pen-prose for pleasure. So – yet another.

One of the most educative and adventurous projects I worked on (albeit the one in Kabul, Afghanistan takes the cake) was building a school for children in the African island of Madagascar, in 2002, in its capital city of Antananarivo, funded by the Aga Khan Development Network. Madagascar has a very unique one-of-a-kind flora and fauna system. An excerpt of its unique disposition in the natural world (from wiki):

The prehistoric breakup of the Gondwana supercontinent separated the Madagascar-Antarctica-India landmass from the Africa-South America landmass around 135 million years ago. Madagascar later split from India around 88 million years ago, allowing plants and animals on the island to evolve in complete isolation. Consequently, Madagascar is a biodiversity hotspot in which over 80% of its plant and animal species are found nowhere else on Earth. These are dispersed across a variety of ecoregions, broadly divided into eastern and south-central rain forest, western dry forests, southern desert and spiny forest. The island’s diverse ecosystems and unique wildlife are severely threatened by human settlement and traditional slash-and-burn practices (tavy) which have denuded Madagascar of 95% of its original forest cover. Under the administration of former President Marc Ravalomanana, the government of Madagascar partnered with the international community to implement large-scale conservation measures tied to ecotourism as part of the national development strategy. However, under Rajoelina’s caretaker government there has been a dramatic increase in illegal logging of precious woods and the poaching and sale of threatened species such as lemurs in Madagascar’s many national parks, several of which are classified as UNESCO World Heritage Sites.

Below a few images from the conceptual design stage of the school….

For projects like these, I like to take inspiration from the land itself, its colors, smells, history, stories, unique constraints and opportunities, the dreams of the local people, their reality. And the contours, the climate and the specificities of the site itself. While I worked on both the architecture and landscape architecture, the following images are from the latter. The panels on the colors and patterns were made from images of the island’s unique endemic and often endangered species. The intention behind finding connections between shapes and patterns placed in the entry courts was to make the school into a literal ‘learning ground’ for the island’s future generation so they could appreciate the ecologic heritage they had inherited and stop the present slash-and-burn techniques of destruction. Each courtyard and school subset had its own theme – inspired by the island’s flora and fauna and its local handicrafts, woodwork and art, as well as the sentiments expressed in local folk poems. The connections seen in the various natural and man-made motifs of the island were incorporated into the design.

Click to enlarge, to read the text, and soak in the colors of this unique endangered island.   .

Colors and Patterns of Madagascar

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Landscape plan for the school, plant species selected and the reasons behind the selections. (Click to enlarge and read.)

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Sketches depicting the internal larger courtyards of the school (click to enlarge) In tropical / equatorial climates courtyards act not only as thermal insulators but as convenient linkages of connected safe open spaces between buildings.

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Entry court concept for the Nursery School (click to enlarge)

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Entry court concept for the Primary School (click to enlarge)

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Entry court concept for the Secondary School (click to enlarge)

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Principal court concept between the Administrative block, recreational facilities and the High School (click to enlarge)

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Barter

“In the Dionysian dithyramb man is incited to the greatest exaltation of all his symbolic faculties; something never before experienced struggles for utterance – the annihilation of the veil of Maya, Oneness as the soul of the race, and of nature itself.” – Friedrich Nietzsche in “The Birth of Tragedy.”

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BARTER

(Sap-Alert! somewhat sappy, mushy stuff, written during a bout of metaphorical madness in 2009; the predicament when logical Apollonian souls get bewitched into loving Dionysian frenzied chaos, and get churned into inspired innuendos and dancing hearts. Any similarity of characteristics outlined here, with persons alive or dead, is purely coincidental.)

“Dionysus and Artemis.” Pen, ink and water color. Completed in 3 hours. (c) Maddy, 2004. “The Greek God of chaos, madness, wine and dark ecstasy Dionysius claims Apollo’s twin Artemis (the Light Bringer and goddess of the wilderness, of mountains, animals and virginity) in her own forest.”

For the poem “Barter” (2009): Wholeness within a single person can be conceptually attributed when one has been able to identify, struggle with, embrace, incorporate and balance both one’s lighter/logical and darker/emotional realms – or in other words – the Apollonian and Dionysian aspects of one’s psyche and state of being. Generally (as in the works of most philosophers as well as Camile Paglia’s book Sexual Personae) Apollonian logic, intellect and reason is seen as the masculine aspect, and Dionysian emotion, enigma and creativity as feminine.

Nietzsche for the first time presented Dionysus as the raw, wild, engulfing, destructive, angry, chthonic, impulsive, creative, powerful, sexual alpha-male and Apollo as the structured, calm, orderly, organized, rational man.

So what happens when completing the duality constitutes of finding the Dionysian within a “logical woman” instead, one who has more Apollonian traits and is awakened to the dark mysterious emotions of womanhood through the injection of the whimsical, sexual Dionysian within her? Hence I chose Artemis as the female anima of Dionysus – one who is an Equal Opposite – and where neither one can annihilate the other, but combine to make a balanced Whole. This resilience of Artemis (and her self-reliance) is necessary, because in philosophical texts – wherever Dionysus unleashes his turbulence, Apollonian qualities are completely destroyed. But not here – due to Artemis’ innate strength.  It is through the willful subjugation at the hands of the primitive, dominating male Dionysus that Artemis (hitherto stubborn, strong, virginal, reserved) finally learns to evoke her repressed passions and sensuality and show a vulnerability and softness of deeper womanhood, first losing herself to his pain, darkness and ecstasy and then regaining herself as an individual but more complete than before. And unlike the usual victims of Dionysus – the screaming maenads who lose control and become mad – Artemis’ intrinsic Apollonian logic and rationality keep her in balance, despite being able to experience fully YET withstand Dionysus’ intoxicating chaos and frenzy. What drove the maenads to madness, only makes her laugh. Because she willingly seeks his darkness as “the fuel for her light” as well as the space for her repose.

The no-man’s land where the overlap, their meeting occurs is a neutral territory where the union of the two opposites results in the balanced expression of art, and it is in this fertile overlap that the architect dwells and shapes his/her Will in line with a Nietzschean quote. (Architecture and Music are the two art forms since ancient times viewed as the balance of Apollonian & Dionysian qualities. It is also worthwhile to remember, therefore, the mention of Hesse’s humorous “immortals” – Pablo, the theater-designer and Mozart, the musician/composer – in Herman Hesse’s symbolic novel Steppenwolf – who are presented as those capable of living and creating in that fertile yet rare overlap, through the strength of their Will, their understanding of the facades (illusions) as well as the Reality of the world, and yet be able to create and live life fully due to their advanced sense of humor. Laughter and Love are the catalysts that can make individuation possible.)

Barter

(a spontaneous silly poem written in the spur-of-the-moment in the very early springtime of 2009, as I stood looking out into the beautiful maple forest outside my bedroom widow, on the top of the Summit Forest of Mount-Royal, Montreal, Canada. The last verse at the end was added more recently, in 2011, after a solitary walk in Central Park, New York.)

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In the twilight hour
of no-man’s land
where dreams and nightmares
blend to one
On a narrow ledge
where both collide
and turn to mist
where secrets hide
and compress to form
an even narrower strand
on that strip that comprises
no-man’s land:

Light becomes an illusion to you
elusive, beyond a darkened tunnel
But light is where I’m doomed to live
till I’m scathed by brightness,
Scorched
and blinded.

A child of light
I long for darkness
It’s mystic calm
and sensuous madness

A child of darkness
you seek the light
to laugh and play
take off in flight

Freedom to you beckons
like a sunlit sky
But to me –
freedom’s the starlight
of a blackened night

Exhausted by light
I crave to rest
and close my eyes
in your mysterious cave
of satyrs and suffering
bogs and waves
guffaws and cries
of mirth and hate

My world is joyful
Too bright and blithe
Like constant daytime
of a thousand lamps
It burns the ones
who cause me harm
And wish I could cry
to brave the storms
But ‘stead of tears
only laughter forms
for I’ve learned to
just not give a damn.
I see too well
through social masks
and senseless rituals
of a blinking mass
I prefer the madness
of those who dare
to reveal anger, sadness
feel real pain and fear
Unlike the pretenders
who dwell in
Apathy
Or hide behind banal
hypocritical
Duplicity.
So I seek the truth
of unpredictable flights
of those who truly know
The ups and downs
The highs and lows
of Intensity
The breathless turbulence
of shifting soil
The flowing caress
The ebb and tides
The whimsicality
of roller coaster rides.

You have the gift
of forgetfulness
to hold memories
like an ocean’s
fleeting waves.
But I’m Doomed to hold
every memory
like consistent earth
in solid constancy
And etched in stone
is every image I have
from adult responsibility
to childhood’s laughs.

Will you teach me how
to be like ocean waves
So I can skip my stones
on the water’s surface?
Will you take my light
When I’m tired of it?
Will you share your night
When it swallows you?

I need the dark
to recharge my light
and if you want my laughter
my genuine joy and smiles
take them in lieu
for the dark I desire
for I need it to relight
my innate fire

So when the sandman
sends your eyes to sleep
or when on grey days
you’re a dead man walking
I’ll take your grey
should you want my yellow
or I’ll learn to live
in that soothing mellow
If you’re the thundering skies
of black and grey
I’m the autumn leaves
of golden glades
that get blown off by your breezy rage
only to renew in brighter shades

I need to die
so I can Live again
a child of Light
that found its fuel
I was frozen once
and forgot to die
but you killed me
so I could resurrect again

Now addicted I am
to the thrill I get
of cyclical resurrections
I seek my death
I seek a hollow
like you seek your life
Here – take my life
till you’re whole again.
My cup keeps filling
till it cannot contain
it runneth eternally
with warm summer rain

So when you need authentic joy
and I need authentic pain
a life-blood to both
We shall exchange;
please take my smiles
for I need your screams
to feel alive
like I’ve never been
I’ll enter your nightmares
and you’ll enter my dreams
of peace and love
and tender streams

So I’ll wait for you,
Barter my joy for your sorrow
on that narrow
ledge
to lend and borrow
Each twilight hour
when the sun is low
and the glow of day
sinks in shadow
When the night descends
and takes our hands
into the scarlet hollow
of no-man’s land…..

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Forbidden words,
Forbidden lies
Forbidden glances
From your eyes
And yet your madness
Set afire
And freed
the myrrh
of desire
But like all else in that overlap,
that ledge where our two worlds briefly met,
I sank again,
like you knew I would
You watched me fall
To
A
Newer
Death
The Woman arose,
For the girl was dead;
And the Man subdued
her boyish ways.
He conquered her
not in weakened state
But in all her strength
Transformed to Love, not hate.
Yet unsatisfied,
He struck again
For Dionysus maenads
are maddened dead;
He forgot though, this
was Artemis
His equal opposite
With no fear of dread
And her spirit
would never give up on Life
‘Stead she
Laughed at the follies
Of his reckless youth,
And
happily shouldered
Responsibility
And
laughed and braved
his every mood.

For it is not perfection
One must seek,
But the perfect balance of the Light and Dark
And all Re-newal leads to Spring
Be it summer heat or winter stark.
If the detritus on the forest floor
Was not removed by Bacchic rage
How could the sunlight from the skies
Re-birth the saplings, Re-verse the page?
Re-write amidst the thunderstorms
A hymn of wisdom well worth singing:

The simple secRet of Re-surection is –

The Will of
Springing
Back
To

A
New
Beginning…..

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(c) Maddy. The Gipsy Geek. 2009.


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*“The architect represents neither a Dionysian nor an Apollinian condition: here it is the mighty act of will, the will which moves mountains, the intoxication of the strong will, which demands artistic expression.” –  Friedrich Wilhelm Nietzsche.

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The Apollonian & Dionysian here (Wikipedia link)

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A video celebrating an entwining of the two (The Apollonian science that created NASA’s satellite images, and the Dionysian sensuality of the composition of one of Chopin’s best nocturnes, yet each entity within itself – the music and the images- already have a perfect balance of the Apollonian-Dionysian duality) http://www.youtube.com/Chopin for EROS

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The ‘forest’ or rather stills of it that I stared at through the seasons and a log that held witness to a promise that I held on to with the naivete of the belief in words:  http://www.youtube.com/Memories of Montreal

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The literal meaning of ‘Re’ – http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/re-  

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Love and the Red Balloon – an ode to love :  https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/12/24/love-and-the-red-balloon/

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Random Acts of Planet Earth

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 

Today, March 1st, is widely believed to be the birthday of Frederic Chopin. According to Wikipedia:

“Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, in French Frédéric François Chopin[1] (22 February or 1 March 1810)[2] – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer, virtuoso pianist, and music teacher, of French–Polish parentage. He was one of the great masters of Romantic music.

Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola, a village in the Duchy of Warsaw. A renowned child-prodigy pianist and composer, he grew up in Warsaw and completed his musical education there. Following the Russian suppression of the Polish November 1830 Uprising, he settled in Paris as part of the Polish Great Emigration. He supported himself as a composer and piano teacher, giving few public performances. From 1837 to 1847 he carried on a relationship with the French woman writer George Sand. For most of his life, Chopin suffered from poor health; he died in Paris in 1849 at the age of 39.

All of Chopin’s works involve the piano. They are technically demanding but emphasize nuance and expressive depth. Chopin invented the musical form known as the instrumental ballade and made major innovations to the piano sonatamazurkawaltznocturnepolonaiseétudeimpromptu and prélude.”

The images in this little video I made are all from the NASA & USGS Project ‘Earth as Art.’ Click here 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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Red December – Post 3

RED DECEMBER – 3

LOVE & THE RED BALLOON

The heart has its reasons that Reason knows not of.”  – Blaise Pascal

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The Red Balloon. Albert Lamirosse’s 1956 Oscar & Palme d’Or winning 30-minute Film.

It is a liberating feeling to know that writing/journalism is not your mainstay profession – that way you are free to write for the sake of writing and let your stream of consciousness  transfer through your mind and heart to your fingers without a plethora of intellectual/politically-correct debates sprouting up. Just a thought. This is the last of my ‘Red December’ series. In a sense it was the idea of this post that had first made me think of the associations of the colour ‘red’ – isn’t it interesting how the most extreme ranges of human emotions are associated with this colour? Danger, alertness, action, stoppage, sexiness, war, anger…..but most importantly the emotion of Love.

Yes, despite all the downers in life, the one ’emotion’ that kept me in balance, kept me optimistic, was that Red Balloon of Love. And I don’t mean ‘romantic’ love. Just ‘Love.’ The kind that just lives and redeems for itself. On watching the film again, I realized why this movie is so profound – it is a metaphor of what love is – the kind that stirs your heart like never before, like an understanding playful friend reaching out to you against a shared loneliness or greyness of the apathy and complacent cruelty in the world around – the way love lifts our hearts, the way we grow attached to it, depend on it, nurture it, are loyal to it, sacrifice for it, learn lessons in pain and longing from it, and finally, the way Love sets us free because of the epiphany its magical presence brought in our lives.

In November 2008, while going through a period of metaphorical insanity that produced volumes of writing, I’d had a powerful epiphany about love. It still remains one of the most profound times of my life where logic and love found a balance, and Love truly lifted me from my own darkness. Many chapters and stories were written in that inspired frenzy, and the following is an excerpt from a chapter I wrote titled ‘Love and the Lameness of Logic.’ Today I read it again, and though I have grown more since then, I am glad in retrospect that I grappled in those dark depths, if only for the euphoria that this realization had brought me. Not that I had not experienced ‘love’ before – but this time the intellectual, the practical, the emotional (and every other ‘al’) finally found congruence and I was set free. The condition where ego no longer matters but the Self finds itself. And truly discovers the capacity, the power, the unbridled abandon of Love.

“……..As much as we’d like to think of ourselves as constantly kind and just, sadly, we are cruel in life. Sometimes. Often. Unintentionally or through ignorance. Why? Because we keep those waiting who love us the most; We take love for granted. I know I have which is why I can write so. We waste our energies convincing those who do not care for us. They become a challenge to please. We show our bright lights to the uncaring. Yet we let those who care for us remain forgotten in the shadows. We do not remember them until it is too late. Until after facing the coldness of the world we turn around to seek them, thinking they will always be there and then find they have walked away finally exhausted, or are dead.

“Pride and ego work antithetically to love; silencers of confessing the truth to ourselves and to others; we are so concerned about how we will be perceived, so concerned that we will make fools of ourselves, so concerned of the stuffy and pretentious dictum of social protocols that after a while we stop listening to our hearts. I know this because I have sometimes noticed that ‘pride’ in myself and in others becoming the blockage in expressing love. But really, Pride for whose sake? Although in my case more than pride it has mostly been a sense of overwhelming shyness to express. The mind often thinks it knows better but in the end the heart is the one that breaks free when love is real. Hurt and its fear is the barricade that blocks the flow of love between our hearts and brains and since amongst the logical, the brain mostly transmits our words to our lips – we blurt out the wrong words because that bridge between the heart and the lips has been blocked. And now that I have confronted the hurt – or rather the shock – how clear it is to cherish the understanding I had received and yet had not wanted to see blinded by stubbornness so as to allow only Reason to overpower emotion and everything else. In a strange way – logic almost becomes the thwarter of love. As Tagore (the Nobel laureate Bengali poet) had said – “A mind all logic is like a knife all blade. It makes the hand bleed that uses it.”

“Or As Blaise Pascal had said: “The heart has its reasons which Reason knows not of.”

“Useless by cartoonist Randall Monroe of xkcd.com

“Love is what keeps us. What makes us. What saves us. And love is for love’s sake only – it completes and redeems itself. And the love that combines romance, strength, spirit, intellect, body, mind and compassion – and ah, so very very rare to find – and the one we all search for in one person and find it only in parts in many – that is the closest to salvation we come to. At the end one realizes that that is how one has to love one’s own self inside, to view the “love” inside in its multitude and then when it dwells as an integral part of one’s state of being, it becomes both the flame that enlightens one and the flame that gives warmth to others. It is difficult  to reach at this stage for many, but it is true nonetheless. My mother used to say that “Every human has his own limited capacity and within that some try to reach their own limit, some do not even recognize what they have inside and never even try to expand. And then there are those who break away from even their own limits to a higher state.” And the holistic state of love is the fire that breaks the limit. It is true. It is a personal journey. The mantra has been tainted, ritualized, made clichéd by various forms such as religious quarks, cheesy commercialism and even extreme ‘free love’. But it is an internal philosophy that at the end reveals the truth through personal reflection and experience only. It is only then that Love translates into the type of self-actualization and exaltation that covers and becomes one with the entire universe – a truly cosmic experience. This is something that some wise (or crazy) souls had discovered and tried to pass on, but forgot the folly that comprehension cannot be distributed second-hand. That just that personal knowledge was enough and not it’s craving to pass it on. But it is a lonely craving to share with similar minds. Ah – the craving to share, I know it. Because the solitude of epiphany is a peak where you wish to see others yet have to let them make the climb themselves.

“And that is why I looked back at the gift of understanding  (although Reason had clouded sight) and I realized that love is the one quality that as humans we should never forget in our hearts no matter how many times we get caught in earthly disappointments. I read words I had received of a few who shall remain unnamed for their privacy, of those who were not poets or writers and seemed so rational and restrained; and yet love had evoked something rare in them. I understood how it is love or its loss that makes men of logic and reason, finance and institutes turn into poets and philosophers. I understood how love arises in the human heart and why introverted men and women with their quieter ways take longer to put their thoughts and emotions into spoken words (never mind that they may be writing treatises in the privacy of solitude). And how it also causes sadness when the object of one’s love moves away. And  that it was not conquest but absolute surrender that could open the heart to love.

“Oh, how could I have forgotten such beauty in my search for logic and reason?? How could I have started reading on the ‘biology of chemistry of love’, terrified that my heart would overpower my logical brain. How can any brain chemistry or neurology explain such poignant honesty of the heart? Actually it can – but what good is prose in life without poetry? There is no substitute for pure unadulterated love. How telling it is of why in petty human misunderstandings there is no real reason to get sad and angry because many truths are simply hidden. Comprehension ignites compassion; Learning enlightens love. Just as love inspires learning.

“so really it’s not just a matter of “understanding men or women”, it’s understanding understanding.” (quote of an old long-lost friend.)

“And at last the honesty of acknowledging the truth about love was released.

“As a child I believed in love in spite of my visions of war. Till 28 I believed in personal love even after seeing hatred. How did I – who could give love so freely to everything else – restrict myself from believing in its power when it came to my own personal life and looked for answers in purely logic and reason? And have evaded from seeing the powerful love behind words and simply started seeing words like an arrangement of letters of the alphabet? I know why I did it – it was to avoid the pain of disappointment by those who did not mean their words – and now that folly has been rectified; the lodged bullet that blurred that vision removed. Words are the expression of our deepest thoughts, our innermost psyches – the purest form of an invitation into the chambers of the mind and the heart; as is music and painting and most art forms of course – but words by far the easiest to transmit and share. And love which I believed in as the most beautiful abstraction in the world since childhood spread out full force inside in every pore again from the unrestricted heart and I could express it through language again.

“I think when love gets held back by fear or not finding the right words to express itself, it comes out silently as tears. Or falls inwards like pricking icicles hurting the heart.

“And when love becomes part of one’s entire being again – one understands its force in the world, in the everyday. And one also understands that it is truly the absence of love that creates the horrors of the world. Some may say a love for power creates a mess. That is a blasphemy of using the word ‘love’ – ‘love’ is not what those power hungry people feel. It is a Greed for power, a greed for control, a greed for forceful assertion that creates the chaos in the world. As I walk down the street – it is so obvious……the power of love: It is love that makes the baker put his artistry in the delectable pastries, it is love that makes the artist pour out his soul on a canvas, it is love for their children or families that make men and women take up jobs they don’t like but to sustain a livelihood, it is love that makes people seek beauty, it is love for their work and their conscientiousness that make architects and engineers and all the professionals who we cannot do without build up the pillars and the infrastructure of the urbanscapes we dwell in, it is love that makes us smile for no reason when we feel happy, it is the love of a mother for her child that makes her do anything to get the best for him, it is love for one’s music that makes a musician produce such beautiful notes, it is the love of his work that makes the craftsman make those musical instruments, it is love for knowledge that makes the scientists and inventors of the world go to the amazing lengths of medical and technological advances and space travel that we have today, it is love for compassion that makes some people risk their own lives to help others…….on and on it goes………Love and a love for their work; or love and love for duty. That really is what makes the world go round. And of course ecology – but that’s another completely different aspect. But it is love that makes at least the human plane survive. At least the love of those who are the pillars that carry everyone else. And those who say love is foolish, presumptuous or the idea of fools have sadly perhaps never experienced genuine unconditional love, except perhaps from a mother.

All ideologies end up killing people. If you separate love from nonviolence you turn nonviolence into an ideology, a gimmick. Structures that are not inhabited by justice and love have no liberating or reconciling force, and are never sources of life.” – Jean Goss.

“It is sad to realize that in a sense the men who hound bars, the women who do the same in the seduction game, lonely inside, are actually all looking for love but trying to find it through temporary pleasures. Or perhaps that is all there is and they are genuinely happy in that physical expression of love, but I believe no person and animal can survive without love. A kind lady had once told me that love is often even more needed than bread. That love finds a way to provide bread. Which is why it is so beautiful, so wondrous. Love brings joy and joy generates peace. Of course peace becomes a whole different system of world politics and………oh well, that logical brain always has to butt in once in a while.

“But if love is so unimportant in life why do our greatest songs, our greatest epics, our most beautiful works of art always deal with the beauty of the presence of love and the ugliness of the absence of love (war)? It is love which gives us life and its absence death. And when we resurrect ourselves, it is due to our love inside. And death has its limits but it is truly love that is limitless.

“It is love that makes people cross oceans and mountains to bring back their beloved home, it is the understanding of the knowledge and power of love that gives the meditator nirvana. It is the echo of the beauty of first love that people try to recreate in all its innocence – no matter how much they try to rationalize. Einstein had said something to the effect once that how on earth can you ever explain in terms of chemistry and physics so important a phenomenon as first love. The chap was right of course. So when thoughts of that causes one pain, or a craving to recapture that sense of wonder and innocence and the unadulterated love in one’s heart – what does one do? One remembers just the love, that fire inside one’s heart and forgets the ups and down of the attachment factor in the past. And that fire within oneself then translates into a luminance of Love inside of the Here and Now.  That fire becomes one with all the other types of love inside and the light inside glows  inextinguishable. A supernova-of-sorts constantly regenerating…. And one is then at peace with one’s darkness too.

On the other hand, it is the absence of love that causes the worst horrors of life. Because hatred consists of the absence of love. War is the culmination of all the negative forces of the human psyche. And within it too emerge acts and flashes of incredible courage and love. Jealousy that causes some women to do horrible things to others is the absence of love for others’ better qualities. Isolating others because they are different in some ways is the act of withholding ‘group-love’ to psychologically torture another. The advanced Self realizes to churn out a powerful love from within oneself and not get caught by the immature dictum of society.

It is important to remember though that in a bustle to ‘exoticise’ love in other places, logic is not abandoned. Sometimes there is a trend to think that those who prefer solitude or are introverted may not need love, while those who always wish to be a part of big social groups are more “loving” in some ways. This premise is not entirely true. Rather, in highly communal societies the ‘groupism’ present is often not so much out of extreme brotherly love, but because there is a direct relation between bad infrastructure and tighter communities. The worse the infrastructure of a country, the tighter the communal camaraderie of its people – because they have to depend on each other for survival, not on the government. In more technologically advanced societies it is precisely because the infrastructure is more developed that groupism becomes a choice, not a necessity. A person’s individual capacity to generate love is independent of his civic structure. And this then starts off an entire new debate of inherited values, ingrained bonding abilities, and of individual love, communal love and the balance between the two………..but that’s another story. And another post for another day.

For now all I know is this : If we were told we only had 10 minutes to live, the only people we would remember are the ones from whom we learned and the ones whom we loved. And those who truly loved us. It is strange how clear life becomes when one thinks with a bucket list.”

– written during a bout of ‘madness’ in November 2008, during the stillness of nights on Rue Dizier, Old Montreal.

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LE BALLON ROUGE

34 minutes of your time that will bring back  the rawest and purest form of childhood’s  joys, tears, injustice, cruelty and redemption. And love that can speak in the language of silence. Happy Holidays and wishing you the best for 2011!

My little gift (thanks to youtube) to all my readers who have read my random words through this year, and especially to those who sent me beautiful mails, insightful comments. Your feedback makes it worthwhile to keep writing.

For a long time it was very difficult to get a copy of this gem of a film. It’s available on this link. Enjoy!

https://archive.org/details/LeBallonRougetheRedBalloon

and here (without the opening title) :

For more on Le Ballon Rogue : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Red_Balloon

& and a beautiful analysis of this film, done by author and illustrator Brian Selznick:  Here

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Red December – Post 1

RED DECEMBER – 1

New York, December 1, 2010. In North American seasons, it seems more appropriate to say ‘Red October’ as the leaves change colours. ‘White December’ would seem more apt since most of the north has received its first snowfall by then. But for this December, I feel like writing three posts with a ‘red’ theme in common – Red – the colour of cherry-red lips, the predominant colour of Christmas wrappings and stockings, but most of all the colour of blood, of the heart, of the glow in a fireplace, and of Love.

I just returned from a week in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, cities I lived in for 2 years in 2006 and 2007 for work. Moving from Montreal, Canada, with its cold northern winters, the two Floridian cities were escapes to sun and sand and sea……the stunning turquoise blue waters of their Atlantic shorelines obliterating all the other problems and urban – sprawl lifestyle. Greedy to soak in the waters, I lived on the high floor of a condo on Pompano Beach directly overlooking the vast endless ocean. After two years of filling my eyes and ears with the colours and sounds of the ocean waves that I woke up to every morning, I returned back north. On this visit, after nearly 3 years, I met again those who were dear to me, those who were my friends; and after the hellos, I said goodbye more as a closure once again to those with whom I had shared talks and walks and an occasional drink on patios and on white sand beaches or gone on boat and canoe rides in the picturesque waters of the Atlantic ocean and the Florida Keys. Some friends will remain so forever, no matter how far the distance in miles and years. Here’s to lovely Michelle and Gladys and Debbie and Sharolyn – four versatile, multi-dimensional, incredibly good-hearted women, and to four other straightforward male buddies. Thank you all for your senses and sensibilities!

Florida Keys  

It often takes a visit back as a traveler to appreciate what you left or find closure and peace for why you did. It IS true that familiarity breeds contempt and scarcity creates value. That is sadly a truth about human nature. The scorching sun and the serene waters that I’d begun to take for granted towards the end of my stay there in 2007, bogged by the lack of intellectual or ethical values that predominated much of flashy-car-and-silicon-boob-and-loud-showing-off South Florida, reminded me that the warmth of the sun can be appreciated only after experiencing the bitter northern winters, and the fakeness that used to affect me could disturb me only as long as I allowed it to – for if I chose to look beyond the noise, I could always find a quiet little bench in a hidden boardwalk on a marina where the boats docked where I could sit and enjoy fresh oysters I’d bought from Mr. Fish on Pompano, or find quiet beaches away from the crowds and choose to bicycle and canoe without giving a damn of ‘what car I drove or someone else drove’ (a predominant showiness of status that is found most in South Florida and Los Angeles-area-California when you live there.) And I discovered that beneath the surface, there were many authentic, happy, laid-back people and friends who did care about Florida’s fragile ecosystems and had a joyous relaxed attitude, sunnily different than the neurotic “Go-Go-Go” hustle of the Big Apple or the overtly-intellectually-competitive climate of Cambridge, MA, that I had grown more accustomed to.

When I transformed into a traveler again, I became more open to the charms of the city that a fresh revisit can bring back, (unlike the fear I’d experienced while getting lost driving in Overtown, the most crime-infested neighbourhood in Miami; or another time when I naively was walking into a dangerous trap while buying something off Craigslist and was saved by a friend.) This time, I let it all be, and just went along without fear, focussing more on all the far better memories I had of the city. Fort Lauderdale brought back its lovely beaches and my favourite hangs behind porches of lesser-known gems of restaurants that looked out into the ocean. Sadly I saw on this visit that many smaller cafes and shops which I’d frequent had closed down due to the economic hit this region took during the recession. Chatty business-owners told me tales of how the economic crash had affected their lives and those of others. Some of those stories were sad, some were funny and a few outright bizarre. In another honest talk, a good friend of mine (who is a self-made entrepreneur and a rising star in the building trade, with a residential project-in-construction even on the exclusive Star Island that he walked me through,) explained to me that he bought his Porsches truly for their engineering, not as any ‘symbols.’ He explained how given a chance, most men who liked cars would like to own a Porsche – more for its speed and amazing engineering, not necessarily for any ‘show.’ Thanks to him I can now say I have experienced what driving a 2009 Porsche Turbo feels like ;-) (Still, nothing beats flying a humble Cessna…but that’s just a personal preference.)

And this time, with a renewed perspective free from any past preconceived ponderosity, Miami brought back its Latin flavours, its predominant whiffs of delicious Cuban cooking,  Spanish guitars and the heat of its warm sun-kissed Decembers.

I am no ethnic gypsy, just a metaphorical ‘gyspy’ due to my nomadic travels and the many cities I have lived and worked in, but what better way to start a Red December than the haunting strum of the musical mastery of a real gypsy group of Catalonian Romani gitanos who reside in Southern France – The Gipsy Kings? Though I had received training in classical dance for many years, for a couple of years later in my 20s I took a rigorous training in the style of dance known as Gypsy Flamenco. And it is hard to remain still when the Kings take off on their guitars and lively vocals. But for this post, I have attached one of their pure instrumental compositions – a sensuous Red rendition that stirs one’s inner passion, and reminds us once again of the poetry of love, of longing and long nights under an open sky, of the hopes and desires of timeless youth when hearts were open, and gazes held fire, and the flow of your blood pulsated against your skin with a Dionysian rhythm of an inspired frenzy surpassing the Apollonian mind……..

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Memories of Montreal – un petit film

Montreal, Canada. 10-10-’10. I have been busy with my travels these past  several days and shall be traveling for a few more to come…..and Internet access has been sporadic and minuscule, at best. One of the joys of traveling and reconnecting with old friends and places in general is the humane factor of touch, sight, sound and smell which the virtual world, no matter how rich it can be, can never equal. The virtual at the end, serves only as the medium – the conduit through which the essence of the real can be captured only in bits and pieces on a two-dimensional plane.

So until I find the time to write a more reflective or analytical post, I’m re-posting an older article and video which had been, in essence, a quick ode to a city that has always remained dear to my  heart. On this trip, as I packed up the remnants of my existence here and found closure on many levels, I understood with some poignancy that it was indeed “Goodbye Montreal” and “Hello New York” for good. Time flies, people change, precocious girls we knew from our work days get married, have children; men we knew who carried an intense fire for living look beaten and broken in the grind of work life and compromises….those who thought they would live a ‘James Bond’ existence wake up to a reality of  ‘The Office’ (ah! mid-life crisis, or should I say mid-life acceptance, for many a man.)  A girl who was a sworn spinster is now married in a big Greek wedding with a baby on the way. A good architect friend who had the worst year of his life in 2008, is now not only on his best year but has become a successful theatre-actor on the side. Another who I thought would forever remain timid and servile has broken free and has his own firm.  A man who I thought had crazy intensity  ended up truly being intensely mentally crazy when I saw him again after two years. A girl I thought would never lose her integrity, I found, has now sold her soul in the name of society’s cliched definition of success……

We meet many, we lose a few, we remain static with some, we grow for, with and at times, away from others.  And for some like myself, sometimes looking back I have to confess (as a private joke that a few friends will understand) by fluke, I certainly was ‘Saved by the Bell’  in October 2008 in Montreal. Had it not been so, I certainly might not have perhaps found myself in Cambridge and subsequently in New York City. Thank you, Antonio Stradivari!

Life goes on, time never waits and all that is left behind are memories…….Yet for some places and people looking back at them never quite brings clarity – like looking at one’s past and hoping to get a balanced vision – yet instead it feels akin to when you open an old book and find inside its pages a pressed exotic flower from long ago and its faint scents and faded colours prevent detached objectivity.

But: We move on, thus. We must. We look back – sometimes with 20-20 vision, and at times with visions still blurred and foggy. Yet we move on. Or at least try our best. Or hobble on. Or, if we are lucky, sail smoothly away.

And oh yes – one more thing – xkcd-style. Just for the heck of it (or maybe it’s just all these cafes selling baguettes here.)  Either way:

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MÉMOIRES DE MON MONTRÉAL

(originally posted on May 25, 2010)

This is a short and quick film I made to capture some moments at my favourite city where I lived and worked for many years as an architect. I made this to celebrate both Montreal’s unique poignancy AND vibrancy.

Location: The film is based on my photographs through my years in Montreal. The apartment featured is on Ridgewood Avenue where my balcony and windows opened out into the forest of the Mont Royal Summit, behind the gigantic St. Joseph’s Oratory featured both in the early part and in the closing shot of the film. The ‘summit forest’ is the highest point of the city at the bifurcating median of the eastern traditionally ‘French side’ from the western ‘English side’ though of course in reality the city is entirely mixed and diverse. My apartment’s location enabled an incomparable view of the surroundings as well as the seasonal changes of the magnificent trees in its forested backyard. I lived in two different apartments over the years on the same street though I lived in other areas of the city as well, including the Plateau Mont Royal neighbourhood, in downtown Montreal, on the east side near the Village and also in the historic suburb of Vieux Longueuil. I’ve had 7 addresses during my years in the city.

The office featured in the film is of my architecture mentor Dan Hanganu on Rue Dizier.  Its arched windows looked out into the art galleries of Rue St. Paul. The three friends in the ‘four architects’ photo are Anca, Lucia and Athena (and no, we are quite the opposite of the self-absorbed, shoe-crazy, man-hungry, navel-gazing ‘sex and the city’ hyper-materialistic girls.) I met them while working at the historic multi-disciplinary and multi-national architecture firm Le Groupe Arcop one of whose founding fathers had a fellowship in his name at McGill university which I had been awarded more than a decade ago, not knowing then that some day I would go on to work at the firm he had founded. There are other pictures here of friends who are dear to me. I have added quite a few well-known streets and landmarks of the city as well as those places that are personally meaningful and memorable.

The repetition of the sunflowers in the clip is not just a reminder of the lively kiosks and flower shops dotted around the town (and the little herb and flower corner of my balcony), but also a representation of the human potential and inclination to seek and search for joy in life despite how gray the skies may become at times and…….well, because sunflowers are my favourite blossoms. I always say that no matter how sad a moment may be, looking at a ‘happy sunflower’ brings back the smile on my face. They just seem to be such sprightly optimistic flowers, following the light of the sun….

Music: The featured musical pieces on this video are ‘Oblivion’ (violin – Joshua Bell; bandoneon – Carel Kraayenhof) & ‘All of Me’ by Jazz great Lester Young (tenor sax), Teddy Wilson (piano), Jo Jones (drums), Gene Ramey (bass). Since I wanted to capture the paradoxical ‘poignant joyousness’ of the city, the first half of the film includes a heartfelt piece ‘Oblivion’ played by the versatile virtuoso Bell (whose movie The Red Violin’s ending culminates in this city and who I met in Montreal, so I thought it would be appropriate to place his rendition.) The second half of the film picks up the tempo, rhythm and joie-de-vivre unique to this belle ville and reminiscent in a very jolly 1950s tune ‘All of Me’ (composed by Gerald Marks & Seymour Simons) played by the jazz legend  Lester Young – which captures the spirit of the famous International Jazz Festival that Montreal hosts every summer and also the ambiance of its many cafes, clubs, youth culture, its ‘book capital’ status and bicycle and pedestrian-friendly street life.

Additional photography: Almost all the photographs used here are my own. The ‘night vision’ shots though hazy, I felt captured the lights, music and movement better of the city’s nightlife and festivals than clean ‘perfect’ ones taken with a camera stand. There are around 5 pictures featured here taken from Montreal tourism. And out of the total 160 photographs used here – 12 are from the collections of two friends who are extremely talented professionals and have their own studios and should be credited – Jessica Petunia and Robin Cerutti who are both Montreal residents

http://www.flickriver.com/photos/jessicapetunia/popular-interesting/

http://robincerutti.com/

The music in the video is beautiful when heard through the right speakers since a tiny mono speaker of a laptop cannot do justice to a big jazz band nor to a 1713 Stradivarius.

This is just a little personal ode to a city that has meant so much in my life and where, in many ways, an integral part of my mind, heart, soul and body will always remain, always belong, and live on through its multifarious memories.

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Renoir in the Fall

Fall in Quebec is a lovely time – a riot of red, yellow, orange, gold, green and brown mixed with yellow-gray skies and the crisp Autumn air. I find myself back again for a brief visit to my favourite North American city – Montreal. As I walk along familiar streets, tempting smells and the cobblestone streets of Old Montreal with its splendid art galleries, I am reminded how the colours of paintings have often inspired other media artists – especially film makers, interior designers, dance and theatre  set designers, costume designers and even musicians.

Did you know that director Jean-Pierre Jeunet had said that he was inspired by the works of Brazilian painter Juarez Machado to select his predominant red-green-yellow palette with spots of sporadic blue for his picturesque movie Amelie?

Still from the carnival ride of “Amelie”

The rooms from Jean-Pierre jeunet’s film “Amelie.” The director said that he was inspired by the colour palette of paintings of Brazilian painter Juarez Machado.

I was just gazing at the paintings of Renoir at an art gallery. Pierre-August Renoir (25 February 1841 – 3 December 1919), as we all know is  one of the pioneers of the Impressionist style of painting. At his time he, along with Claude Monet, Pissarro and Sisley had formed a radical group of young artists to create a new style as a departure from previous academic techniques. The strokes and paint details were soft, overlapped, merged and diffused to give a dreamy style capturing the ‘essence’ of the subjects. Black was avoided and shadows were shown by mixing complementary colours. Impressionist classical music which developed in the late nineteenth century, seen in the works of Ravel and Debussy, captured that same light, feathery and dream-like quality. Renoir’s paintings are particularly noted for their vibrant and saturated colours, depictions of lively gatherings and soft portraits and nudes of women. His work is very rich in its capture of warmth and softness. Even after developing rheumatoid arthritis in 1892, Renoir continued to paint and produced several thousands of paintings in his lifetime.

Click on any of the paintings below to start a slideshow.

While soaking in the colours and compositions of Renoir, I was reminded of this scene I saw on youtube – a scene from the old musical GiGi, set in the early 1900s in Paris – that seemed remarkably like a Renoir painting breathed life into. I am not into musicals (find them too schmaltzy and boring at times, though for some of them, the set designs and costumes are worth watching). GiGi, alongwith My Fair Lady and The Sound of Music were however some of my grandmother’s favourites, so I remember the Christmas vacations when she’d play videos of them for us. I do not remember much of GiGi except the colours – and when I looked at Quebec’s autumn colours and the paintings in galleries in Rue St. Paul and some prints of the vibrant colours of Renoir’s work – I recalled this scene from that film. See for yourself (albeit this particular scene was placed more for its sound quality). But doesn’t it look like a Renoir painting come to life?

(When you full screen the above scene from the movie GiGi, it literally looks like the colours and characters of a Renoir painting has come to life. Try it!)


For the works and biography of Juarez Machado:

http://www.jmachado.com/

For the complete works and biography of Pierre-August Renoir:

http://www.renoirgallery.com/gallery.asp?id=54

Random Acts of Sunshine

RANDOM ACTS OF SUNSHINE

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Nothing starts a day better than a little dose of sunshine with the timeless music of Johann Sebastian Bach on the piano and the optimistic joy of sunflowers. This is the first of my ‘Random Acts’ short video series that I’m working on to celebrate the little pleasures  of life. And Bach and sunflowers have been two of my favourite ways to start a morning for as far back as I can remember……Perhaps, like the Himalayan mountains beckon my blood, as does the Mediterranean Sea, so do the sunflowers of Provence and the music of Bach.

My personal favourite in this collection of sunflower photos is the one of the sprightly lone helianthus bravely blooming at the edge of a grey sidewalk. A symbol of spunky joy indeed! I hope you like viewing this little piece as much as I loved making it, though of course Bach sounds its best when the speakers are good.

Please note that the last photo in the closing shot of the little child in the field has been taken by an exceptionally talented young lady Iryna Smolych from jossphoto.com who I hope to interview some day on my blog. Please watch this in the full screen mode. Happy mornings!

Random Acts of Sunshine. (full-screen it please.)

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I do not know about you, but for me – music is one of the greatest affectors of my moods and state of being. I’ve just always had extremely sensitive ears (and an oversensitive nose – but that’s another story). My dad had to take me to several trips to an audiologist or ENT specialist when I was a kid because I’d complain of hearing everything too loudly or pick up sounds that others would not find disturbing, or sometimes not even notice.

Turns out my ears were indeed too sensitive and I was hearing frequencies and pitches beyond the normal range. Yes – the doc played and experimented with several tuning forks and for a while I became his pet ‘freak’ patient. I later wondered if my affinity for dogs and other animals came from this auditory anomaly.

As a little kid, I had the ability to pick up any music by ear and play it on the piano (an ability which alas, my parents never encouraged, pushing me into dance instead to tone down my ‘tomboyishnes’ – but a decision of theirs that still makes me a wee bit sad at times. ok – here’s more looking at you sunflowers! to forget that!) Anyway, the solution was to wear ear plugs for a while and carry them around at all times, but even to this day, I remain very sensitive to sound, pitch, tonality and my entire body jangles in pain if a certain piece of music is incongruous in context or time of day, or just plain bad. I also like music that is ‘pure’ – i.e. the instruments are real and tangible. Till date, I still am not crazy about digital ‘instruments’.

While I haven’t done a survey I wonder how many people are affected by sound deeply, intrinsically, achingly. It was no coincidence that later ‘Acoustic Design in Architecture’ (a great help when it comes to designing concert halls) became one of my favorite subjects and I’d end up even teaching that. 

I wonder if the liquid in our inner ears that maintain ‘balance’ in our body has something to do with our intrinsic sensitivity to sound and songs. Geek readers can check out this youtube video which explains how our ear processes sounds and how the fluid in our inner ears maintain our balance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vTiGskc1o48  (Don’t get spooked by the animated biological skinless face at the start – not a pleasant sight to see after the sunflowers.)

I also wonder why  certain styles or pieces of music feel so right in the morning and others only at night? In eastern cultures, classical music was composed and played according to the time of day as well as seasons of a year. I’m sure everyone has different preferences, yet somehow the ‘sameness’ of biology all across the human race perhaps leads to similar effects of different kinds of music on our bodies? I for one, love Bach in the morning. And certain pieces of Mozart. Even Debussy at times. Or Bill Evans playing ‘Here’s to that Rainy Day’. Afternoons, when I feel drowsy I don’t mind a torrid flamenco guitar tune or even a few jolly Gypsy Kings songs to wake me up – their sunny candor taking away the boredom at that time of day. Late sunny afternoons for some reason, stirs a craving for world music – Saif Keita singing songs from Mali, Bob Marley’s nasal wailing or the more classical variations of some old Bollywood song (the ones with tablas and drums), or even Brazilian carnaval rhythms. Exotic. Erotic in the essence of strange accents and exotic languages. Musical metaphors of imaginary (or real) afternoon sex in hot climates. Your lover’s sweat seeping in foreign soil. Where music and moving limbs and eyes surpass the necessity of comprehending language.

Evenings are for more somber or sensuous tunes in Jazz, or even lively big bands, poignant French ballads, or Django Reinhardt-esque brazen liveliness, or classical symphonies of Beethoven, Brahms and Tchaikovsky. And late at night, I love the pensive mood of Keith Jarrett, or melancholic versions of Jazz, and of course, the nocturnes of Chopin.  Dark nights are also for Pink Floyd, Jimi Henrix, Tool, the Scorpions, a few selected Rave beats, as well as some heavy Metal groups or songs I listen to. They seem so in sync with the mystery and terror of night, with madness and mania, fury and fire, or even just contemplation of the ‘dark side’ of psyches or moons or ‘crazy diamonds’ ;) I do not know if the ‘metal-at-night’ phenomenon is more out of a habit from the architecture-school days when pulling all-nighters was accompanied by the thrash of metal guitars – haunting, screaming thrusting one into werewolf-energy while drawing lines or making sketches in an inspired frenzy. But even without the architectural memory, I still find that genre very effective only at night.

Somehow friends who listen to the Goldberg variations in the night and Metal in the mornings seem to have it all topsy-turvy. In the open studio of my grad school, there were fellow-students who would jangle the hall with  either Judas Priest and Metallica in the early mornings or depressed ballads of Sarah Mclachlan. (Why couldn’t they hear them in earphones, instead of jangling the entire studio and all my nerves??! and I’d retreat back to that kid with sensitive ears, my state of mind anxious and muddied, wishing they would understand the subtlety of tender timid sunrays that ask for the joy of sunflowers, not the stench of death and skulls.)  

I have no problems with either thrashing, heavy and/or melancholic music at night, but mornings – ah sweet, sweet fresh clean innocent new mornings – please give me my Bach, and sunflowers, a good cup of tea, and soft, happy strums of the guitar, the sitar and the piano – and let me glide into the day reflective, alone in my thoughts, alone in the peaceful solitude of a morning-mind, and lapping up quiet exultant serenity……..

So – to those who like genial harmony and genus helianthus  in the mornings – here’s to Bach and sunflowers!

And if such indulgence in making ‘random acts’ videos and thoughts make me an idiot, so be it. There is a great quote by Bach: “If I decide to be an idiot, then I’ll be an idiot on my own accord. ” 

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