Life, Love, Logic, Legends and PLanetary CoaLition

New York. December 24, 2013. In an earlier post I had given details about a new world music project being undertaken by versatile guitarist Alex Skolnick.

Details of the project, its introduction, aspects, and what the participant gets is all explained here: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/world-music-project-planetary-coalition/

To directly go to the ArtistShare website of the project to participate, donate or become a part of this wonderful creative process go here. We need YOUR help: http://artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6

There are many exclusive videos made specially for the project – from the music writing process, interviews with the musicians and artists, scenes from the recording studio (something a participant will have direct access to in-person if they choose to become a producer or higher-level participant), credit listing on the CD, VIP passes to shows and much more.

Along with all this, there are also audio-visual tours and commentaries – and one in particular is my favorite. Alex Skolnick’s “10 world music inspirations” represented by picturesque videos capturing the “essence” of the musical pieces along with his live commentary. The musical pieces he has chosen cover several countries from Turkey to Mali, from India to Argentina, from Austria to Mexico and many more.

One among these, is the second video on “musical inspirations” which yours truly has worked on. Exclusively available on the Gipsy Geek site for one month, you can watch it here, to get a sense of the experience. This video (among others of this series and many more on different topics) is available only to ArtsitShare Planetary Coalition project participants, so this is an exclusive peek here. After a month, I will password protect this video and any new or curious readers can e-mail me at gipsygeek at gmail dot com to get access to the video, or directly participate in “Planetary Coalition” on Artistshare to unlock all the other goodies and personal artist access a real participant can get and many more videos and interviews on other topics.

The two pieces featured in the video below, along with commentary by Skolnick on why these were important inspirations, are: Joe Zawinul’s “Patriots” and Peter Gabriel’s (yes, that’s right – if you listen to the commentary you will see why he was a proponent of world music) “Of These, Hope Reprise.”

I really enjoyed making this music video, the first piece – a celebration of life, love and everything that makes human existence, evolution, innovation and our planet so unique; the second, starting at minute 11:22 – a contemplative minimalist one with images that capture the spirit of perhaps one of the most influential and legendary figures of history who his followers commemorate this month. (Although historically, 25th December was the celebration of natalis Invicti [Birth of the Unconquerable (Sun)] or, as some historians say, it was the day of celebration of the God Mithras, which the Romans then adopted when they embraced Christianity, but I will not get into those facts and controversies here.) Either way, the second piece in this video is from Martin Scorsese’s movie “The Last Temptation of Christ.” And the first, of the inimitable Joe Zawinul is my own labor of love when I compiled, collected and edited the images and clips to celebrate his one-of-a-kind musical masterpiece.

Please full-screen it for better viewing.

Once again, we really need your help to make “Planetary Coalition” possible.

The direct link to support us through the ArtistShare website is here:  http://artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6

.

And my blog post explaining the project is here: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2013/09/15/world-music-project-planetary-coalition/

Happy holidays!

_

+

Suddenly September

New York, September 15, 2013. It seems September slithered in all too soon, and summer passed by e’er so quickly. But amidst the incipience of the tender-crisp Autumn air that wisps in hesitantly unto the city streets and parks this week, it gives me great pleasure to announce that a new exciting world music project is afoot, and it needs the help of those who like exploring new cultural soundscapes and landscapes. 

This new project is called “Planetary Coalition.”

Alex Skolnick Planetary Coalition

(1) What is “Planetary Coalition?”

Conceptualized by versatile guitarist and writer Alex Skolnick, Planetary Coalition is an ethnically flavored collective of diverse musicians from all over the world. Its mission is to tie together the virtuosity of jazz, the power of metal and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, Asian, African, Latin and other indigenous lands. Through the universal language of music, Planetary Coalition intends to bridge the gap between different cultures, increase ecological awareness and explore the threads that connect musical expression with regional identity.

But there’s more, as people from all over the world can participate, either by being directly involved in the project as supporters or producers, and/or by sending in essays, artwork, postcards etc. It is open to all. I’ll let the man himself explain in detail:

(2) What are some of the sounds and textures of Planetary Coalition?

Besides Skolnick, other global musicians will include several well-known instrumentalists from different regions of the world. These will include, for the first CD, artists from Mexico, Turkey, Argentina, Iraq, China, Cuba, India, Ghana, Ireland, Palestine, the Canadian Arctic, and other places. The following video gives an idea of only some of the sounds and “feel” of the project. (And yes, the piece “Sleeping Gypsy” is composed for yours truly as outlined in an earlier post on this blog). There is a separate video (available for participants only) which explains the process of composition of the tune.

(3) How can I participate in the production as well as experience of Planetary Coalition?

To be a participant and get personal access to the artists and to the creative process, go to the project on ArtistShare.com http://artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6

You can participate at various levels up to being an Executive Producer.

As well, as explained in the Welcome Video, you can participate in other ways by mailing in your letters, essays, experiences, photographs, artwork, which will be included in the final multi-media presentation.

Tune in for updates at http://planetarycoalition.com/  or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, as seen on that site.

Depending on the participation level, you can have access to the artists through in-depth interviews, videos made especially for you, or direct personal contact with them in the recording studio, during their music sessions, VIP access to their shows, personalized music lessons and much more. Each level explains what the participant can get access to, including credit listing in the final CD of the project.

There are many short films and mini-documentaries that are regularly sent out to participants – some outlining great world music inspirations, others’ on the composers’ creative processes. This one is a trailer of the music writing process of the project creator, showing a tiny glimpse of a mini-series.

For those curious to know more about Sklonick and his background, you can read his memoir “Geek to Guitar Hero,” which as outlined by many amazon reviewers is very inspiring and revealing, whether you are a musician or not. The story of a shy, awkward, geeky kid of Ivy League parents who ended up being, to quote Guitar World Magazine editor-in-chief Brad Tolisnki, “one of the most remarkable guitarists in hard rock history.” Few (and especially his metal fans who often see the “rock star” persona) know that in his private life, he is an avid classical and world music listener, and his mornings almost exclusively begin with Bach, Mozart, Debussy et al playing in the background, while his evenings are filled with jazz and world music. He is also a long time avid book reader, with Vonnegut, Hesse, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Klosterman, Dan Gilbert and many, many others practically spilling out of the shelves of his Brooklyn home.

Many of the intimate views participants will get through Artistshare include the behind the scenes glimpses into the lives of the musicians involved in the project.

*

Planetary Coalition Alex Skolnick

Planetary Coalition represents a global collective of musicians, listeners, artists, architects, ecologists, researchers, writers and everyday citizens coming together for the sake of our own planet Earth.

We hope you’ll join us! Also, spread the word around to friends you think may be interested.

*

(p.s If there is a glitch in the project link on artishare and it takes you to Maria Schneider’s project instead, click of the Planetary Coalition project videos on the sidebar. http://artistshare.com/v4/Projects/Experience/325/439/1)

*

Art ‘n’ August – 3

The only attitude (the only politics–judicial, medical, pedagogical and so forth) I would absolutely condemn is one which, directly or indirectly, cuts off the possibility of an essentially interminable questioning, that is, an effective and thus transforming questioning.–  Jacques Derrida.

New York, 2013. Labor Day weekend. A section from a giant paper collage. “The Grid” – based upon the way there is a thrust to create some sort of orthogonal “order” on our organic, sinuous landscapes and geographic contours, without consideration of natural processes, landforms or the fractal geometry and elaborate intricacies with which ecology and ecosystems work. Instead, planners in North America superimpose “The Grid”  – a network of roads, by-laws, zoning ordinances with little understanding of far more environmentally-conscious alternatives which could instead take the matrix of Landscape Ecology into consideration. And all this is done to appease the almighty Automobile and creating an illusion of “order” while enormous amounts of environmental waste is produced.

The collage was 3-dimensional with layers of images and cut-outs which could be lifted to reveal the layers within. I’d made it as part of a university urban planning art project in Canada. The following picture is a segment of the total piece.

"The Grid." Collage. © 2000. Maddy (The Gipsy Geek) Click to enlarge.

“The Grid.” Collage. © 2000. Maddy (The Gipsy Geek) Click to enlarge.

.

Art ‘n’ August – 1

Art ‘n’ August – 2

Come hail or storm….

New York, October 31, 2012. Yes, indeed, it has been 10 full months since I have posted anything new on this blog. It has been an interesting year, professionally and personally. On April 9th of this year, I lost my father, suddenly, unexpectedly, to a massive heart attack. He was always a hyper-active man, with no prior heart issues, so it did come as a surprise. Thankfully for him, death was quick and he did not suffer. A sudden afternoon 3 second attack on a normal day. 

Today is Halloween, which comes after the largest hurricane to ever hit the Atlantic Ocean. While the area I live in, in New York, was safe and sound, devastation occurred in Lower Manhattan, parts of Queens, and many areas of New Jersey and upstate New York. Some of the most dramatic photographs can be found on this link:

http://www.theatlantic.com/infocus/2012/10/hurricane-sandy-after-landfall/100396/

The lights on the Brooklyn Bridge stand in contrast to the lower Manhattan skyline which has lost its electrical supply, early on Tuesday, October 30, 2012, after megastorm Sandy swept through New York. A record storm surge that was higher than predicted along with high winds damaged the electrical system and plunged millions of people into darkness. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan)

A parking lot full of yellow cabs sits flooded as a result of Hurricane Sandy on Tuesday, October 30, 2012. (AP Photo/Charles Sykes)

A 168-foot water tanker, the John B. Caddell, sits on the shore Tuesday morning, October 30, 2012 where it ran aground on Front Street in the Stapleton neighborhood of New York’s Staten Island. (AP Photo/Sean Sweeney)

So, for Halloween and after the trauma of Sandy – one of the most brilliant, metaphoric and strangely traumatic short films I have seen in a while: ‘Keha Malu’ or ‘Body Memory’ or ‘La memoire du corps’ by young Estonian director Ulo Pikkov. This multiple award-winning experimental film, just 8 mins long, looks at the idea that our bodies remember more than just our individual experiences, but the pain and sorrow of those who came before us.

Please watch in full-screen mode with the HD high-def version. It’s worth it…..There can be many interpretations of the film – the trains going towards Aushwitz and death, our existential crises as we are pulled like puppets on a string by various ‘systems’ of society, or just the collective pain of mankind from impending endings. But either way, a rather poignant and dramatic impact on the viewer.

*

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

.

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

.

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.

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

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

.

Love Earth, Torture Animals?

Because glossing over or turning away from Facts, does not take them away. 

*

Love Earth, but Torture Animals? The irony of “celebrating” Earth Day & torturing for Easter on the same weekend

New York. ‘Good Friday’. 22 April, 2011. One of the strangest contradictions of life is when you have Earth Day and Easter on the same weekend. “Be green”, “Care for our Earth,” “20 ways of ‘eco-living’ to impress your friends,” “Save the polar bears,” “Save our animals from global warming, big bad corporations! – oops, wait a minute! Starbucks goes “green” – while the ‘save the earth’ meeting was being conducted there! Wal-mart goes “green”(my ass!)! While one was buying that made-in-China pot-roast deep dish!” Slogans, articles and cute animal-faced smiley cartoons and much cheesy marketing that goes on “Earth Day” – that’s today. And in the very next instance be bombarded with more slogans and tips and suggestions telling “20 ways to welcome spring by baking the best new-born lamb for Easter,” “Celebrate Easter weekend with baby lamb, roast chicken, suckling pig,” “The way to your man’s heart this Easter and to get a ring before the Royal Wedding and the cuddliest bunny soft toy is to cook the most delicious baby bunny rabbit in the world, ladies! after of course, you have impressed him with your Green Nature-conscious skills on Earth-Day! Yea!

Ah, the irony! No more words today. Just pictures. And a film I’d been planning to place for a while.  Not to induce guilt. Just to inject Truth. Unfortunate. Objective. Truth – ah sweet, sweet, bitter, brutal Truth. To me, ‘God’ is not in the skies. Truth is ‘God’. Love is ‘God.’ And Reality is Reality. Those soft-toys on the store shelf – bought for giggly-cosmo-obsessed-girlfriends and innocent kids……My words from a poem written years back as a kid : “Soft-toys are subjected to affection, while REAL animals face butcher’s knives.” 

You see, all those pretty smiley, emoticorny escapism, rationalizations, ‘religion’izations will not take away reality, the truth, the way, the unfathomable, cruel, unnecessary, savage, evil, psychopathic way those animals will be treated, will be tortured, will be killed, and areevery single day – all across the world – be they dogs and cats and so many other species in China and elsewhere, or lambs and calves and much more in the West – but tortured, skinned, killed, cut-up, shipped, cooked and then placed under the soft lights of a fancy meal – the ambiance and music ‘wishing away’ the reality of how their life really was led……while that toy filled with fuzz, or at times the furry toy made from the fur of some cat or rabbit skinned alive somewhere in China is handed over as the great gift of ‘love’ to that naive, innocent child – who, if he or she knew how cruel the world is, would perhaps never be able to eat lamb again. Or then be given enough ‘rationalizations’, and ‘desensitizations’ to do so. Or better – told those happy, smiley stories and fairy tales that say that after brutal, bleeding, tortuous death – they – like ‘Him’ – in all their original intact forms will ‘resurrect’ and live happily ever after in a cloudy, pearly Heaven.

Ah – the Truth is so hard to take – fables are made to heal the heart and self-soothe. But alas, Truth remains Truth. Reality – Real. And perhaps only Real, Truthful Love is what is needed more. So Empathy can overcome greed and gluttony. To remember the eyes of an innocent in its last breaths of life. To have enough Love for life to have the courage to say “No – I will not partake in the suffering of sentient beings with advanced nervous systems that feel pain, that feel excruciating physical pain just like you and me, who are tortured in this fashion in reality and then given the ‘glamour shot’ while they lie in cut up little pieces on my plate in that candle-lit table.”

I am not against humane death and a humane free life, but against such unnecessary, unfathomable inhumane cruelty when in our present day and age, and even before, we do have many, many other choices.

I am not against the taste of pleasure , but against this mind-blowing hypocrisy. And I have far greater respect for the person who truly lives off the grid and hunts for his own sustenance in the wild, using every part of his kill, than those who tout ‘go green’ cliches while sitting dandily eating the meat from a slaughterhouse.

I am not against the ‘tales’ and stories we say to protect children from harsh reality, but against those consistent ever-present countless immeasurable Lies we hear even adults preach to one another and pretend to believe for self-protection to hide the face of Truth. Or to deny the Truth of their own inner reality that allows and justifies cruelty like this to occur and look the other way with apathy and cowardice.

So I will still stare without taking my eyes away at the 360-degree reality of Truth.

I will still walk that way which is often a road of solitude, but one I have taken many times before, and will never stop from taking again. And I will walk on that road, no matter how few or large its takers.

I will walk on it – if just for my own truth and empathy and nothing else.  No matter how much the ridicule, no matter all the economizations, intellectualizations, rationalizations, confabulations to mock another being.

And I will follow only for that Trinity which to me is real freedom: The simple trinity which needs no book, nor leaders, no tales, nor followers.  Just a long hard look at life, reality, knowledge and the choices we have and the choices we make.

The road, the trinity of:   Truth * Love * Integrity.

*

Happy Earth Day! Happy Easter! Whatever those terms mean. I studied in a Catholic Convent – of course I know what those ‘terms’ mean. And yet, they are but words – because true integrity is not in words, but what lies within and is practiced consciously through our actions.  (Though I came from a family of Christians, Buddhists, Hindus, Jews and more so – a dad who was a scientist and a mother a philosopher/mathematician, I am a non-believer of any God in the skies.)  

(p.s. I am a vegetarian, not a vegan. I eat eggs from freer-range free-running hens. With regards to milk – I don’t buy dairy milk after knowing how the dairy industry treats cows and their babies, so I buy almond milk. I only drink cow’s milk when in India, where you can actually meet the cow and they live with their calves. And if you get a chance, do watch ‘Fast Food Nation’.)

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

.

And the truth of the process of how they end up in that last picture…here. This film. The sad fact of life is that turning your face away will not take truth and reality away, nor the pain of billions of mammals and birds who are treated this way or the heinous crimes and greed of the owners of slaughterhouses and users who support this system:

“Mercy for Animals” – a film. Narrated by James Cromwell. Now watching the truth – that  is having real kindness for our Earth. 

We do have a choice. Yes we do. We do not have to endorse cruelty.

All it needs to make that choice – like all other ethical choices in life is – Love. Truth. Determination. and above all, Integrity.

*

Related posts:

1. This too shall pass.

2. Saltationism of Silliness

3. Red December – Part 3

4. Truth or Dare

5. UNFETTERED