“Stay Weird”

September 1, 2015. In the past couple of weeks, this gem of a 4-minute video from Canada has been doing its rounds on the web. It’s a video posted as a farewell by the CBC Radio show “Wiretap” which ended after 11 seasons. Created by Jonathan Goldstein, a former producer of This American Life, WireTap invited audiences to “eavesdrop on a mix of funny, thoughtful, and unpredictable stories and conversations.” The Montreal Gazette called the show “something between borscht-belt comedy and Franz Kafka.”

“How to Age Gracefully” was originally an episode that kicked off the show’s tenth season on September 6, 2013. In it, people between the ages of 5 years to 90 years old shared their wisdom about growing up — and it was as witty as powerful. Goldstein remarked that the concept seemed to have stuck with people; so he and the show’s team decided the best send-off would be to invite listeners down to the CBC and make the premise of that episode into a video. 

If my readers get the chance, do pick up a copy of Harvard psychologist Daniel Gilbert’s book “Stumbling on Happiness.” Among its many insightful observations there is one that perhaps correctly notes that each individual person may think that he/she is utterly unique (which in a sense everyone is at a DNA level) but in truth how we feel or question or ruminate later in life in fact can and will be very, very similar in manner and kind to those who are like us in personality, but are much older than us. So a good way to deduce how your future self may feel/regret/question/wonder is by asking someone who is older than you, yet with a similar outlook, attitude, profession, upbringing, preferences and belief system, and find out how they feel at their age and what they would have told their younger selves.

In that sense, other than its charming premise and real life characters, the video “How to age gracefully” is a simple, minimalist yet powerful and poignant philosophical vignette shining a light on existentialism and what it means to grow up or grow old or to keep “growing” with age.

Make sure to watch till the very end ;)


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Planetary Coalition – Album Excerpts 2

A short video with glimpses of the first four tracks of the album, including two time Juno-award winning North Indian ghazal/folk style as well as classically trained Indo-Canadian singer Kiran Ahluwalia; also Turkish kanun player Tamer Pinarbasi along with other members of New York Gypsy All Stars; members of the group Raza Truncka from the small agricultural community of Salto playing Argentine indigenous drums; and members of the Brooklyn-based world music group House of Waters. Stay tuned till the end of the video. Artwork and editing by moi  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=87ncMQRiX44

The first track is of course for Planet Earth and includes a small homage to Carl Sagan, whose wisdom, philosophy and Science communication skills have been one of the greatest influences in my life since childhood.

Last night was the album release party in New York City at The Meridian 23 with performances by nearly a dozen of the 27 musicians of the project. We are so grateful to all who attended despite the chilly temperatures in the city. The project was also featured in an article in yesterday’s Village Voice newspaper.

For more excerpts of the musical tracks check out my previous post: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2014/11/16/planetary-coalition-album-excerpts-1/


Unconditional Love

On a late December evening in 2002 just before Christmas vacation started, I brought my little Moitié home.

Earlier that afternoon I had decided to give myself a little Christmas gift after a year of excruciating hard work at one of the city’s largest and busiest architecture and planning firms. At the Papineau Veterinary Clinic in Montreal, they have cats of all ages for adoption. The little 7 week old kitten – half black, half white – which they had found abandoned when he was even younger immediately won my heart with his affectionate demeanor. Within seconds of holding his little fluffy body in my arms, he broke out into a loud purr. He had found his home.

Later that evening I returned to make the payment of $89 and take him home in a cat carrier. “Home” was a cavernous 2 bedroom apartment next to the Oratorie St. Joseph  on Montreal’s Queen Mary street where I lived with my then-partner Guillaume – a successful lawyer now with his own practice, but at the time working on his Bar exams. We were both in our 20s, full of youthful optimism and naïveté, the world before us and not in the least aware of the twists and turns in our life that the little cat would be directly affected by.

On exiting his carrier, immediately the kitten started rubbing against both of us, unable to stop giving and wanting affection. All kittens are cute, but it was easy to see that this little one was exceptionally cuddly. Our other cat Biloo, a beautiful Maine Coon, around a year and half old which we’d both chosen together in the summer of 2001 to celebrate a year since our first meeting, had always been independent and was not exactly a cuddler, so this little one with a white dot at the end of his black tail was an instant heart-warmer. We decided to name him Moitié-Moitié (for the pronunciation- here) or “half-half” as he was half black and half white and was justly dividing his time nuzzling between both of us.

Moitié would go on to accompany us as we moved to the house we bought six months later in Montreal’s south shore with a big backyard and swimming pool. He loved the outdoors, and it soon got impossible to let both cats stay at home, as their exploratory instincts had taken over.

Biloo would die shortly after, hit by a horrible speeding car in the early morning in the fall of 2003 when she was making her way back home – and it would be eighteen hours before we’d discover her hiding, painfully injured but still alive, rush her to the vet, and be told that the best thing was to euthanize her. For years, it would remain an incredibly traumatic and painful memory in my life. Pets have that effect on us. They love us so innocently, so unconditionally, so simply…..anyone who has lost a pet knows how hard it is, and even more so, if the death was a violent or painful one.

Through it all, Moitié continued to love us, heal us. He was one of those cats who liked sleeping tightly right next to you, loved snuggling and sitting on your lap, and head-butting, licking or nipping like a pure eternal fountain of love and affection. He stayed on with Guillaume when I moved to Florida for a new job, with questions suspended around our relation, as quite frankly – I had reconsidered it by now due to sheer exhaustion as I was working crazy hours, while he was still getting his ropes around law. And there were other issues – which in retrospect were so minor, that they could have been easily worked out. Love or a lack of love as well as chemistry had never been an issue though, nor had there been any incompatibility in literary, artistic or intellectual tastes, as all those fundamental aspects we shared in plenty, and I am quite lucky to have been loved so deeply and strongly by a great person. It was more his extreme possessiveness and most of all, inability to understand the crazy working hours of the architecture world. Instead of loving support, there used to be constant rages against my working late, the long hours before deadlines, the loss of vacation time. I had no choice as he was still an intern, and we needed my job to keep going. Architecture hours are truly brutal and it would be several years before I would question the masochism and slavish workaholic brutality of my profession, and wake up to smell the coffee and look beyond the bubble architects lived in, but, alas – back then neither of us could understand the other’s point of view.

So when I moved to South Florida in early 2006, it made sense that Moitié should stay back with Gui as he had grown more attached to him as in his kitten days it had been Gui who had spent more time at home while I was at the office. In 2004, soon after his internship, he had refused an offer to join that firm as an associate and instead decided to start his own law firm which had only led to an increased workload for me as now I was working as an architect by day and moonlighting as a legal assistant at night, helping build up a business, where failure was not an option. Gui had rented an office on Montreal’s Rene Levesque Boulevard, but the pressure and exhaustion had caught up with me and I was ready to leave to be on my own now, to have my own metaphorical “space” to grow individually. It was a sad, uncertain period for us, and Moitié comforted him unconditionally to the point that Gui would joke that all his inheritance would one day go to the cat. We sold the house we’d bought and now had our own apartments in our own respective cities. On every visit back to Montreal I would run to hug and spend time with the little fella, who had never forgotten his mommy.

When Gui decided to leave Canada to open a second office in south-east Asia in early 2007, he handed the kitty over to his twin and his girlfriend. The cat must have been confused and devastated. He had known no others except Gui and me. It took him a while, but soon enough, he was giving his love to Raphael and Marie.

In mid-2007 they all bought a beautiful duplex I had picked out, the twins deciding to live in the same building, or at least renting the upstairs when Gui was away while Raph and Marie would live downstairs. When I returned back to Montreal – there was Moitié – affectionate as ever, fatter, wiser and giving love to all who came his way, even to my grouchy new cat Mojo – who had been adopted after being found starving and abandoned in a garbage dump in Fort Lauderdale, along with his siblings locked up in a box. Moitié in the meantime had survived many adventures, disappearances (when he ran away from the twin for a month), break-outs (when he found a way out from a basement heating room to escape in the bitter Canadian cold for 14 days and lived outside till our return from a vacation in Cancun) and many other ups and downs in his kitty life.

On this return, I stayed on for another 18 months much of which, from the early summer of 2008, I spent in an apartment on the top of the Mount Royal Summit Park (on Ridgewood avenue) and resumed working at a distinguished firm I’d worked at since 2004. The housing recession had started to strike much of the US, and Canada had a far more stable job market at the time. Gui and I figured out our relationship and finally split on very amicable terms and moved on with new partners in new countries – he deciding to spend the major part of each year in Asia and me moving to Cambridge in 2009 and eventually to New York.  As I had already spent some years in Asia, prior to meeting him, I didn’t feel like going back there again, while for him it was a fascinating novelty. While we had “officially” or legally split in 2006, this time any strong lingering emotional ties were cleared up, and boundaries that reinforced mutual respect towards each other and to our new partners further strengthened. We still remain professional trusting friends, and on my trips back to Montreal, I’m always invited to stay at his mother’s or at his twin’s – and they both extend the invitation even to my present partner.

Moitié stayed back with the twin after our split and would later even become a patient and loving pet to the little baby girl that Raphael and Marie-Claude would have in 2011. He was well-known in the neighborhood as a loving, peaceful cat, a gentle soul who liked taking strolls through connecting backyards, protective of new kittens and ready to take on any feline bullies.

He was there to comfort me when I returned deeply hurt after receiving the insulting rage in a supposed meeting for a long overdue in-person  “apology” by a cruel individual in October 2010; he had always been there whenever I used to come home exhausted from a day in the office; he was always there to greet me every time I would visit Montreal,  a can of his favorite cat food in my hand, my pace escalating with excitement and anticipation as I walked round the corner towards the duplex, crying out “Moitié, Moitié” as he would come running from wherever he was like a faithful little dog.  And he had been there, as a steady anchor, for all the other humans in his life, nuzzling, cuddling, always demanding and giving affection, with dog-like loyalty yet in full feline grace and elegance.

Cats on average live for about 15-18 years. Moitié was only a little over 11 years old.  So it was with a jolt of shock when Sunday night I was forwarded a mail from Raph to Gui about the sudden demise of this little feline angel. They had found him paralyzed in half his body in the bedroom on their return home from an afternoon out. He had suffered a stroke.  After careful consideration, the vet’s advice and several hours in the clinic they had opted for euthanization. He died in their arms, purring and rubbing against them till the last moments before falling asleep forever. Living in New York, I had last seen him only several months back during a summer visit to Montreal. Little did I know it would be for the very last time.

Tears and sadness at the pain of loss have engulfed me since the news. Guilt as well….wondering if I should have moved him with me to Cambridge, to New York…..but then he really loved his backyard and the house in Montreal and he would cry and bellow whenever he was moved to a new place (had tried that) and was a creature of habit. He was happier where he was. And what guarantee was there he wouldn’t have had a stroke at that age anyway?

I beat myself up with all the possibilities (as unfortunately I often tend to be quite hard on myself at times), was upset for a while wishing they’d informed me earlier so I could have rushed to Montreal to see him one last time, but then finally reconciled that what happened was probably the kindest and sanest option – that at least he had not been killed by some car and died without being found and painfully bleeding. After a long phone conversation with Marie on Thursday other facts started to bring in some peace, despite the sadness. At least the stroke had occurred at his home, not outside, where the paralysis would mean that he would freeze to death, unable to walk in the -25 Celsius Canadian winter that week. It had always been a concern of mine – that such an incredibly loving and affectionate kitty should be near his loved ones in his last moments. And in that respect – his death had been peaceful, relatively painless and dignified. Guillaume was perhaps the most devastated as the cat had been like his son. He is still inconsolable, breaking out in tears in the middle of the day in his office, and buried with guilt wishing he had never left the cat and moved away to Asia. He had thought the cat would live for 20 years so when he returned back full time in another 3 years, he would be reunited with his “son.” Alas, that was not to be. Fortunately he had been able to spend three weeks last Christmas with Moitié during a trip back to Canada.

Animals come into our life, mostly the mammals we have as our pets, they give us irrevocable love, ask no questions, pass no judgment, spend the day waiting for us to return home, all they ask for is to be fed and walked, loved and caressed and in return they give us the most unconditional and loyal love we will ever know or experience in our lifetime… They remind us over and over again the simplicity and beauty of life and love, bereft of the complications, greed, power-wars and duplicity of humans who have innumerable flaws and failings – especially when it comes to loyalty and unconditional love. Yes, no one can love you like a dog, a cat or a faithful pet. There is no substitute for that kind of joyous, simple, innocent and genuine  love.

We see all around us in our world (at least those who are introspective or meta-analytical to see) hypocrisies, superficialities, toxic attention-craving, ass-kissing hierarchies, injustices (tons of those committed against animals), online status-whoring among fame-and-validation-hungry people, narcissistic self-indulgence, mind-numbing idiotic “selfies,” pussy-footing political correctness where we’re disallowed to call a spade a spade,  and many more  widely accepted societal “norms” that make the mannerisms of the human race often seem so pretentious and repulsive at times.  I came to a realization a few months ago; it’s something  some others I know also believe in – something I used to feel as a kid too, but at some point I’d lost that wisdom: that I prefer to trust warm-blooded animals far more than humans; that I’d rather spend time with the innocents of another species than with some of the conniving, constantly self-promoting caricatures of our species…Being an introvert who loves solitude, and generally not very social (except in good company) that realization wasn’t hard to come to.  Moitié’s death and his legacy reminded me even more to focus on real life in all its textures and fragrances, instead of the virtual parody much of “life” has become these days with an overdose of excess-information-without-wisdom, quantity-without-quality..….

Spring will step into Montreal again this May, the last slivers of snow will melt and the tulip buds sprout, the birds will commence their singing again….but this Spring I will know that no pink-nosed Moitié will awaken from his lazy slumber to go out and play like he did every day.  Life will go on. Except someone will now live on only in memory and in the innocent love he brought to all whose lives he touched in his short time upon this earth. This Spring, the new grass in the backyard of that house will sorely miss the silent and soft steps of the most affectionate cat in the world that I ever knew and who will forever live on in my heart and who I’ll always deeply miss – mon meillieur minou Moitié.

*

What was up with February 9, 2014? That night I not only lost my beloved Moitié forever, early that week I received the news that on that same evening one of the kindest, gentlest, most beautiful and most unpretentious souls I had met in New York’s art world, Hudson – who ran Feature Inc. gallery – and was a breath of fresh air in the snooty art community, had also passed away.  He was only 63.  A New York Times article on his death: http://www.nytimes.com/2014/02/17/arts/hudson-gallerist-and-nurturer-of-artists-dies-at-63.html?_r=0

Hudson and I had connected instantly – from the first glance and further reinforced through our conversations. He was my kind of guy/human – solitude-loving, unpretentious, with good taste in art and ethics, and with “an enormously fine-tuned bullshit detector.” Humble yet firm, witty yet serious, energetic yet low-key – his innate authenticity and ethics shone through his gentle old-soul face. Every week I would receive his emails about the shows in his gallery and his opinions on art. It is with great sadness I will know that Spring will seep into New York City after this whitewashed winter, but Hudson will never be there in person again. One of the last remaining good ones…..He will be greatly missed. An apt eulogy written on him:

Seeing Out Loud: Remembering Feature Gallery’s Hudson

By Jerry Saltz

“Hudson — the founder of the Feature Inc. gallery, who went by one name — was one of the greatest of his generation, a generation that was rich in art-dealer talent. Feature opened on April Fool’s Day 1984 with a show of work by Richard Prince, and was eventually among the first to exhibit the art of Takashi Murakami, Raymond Pettibon, Tom Friedman, Charles Ray, B. Wurtz, Judy Linn, Richard Kern, Lisa Beck, Tom of Finland, and many others. Hudson was 63, but seemed timeless. He was one of the last of his kind, and among the smartest, wittiest, and most visionary gallerists I’ve ever known — old-school in that he almost seemed not to want to be a dealer. He just loved art and artists. 

The possessor of a sharp eye, an enormously fine-tuned bullshit detector, and an ability to disagree affably but firmly, he started in Chicago, then moved the operation to New York four years later, landing first at 484 Broome Street. Before that he’d been an artist and a performer and spent ten years as an administrator and curator in the not-for-profit sector. Hudson called his gallery Feature “as a way to deflect a personality from the gallery, an attempt to let the exhibitions be the focus. The structure of having several galleries simultaneously show differing exhibitions was my move against stardom and a push for pluralism and multiplicity … it is the artists who lead the way. Watch what they’re doing and you’ll see what is happening.” When it came to curators—many of whom drifted away from his gallery over the past decade — he told the artist Dike Blair, “They should flee from hipness and the current notion of art as fun … What ever happened to the museum as a place of study, aesthetics, and the subjective, or the quiet time wandering about a museum deep in thought or ecstatic with emotion? Perhaps museums should institute one silent day weekly … curatorial positions should be created for those with training outside academia.” Amen.

At first he might be placed in the class of gypsy-dreamboat super-intelligent anti-gallerists like Colin de Land, Gavin Brown, and Michele Maccarone. But Hudson was more taciturn, detached, solitary. He avoided being the center of attention and was not social. He said that when he went home after hours, he didn’t read the paper or the internet and, except for listening to music, remained in total silence until the following day. “I prefer art that is complex and multi-focused,” he said. “Such work is, and probably always has been, out there, yet because it isn’t an easy read, or easy to explain. It rarely functions in the market in a very big way.”

Hudson. (Photo by Judy Linn)

Hudson. (Photo by Judy Linn)

“Unlike almost every other dealer I’ve ever known, Hudson sat at the front desk. No office walls separated him from the gallery. Getting a checklist or signing-in meant seeing him, as he was forever working — usually with a staff of one or two. His great director Jimi Dams left to form his own excellent gallery in 2005. Since then, it’s mainly been Hudson and the wholehearted artist Anne Doran. Once, when asked to comment on the architecture of other Chelsea galleries, he remarked, “Well, I wouldn’t exactly call it architecture. In scale, administrative layout, and personality — the suits — we see business at work, the corporate model, which I don’t find rewarding or wish to encourage.” Whenever I called late on summer weekends looking for information, Hudson always answered the phone himself, in the gallery.

It wasn’t until recently that Hudson participated in art fairs, saying, “We should all pay less attention to the salesmanship and showmanship of auctions and fairs, and, of course, be more aware of the not new and hot. Stop running around trying to see everything everywhere, and spend more time with the richness that is close to home.” Time eventually forced his hand, and over the past few years he did participate in a few, to fabulous effect. The first, I think, was at Zucher Studios on Bleecker Street where there were no more than a dozen other galleries, most lesser known. I bought two marijuana brownies from him for $25 each and gave them to my best stoner friend, who said they were divine and a great price. His fantastic booth at the Outsider Art Fair (Feature as an outsider!) was all tantric drawings by anonymous Indian artists.

I often saw Hudson early on Saturday mornings going around to other galleries. He saw a lot of art and had well-formed individual opinions on everything he saw. I learned a lot from him and stood corrected often. In the early 2000s, when photographic work dominated the scene, he called for a “moratorium on photography, especially art-directed snapshot-quality images of low life, especially when class, gender, and sexuality are pictured …. and avoid the notion of the largest possible photographs, particularly when laminated to Plexiglas. MoMA’s Gursky exhibition made me think that this guy makes great postcard images, and many of them actually would be more significant at that scale and in that form.”

He was ultra-aware of the shift in metaphysical control from artists and dealers to speculator-collectors and auction houses. He lost artists to bigger, slicker galleries. Still, few dealers have been more committed to and passionate about the artists they represent. In 2014, Feature is a special gallery of special artists: Always on the cutting edge, but always art-first. I often didn’t quite understand the work he showed. But — as with only a tiny handful of gallerists — I trusted him enough to make extra efforts to come to terms with it. I was sometimes sheepish around him, especially when I wrote about an artist and event I assumed he didn’t like. Even then, he was sweetly funny with his disapproval and scorn. He had nicknames for people. He called me “Salt shaker.” I knew this was a sly reference to the way I can get caught up in the flavorful hype and throw myself at, say, a performance by Jay Z. I’m told he could be quite harsh to artists who sent him unsolicited work that he didn’t like, writing notes that suggested why they might want to give up art. I’d love to do an exhibition or book of these letters and notes to artists. Hudson loved engaging with those who engaged with him. He was always available for conversation. I think I loved him. I know I’m in shock and despondent that he’s gone. The art world has lost a colossal spirit.”

*

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

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

Happy holidays!

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From a November Far Far Away


You weren’t satisfied with just wounding me.
You had to stab me over and over again……..
Through the misty moors and rugged lands
Where I ran to, for my solace.
You followed me to my sacred sands
Defiling even the peace I’d earned.
You mocked me,
Dissatisfied
That I was still unbroken.
Unscarred.

Are you not happy to have robbed a part of me?
My innocence, my sweet belief in love?
You throw your twisted liaison at my face
At the very spot that’d brought serenity to my mind?
How cruel can you be? How much more monstrous,
Beneath those cold blue cynical eyes?
Do only women who are manipulative, spent and broken 
Win your labor, your effort and hand?
But those who hold on to innocence,
Who’re unconquered, unbroken, unspent
You douse them with your poison
After, first, enmeshing them in your net
Your web of verbose vanity
Intoxicating like sweet summer wine
Your Victorian words and phantasies
Set like a bait for unsuspecting hearts
And then you strike, with your lethal weapon
Of anger, sarcasm, wrath,
Cruel dismissiveness mood-dependent
To bury your victims in earth.

And when it did not work on this one
You struck by taking my dreams
My secret places and reveries
And gave them to a murky stream.
I know now what discrimination is –
“Intellectual racism” is the word that best fits
Because I looked exotic, not freckled and pale;
So you presumed I was not worth the depth
But just worth a “fuck” which, thank goodness,
I denied you
Only to face more rage.
But at the end of the day, you know you didn’t win
‘cause I held my modesty within my grasp.
And you, who have given your best to past witches,
Could neither conquer my body nor soul.

Perhaps like Heathcliff you’ll always wander
Like a dead man walking in the mist of your past
But I’ll know in my heart, I loved Heathcliff
But never surrendered to him, ‘xcept opened my heart.
For as much as my fire burnt in his coldness,
I’d rather save my best for genuine warmth.
And the love of my Viking and my dark Angel Minstrel
Took me away from your rancid swamp.

And today I stand midst the spires of this great City
While your mayor makes a fool of himself
Karma for all those years of mocking
That your residents would do to the rest.
’cause that’s who you choose, a Fat Flatulent Fool
After all that great big vaporous talk
But We, we who know the strength of Value,
Live in Reality and meaningful Love.
We value quality
And achievement
Not enshrined mediocrity like your town,
We value strength and genuine hard work
Not a piggish, pretentious clown.

And despite your stealing my confidence
And giving my gifts to shriveled thorns,
I know in the end, you won’t succeed
Nay, you did not succeed at all,
In breaking my spirit, no matter
How hard you tried as a game.
My spirit, for it will still haunt you
In your darkness to which you’re a knave.
Thank you, for letting me realize
How strong I really am,
That despite your repeated stabbings,
You could not kill my calm.

And as I write this,
I softly realized,
Those glens – they are still my own
You can steal my dreams, but not the dreamer
And whence they came from, there is more.
Yes, once I thought ’twas you who’d take me
To a magic theater and lucent lands
But I know I didn’t need you to,
Cause I found my way on my own.

And for he who truly loves me,
With openness, and without games,
To him today belongs my body,
My heart, my love, my name.
You can fester in your own complications
And your lies behind even more backs
But I chose honesty, and sanctity
And I’m free of you at last.

– ©November 2013. Maddy. The Gipsy Geek

(Notes for clarity: The person in this poem is a very narcissistic and snooty Torontonian, who used to make fun of all other cities (like most Toronto residents,) and took some sadistic pleasure in putting others down and was incredibly cruel to me, practicing what I now term as “intellectual racism” – i.e. having a completely false belief that women who look exotic are good only for sex (and I mean casual erotic sex, without even putting the effort to wine and dine), but not for intellectual discussion and friendship, while those with Anglo-Saxon heritage must naturally be all literate and intellectual (even though this too is more than often not true depending on one’s education and upbringing.)

It was the first time in my life that I realized, to my shock, that I had been judged by my looks alone, and that all my education, accomplishments and intellect had meant nothing. Because I did not give in to his demands (of cheap sex) and refused to believe that someone could be so callous and shallow since he was good with words and writing, thinking he may just be misunderstood, I was subjected to even more rage and wrath.

Today I see this person in his full light and have understood just what a genuine jerk he was and how incredibly damaged he was, and no longer have sympathies for these sort of men or the dysfunctional, issue-filled women they choose to romance who eventually leave them even more troubled.

I, of course, live in New York “this great City” with a wonderful, brilliant, kind and multi-talented man who loves and values me a lot, but at the time I had met this Toronto snoot, I resided in Montreal. 

The “mayor” mentioned here is a reference to Toronto mayor Rob Ford.

The landscape is a reference to the rugged one of coastal UK, where many of my stories that I had naively narrated to him featured, and a naivete that came to bite me on my fanny as every  act of kindness and civility was misinterpreted by this deeply damaged man and met with baffling unicivility. Even when I was duped into accepting an apology in person, the “apology” was given in the form of insulting rage. Well, now I am done. Free. And thanks to the idiotic antics of Toronto’s first citizen Rob Ford, I can have the last laugh – since it’s karma after all those years when Torontonians behaved as though they were the center of the Universe. You are not. You are just a big “wannabe” city with a small-town mentality hiding behind banal, boring, trying-too-hard facades. And, most importantly, Toronto is NOT New York. And never will be. Period.)

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Carl Sagan. Always….

Essential viewing…..For those times, when the inexplicable injustices of the world grip you (such as several recent miscarriages of justice in Florida’s legal system), for those tumultuous political/social times when a form of hateful discord grips people of different communities, colors and religions – and you understand the futility of such group-think, for the times you need answers or just peace or closure – helpless at your inability to reconcile with justified anger at certain man-made systems, for the times you wonder about your “place” in the world, for the times you need to get out of the abyss of excessive navel-gazing myopic views and understand the fallacies of our anthropocentric world; and for the times when the sheer scale of the Universe and imagining its immensity becomes akin to a spiritual experience……… For the times when perspectives of a wise and ethical astrophysicist, ecologist, anthropologist or scientist-philosopher, and based on proven facts, makes much more sense than any subjective opinions blindly followed……..For the times when knowledge sets one free, while ignorance merely buries.

carl-saganI feel very lucky to have been exposed to the work, shows and writings of Carl Sagan at an early age. What an incredibly wise man he was! Wish there were more objective scientist-philosophers like him. Wish he hadn’t passed away so soon.  When I met the “father” of landscape ecology research Richard T. T. Forman at Harvard in 2008, I gushed like a teenager. But wish I could have met Sagan, at least once, before he died. He was also one of those few great men, whose private conduct had integrity and ethics, and did not differ from his public image – a disparity oftentimes sadly seen in many creative or public figures who may seem very alluring from the outside, but have hypocrisies within. Carl Sagan even transcended that – by all accounts he was good, wise, humble and ethical, both publicly and privately. Yes, he truly was a great man.

Here are two well-made videos by a fan, with Sagan’s narration. There are many more videos of him out there, of course, and his must-have series “Cosmos” which is a testimony to the good that great and intelligent television shows can do, as opposed to the murk it more often churns out.

On my blogroll section is a link to “Carl Sagan quotes.” And a chapter from his last book can be found here: * Billions of stars * Billions of sports fans

Wishing you wisdom………and billions of warm wishes from the ravenous July heat of New York City.

The Unbearable Heat of July…

.…in New York. Well, things could have always been worse. One could’ve been on the fated Boeing 777 which crash-landed in San Francisco airport yesterday, killing two teenagers, injuring several, but still miraculously leaving all the rest of its passengers alive.

Or, one could’ve been in a more dangerous part of the world, where governments try their best to oppress its citizens, as the latter fight for freedom.

So relatively, we are far luckier – if an insanely hot week in July with temperatures soaring over 100 degree Fahrenheit in New York is all we have to worry of. It is true that my migraines, combined with a heat stroke, have kept me indoors in bed, with the AC yanked up, the whole weekend. Migraines are incredibly annoying and at least mine are extremely painful. Suddenly – anything from bright lights, the smell of oil or perfume, or the noise of traffic can trigger it off. After that, much like a dog’s senses, every single smell gets amplified and identifiable; every sound, however soft, resonates like a bombshell; and even a bedroom side table lamp feels like the floodlight of a stadium. I have tried different medications, but alas, none have been effective. Like the common cold – I have to “wear it off.” Hours and sometimes an entire day spent in a dark room, keeping the temperature as cool as possible, sometimes an ice pack on my forehead, and subsisting on nothing but fruit, ice cream, and perhaps a bowl of edamame. And hoping that this feeling – of a head as heavy as lead, throbbing with pulsating pain – would just, just fade away. Not the unbearable lightness of being, I’m ‘fraid, but more like the unbearable heaviness of tête.

While I’ve decided to write at least one post a month, the past several months have been busy with various work pressures, a new (and exciting) development on the professional front, and many contingencies to be planned out and sorted. Also, for reasons of privacy and security, I had toyed with the idea of making this blog private, but have been touched and surprised that within just a few days of changing its privacy settings, so many readers wrote to me directly asking why, and hoping they could continue to read my writings. It is a humbling experience. More so, because although most of those readers never left comments, I am surprised how many actually would stop by and read. And so, here it is, back again……

But to get back to the start of the post – there are times when my heart gets heavy and hope runs thin, knowing and understanding the realities of the world we live in – factions at war, corruption in governments, the plight of sweatshop workers while clueless consumers keep buying, the inhumane cruelty towards animals both in the food and fur industry, the torture of innocents by psychopaths; and the fact that none of us really choose to be born – yet we are – and we have this one life to live, and that none of us are that special (at least definitely not in some God’s-special-child-kind-of-way – the way in which they would like to brainwash you,) but just that none of us are extra-special for having been born. What we do have control over or what can make a special difference lies simply in the actions we choose to perform that leave the world a little better, a little kinder than how we found it. Yes – there are special people – who with their innate talent and creativity and brilliant inventions have given gifts that have changed the course of human lives, and to whom we owe so much…..but what I mean is that none of us are really that special, the way our consumerist first world culture seems to push that certain frivolities are absolutely necessary to possess just because “you’re worth it.” Because, despite all the frills and frivolities, parades and charades of life, all that really matters – or at least all that will really, really matter in the last 10 minutes on one’s deathbed – are the ones we love/loved and the ones who truly loved us. Everything else is a corollary.

But perhaps I should not talk of this….I have ranted enough about the inequalities in the world and the effects of narcissism-gone-wild or the corruption in various systems in my posts such as Sweatshops for your sex and the city, Truth or Dare, Saltationism of Silliness, This too shall pass and a few others…… And in others, have celebrated the simple joys of life – a great piece of music, the beauty of art or satellite images or the quiet contentment one feels in the silence of happy solitude.

Talking at times with my friend, author Frederic Tuten, I feel that I often relate better with men and women who are much older – who have lived life a lot more – and somehow come out of it without their spirits broken, despite all of life’s downers. How do they do it? Tuten today shared a wonderful article written by neurologist Oliver Sacks in the New York Times on the joy of turning 80 – http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/07/opinion/sunday/the-joy-of-old-age-no-kidding.html?_r=0  My much older friends say I am a very old soul. I know this….in some ways always knew this since I was 10 years old – a sensitive, serious kid who voraciously liked reading encyclopaedia and books, but with a capacity for great joy and extremely charged to fight against petty injustices; a quiet kid who loved solitude but who would not remain silent if she saw someone being cruel to another, be it human or animal. There was a time, some four years back, where I thought I must have lost that spirit, that chutzpah. But much to my joy I discovered it was still there, always there, never to be broken – perhaps dampened and dormant for a while due to my having been the recipient of certain acts of unfathomable callousness by another, but that core – it had never left me. And, in the past couple of years, it recuperated and roared back again. 

And every time I go for a visit to a wonderful person’s studio/lab – a friend full of incredible talent, integrity, brilliance and ethics who is changing the world and is a true genius of our time (who shall remain unnamed in this post, as some day I want to write an entire post about him and his work, but let me simply say he is someone who  is a senior TEDtalks fellow, someone who Rolling Stone magazine had named among “15 people the next President should listen to,” and who had once won Time magazine’s best invention of the year award) – I smile and think – “No, there is still hope for mankind. There is still so much to live for, to laugh about, and of course, to love…love….and love more.”

So on this hot July day, here’s a photograph from New York taken by another friend (Kent Lawless) – an architect who went into computer science, and is a very gifted photographer. Life is hard and often not rosy. But the trick lies in finding beauty in special moments, to stop and smell the roses, to share a laugh with an innocent child, to stop to pet every dog that nuzzles up to you with its loving eyes, to thank the luck and fortunes we have, to accept the reality of what we don’t have, to believe in little acts of kindness, to have the discernment to distinguish the genuine from the fake, to recognize what is objectively good and not make excuses for that which is evil, and to have the courage to leave our surroundings at least a bit better than how we found them……As one of my favorite writers Ralph Waldo Emerson once said: “Though we travel the world over to find the beautiful, we must carry it with us or we find it not.”

Clouds in July above Empire State Building, New York City. (Photograph by (c) Kent Lawless)

Clouds in July above Empire State Building, New York City. (Photograph by  Kent Lawless)


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