The last day of the decade

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

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

December 31, 2019. New York, New York. 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And then……

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

And so. Here we are…

Ten years spent.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The precipice has been reached.

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

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

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

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

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

Is that really that hard to do? 

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

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

 

Choose Life

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

 


* Calendars from various systems:

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

Marooned

……And the time came when even words could not give shape to her grief, and she had to think in pictures again….an infinite sense of unfathomable loss…….of love, of life, of hopes and dreams. As though sorrow had laid her waste and barren akin to the aftermath of a nuclear leak. A Chernobyl-ed landscape. That’s how she’d become. Portraits in rich color and textures – of laughter, ardor, music, voyages – in all their gorgeousness – now lay shattered; anger and hurt hurled around as weapons which now left a deserted battlefield strewn with the debris of her heart, her guts; soaked in her tears; her fears floating around like ghosts among the ruins; and her sadness came to roost like squatters amidst the wreckage.

She had laughed unabashedly in her carefree childhood; she’d always felt she was the child of Joy and Light – no matter the darkness she had seen or faced. She’d always fought against the darkness…..but this time, this time the mobs were too dense; their fetid fingernails, their rancid ribaldry and cold-eyed fakeness mocking her genuineness of spirit, her hopeful earnestness in her belief in love. Mocking her loyalty, her naiveté, her outspoken frankness in pointing out injustices, her abhorrence for shallow masks. Like screaming banshees they wouldn’t let her go until her skin had been gnawed and shred and she lay there broken and bleeding.

She closed her eyes. “This is how it ends then,” she thought. “Take me Death. I have no more strength. No more dreams. No more life to give.”

But long after the crowds had moved away leaving her alone to die, taking with them the friend she loved and trusted and had poured her goodwill and energy into – the friend who had unwittingly betrayed her because he had trusted the duplicitous wenches in the crowd and joined in their cruelty believing the seductive promises they’d dangled before him incessantly for years – there still remained the echo of a laugh. Through her tattered ears and limbs she could hear a little girl laughing far away.

And that’s when she realized: the laughter she heard was coming from within her. From some secret chamber buried deep inside – a place which only belonged to her and to her alone; faint at first but soon with an increased richness: half-mirth, half-rebellion.

Then she understood. A part of her soul was still intact. They hadn’t been able to touch it, nor reach it. That part that wouldn’t give up. And like the tiniest ember within the ashes of a stamped-upon, doused-out fire – if she could only blow at it the right way – that laugh, that ember could become a spark that could light up the fire again. All she had to do was to generate fuel or dry wood from a near-empty coffer to help it glow brighter.

And in its warmth and its golden light, she would come back to life.

Because, she remembered, it’s the broken and dried up branches that make the strongest of fires. It is rock metamorphosed through intense, unbearable heat and pressure over time which creates the most potent of fuel that can set ablaze with even the smallest of sparks.  And after the strongest of fires have engulfed the forest, from the ashes when it’s all over, the tiniest of saplings rise up. Slowly but surely they expand – gulping in the sunlight for very survival itself. And life finds a way to bloom again in all its splendor. Only stronger. Lusher. But most of all, at least for her, wiser.


 

“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 ;)


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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In Memory of my Dad’s Birthday

New York, December 15, 2013. My father passed away last year on 9th April. He was born on the 15th of December. Though trained as a Geologist/Geophysicist who later switched to management, his first passion was photography – black and white in particular. He even had his own darkroom in our house. I remember growing up surrounded by photography books of incredible artistry, old Time-Life books, National Geographic magazines and several different types of Art magazines on various techniques and styles of taking photographs.

In his days he had won quite a few awards for his work, but playing it “safe,” had never pursued photography as a full-time profession. A pity, (though in retrospect I can see why) as he had chosen to be a family man, and had not pursued his inner Dionysian adventurous traveling spirit that had taken him around to photograph parts of the world. He’d even been asked in his early days to join a film crew as its still photographer/cinematographer. Afraid of taking a financial risk, since the director himself – a family friend – was hard-pressed on budgets, he did not. The director would later go on to become one of the most celebrated independent art film makers of all time, widely regarded as one of the greatest auteurs of world cinema – especially his black and white films – and go on to receive a lifetime achievement Oscar before his death (Satyajit Ray).

Yes, Art does not pay much, or at least – unless there is early luck – it is a long journey before recognition and wealth comes by. So Art has to be pursued for Art’s sake alone.

I noticed on his camera which I went through after his funeral that, just days before his death, he had tried to take some more pictures re-capturing his early days, but it was an automatic digital color camera, and the textures, subtleties, shadow and light of black and white photographs he loved taking and hand-processing in the old-fashioned chemical way was a dying and near-dead craft, alas.

For his birthday, I am placing just a few pictures that he’d taken, since he had taken thousands – architecture, landscapes, people, still life – which now remain neatly filed in boxes or hang framed upon the walls of the home he lived in with my mother. Some day I hope to scan and archive his entire collection.

Life is short, and it is important to tell our parents we love them. He died before I could see him one last time – it was a sudden very unexpected painless death – good for him but a sudden shock for us – I’d seen him last 15 months before he died as I kept procrastinating my trip across the pond, and the last I’d spoken to him was a month before his death. I so wish I’d spoken more, called more……..

More reason to tell our parents more often, while they are with us, how we appreciate them for having taken care of us – from the time we came as helpless blobs into this planet till we could fly on our own.

Out of respect and copyright, please DO NOT copy or save any of these images.

You may click on any image to start a slideshow.

Goodbye, dad. Rest in peace.


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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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Ten days & Tendresse

September-in-New-York

The last ten days of September.
Fall slipp’d  in e’er so fast
Stealthily, like a sneaky lover
Peering
Standing behind my back
Gazing upon the words I write
Before pouncing
As a surprise….
An act eliciting more laughter from my lover
Than from me – and I blink, bewildered.
For I was still unprepared
For this intrusion,
Intoxicated as I was
By Summer’s carefree nights
And sweaty warmth
Subtle at first, sizzling thereafter,
Then a sweet surrender to an endless siesta
And a naïve scent of a promise of “forever”
Stuck in some state of balmy stasis.

But I welcome the crisp refreshing coolness
Of Autumn’s wisps and whimsies
Winds caressing the skin on my face
My naked arms soakin’ in
The last remainders of steady sunbeams
That still linger within my hands
Before Winter blasts her Artic chill
’pon these northern lands.

And when the white sheath covers
and blizzards descend
on darkened
December morns,
I shall remember
with a twinge. Yes, I’ll recall that time
whence leafy streaks of red commenc’d,
those sun-drenched afternoons
those days of sudden
tenderness:
ten days
of September.

 – © September 20, 2013. Maddy. (The Gipsy Geek)

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Bonjour from Paris

montmartre steps

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

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

This morning I had a long talk with my mother – my parents had eloped and got married in their 20s and remained married till his death.  My mother had a Ph.D in Philosophy with a minor in Mathematics, and my father a Ph.D. in Geology with a minor in Physics. Definitely not the most diplomatic nor quiet person around, he complemented my mother’s calm, logical Spock-like reserve.  

I have to hand it to my parents though – that in all the years I know them – I never saw them have fights – no screaming drama, no loud vulgar expletives; no vindictive arguing, no throwing things – none of that; none at all. The occasional short argument for sure, which was usually over things related to infrastructure – such as a broken plumbing fixture, a fridge door accidentally left open too long – and that sort of thing – but never, never the bitter, screaming, shouting matches that I have sadly heard some of my friends say they witnessed among their own parents.

My father certainly loved my mother a lot – although he was self-centred and not a great planner. My mother loved him in her own deep and quiet ways. They had very different personalities, he a scientist/musician who went to work in management later, with a past in athletics and the arts and a straightforward candor; she a composed, complex woman who loved books and solitude, and had studied philosophy & mathematics only because due to the sexist Victorian attitude of her own father she’d been deeply disappointed for life that she was not allowed to enter Medical school despite acing in her school board exams…..

But somehow they made it work – first out of love and the rush of romance in their early years, next for their two children and raising a family; and finally out of the bond and habit that form in couples who have spent several decades together, and no longer can think of other options, but have become more like best friends. She still remains one of the calmest women I have known – stoic, pragmatic and perhaps too emotionally reserved and withholding, an incisive nag at times but very rare and far out in between. Drama and hysteria are as alien to her nature as the color blue to the planet Mars.  Sometimes I wish she would not be so detached and reserved, with a nigh-smugness at her own ability to be so.

My father – on the other hand – was warm, animated, gregarious, accident-prone, dramatic – a bit of a braggart – but a heart that was almost naive in a somewhat childish way of guileless goodness, and a simple, uncomplicated way of thinking. With a Frank Costanza-ish style of overtly hyperbolic gestures, there was never a dull moment around him. My mother’s smugness at her own calmness was matched only by my father’s joy for his own flair of unintended comedy and drama.

I realize now that I was raised by a math-whiz mother who was like a female Mr. Spock – a Ms. Spock, and a father who was a lot like Captain Haddock (from Tintin) minus the swearing and drinking mixed with a generous dose of Seinfeld’s Frank Costanza (minus the “bro” or the “stopping short” antics). He was a teetotaler, as alcoholic drinks gave him non-stop hiccups – much like me – except I can manage a good glass of wine, and an occasional cocktail, but anything else, including aerated drinks sets off those damned and comical hiccups.

My father playing his Stradivarius. My first memories of him, perhaps even from the womb, are of him playing his violin. The Dad with the Strad. When I visited my parents in 2009 I made them tell me their entire story of love, courtship, elopement, marriage, trials, tribulations, togetherness. And it was beautiful how happy and excited they got as they narrated their tale full of plot twists and turns. He had wooed my mother by fiddling music for her when he first met her some fifty years ago. It was love at first sight, he said.

My father playing his Stradivarius. My first memories of him, perhaps even from the womb, are of him playing his violin. The Dad with the Strad. When I visited my parents in 2009 I made them tell me their entire story of love, courtship, elopement, marriage, trials, tribulations, togetherness. And it was beautiful how happy and excited they got as they narrated their tale full of plot twists and turns. He had wooed my mother by fiddling music for her when he first met her some fifty years ago. It was love at first sight, he said.

On the night of his death, I was attending a concert by Anoushka Shankar in New York City – whose father’s music had been introduced to me at a young age by my own father.

On the first anniversary of his death – I am enclosing this mesmerizing concert – the one she played at Lyon, France. It was her exploration of the Indian gypsy roots of Spanish Flamenco music. Unquestioningly one of the most elegant, exotic and beautiful series of compositions I have ever listened to.

Lyon – a city not far from the one from where I am writing this…..

Strangely, just as my dad passed away a couple of days around Ravi Shankar’s birthday, the latter passed away that same year in December a couple of days before what would have been my father’s birthday. I had met both of them a few years back in Montreal, and coincidentally share the same birthday as Anoushka – June 9th. 

To a rainy evening in Paris, the timeless winding streets of Montmartre,  to flickering lights against a wet dark Spring sky, to love and loss, to friends and family, to life and travel; to new beginnings and forever-goodbyes……..

To closure and to letting go.

To memories – which can never be forgotten. And to the seeds from whence we come from – before we disperse like nomads into the sands of time or scatter like dandelion clocks unto the winds of change……….

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Related post:

“In memory of my Dad’s birthday”

And still my sitar gently weeps.”

and “The Four Mothers”

Le Marche Futile de Marley

“Le Marche Futile” was immortalized in Monty Python’s sketch “Ministry of Silly Walks” which I had featured in a post from a while back. The past month has been difficult, for various reasons – so naming it “March Futile” would be more appropriate. The bumps have pertained to several facets –  but truly, undisputedly  the saddest fact has been that of accepting the painful challenge that this little 13-year old dog, who has given immeasurable oodles of unconditional love and devotion, has faced – and accepting the reality of the inevitability of all life. Here’s to her spirit, to her chutzpah, her playfulness and those big brown puppy eyes – endless pools of her pure, unadulterated, unconditional love.

Marley. Shih-tzu

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Marley - shih-tzu

“Until one has loved an animal, a part of one’s soul remains unawakened.” – Anatole France (member of the French Academy, Nobel Prize laureate for Literature in 1921, 1884 – 1924)

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And it goes without saying, and I will never tire of saying this, please, please don’t wear fur, educate others to not wear fur, recognize the barbarity of the fur industry, its glamorization by pathological heartless narcissists, and know that animals – including dogs and cats – are brutally skinned alive (after their bones are broken while they’re still alive). There is an Olivia Munn anti-fur video doing the rounds this month (too brutal to post, but google it if you’re curious) which shines light again on the revoltingly horrific brutality of the fur industry, including its treatment to dogs and cats. Gushing over photos of one’s pets, while wearing, coveting, buying fur is nothing more than sheer hypocrisy. People who feel no empathy after knowing the torture that these animals go through, are neurologically speaking – sociopaths – for their remorse/empathy-connection is missing in the brain. Unless you’re an Eskimo or an Inuit living off the land, there is NO excuse to wear fur in this day and age when there are SO many, many cruelty-free products. Don’t even go for ‘faux-fur’ as it has been found that many brand-name and non-brand-name ‘faux fur’ is in fact dog fur. Can you imagine skinning Marley alive so you could show off to your friends how “trendy” you are? Fur is not sexy, it’s psychopathy.

“We have enslaved the rest of the animal creation, and have treated our distant cousins in fur and feathers so badly that beyond doubt, if they were able to formulate a religion, they would depict the Devil in human form.”  ~William Ralph Inge, Outspoken Essays, 1922

“The assumption that animals are without rights and the illusion that our treatment of them has no moral significance is a positively outrageous example of human crudity and barbarity.  Universal compassion is the only guarantee of morality.”  ~ Arthur Schopenhauer

“I ask people why they have deer heads on their walls. They always say because it’s such a beautiful animal. There you go. I think my mother is attractive, but I have photographs of her.”  ~ Ellen DeGeneres

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Here’s to Marley, who’s lived a happy, loved life, and is on her marche futile. Here’s also to Footoo, Pookey, Nepu, Biloo, Moitié and Mojo – those who brought love and laughter, some who are no longer on this earth, and a couple who are. And to all the pets I’ve loved now and before, who travelled in and out of my door…..(click here– this version of the song always cracks me up)

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Marley when she was 5 years old

Marley when she was 5 years old. All photos of Marley by David.

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