June Noon

And just like that, it’s June.

Brooklyn, New York. June 1, 2019. Just a smattering of the numerous colorful blooms in the Brooklyn Botanic Garden.

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

Flowers at the Brooklyn Botanical Garden, photo by Maddy SJ

The flowers in the photos above are Spanish bluebells, California poppies, Aubrieta and Primula Rosea (Himalayan primrose) respectively. Btw, “June Noon” is the name of a trichosereus hybrid flower that blooms in the cacti genus echinopsis.








Blue skies and Freedom

February 1, 2019. New York, New York.  Ah, that majestic southern Manhattan skyline towering over the frigid waters of the harbor, a sight that no photograph can do justice to, as the scale can be experienced only in person.

The first four photographs were taken from a ferry on a bitterly cold but sunny winter day.

As I was sailing past the Statue of Liberty, it was a poignant reminder of the hope it symbolized for the many who glimpsed it for the first time as they pulled into the New York harbor, after escaping war, death, persecution with nothing but their lives, holding on to nothing but their dreams. 

(Click on any pic to start the slideshow, descriptions are underneath each photo)

In the past two days, the city saw its first snowfall, with temperatures plummeting to -14 Celsius – the coldest it has been so far this year. While the polar vortex gripped Mid-West USA, many New Yorkers – who were not so badly hit, wrote and posted and complained a lot about the cold.

And yet, and yet…… you see – I DO think it was much ado about nothing.

Because of this:

I lived in Winnipeg, Canada for around two years and lived through three of its winters. Days with -30 c and -40 c were common with the windchill factor making it even lower. 
A friend who lives there posted the temperature yesterday: -40c BEFORE windchill…another friend who lives there said it was -53 Celsius (-63.4 °Fahrenheit) WITH the windchill. In Churchill where you can see polar bears, around 1000 km north of Winnipeg, – 60c (-76° Fahrenheit) used to be common. As you can see here, it says that currently Winnipeg is colder than the North Pole and as cold as Mars https://globalnews.ca/news/4906382/prairies-cold-north-pole-mars/  and that in February, ’twill be -70 Celsius in certain cities https://bit.ly/2DOR6k7  

I lived in Montreal, Canada, for many years…the cold was wetter, and though it wouldn’t quite go to -40c, days with WET -28 Celsius, were quite common, and in some ways more agonizing than the dry Canadian Prairie winters. Days when you’d see that the “high” was -19c and the low was a wet bone-chilling -33c  Luckily, most of the city is accessible through underground walkways.

In typical hardy Canadian fashion, no schools, universities or workplaces would be closed in either city. People would be going around playing ice hockey. Outside. No, really.

I am so, so grateful for my years in Canada (along with my love for high-altitude mountaineering, which I did aplenty in the Himalayas, Rockies and northern Canada, plus an innate high-resistance to cold)…because thanks to it, any blustery wintry day in NYC feels balmy  (And yes, I do share jokes with my Canadian friends on how temperatures that would be considered “highs” in Canada, fluster many Americans.) 

Admitted, the American Mid-West were Canadian-cold for a couple of days this week. And when I lived in the Boston area, those New England winters were much colder than the Big Apple’s.

But thank you dear (and friendly) Winnipeg for teaching me to never, ever complain about the cold in any other part of the world – and ESPECIALLY in balmy New York City  where ’twill be a “warm” -12 Celsius overnight. 

Most experiences in life are truly relative…..☃️❄️⛄️

Thank you Canada 🇨🇦 For your cold I shall always be grateful, among of course, several other gifts from you.

But thank you New York City for that unbridled sense of Freedom one feels within your fulcrum, that infectious energy emanating from the entire City – second to no other urban center of the world, and for that sense of awe your skyline always inspires and has, for generations, for all those who land on your shores and who sail by that Lady in the Harbor.


Year-end-year-ahead Conundrum

Gotham City Conundrum by the Gipsy GeekDecember 31, 2018. New York, New York. So here’s something to end the year with…and ring in the New Year. (I’ll spare explanations of why I’ve been tardy in posting regularly in this space….but in a nutshell – Life and Procrastination. And travel. Lots of it…..to Zurich, Bombay, Baroda, London, Edinburgh, Barcelona, Toulouse, Bordeaux in that order just in the past three months alone. And earlier in the year, time spent in New York, short stints near Chicago and briefly Montreal and Toronto.)

In early fall, before the mid-term elections, I was proud to give a speech for women’s rights and a call to political unity among liberals at Union Square, NYC, as the gathered throngs chanted in unison against the political and environmental degradation in this country, as we marched from Union Square to Times Square; And earlier in spring I joined many, many of my fellow women architects (including many older women architects I’ve long admired as inspiring icons) at the annual AIA meeting in New York to make the voices of women architects heard and to demand equity, visibility and due credit for our work in our very sexist profession. If anything at all, it is always cathartic to speak up…to speak up FACTS, that is.

Many of my stronger opinions and political views were shared with friends on my personal Facebook page (which is why, perhaps, I am guilty of not posting here), even as I continue to maintain another page on this link (this one is public and not related to my personal FB page) –  https://www.facebook.com/DonaldTrumpShutUp/  – can you believe it will be 9 years since I started it?!! It was the first of its kind on social media, before pages like that sprung up aplenty in 2017.  However, I can say with certainty that early-a**hole-personality-detection runs in my DNA. My maternal forefather – a leader in European politics – had written a book, a scathing critique against fascism –  years before the Holocaust foretelling that Hitler was a grave danger – at the time when people thought he was good for the economy.

End rant.

On to reflection.

As every year ends, as we grow another year older, and often another year sadder or wiser, or for some – especially for those whose neurotransmitters+receptors (dopamine, serotonin, oxytocin and endorphins) are working in a balanced and healthy way – another year happier – we get into that time when we reflect on what we’ve gained and what we’ve lost, the past that cannot be changed and the future that is yet to unfold, the conundrum of the choices we’ve made or are to make, unsure at times if they are the right ones……..even as we try to keep Hope and Optimism alive as we always do when we step into something new – like a new year; in this case, the last of the teens of this century, before the start of a new decade (2020).

So to end this year, and ring it in with some New York jazz from New York – the city where I live and which is closest to my heart – here’re two videos that I edited for a very dear person and his jazz trio. If you like their music, give their official facebook page a “like” to keep up with their upcoming concert dates – https://www.facebook.com/alexskolnick/

The name of the album is Conundrum. Regarding its name and content, says Skolnick:

“It represents the sense of confusion many of us are feeling in the midst of the strangest sociopolitical upheavals of our lifetimes….This album captures many styles in an effort to channel that angst into art and inspire others to do likewise.”

The album, released in September went on to No.2 on i-tunes jazz charts on the very week of its release, preceded by Miles Davis (Kind of Blue) at no. 1 and followed by John Coltrane (the Best of Coltrane) at no. 3.  Not bad company! ;-) Of course,  the greats who always are at the top 10 soon took over their original positions but the exhilaration to see its rise upon its release was nice. If you want to support independent artists, please buy their albums – don’t stream on youtube, unless it’s a promo video – such as these ones :-) (Links to purchase are found underneath the videos on youtube and on the fb page, but as a repeat here they are as shortlinks: https://amzn.to/2Qjk1Qz  and https://apple.co/2Napfw7 )

Enjoy, expand to full screen and turn the volume up! The first is of the complete album excerpts; the second of possibly the liveliest tune of the album. (Videos edited, along with additional videography, photography, album design etc. by yours truly – Maddy, the Gipsy Geek.)

Here’s saying goodbye to 2018….and reflecting on the conundrum in the year that was and the year(s) to come…..and, in the process, using music as therapy.

The 2nd video is the full performance of a lively song “Culture Shock” which has received thousands of views and is one of the album’s favorites…the music combines eastern (you can hear the Oriental and Middle-eastern melody) and western (jazz and Americana) styles, along with a dash of southern bluegrass and blends them into a harmonious whole. The title of the track also loosely references Herbie Hancock’s “Future Shock.” The guitars used are a semi-hollowbody-acoustic & a vintage telecaster.



Alexander’s Guichet

Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)

December 9, 2017. How often have I passed by “Le Guichet” – a 1963 sculpture by Alexander Calder! Located in the plaza of the Lincoln Center in front of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts. And how often have I passed by without pausing to take a photo or post one. Until now.

During daytime and evenings the plaza is bustling; its lively fountain and surrounding performance halls drawing in large omnipresent swaths of people like moths to a flame. But I like wandering there at night, at times just before midnight. When the crowds have lulled, the patrons of the theater long gone, the library closed and the plaza stands near-empty except for a handful of people passing by…..

In that solitude of night, in that vacancy and stillness of space – a rarity in a city that never sleeps, I like to walk around Le Guichet, taking in its sinuous curves and voids, its alienesque tentacles tiptoeing on the concrete pavers, a silent witness in stoic steel, unlike Calder’s playful mobiles; painted pitch dark like a galactic black hole unlike his vibrant red Flamingo and Eagle in Chicago and Seattle respectively. This one is not about to soar off; it has just landed. A “box office” selling tickets to another world. Far away.


Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)


Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)


Alexander Calder "Le Guichet." Photo © 2017 Maddy SJ (The Gipsy Geek)




“What Happened” last night

Around 6:15 pm September 27, 2017. At the Greenlight independent Bookstore in Brooklyn. Got to meet and speak with  Hillary Rodham Clinton and get a signed copy of her new book. 

Meeting Hillary Clinton

Me, all smiles after meeting HRC and making her laugh. She was so gracious, dignified and warm.

She was very gracious and spoke with all who came. I blurted out a few sentences that I can’t fully recall, as I felt quite overwhelmed seeing her again. She always looks very well-coiffed, elegant, soft, feminine and delicate in person and does not photograph as well as she looks in person.

But best of all, she cracked up and guffawed loudly when I said I’d started the page Donald Trump SHUT UP nearly 7 years back because I couldn’t stand his idiotic rants. That while I’d adored her since the ’90s, I found him utterly repulsive from even back then.

We got lucky to get in early in the line. That’s Huma standing behind me in white, while I’m speaking to HRC – in the 2nd pic. The bookstore staff did a great job to accommodate everyone despite the long lines and keep things running smoothly. Right in front of us in the queue was a tiny 4-year old girl – Grace Payton-Lafferty – dressed up in a white pantsuit and a string of pearls who stole hearts and ended up being featured in several media outlets, including a tweet by Ms. Clinton herself. When I saw little Grace in the line – where we’d been waiting for an hour and a half, I told her that I hoped in 25 years I’d see her running for office. She is too young now to understand a lot perhaps, but one of the most heartening aspects was to see how inspiring Hillary has been to little girls, raised by rational parents, many who lined up outside the bookstore to get their own signed copies of “It takes a village.” Since Grace was right ahead of us we saw Hillary herself light up, stand up and and hug the little girl.

I remembered how seeing Indira Gandhi as a little girl I’d immediately thought that a woman could hold any position she wanted to. (We won’t get into what I found out about Indira later – nothing that male politicians haven’t done themselves.) But Hillary was more qualified, capable, kind-hearted and deserving than IG, and a self-made woman from a middle-class family instead of being born into a political dynasty like IG. And yet, in this topsy-turvy world the highest post in America was denied to her, despite being ahead by more than 3 million votes. Do you think that instead of Donald & Bernie, if it was trashy Donna Trump (pic) or hysterical Bernadine Sanders (pic) running, they’d EVER have been even taken seriously, let alone get a following??!! 

What a different state we’d have been in today if even a fraction of the votes wasted on 3rd parties or by abstainers had gone to HRC (or if Huma had dumped her sick hubby a long time back so a last-minute Comey investigation/announcement was avoided…. I’m not even getting into Trumpers, BernieorBusters, etc. For that you can read my detailed houghts from last spring here – https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2016/06/07/the-real-revolution-hillary-clinton-elizabeth-warren/ )

Instead of this intelligent, articulate overqualified and literary woman with incredible strength, resilience and pragmatism, we now have the most disgusting, vapid, stunted “peesident” in US history – an excuse of a “man,” a scourge on the planet. 

I would rather see HRC in the White House than in a bookstore…I saw her earlier up close during her victory in the NYC primaries last spring, but this time I was able to speak to her. The woman who should have been the President. The woman who should have been the President of the United States had sanity, rationality and fairness prevailed.
#HillaryClinton #WhatHappened

Hillary Clinton 1992

Hillary Rodham Clinton: The woman who should have been President

After the Rain

Rainy days in New York City….
A walk through Central Park
to soak in th’sweet scents o’ rain-brewed-earth
and the Chartreuse green leaves of Spring….


(click on any image to start slideshow)

This video has been taken from the rustic pavilion that punctuates Wagner Cove – a secluded spot at the edge of The Lake in Central Park.

(Geeky facts: The Cove, formerly known as the Cherry Hill boat landing, was renamed after former New York City three-term mayor Robert F. Wagner Jr. who was supported by Eleanor Roosevelt and known for disrupting the Tammany Hall structure ending the reign of clubhouse bosses in city politics and leading to a stronger city democracy.
His father – former NYC mayor Robert Wagner I was known for his support of the labor movement and FDR’s New Deal, and was instrumental in writing the Social Security Act.)

These are the some of the tucked-away spaces in the big noisy city where one can find moments of calm and solitude, of peace and serenity and just an avenue away from the harsh cacophony of traffic – bask in the nook of a welcome relief: the sounds of birds singing joyously….after the rain.

For music for a rainy day, here’s Bill Evans’ piano solo “Here’s that Rainy Day” from his Album “Alone” (Verve Records 1968) – an instrumental jazz interpretation of the popular song composed by Jimmy Van Heusen with lyrics by Johnny Burke published in 1953.


Album Release

New York, New York, 11/11/2014. “Planetary Coalition” – a world music album I feel very happy to be part of officially released today! This date also marks the centenary celebration of the end of World War I.

As I often say here – Make Music, Not War.

Planetary Coalition’s musicians represent over two dozen countries and five continents and numerous ethnicities.

From its inception in Union Square on summer solstice day, June 21st, 2012 – Planetary Coalition has now grown into a truly global music project.

A collective of diverse musicians from all over the world, Planetary Coalition is driven by the acoustic guitar of Alex Skolnick, whose work spans jazz (Alex Skolnick Trio), metal (Testament), and world music (Rodrigo y Gabriela).

In the virtuoso’s own words from the upcoming album’s notes:

“It started with a lone, handwritten sentence on a notepad, describing a musical vision: “An ethnically flavored collective of musicians from all over the world, driven by acoustic guitar and bringing together inspirational melodies, in-depth improvisation and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Indian, Latin, East Asian, Mediterranean, Balkan/Eastern European, African and other indigenous lands.”

The reality: coordinating over two-dozen musicians from five continents.

Yet despite the numerous logistical challenges, Planetary Coalition has been guided by a single hope: that by weaving the threads that connect musical expressions with regional identities, we can bridge the gap between diverse cultures and people, and increase awareness of the ecological and social issues facing the planet, our island in the sky. And I must confess that with respect to all prior musical collaborations, this is the album I feel most proud of. It’s hoped that in the future, these pieces can be performed not just in concert venues but as audio-visual presentations in galleries, museums and classrooms.”

Alex Skolnick's Planetary Coalition

“I am grateful to all the incredible artists who eagerly took part, some from across the world, others a few subway stops away; some eluded by mainstream recognition, others who worked on their parts in between sold-out concerts and national television appearances; a few from regions that have long been politically at odds yet refusing to let politics or ideology dictate art, music and humanity; and all of whom are the type of musicians I’m most inspired by – master players for whom technical virtuosity exists, but never at the expense of artistic expression, emotion and collaboration……”

We are grateful to all who have contributed, supported and appreciated this project. Please support the Arts by getting your copy of the album today and/or spreading the word to your friends and families.  Here’s a sneak peak into some pages from the album. All artwork, designs, documentaries by yours truly. Enjoy!


Make Music, Not War – I

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

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

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

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

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

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


Make music, not war.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


Once again, make music, not war.


Spring in The City


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



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

Train in Tunnel - New York City

Happy New Year from New York!

Some New York Moments for the New Year

Happy New Year New York

New York Moments (click to enlarge):
(1) Honored to be invited to the private opening reception of “Miles Davis:The Collected Artwork” hosted by the Davis Family (along with Rock Paper Photo and Esquire Magazine) at Gallery 151, NYC
(2) Got to meet Stephen Colbert as a VIP invitee and ask him (and get a hilarious architectural critique) of some of New York’s most prominent buildings.
(3) The new Freedom Tower in the backdrop
(4) Times Square
(5) Excited to get great seats in the Yankee Stadium to see Roger Water’s (Pink Floyd) “The Wall.”
(6) In Bryant Park
(7) On the interior steps of the New York Public Library
(8) At an exhibition opening at Storefront for Art & Architecture.

A Happy New Year to all my readers. friends and visitors to this blog! Here’s to 2014, to new hopes and beginnings…….Live long and prosper.