“Stay Weird”

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

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

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

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

Make sure to watch till the very end ;)


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Carl Sagan. Always….

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

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

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

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

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

Goodbye to a genius: Remembering Lebbeus Woods

New York, November 30, 2012. Exactly one  month ago, on October 30th, during the arrival of hurricane Sandy upon Gotham City, one of the most imaginative and fiercely anti-authoritarian architects and theoreticians of our time, the inimitable Lebbeus Woods passed away. For those who have never personally met Woods or been acquainted with his work, you still may have inadvertently seen his concepts – whether it was in the sets of the movie Alien 3 or on the cover of science fiction-writer Arthur C. Clarke’s book, or his work plagiarized in the brilliant Terry Gillian film 12 Monkeys. But regardless of his contribution to futuristic imagination, what made Woods so unique was his “non-conformist anti-starchitecture” way of thinking and working, and “resisting the temptations of money and fame.” (source: http://hyperallergic.com/59590/remembering-radical-theoretical-architect-lebbeus-woods/)

Just a day before his death, I had the pleasure of running into and conversing with one of Labbeus’ oldest friends architect Steven Holl, who invited me to his talk at the Cooper Union to be moderated by another favourite writer/philosopher/professor of mine Sanford Kwinter. Little did Holl  know on that evening that his completely sold-out and house full lecture would turn out to be a touching tribute in memory of his friend.

As written in the New York Art & Architecture blogazine Hypperallergic:

Last month, as New York City was overwhelmed by Hurricane Sandy, one of the world’s foremost architects passed away in the darkened and chaotic city that was almost overcome by nature. It was a cosmic confluence — environmental mayhem coincided with the last breath of a great creative individual who was always dreaming for more, and embracing an out-of-control world.

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph a. Kumpusch discussing Martin Lodman work at Columbia’s GSAPP Final review of Kumpusch-Studio. (photo by Siting Zhang)

Defiantly non-conformist, anti-starchitecture architect Lebbeus Woods died on Tuesday, October 30. He was 72. Through a lifetime of work, the vast majority of which only exists on paper, Woods challenged the architectural establishment, railing against boring buildings and resisting the temptations of money and fame that turned architects like Zaha Hadid and Rem Koolhaas into celebrities.

“With the triumph of liberal democracy and laissez-faire capitalism, the conversation came to an end. Everyone wanted to build, which left less room for certain kinds of architecture,” Woods told Nicolai Ourrossof of the New York Times when describing the political situation driving an anodyne architecture fully in the service of wealthy patrons.

Woods studied at the University of Illinois and Purdue University. He worked in the office of designer and architect Eero Saarinen from 1964 to 1968, and there, according to his colleague, collaborator, and friend Christoph a. Kumpusch, he learned to “explore limits.”

“Saarinen’s work was something in motion for Lebbeus — not structurally but virtually. It determined boundaries rather than defined limits,” Kumpusch explained.

But soon after his time with Saarinen, Woods turned toward entirely theoretical, experimental architecture that often created more impact in its virtual state than real buildings in real cities ever could. Some compare his work to science fiction, because it resisted being fixed in the now and was always traveling past boundaries to what possibly could be. He was first and foremost an iconoclast. “I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms,” he wrote in his iconic pamphlet War and Architecture.

The world of Woods was complex and forward thinking. He was a seer of spaces, who imagined the seemingly impossible. “Lebbeus saw the world — its energies, whether spatial, political, or social — as an undiscovered reality …  imagined, or, in fact, real — something unfinished — not provided, discovered through architecture; one that doesn’t answer but questions; one that doesn’t find solutions but challenges,” Kumpusch said.

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph Kumpusch, “The Light Pavilion,” is an intervention in a Steven Holl building constructed in Chengdu, China. Architect renderings (on the left) demonstrate the intended result, while on the right a photo is a recent photo of the pavilion. (photo by Manta Weihermann, rendering Daniel Kereler)

Lebbeus Woods and Christoph Kumpusch, “The Light Pavilion,” is an intervention in a Steven Holl building constructed in Chengdu, China. Architect renderings (on the left) demonstrate the intended result, while on the right a photo is a recent photo of the pavilion. (photo by Manta Weihermann, rendering Daniel Kereler)

For more  –  a must-read – this thoughtful piece:    http://hyperallergic.com/59590/remembering-radical-theoretical-architect-lebbeus-woods/

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Excerpt from the New York Times article on October 31, 2012:

Lebbeus Woods, an architect whose works were rarely built but who influenced colleagues and students with defiantly imaginative drawings and installations that questioned convention and commercialism, died on Tuesday in Manhattan. He was 72.

His death was confirmed by a longtime colleague, the architect Steven Holl. Details were not immediately available.

In an era when many architecture stars earned healthy commissions designing high-rise condominiums or corporate headquarters, Mr. Woods conceived of a radically different environment, one intended for a world in conflict.

He conceived a post-earthquake San Francisco that emphasized its seismic vulnerability. He flew to Sarajevo in the 1990s and proposed a postwar city in which destruction and resurgence coexisted. He imagined a future for Lower Manhattan in which dams would hold back the Hudson and East Rivers to create a vast gorge around the island, exposing its rock foundation.

“It’s about the relationship of the relatively small human scratchings on the surface of the earth compared to the earth itself,” Mr. Woods said of his Manhattan drawing in an interview several years ago with the architectural Web site Building Blog. “I think that comes across in the drawing. It’s not geologically correct, I’m sure, but the idea is there.” 

Jacket painting by Lebbeus Woods for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel, Berkley Books Book Club Edition, 1983

Jacket painting by Lebbeus Woods for Arthur C. Clarke’s The Sentinel, Berkley Books Book Club Edition, 1983

Mr. Woods’s work was often described as fantasy and compared to science-fiction imagery. But he made clear that while he may not have expected his designs to be built, he wished they would be — and believed they could be.

“I’m not interested in living in a fantasy world,” Mr. Woods told The New York Times in 2008. “All my work is still meant to evoke real architectural spaces. But what interests me is what the world would be like if we were free of conventional limits. Maybe I can show what could happen if we lived by a different set of rules.”

He spread his message from many platforms. He was a professor at Cooper Union, spoke at symposiums around the world and built sprawling temporary installations in Austria, Italy, Southern California and elsewhere. He also wrote a well-read blog.

Earlier this year, in a post explaining why he chose to become an architect, he said winning commissions was not a major motivation.

“The arts have not been merely ornamental, but central to people’s struggle to ‘find themselves’ in a world without clarity, or certainty, or meaning,” he wrote.

Mr. Woods often criticized what he saw as a complacent and distracted status quo in his field. But his colleagues said his commitment to creating an alternative showed that he had hope.

……”Outside-the-box” thinking has become a cliché used in advertising, corporate strategy and politics, Mr. Moss said (Eric Owen Moss, an architect and his longtime friend), but Mr. Woods took it to another level. “There’s another box, and he’s outside it,” he said, “He’s outside all the boxes.”

For the complete article go here:  http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/01/arts/lebbeus-woods-unconventional-architect-dies-at-72.html

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And finally, for an excellent interview with Woods, please go to the following links from one of my favourite blogs.

http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/lebbeus-woods-1940-2012.html

and

http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2007/10/without-walls-interview-with-lebbeus.html

An excerpt:

“….In any case, it isn’t just the quality of Lebbeus’s work—the incredible drawings, the elaborate models—or even the engaged intensity of his political writings, on architecture as politics pursued by other means or architecture as war, that will guarantee him a lasting, multi-disciplinary influence for generations to come. There is something much more interesting and fundamental to his work that has always attracted me, and it verges on mythology. It verges on theology, in fact.

Here, if I can be permitted a long aside, it all comes down to ground conditions—to the interruption, even the complete disappearance, of the ground plane, of firm terrestrial reference, of terra firma, of the Earth, of the very planet we think we stand on. Whether presented under the guise of the earthquake or of warfare or even of General Relativity, Lebbeus’s work was constantly erasing the very surfaces we stood on—or, perhaps more accurately, he was always revealing that those dependable footholds we thought we had were never there to begin with. That we inhabit mobile terrain, a universe free of fixed points, devoid of gravity or centrality or even the ability to be trusted.

It is a world that can only be a World—that can only, and however temporarily, be internally coherent and hospitable—insofar as we construct something in it, something physical, linguistic, poetic, symbolic, resonant. Architectural.

[Image: “Einstein Tomb” by Lebbeus Woods].

Architecture, for Lebbeus, was a kind of counter-balance, a—I’m going to use the word—religious accounting for this lack of center elsewhere, this lack of world. It was a kind of factoring of the zero, to throw out a meaningless phrase: it was the realization that there is nothing on offer for us here, the realization that the instant we trust something it will be shaken loose in great convulsions of seismicity, that cities will fall—to war or to hurricanes—that subways will flood, that entire continents will be unmoored, split in two, terribly and irreversibly, as something maddeningly and wildly, in every possible sense outside of human knowledge, something older and immeasurable, violently shudders and wakes up, leaps again into the foreground and throws us from its back in order to walk on impatiently and destructively without us.

Something ancient and out of view will rapidly come back into focus and destroy all the cameras we use to film it. This is the premise of Lebbeus’s earthquake, Lebbeus’s terrestrial event outside measured comprehensibility, Lebbeus’s state of war.

[Image: “Einstein Tomb” by Lebbeus Woods].

Because what I like about Lebbeus’s work is its nearly insane honesty, its straight-ahead declaration that nothing—genuinely and absolutely nothing—is here to welcome us or accept us or say yes to us. That there is no solid or lasting ground to build anything on, let alone anything out there other than ourselves expecting us to build it.” –  Geoff Manaugh  of http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/ 

For more, click on the Bldgblog links on Woods listed above. http://bldgblog.blogspot.com/2012/10/lebbeus-woods-1940-2012.html

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labbeus woods 1

Lebbeus Woods, “Havana, Radically Reconstructed” (1994) (Image via bldgblog.com)

 Lebbeus Woods, Havana, 1994

Lebbeus Woods, Havana, 1994

Woods’s “Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber,” which was copied without credit in the film “12 Monkeys”

Woods’s “Neomechanical Tower (Upper) Chamber,” which was copied without credit in the film “12 Monkeys”

Lebbeus Woods, System Wien, 2005

Woods Zien

Lebbeus Woods, System Wien, 2005

Lebbeus Woods, Lower Manhattan, 1999

Lebbeus Woods, Lower Manhattan, 1999

 War and Architecture by Lebbeus Woods

War and Architecture by Lebbeus Woods

To view more of his work and learn more about him, in addition to the excellent articles in the above links, you may go to his site for a visual, emotional and intellectual treat: http://lebbeuswoods.net/

To close, another excerpt from the Hyperallergic article:

“He often said, ‘I never sit down to draw for the sake of drawing. I only draw when I want to say something.’ His drawings are not drawings, they are projects,” Kumpusch said.

Lebbeus’s shunning of the spotlight and dedication to the ideas of architecture beyond than its current pragmatism makes one wonder if Woods lacked the ego typical of high-profile architects who build for legacy. “I don’t think Lebbeus was concerned with ‘legacy,’” Kumpusch said. “He was concerned with ‘future.’ This is his legacy. I deeply miss him.”

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LWoods

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1473876751_8d5e7e0cce_zLebbeus Woods. Future structures of the Korean demilitarized zone (1988) juxtaposed with two views of the architectonic tip of some vast flooded machine-building, from Icebergs (1991)

Lebbeus Woods, “Berlin Free-Zone 3-2” (1990)

Lebbeus Woods, “Berlin Free-Zone 3-2” (1990)

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“Architecture and war are not incompatible. Architecture is war. War is architecture. I am at war with my time, with history, with all authority that resides in fixed and frightened forms. I am one of millions who do not fit in, who have no home, no family, no doctrine, no firm place to call my own, no known beginning or end, no “sacred and primordial site.” I declare war on all icons and finalities, on all histories that would chain me with my own falseness, my own pitiful fears. I know only moments, and lifetimes that are as moments, and forms that appear with infinite strength, then “melt into air.” I am an architect, a constructor of worlds, a sensualist who worships the flesh, the melody, a silhouette against the darkening sky. I cannot know your name. Nor you can know mine. Tomorrow, we begin together the construction of a city.” – Lebbeus Woods (1940 – 2012)

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On Nietzsche’s 167th Birthday

Friedrich Nietzsche (October 15, 1844 – August 25, 1900)

A documentary on Nietzsche : Human all too human and Beyond Good and Evil.

I was first exposed to the writings of  Friedrich Nietzsche during adoloscence due to several books of his that lay around the house since my mother had a doctorate in philosophy (And much to my embarrassment, my paternal great-grandfather, an archaeologist who adored his work used to copy his style of moustache.) I am enclosing a documentary about him.

For more on his philosophy here is a wiki article :http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_Friedrich_Nietzsche although the best way is to read his books, of course. One of the best aspects of Nietzsche is  that unlike some other proponents of individualistic independent thinking, he never seeked any followers nor believed in cult-tactics (in fact he abhorred it) to impose his ideas upon others. He wrote for himself and for the personal joy of his ideas , reflections and observations. And no, he was NOT anti-Semitic, quite the reverse. The above mentioned moustachioed grandpa was Jewish so I do know what I’m talking of. Even the wiki article clearly states the facts. I do like the works of the mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell, but the introverted, introspective Nietzsche was definitely a man who was a true individualist of his time, for which he paid a lonely price. There are many insightful and powerful quotes of Nietzsche but one of my favourites both for its brevity and wisdom is :“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

Today people/writers termed as rationalists and secular humanists and thinkers are far more visible in the media, but in many ways, in the school of philosophy and rational thinking, Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the pioneers of asking this line of  rhetoric,  as well as questioning widely -followed-irrational-mass-belief-systems.  And he knew quite well back then that he would be in a small minority.

This particular documentary shows more of Nietzsche’s human side and weaknesses, a ‘truth’ that I have often been in conflict with about many creative artists and writers and even leaders I have liked. I found (a truth my mother had told me long back but I would find too hard to digest) that often the creative/artistic output of a man/woman (painter, musician, writer etc. who is not engaging in any moral-code-preaching but purely creating works for his/her own indulgence) should not be judged by but rather be viewed independently of his/her human fallacies (i.e.’weaknesses’ that did not include any violent tendencies, of course, but rather the softer limitations and follies of human nature.)

It was one of the hardest truths I have had to accept over time and life; and in some ways to learn from my own fallacy of overt optimism in the logic or kindness of humanity or rather lack thereof; and perhaps the reason why in my own life I still adhere to following a measure of personalised integrity and ethics as honestly and as steadfastly as I can. As Nietzsche says : “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Now that’s an objective observation I can live with. 

And in today’s world, where the patterns of consumption, production and existence are too intricately tied and criss-crossed to be untangled, this thought of his, though impossible if one wishes to maintain both the practice of practicality and humility, still remains a liberating dream-reality: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.” The first part of the statement is the observation. The second is the process or the price. And the third is the prize, if only for one’s own sense of self, but truly one of the best gifts  you can give yourself. Should you choose to, of course.

The original documentary:

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http://documentaryheaven.com

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Anthem

A flock of Anser Indicus. These birds fly the highest altitudes on the planet, even migrating in flights above Mt. Everest.

Note: I am currently on a two-month trip driving from the U.S. east coast starting from Boston through to the mid-west and the western States. I’ll be in the Chicago area for quite  a while hoping to photograph many of Frank Lloyd Wright’s buildings, have already passed through small Amish towns in rural Pennsylvania, farm fields in Indiana, waved from a float as part of a 4th of July parade in a town in Wisconsin for a lark thanks to a strong-willed lovely lady who runs a dance academy (and pictures I hope to upload later should I find time – especially of innocent children and a fantastic Star Wars float), and then at some point will hopefully be off for a trip through the mountains and national parks in the Wyoming and Montana area and further. There will be long and deliberate stretches of time when I’ll be without any internet connection, far away from the world of humans,  so the blog posts will be sporadic and infrequent this summer. Have fun all, watching the World Cup semis & finals!  I’d love to see a Dutch-German one (my mom’s maiden family name is Dutsch – if that’s a clue ;-), but any other combos would be great too!

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As I post this today my heart is heavy with the appalling news of the mother Sakineh Ashtiani in Iran who is hours away from being stoned to death by a religious and judicial system that defies logic and humanity. It is a horrible blend of anger and helplessness one feels and wonders how can actions such as these be prevented from a grassroots level? How many more innocent lives will be taken as words are spoken, protests made in faraway lands yet little action is actually taken to prevent the deed? As people go about their daily lives obsessing about Blahniks and Benzes, bashing and insulting each other on virtual message boards, or picking on old objective harmless male film critics in liberal western countries to yell ‘misogyny’, this horrendous act of jaw-dropping REAL & ACTUAL misogyny and injustice will occur today. And like ostriches, heads will be buried in sands of escapism while Ashtiani’s serene face will be battered with stones of hatred and unfathomable injustice. Any society/societies in the world that allow evil like this to occur and yet claim the presence of some almighty benevolent God/Gods should do a check-up of their core values and rational mental faculties or rather lack thereof – for acts like these seem to be nothing more than ideologies used to profit the unchecked bullying by psychopaths.

http://www.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/meast/07/01/iran.stoning/

I post the rest with heavy hands

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ANTHEM

This is a poem I wrote to myself when I was 19 years old. It was part of a series of poems I wrote as an answer to personal ponderings. It was long before I had any boyfriend or would even fall in love – so the words were coming purely from the ways of social dogmas, facing bullying by the ‘mean girls’ and the general ways in which following one’s own ethics or callings or work or other hobbies were perceived by many others who understood the ‘language of groups’ much better than the voices of individualism. And for the times I didn’t give up and just focused on my goals no matter how tough it was. The words of the poem constituted my anthem and elixir through which I drank in strength when I needed it. (I’d started writing poetry as a kid but the early ones were mostly about nature, the skies and quizzical observations of human characteristics viewed during social events.)

Many years have passed and through time, despite their youthful and naive determination, whenever I read these words again, they  bring back the same sense of empowerment I’d felt while writing them. Later in my mid-20s, a beloved teacher from back in school asking for contributions to fill in the alumni publication liked this poem so much that it now stays framed on the wall in the entrance lobby of my former all-girls high school.  The words were not based on fantasy but on the reality of the life I had lived till then and the world I’d observed. And these words are not just for me, I share them freely and lovingly with every girl who has strived for strength and self-reliance no matter what she has faced in life, and no matter how many times she has been pushed down for having a sense of will and self-esteem – full, unfettered and vibrant within.

This is an anthem I now dedicate several years later from the time I first wrote it to every woman in the world and through the ages  who has stood for rational ethics for humanity and the natural world; to every woman who believed in her intellect and intelligence enough to seek answers through FACTS and truths based on reality rather than blindly follow irrational myths or ideologies; To every woman who has been mocked, ridiculed, bullied, insulted, pushed down, tortured for simply being herself and trying to do good even when it seemed to be against all odds; To every woman who has never ever indulged in using vampire hooks to induce pity, shame and guilt in others to ‘rescue’ her nor bullied and controlled others to cater to her whims, but has instead lifted herself up in life through her own hard work, self-reliance, logic and confidence without using human props;

To every strong willed truly brave activist who has fought for women’s rights in countries where misogyny is intrinsic to its religion and laws; To every woman in a free country who knows these truths and counts her blessings unlike those who use hooks on good people, instead of doing real good in the world or understanding the pain of women who face REAL and not fake suffering;

To every innocent girl in more free countries who has paid the price of being misunderstood or pigeonholed due to the conniving girls in men’s pasts, even as she held out her kindness, logic and patience in return and watched it being torn to shreds but was able to walk away with her dignity and compassion intact when she realized you can give unconditionally only to those who are ready to receive; To every girl who has faced apathy or cruelty from either men or women in return for her empathy or innocence and still never became bitter nor lost her ability to laugh;

To every girl who is a realist about her own flaws and weaknesses and strives for self-improvement and is open to objective criticism instead of becoming delusional or wallowing in her weaknesses; to every girl in a free country who stands for rational goodness and knows the power of inner strength, without making herself some sacrificial lamb but rather chooses quiet non-abrasive confidence and fortitude over giving in to victimhood, no matter how hard her trials are;

To every woman in a suppressed patriarchal Islamic country who has fought for her and her sisters’ rights, for they are in many ways the toughest and bravest feminists of all, and make the cushioned-liberal-arts-type-so-called-‘feminists’ here look like self-centred jokes and rightly so;

To every woman in a science and technology field who just a few decades ago was not even allowed admissions in these fields because they were women, but who have worked hard and never given up in professions where men still dominate and the women who have made it have worked doubly, nay – triply hard; To all those silent women in science and technology and all other professions where the products of their work are seen but not their faces; nor their presence hardly ever written about;

To every woman who has seeked and celebrated the inner strength of her individual being and never craved for hollow power over others; To every woman who understands the value of genuine love – glorious, enlightening, all-accepting, and the value of true kindness and empathy even when messages around her loudly scream to embrace frivolity, fakeness and shallow vacuousness;

To every woman who faced choices in life and chose her integrity and goodness each time no matter how hard or lonely that road was; To every woman who has the strength to speak up the truth, if only for her own conscience, no matter how difficult that seems because she knows that the truth does set one free;

To every woman who has never lost her sense of practicality, pragmatism and optimism no matter how hard the knocks of life may  be, no matter how many dreams have broken, and has used her experience to shape her own character and resolve and help others in return, rather than fish for excuses; and dared to dream again; To every woman who rose in life through self reliance and not by piggy-back riding or using others;

To every girl who has cried alone through a dark cruel night when there were no arms to comfort her even when she asked for help on the rare occasion; and even when it seemed the walls were collapsing till somehow with the last drop of her strength she lifted herself, battled and channeled the darkness into creativity and stood up straight holding her head up high again; To every girl who from childhood has sensed an overpowering ‘sense of Life and of love and learning’ – hard to express in words, but a soaring of one’s ‘spirit’ – as though life is important and there is much to learn and LIVE for, not merely exist; much to be curious about; much to be happy about despite all the downers life might have;

To every girl who has celebrated the beauty, innocence and goodness that lie either oblivious or obvious in the world but can be recognized and seen only by those eyes which have never nor ever will cross to the side of malice, jealousy, bitterness nor evil; To every girl who experienced an indescribable sense of joy within herself just being her own authentic self without ever giving up her tenderness or love or sense of ethical justice or a passion for knowledge – and found that that very self-assurance which is her inbuilt essence seems to incite something weird in others who go to lengths to push that down or lay traps to suck it dry; To every girl who never let those trappers clip her wings or kill her joy or lose herself to their diminishing mockery; To every girl and woman who never gave up and knew deeply and completely the immeasurable freedom and possibilities of rational goodness and inner strength;

To every girl who no matter what fears she had to confront, learned to be cautious but never, never to be afraid or cowardly.

And to every man who had the ability to recognize and love a girl like that, and was open to receive her love in return because he felt that same way inside about life as well. And felt confident in his own self-respect to know he deserved to share that sense of joy and peace. And recognized and cherished the difference between that adventure of living from the complacency of existing. And the love and strength it takes to create or fight for ethical justice rather than destroy or choose cowardice-disguised-as-apathy.

To every person who has dared.

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YOU GOT TO BE STRONG, GIRL

“You got to be strong, girl.
So dry those tears
Remove those fears,
BELIEVE in your own confidence
To reach out for the right:
For you have to be strong,
To point out the wrong,
And though you’ll be called a fool
And told to follow rules
Set by prisoned minds,
Just stay above and cool,
Don’t lose that Fire
of faith that sustains the true spirit of life in you.

You got to be strong, girl,
They’ll hurt you a lot and crush you to depths, 
But bounce back again with renewed strength, with added confidence,
Cry out your heart if you feel like, and after you’ve cleansed yourself
Surge ahead to a new tomorrow,
With a light so brilliant it can blind those who try to extinguish
that fire in your soul;

For who can keep underwater a sparkling bubble of air
With myriad colours surrounding its unbreakable shell?

For life is filled with challenges and there are those who can and who cannot overcome every hurdle
And you know you belong to the former;
And although you might be left dangling from the end of a rope or a clifftop,
So what? You can make new footholds and sprout new wings
And fly up above the hilltop.

When you know you are right and truthful
And done nothing to regret,
Why live in the past and the future – you’ve got the Present,
So make the best.
There’s a time for every wisdom
And the search for self-realization,
Or the pursuit of True freedom –
Was always frowned upon.
But you can smile at every mile –
‘cause you know, girl:
That when the road is long, you’ve got to be strong.
But when they tribe to make it longer –
You know it’s because you ARE stronger.”

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Documentary Heaven

This is one of the coolest websites I have come across : Documentary Heaven

http://documentaryheaven.com

For those who are more inclined towards gaining information, insights, facts and the ‘film’ version of non-fiction books. It covers various diverse categories from Archaeology, Economics, Environment, Human Rights, Physics, Psychology,  Space Science,  Sport & Adventure and a whole lot more.

Talking of the last category a big congratulations to a friend of mine for  many years Nethra Raghuraman (pronounced Netra) who is hosting a new documentary series on adventure sports and aircraft for the National Geographic channel. Nethra is not only an adventure-sports participant herself, but is an Industrial Psychology magna-cum-laude graduate who on a lark had entered an international L’oreal modeling contest years back and not only became its winner but later she chose to leave the catwalks of Paris (based on her own observations of  the industry) and participated in art and independent films instead.

Nethra Raghuraman – psychologist, model, actress, animal rights activist

One of India’s topmost supermodels (where she feels you have more control over your appearances and choices than in agency-based modeling) and a regular on the runways both there and in New York and Paris, she chose to select film projects which had more independent directors instead of  the hackneyed Bollywood song-and-dance routines. This limited her choices, but she still chose her personal principles and ethics over giving in to more marketable strategies. Her most significant role was in the critically-acclaimed Bhopal Express (A David Lynch presentation which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival) which went on to snag 7 awards in the festival circuits including a best-actress award for her  and was based on the true story of one of the largest industrial catastrophes caused by human callousness of the Union Carbide plant resulting to a death toll of upto 15,000 people (both immediate and the aftermath of the  leaked poisonous gases.) When I went to watch the movie in a Montreal Art Film Festival in 2000, the line-up for the tickets was 6 blocks long (I’m not kidding.) And while I had known her even before her modeling days, it was wonderful to see that that young, shy, intelligent teenager I knew who was still coming to terms with her growing height at 5′-10″ and fluffy lips had years later transitioned into this elegant, sensitive artist. Unlike most other women in this field of work, she does not enter into self-promoting campaigns and does not even bother to maintain a home page. And even after featuring on the cover of Vogue Asia (she’s the one  kneeling on the left) still remains as  grounded as she has always been. I particularly liked an observation she once made : “I’d read somewhere that things are to be used, and people loved. But strangely and sadly you find in this world that so often things are loved and people used. What a reverse world we live in!” Congratulations, Nethra on hosting your new gig. And for waiting  and turning down other numerous offers till it was for a channel as informative as National Geographic. Thank you for being a woman of strength, beauty (in and out) and intellect (and I wish more interviewers would ask you about your education, insights and philosophical musings, rather than the usual cliched questions.)

Netra hosting the series for the National Geographic channel.

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A documentary on Nietzsche : Human all too human and Beyond Good and Evil.

And now, moving on to something else, particularly to one of my (and my mother’s) favourite philosophers – Friedrich Nietzsche. (And much to my embarrassment, my paternal great-grandfather, an archaeologist who adored his work used to copy his style of moustache.) While writing on Nietzsche would deserve a separate post altogether, since documentaries-are-the-topic-du-jour here, I am enclosing one taken from the link mentioned above. For more on his philosophy here is a wiki article : http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Philosophy_of_Friedrich_Nietzsche although the best way is to read his books, of course. One of the best aspects of Nietzsche is  that unlike some other proponents of individualistic independent thinking, he never seeked any followers nor believed in cult-tactics (in fact he abhorred it) to impose his ideas upon others. He wrote for himself and for the personal joy of his ideas , reflections and observations. And no, he was NOT anti-Semitic, quite the reverse. The above mentioned moustachioed grandpa was Jewish so I do know what I’m talking of. Even the wiki article clearly states the facts. I do like the works of the mathematician-philosopher Bertrand Russell, but the introverted, introspective Nietzsche was definitely a man who was a true individualist of his time, for which he paid a lonely price. There are many insightful and powerful quotes of Nietzsche but one of my favourites both for its brevity and wisdom is :“He who has a why to live can bear almost any how.”

I will soon be starting a series about people termed as rationalists and secular humanists and thinkers (and the first post lined to be up soon is on Richard Dawkins) but in many ways, in the school of philosophy and rational thinking, Friedrich Nietzsche was one of the pioneers of asking this line of  rhetoric,  as well as questioning widely -followed-irrational-mass-belief-systems.  And he knew quite well back then that he would be in a minority.

This particular documentary shows more of Nietzsche’s human side and weaknesses, a ‘truth’ that I have often been in conflict with about many creative artists and writers and even leaders I have liked. I found (a truth my mother had told me long back but I would find too hard to digest) that often the creative/artistic output of a man/woman (painter, musician, writer etc. who is not engaging in any moral-code-preaching but purely creating works for his/her own indulgence) should not be judged by but rather be viewed independently of his/her human fallacies (i.e.’weaknesses’ that did not include any violent tendencies, of course, but rather the softer limitations and follies of human nature.) It was one of the hardest truths I have had to accept over time and life; and in some ways to learn from my own fallacy of overt optimism in  the logic or kindness of humanity or rather lack thereof; and perhaps the reason why in my own life I still adhere to following a measure of personalised integrity and ethics as honestly and as steadfastly as I can. As Nietzsche says : “You have your way. I have my way. As for the right way, the correct way, and the only way, it does not exist.” Now that’s an objective observation I can live with. And in today’s world, where the patterns of consumption, production and existence are too intricately tied and criss-crossed to be untangled, this thought of his, though impossible if one wishes to maintain both the practice of practicality and humility, still remains a liberating dream-reality: “The individual has always had to struggle to keep from being overwhelmed by the tribe. If you try it, you will be lonely often, and sometimes frightened. But no price is too high to pay for the privilege of owning yourself.The first part of the statement is the observation. The second is the process or the price. And the third is the prize, if only for one’s own sense of self, but truly one of the best gifts  you can give yourself. Should you choose to, of course.

http://documentaryheaven.com/nietzsche-beyond-good-and-evil/

http://documentaryheaven.com

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Empty Spaces

COMFORTABLY NUMB IN EMPTY SPACES: I have watched the movie ‘the Wall’ seven times in the past 12 years and it always remains haunting. Questioning. And always powerful. And while it outlined excerpts from the band members’ lives, parts of it are said to show Syd Barrett’s fall into schizophrenia. But this excerpt from the movie in the first video posted below is one of the most powerful animations I had seen on film when I’d first viewed it years back. And still remains to this day. (The flower is symbolic, as any man who has had his heart ripped would know.) As dark and symbolic as the whole movie is about a man’s existential crises,  as he isolates himself from the apathy and chaos of the ‘usual’ ways of thinking around him, at least by the end of the film it ends on an ambiguous but positive note when he finally breaks free from the wall that he had made around himself one brick at a time.

The metaphorical film released in 1982 is rich in graphic, often disturbing imagery, music and symbolism and punctuated by animated sequences by political cartoonist Gerald Scarfe. It was directed by Alan Parker and the screenplay written by Pink Floyd vocalist and bassist Roger Waters. Waters in an interview with Rolling Stone magazine had discussed that the album as well as the film were both derived partially from Jean-Paul Sartre’s story by the same name, which according to Waters had deeply moved him and changed the way he viewed life.

Pink Floyd’s music was always reflective. Contemplative. Haunting. I had first heard its sounds when my mother had used parts of the soundtrack from the Dark Side of the Moon album for a play she was directing. I was too young to understand much of what their lyrics or music signified at that age but later in architecture school (where they were madly popular) I began a very serious appreciation of both the creativity and departure-from-norm that their work had encompassed, away from the ‘pretty’ and lovey-dovey boy-bands that had won more hearts in the 60s and 70s. Pink Floyd instead was cerebral, intellectual, questioning – it tackled pondering and pain, not fluffy teenage fluttering hearts. I was blown away by their depth and imagery and music. The band had formed in London’s architecture school and its initial goofy name was ‘The Architectural Abdabs.’
Today I am finishing a book I had received sometime back:
Pink Floyd & Philosophy: Careful with the Axiom, Eugene. Edited by George A. Reisch – professor of philosophy at the Northwestern University. An excerpt from the book’s back cover:

“What does the power of great art have to do with madness? Should psychedelic drugs make us doubt the evidence of our senses? How did power, sadism, and conformity turn education into mind control (not that we need either)? Can a rock band keep its identity as its members change? What can we learn from the synchronicities between The Dark Side of the Moon and The Wizard of Oz? Did Friedrich Nietzsche foreshadow Syd Barrett? When did you realize that you are the hole in reality? How can you have any pudding if you don’t eat yer meat?

The existential, cinematic music of Pink Floyd made them one of the most influential and recognizable rock bands of all time. They didn’t do it by leaving their audiences comfortably numb, but by unsettling, disturbing, questioning, and criticizing.”

As I write this, it is one of those nights when from the sour warm depths of a spring evening, melancholy takes over; and after a while soaking in its darkness and stilling those questions, one begins to feel uncomfortably numb………

(Warning: Both videos have graphic content. And are very dark. Not for the faint-hearted. To be watched only during melancholic moods. And at night. Do not ruin your mornings by watching these….)

V

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For one of those nights when the shadows and voices of life and existence cannot remain still any longer – the movie The Wall is available here  (in parts) :