Archtober in New York

Archtober (ärk’tōbər) is New York City’s Architecture and Design Month, the third annual month-long festival of architecture activities, programs and exhibitions taking place during the month of October.

Archtober presents special tours, lectures, films and exhibitions that focus on the importance of architecture and design in everyday life. The many participating organizations aim to raise awareness of the important role of design in our city and to build a lasting civic and international recognition of the richness of New York’s built environment.

For a schedule of the events: http://archtober.org/calendar

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Suffice to say, I have been very busy this month, and unable to take the time out for a “proper” post here. There were too many events, lectures, award ceremonies and fascinating talks, tours and exhibitions which I’ve been attending or have actively participated in.

A harried post, this shall be, alas, but just two blurbs before I bid ‘bye…

A post from the past – where I’d written about Julien Assange. Since “The Fifth Estate” – the film based on WikiLeaks was just released, I thought this would be appropriate: Truth & Dare (https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/07/30/wikileaks-fifth-estate/)

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As well, on an unrelated note, words of wisdom and comfort a very wise person spoke to me this morning, which I jotted down, because they were so articulately expressed: 

“The more pettiness and rumor-mongering a person indulges in towards those who are genuinely talented or accomplished, the greater a sign it is of that petty person’s own insignificance and insecurities.

“People who are worth their salt see through these smear attempts and never give two hoots about such haters and see them for what they are: sad, insecure, manipulative creatures who are trying to bring down a good person. They (those worth their salt)  have the ability and objectivity to decipher who the aggressor is and who the true victim is, no matter what disguise the aggressor wears.  Also, those who fail to see that, or fall for such bullshit or even fake flattery, are not worth the time or the worry. 

“Let those who use snarkiness, bullying, isolation tactics and rumor as their crutches, stew in their own insufferable insignificance or delusions of faux grandeur. Because nothing pisses off a hater more than seeing his/her target completely unaffected.”

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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.

Beasts of the wild at heart

Beasts of the Southern Wild

Beasts of the Southern Wild

One of the most poetic, poignant and original movies I’ve seen in a looong time. (ok – loved Django insanely) but this is a whole other animal. And it’s an independent film made on a small budget. I’m in love with this little strong-willed girl/actress who is the protagonist in the movie. The trailer does no justice to the full film though. Do turn off the irritating youtube annotation button if you watch this.

 If there are problems viewing the video, you can watch it directly on this link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZF7i2n5NXLo

I will not write a long post or review of the film, just that it is one of the most beautiful, fantastical, poignant, quirky and unique films I have had the pleasure of watching in my life, and is a reminder of the magic film-making can still be able to create with no expensive CGI effects, but just a strong narrative, stunning camera-work, incredible acting by first-time actors (both the little girl and her daddy) and a lot of love and passion by the film’s makers – Benh Zeitlin and Luci Alibar.

Personally, I have always felt a strong connection with movies which had the female protagonist who was different, not the loud, “popular” girl, or the one who is always with a bunch of other girls – but the introverted, introspective and precocious girl who lives in her own world of action, intellect, imagination, loves her solitude, books and nature and wild clean adventures, looks soft and feminine yet is strong and self-assured and is not afraid to fight her battles or those of the innocent….there are so few in films that way – Amelie (Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain), Lisbeth Salander (The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo), Lara Croft (Tomb Raider), Elizabeth (Pride & Prejudice – the 2005 film) and Jane Eyre – two Victorian women I have always loved, along with Irene Adler from Sherlock Holmes (the books – not the movies which do not even come close to the intelligence Doyle had endowed Irene with) and Ofelia (in Pan’s Labyrinth). And Hushpuppy from Beasts of the Southern Wild certainly is one from the same family – even though at five years of age, she is definitely the bravest yet the most vulnerable and the youngest and poorest. But you see the same characteristics – the strong will, the powers of observation of the world around her, and the inner strength and ability for introspection; and quiet non-verbal kindness and understanding, but at the same time a determined sense of justice, and wishing to heal and fix the fractures in existence. The introverted girl – a minority in our world and in evolutionary statistics.

Beasts of the Southern Wild also has one of the coolest movie websites…took me a while to realize if you hover the mouse on the screen, little creatures pop up to take you to different scenes.You can directly download the movie from the Apple website (details on the film’s website in the link below) for only 5$.

http://www.welcometothebathtub.com/

An experience not to be missed…..

Movie synopsis: In a forgotten but defiant bayou community cut off from the rest of the world by a sprawling levee, a six-year-old girl exists on the brink of orphanhood. Buoyed by her childish optimism and extraordinary imagination, she believes that the natural world is in balance with the universe until a fierce storm changes her reality. Desperate to repair the structure of her world in order to save her ailing father and sinking home, this tiny hero must learn to survive unstoppable catastrophes of epic proportions.

A good review by Bret Fetzer: The devastated landscape of the Louisiana bayou becomes a primordial world in the eyes of 6-year-old Hushpuppy (the fierce and magnetic Quvenzhané Wallis). Hushpuppy’s father Wink (Dwight Henry), emotionally unstable and increasingly ill, fights to maintain their ramshackle home, along with the rest of the precarious community of the area known as the Bathtub–but a Katrina-esque storm leaves the Bathtub flooded, driving Wink to desperate lengths. Faced with the loss of everything she knows, Hushpuppy decides her only hope is to find her mother, but her only clue is a winking light in the distance. Beasts of the Southern Wild tells its story entirely from the 6-year-old girl’s perspective; the actions and emotions of adults take on a mythic scope, as does the damaged environment in which she lives. The movie is dense and rich, often as obscure and murky as the overgrown bayou itself, sometimes off-putting and enticing at the same time. Wallis, her performance brimming with feral energy and a wounded soul, carries the movie with more star power than most adults could muster. The dialogue is thick with intriguing metaphors and the images resist being easily interpreted into a conventional plot, but the story gradually emerges, rising to a potent end. Viewers who take the time to sink into its mysteries will be rewarded. 

beasts of the southern wild

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Rest in Take 5 Heaven

Goodbye to another legend, this time in Jazz. Rest in Take 5 (and much more) harmony. Dave Brubeck (December 6, 1920 – December 5, 2012)

There is much about Brubeck out there of course, but two interesting trivia facts – he was initially training in veterinary science, and later when he left it to pursue music, one of his professors nearly expelled him because they discovered he couldn’t read notes in music. (Paul McCartney, too, btw never learned to read musical notations.) But then several of his professors  came forward to support, arguing that his ability with counterpoint and harmony more than compensated for his inability to read music. The college was still afraid that it would cause a scandal, and agreed to let Brubeck graduate only after he had promised never to teach piano.

Ha! Little did they know, right?

Dave Brubeck

Dave went on to have not only one of the most successful careers as a jazz musician, but led a happy life with his wife, children and several grandchildren. Shy and introverted, he was also ‘bothered’ that Time magazine featured him on its cover before featuring composer, pianist and big-band leader the mighty black Jazz legend Duke Ellington.

Goodbye, Dave Brubeck…..Thank you for your genius and sharing your gift with the world.

Here’s Brubeck ‘taking the A train’…

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And Oscar Niemeyer, too….(15 December, 1907 – 5 December 2012)

And while I was writing this, I found that one of the luminaries of modern architecture  the great Brazilian architect Oscar Niemeyer had  passed away just a few hours ago. He was 104….married to his first wife for 76 years till her death, and then marrying his long-time aide at the age of 99.  Another accomplished life,  filled with innovation, going against the grain and a full, dynamic spirit. He leaves behind five grandchildren, seven great-grandchildren and thirteen great-great grandchildren.

Oscar_Niemeyer

For a period in his life, Oscar was forced into exile in Europe and his office pillaged during the time of the  military dictatorship in Brazil due to his fiercely leftist views.

Here are some quotes and interesting facts about Oscar:

Niemeyer had always claimed to be a staunch atheist, basing his beliefs both on the “injustices of this world” and on cosmological principles: “it’s a fantastic Universe which humiliates us, and we can’t make any use of it. But we are amazed by the power of the human mind […]. In the end, that’s it – you are born, you die, that’s it!”. Such convictions never stopped him from designing religious buildings, which spanned from small catholic chapels, through orthodox churches and large mosques. He was also sensible to the religious experiences of the believers who use his buildings. In the Cathedral of Brasília, he intended the large glass openings “to connect the people to the sky, where their lord’s paradise is.”

and:

Niemeyer was most famous for his use of abstract forms and curves that specifically characterize most of his works; he didn’t stick to traditional straight lines, for unlike many modernists of his time he was not attracted to straight angles or lines but rather captivated by ”free-flowing, sensual curves… [like that] on the body of a beloved woman.”

I am not attracted to straight angles or to the straight line, hard and inflexible, created by man. I am attracted to free-flowing, sensual curves. The curves that I find in the mountains of my country, in the sinuousness of its rivers, in the waves of the ocean, and on the body of the beloved woman. Curves make up the entire Universe, the curved Universe of Einstein.”

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Museu de Arte Contemporanea de Niteroi, Rio de Janeiro

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museum-oscar-niemeyer.

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oscar-niemeyer-ibirapuera-pk-sao-paulo

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Niemeyer

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Cicillo Matarazzo Pavilion in Ibirapuera Park, Sao Paulo, 1954

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Centro Cultural Oscar Niemeyer, Asturias, Spain

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For a great photo-gallery of Niemeyer’s work in the UK Guardian, click here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/artanddesign/gallery/2012/dec/06/oscar-niemeyer-life-architecture-pictures#/?picture=397995668&index=3

For some stunning black & white photographs of his work by Marcel Gautherot, click here:  http://tinyurl.com/ahkxkz8  

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Other posts on jazz and  architecture & sensuality:

Star Trek Jazz: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/star-trek-jazz/

Sex and the Starchitect: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/sex-and-the-starchitect/ 

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Punishing an entire team ’cause a woman engineer was both whipper-smart AND gorgeous

Punishing an ENTIRE team ’cause a woman engineer was both whipper-smart AND gorgeous

(This was written in 2011. For a happy update on the story, scroll to the end of the post.)

New York, April 17, 2011. Last week in the news there was a story of a Muslim beauty-pageant contestant, a citizen of Britain, facing threats from radical Islamists in her country for having the ‘audacity’ to partake in the Miss Universe preliminary contest. http://www.bbc.co.uk/newsbeat/12860407.   This naturally brought out widespread opposition from both the western media and the liberal members of the Muslim community saying, and rightly so, how unfair this was to the freedom of an independent woman.

Social commentators basing opinions on stereotypes clucked and sighed and said – but of course, this kind of a backlash against a confident, pretty woman who would dare to dress up in a bikini can happen only to “suppressed women” in the “ultra-conservative factions of the Muslim community,” right?

WRONG! No, readers, it seems in one of the most liberal western countries of the world, a country that has been praised for its human rights freedom, gay marriages, marijuana decriminalization – in that country – Canada- the Dean of Engineering of one of its premium schools, i.e. the University of Waterloo, is also living in some older Biblical period and exhibiting mind-numbing sexism. Yes, this dean suspended – that’s right suspended – an ENTIRE Waterloo SAE team for the crime of…….theft? No. Plagiarism? No. Violent hatred, racism, vandalism? NO.

He felt justified to suspend them from entering an international contest, using a lame technicality, because a member of that engineering team, a beautiful smart woman engineer, had posed in a bikini for the application form of a calender,(part-profits of which were to go to a cancer charity,) standing next to a car she had helped design and build as the leader of the chassis team.

Mind-boggling, isn’t it?! I first read the story when a Harvard fMRI researcher mailed me an article Friday morning. Excerpts from that post (http://jalopnik.com/#!5792168/how-a-university-punished-a-female-engineering-student-for-this-bikini-photo):

A Canadian university suspended its student racecar-building team after one of the engineers in training had the audacity to pose with it while wearing a bikini. It’s an independent study course in sexism, administrative idiocy and misplaced priorities.

The University of Waterloo’s Formula SAE team, like dozens of others in the United States and Canada, builds a racecar from scratch as a practical application of their training. Many are crashing to tweak their cars before the competition’s biggest events, the Formula SAE contest in Michigan in May. It’s an important training ground for the future brains of the auto industry.

The University of Waterloo Formula SAE team next to their creation. The team was unfairly barred from entering the international contest thanks to a mountain made of a molehill. (Photo by Mike Seliske.)

The team of 30 bright young male and female engineers had been working hard on the automobile design. Last month, a student, the leader of the chassis building team needed some glamour shots that required two-piece swim-wear photos for a contest application, part of whose profits would go to a breast cancer charity. She and another female student in a last-minute decision decided to take a few photographs posing next to the competition-entry car. The photographer himself was also a responsible engineering student.

On-campus photography has frequently occurred and there has been no opposition. Also, actual acts of REAL, tangible crime have taken place on-campus and nothing has been done about those. But all hell broke lose over a picture which had not been flaunted around publicly but had just been placed privately in the photographer’s personal  portfolio on his blog after a quiet professional photoshoot. Yes, the photographer had made the “mistake” of placing the photo on his online portfolio. But it was not him, but the woman engineer model who hadn’t flaunted it publicly, and her entire team, who ended up paying a ridiculous penalty.

Because that placement was enough to provoke some medieval moral stance by Sedra who proceeded to make this into an enormous avalanche as though a great crime of catastrophic proportions had been committed. Yes – in Ontario, where it is legal for women to go topless, but somehow a woman engineer cannot pose in a bikini inside a closed facility. It was enough to send dean Adel Sedra into proclaiming the photos as “inappropriate and denigrating” to womanhood and engineering and with a weird ‘technicality excuse’, feel justified to suspend an entire team (without even a prior warning!) as some form of collective  punishment!

A UK newspaper goes on to report:

The engineering students, who designed and made the car, said they will now be unable to enter it in an international competition to be held in Michigan next month. In a memo sent to all students, Adel Sedra, dean of engineering, said the team members were suspended until June because of the ‘misuse of the student design centre space for an unauthorized photoshoot’. But Mr Sedra went on to praise the ‘remarkable work’ of student teams and assured students they would still receive credit for their work. The students’ teacher, Steve Lambert, told a local newspaper that ‘one of the bitter ironies of the present situation is that the photoshoot was intended to promote women’. He said the bikini-clad girl in the photo was a key member of the car-building team. ‘I knew that particular student and she had been thinking about whether she could be feminine and an engineer at the same time,’ Mr Lambert told the Waterloo Region Record. He added that the students are ‘obviously very disappointed’. He said the female student who posed in front of the car had ‘apologised and accepted responsibility’ for her actions. Mike Seliske, the engineering student who took the photograph, said: ‘The biggest thing to take from this is that sometimes life isn’t fair and if people in positions of authority want to make decisions, there isn’t much you can do about it no matter what you or other people think.’

So let me lay it out straight without sugar-coating or being afraid to call a spade a spade. Those who have read a few of my posts know well that I value straight-talk over polite pussyfooting political correctness. Despite all the rationalizations, “technical and security” reasons and other lame excuses that the dean’s office has given for their actions, truth is – It was his way of exhibiting control and punishing a woman engineer and her team from entering an international Formula SAE competition they had all worked hard for, because she happened to show some skin and looked sexy while at it. Period. Had this been some photo of men in shorts or women in shapeless hoodies, I’m sure Dean Sedra would have had no problems.

A Punishment too harsh, and extremely ridiculous. These simple shots of a woman engineer dressed in a normal bikini (like any seen on a beach) confidently standing next to a car she had helped build was enough to make its Dean take some unfathomable medieval-morality stance and ban the ENTIRE team from entering the SAE International competition! (Photos by Mike Seliske (c)

The pictures were elegantly shot – there was no vulgarity, no nudity and it was lovely to see this intelligent, tech-brained and naturally beautiful woman confidently stand next to something cool and avant-garde that she along with her team had designed and built with their bare hands.

Yet – in the double standards of our society, it seems glamour and sexiness is to be seen only as the territory of vacuous, superficial floozies (like several mind-numbing reality stars) and if a woman is whipper-smart with technical brain-power she must necessarily look like Jerry Lewis in a wig.(link)

Brains AND beauty AND a good-heart if seen together in a single person not only has to be discounted in a witch-hunt, but the possessor publicly shamed and punished. In our tripping-over-itself-politically-correct world she will only be applauded if she is posing for some ‘everyday woman bikini-look’ such as a Dove  soap commercial(here)* whereby she should then look as unappealing as possible but be given a huge thumbs-up in the name of ‘self-esteem’ OR she should be some female-approved equine sex-icon(here)” such as TV’s Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker), in which case her appeal to women relies heavily on the  fact that she can sleep with thousands of men and marry rich eligible bachelors but not incite envy, but the gushing worship of her female fans precisely because of her rabid shoe-shopping, mediocre brains and selfish nagging self-absorbed values.(click here.) And the shallower amongst men alike can snort and say – “Ah – pretty women are dumb and stupid, and the unattractive ones put out fast.”

Or conversely, you will get a large number of supporters for Toronto’s ‘Slut Walk’* cloaked under third-wave feminism, and calling on women to dress like, well, ‘sluts’ as the name suggests – reactionary in principle, (against a police officer who had advised women to take certain practical precautions for their own safety) yet strangely filled with more participants from professional hedonism and exhibitionist clubs like those participating in Key West’s annual FantasyFest, rather than real victims*, but here propagating a generalized faulty claim that all men are rapists and oppressors, omitting the fact that there are many kind, decent, well-behaved men who have ended up wrongly paying the price of stereotyping based on the more violent samples of their gender.  An illogical albeit hilarious, over-the-top vulgar display that already showed just how warped Canada is both in its political correctness to women in certain circles yet weird biases in others: the dowdy angry ones as well as the ‘slutty’ aggressive ones will always be taken seriously due to their loud groups and ranting causes, while the introverted, intelligent and genuinely good-hearted ones are ignored and unacknowledged or worse punished if they dare show that they do have it all, including sex appeal with a rational brain.

So Woe betide (to use medieval terms) should a woman be whipper-smart with the brains to design a race car AND look gorgeous AND pose for a good cause or for her own private endeavor. “Burn the witch!” “How dare she use sex appeal?” “Oh dear, the children!!!” “She has shamed our institution!” “The entire team should be suspended as a lesson!”

Why am I not surprised? Because as I have often written on this blog, a combination of smarts, attractiveness, goodness seems to bring out some pathological opposition amongst those who only like to dwell in the enshrinement of mediocrity. In my post “Sex and the Starchitect” (here) my basic observation had been that:

“While our society seems to treat the ‘sexiness’ of male architects with giggly humour, if a woman architect or engineer confidently displays her intelligence, talent AND feminine sexuality with  dignity and humour – she faces intense opposition of jealousy-disguised-as-righteousness from other women and is often not taken seriously by male architects and engineers for shedding the ‘asexual/tomboy’ persona required for women to succeed in this field.”

As well:

“In the double standards of sex in our society, the women who lose out are usually the smart,  individualistic, feminine ones who by entering fields of work largely dominated by men, face both sexism from the men AND sexual politics from other women. While women engineers and architects are the ones who perhaps do the most for female equality by entering hitherto-male-dominated technical professions without beating a drum about it, they get largely overlooked by the mainstream media and pushed down by their own male colleagues and female academicians. While the media either promotes the usual clichés of giggly materialistic pampered cosmo party-girls or alternately ‘male-bashing women’s-lib-yelling-lawyers’ or at most, the smart-caring female-doctor,  the 10 – 15% women in technical fields largely remain unknown.”

This incident in Waterloo University further reinforces how right that observation was/still is after spending 10+ years in this field and having heard similar tales from many smart, wonderful, elegant women engineers and architects I have personally come across and worked with, who have spent far more years in this branch of work and know what a tricky balancing act it is.

I was also deeply moved when I received a few months back a long heartfelt letter from a reader, a former lady RAF pilot who knew all too well the double standards that exist for that minority of girls who have both tech-brains and physical femininity. When I showed the Waterloo incident to a close woman friend of mine – a senior Director at Microsoft in Seattle, who was a former pageant winner in her college days, she said that ridiculous sexism like this towards attractive geek-girls from both genders is so prevalent in all parts of the world that she just laughs and shrugs it off now. That it will take “over a 100 years to change attitudes towards women in engineering,” if the human race even lives that long.

One would wonder, why wouldn’t mainstream feminism take up this issue? Because, my dears, the blunt truth is that those “social studies and humanities” ‘feminists’ are so busy promoting their own rabid man-bashing and securing funding for their various “social studies” programs, they like pretending that those freaks – aka technical brained women who can be both smart and feminine don’t exist.

After all, aren’t real life Princess Padme Amidala, kick-ass Lisbeth Salander, Princess Leia, Dagny Taggart, Uhura and Lara Croft every man’s dream girl? That is why, my dears, the isolation of geek-girls start early. They get bullied in school, bullied for being quiet or different, ganged up on more by the mean girls should they show any signs of being attractive…..and despite all this when some of them still progress into tech-fields based on their brain power, their problems and issues are brushed under the rug.

Then, since quite a few older men in engineering are often clueless due to a shortage of women in the field and have a track-record for ending up in relations with abusive women with pathological borderline and narcissistic traits from other branches, they take their frustrations out on the few women in the engineering fields who, unlike those ‘unpredictable’ girls, are instead usually rational, straightforward and uncomplicated. (A peek into the wonderful healing site ‘A Shrink for Men‘ will reveal just how often men from more male-dominated fields end up in relations with predatory easy high-conflict women and how long it takes for them to realize that all women are not like that and that most nerd-girls (whether they dress femininely or not) are usually different and more rational and stable than most women. Also, the inherent “fix-it” tendencies of male engineers make them prime magnets for women who love playing the “professional victim” or “rescue-me-waif” who soon turn out to be full-blown borderline and narcissistic “crazy” clingers.)

So – in short, women engineers and architects pay the double price of both the misconceptions about ‘women’ created by the REAL floozies and manipulators, AND are ignored by those humanities’ feminists because let’s call a spade a spade, at a pathological level the latter feel quite threatened by women who are far more intellectual or smarter than them.

The blunt truth is that the world can survive without your ‘Ambiguous Non-absolutism’ course, honey (and trust me, I too have studied Derrida’s Deconstructionism in  my theory courses and much French philosophy), but  as alluring as that is – the modern world today cannot function without the brains and the infrastructure and equipment that engineers invent and have invented, including electrical appliances, central heating, elevators, vehicles, aeronautic systems, sewage systems, water and sanitation systems, satellites that make your tv and cell phones possible (and so much, much more that you take for granted everyday) and especially the computer and internet on which you post your rants. Period.

I know that’s not the case with all and there are a handful of wonderful liberal arts women who may speak up for geek-girls, but I have often observed and questioned how effortlessly those ‘women’s studies’ activists speaking up at conferences or writing books, conveniently seem to forget that women engineers and architects also exist (while simultaneously salivating over young male architects and tripping over themselves to invite them to their symposiums.)

Also, those Design and ‘Style’ magazine women seem to go out of their way to gush over conducting interviews with ‘hot young male architect and inventor’ while ignoring any ‘hot young female architect or inventor.’ The only time a woman architect is recognized by some women studies’ writers is when the former has finally reached menopause and is no threat whatsoever from taking the spotlight away from Miss High Society Art Socialite. For more on this reality, do read my post ‘Sex and the Starchitect.

A few young tech-brained women in the STEM fields did try to fend for their rights by creating ‘geek-feminism’ as a counter-movement to the anti-science humanities ‘feminists’ who only push their own agenda and laugh at the issues faced by the women who do predominantly work in more male-fields. It was also started to address the specific flavour of sexism faced by women in geek communities.

But, I for one while commending what they are doing, get a bit frightened by anything that promotes an ideology instead of individuality. Another movement www.nerdgirls.com started by a Tufts engineering woman professor, and her students, inspired by Danica McKellar, Tina Fey etc. tried to show that girls could have both tech-smarts and glamour and asked young engineering girls to audition for the show. But given the inbuilt introversion of most geek-girls (myself included) and the way any TV series get the fluff-treatment in the hands of those cheesy marketing executives, I shudder to think how that series may end up.

INSTEAD, (although I know it is easier to become popular and get backing when you take up the cause for an entire group,) I would like to focus here on the unique issues faced by that small minority of individualistic women who have both smarts and femininity and a straight-head on their shoulders.

Yes, there is a lot of pain in the world regarding far larger issues and many of my posts have been on that, but there is also a silent unexpressed and unspoken pain that some are not able to or allowed to speak of, because somehow in this world, and especially in Canada I have noticed, it is okay to throw out one’s wounds and weaknesses as claim checks to pity, but the isolation faced by those who might be quietly exceptional and intrinsically strong are quickly dismissed off under the rug – as though they do not have the right to feel pain but only to serve others.

In one of my posts (here), a reader had placed a comment that was so heartfelt, that he had nailed the issue and finally given words to a certain bias that is not openly spoken of. That certain bias that this woman engineer faced in this case. His words:

“…I realize it’s terribly un-PC, but one issue that isn’t spoken of enough in regards to gender stereotyping, is that specific flavour of bias faced by intelligent and talented women who are beautiful and sexy, but not slutty, and who don’t downplay their feminine sides. To be able to hold on to this brand of feminine identity AND be successful in a male dominated field takes an immense amount of strength. And I, for one, think this should be rewarded, especially by other women, because if there is any hope of us breaking free of these deeply embedded gender myths it will only be through the example of women who are willing to stand alone.”

–  (David, a Cornell Med neuroscientist, whose own blog can be found here.)

Last year, I was horrified and amused by the hate mail sent by two women for a post I wrote about the reality of sweatshops and what goes behind the production of overpriced purses, fabrics and shoes that the Carries and Kardashians of the world base their existence on.

Instead of feeling empathy for the child sweatshop-workers or the shallow ‘role models’ that certain TV shows have promoted, their complaint was that “how dare I place a picture of myself” (mind you – on my personal blog and that too, fully-clothed) taken during a site visit on a construction site of a building I was working on. You would think this would encourage other young girls to join architecture/structural engineering, right? and know that there are far better ways to authentically feel happy through your own hard work and creations rather than relate “self-worth” to the shallowness preached in some tv show? No. In the warped logic of these non-tech-field shopoholic women, that ‘killed’ everything and I had “offended my gender.”

Why?

Because let me lay it out straight without sugar-coating: I didn’t wear a shapeless smock and didn’t resemble Jerry- Lewis-in-a-wig the ‘accepted’ look that most people would like woman engineers to have, so that they can make fun of them even more. (The photo is here, at the very end of the post.) I do have very feminine looks, but still will admit that unfortunately Jerry-Lewis-in-wigs or conversely, horsey-miss-insecure-who-sleeps-with-thousands-in-the-name-of-women’s-lib are the only stamps of approval needed these days to become popular amongst ’cause-ranting’ women who will not come to your defense otherwise. Or conversely yell that you are “privileged” simply because you have used your own math brain and hard work to enter a technical branch of study and therefore have no right to an independent opinion. Thankfully that post got wide support from many rational women and men across the world.

Woe betide if a woman exhibits rationality, self-assurance, intellect and femininity without either being a nymphomaniac or conversely the asexual ‘manly’-girl. Is it any surprise that to survive in our fields of work, women architects and engineers don our own western version of burqas – aka that standard black turtle neck long sleeved shirt and straight pants – a female Steve Jobs-look? Over a course of decades, many of the females in the field have realized that this look serves the double purpose of being taken seriously by the men and not inciting the jealousy of the women in marketing, humanities and other more ‘girly’ fields – who, as one HR woman once told me openly:”…are so jealous of you girls because you work around men and have made it in men’s worlds.” At least she was honest.

I don’t know how far we have ‘made’ it – judging from this appalling exhibition of sexism and ignorance that Adel Sedra showed. And to even get where we are, women had to work doubly, nay triply hard, to prove that you could be a smart tech-brained woman equally or more competent than a man with the same qualifications. Canadian society is very accepting of gay men, yet it never wants to acknowledge that tech-brained women (or women who naturally have brains wired more like highly analytical geeky men) still can be utterly feminine and not have forsaken their softer qualities while still being uber- smart.

An American friend of mine when he read this story asked: “Wow! Did she sue? This is grounds for discrimination!” I had to answer: “No, this is passive, politically-correct, give-the-other-cheek, suck-up-to-the-bully-and-give-him-your-lunch-money Canada. Believe it or not, she and they all apologized.”

Yes, they apologized for the photography and she stepped down as the leader of the chassis-building team. They apologized for making an honest mistake for standing afore a car she had helped design along with her team.

They apologized that the models were not men in bathing trunks, or overweight Dove women doing a ‘self-esteem’ ad or conversely some silicon-boobed Playboy-approved giggly-girl who would know nothing about building a car but batting eyelids at a man who owned such a car, but that the model was instead a genuinely smart and attractive young engineer donning a swimsuit not unlike you’d see on any tropical beach.

They apologized for being themselves and living in the 21st century standing next to a 21st century car while battling 16th century values of prudishness. And apologized for facing one of the most ridiculous and probably one of the most illogical and harshest punishments meted out on an entire team.

I have nothing against the University of Waterloo. (After all, my former first boyfriend, a multiple award-winning mathematician, pianist and professor and former NSERC grant-receiver is part of the Waterloo student and teaching alumni.) But I believe, in jest of course, that Dean Adel Sedras through his medieval decision, has proven that if there is ever a vacancy in the seats for mullahs in London’s radical Islamic community that made threats to ‘punish’ a woman because she will be wearing a bikini at the Miss Universe contest, he had better apply. I’m sure he’d win. After all, he has a proven track record now. He didn’t just warn or threaten unlike the mullahs – he has already punished an ENTIRE team of young innocent hopeful engineers and shamed a woman engineer for committing the “setback” to wear a bikini in front of a car she had helped design. I had heard he was a jolly chap, but his sense of humour seems to have been completely absent in this weird group punishment.

In New York City where I live, and where thankfully excellence is still rewarded somewhat more than other parts of the world, this woman would have been seen as a possible role model for young geek-brained-women who wanted to join the branch of engineering and felt inspired that they need not shed their femininity to survive in that profession. Instead, thank you Dean of Waterloo Engineering for punishing the entire team and showing what a long way you still have to go from removing the biases in your mind.

We wonder why whipper-smart, scientific, kind AND gorgeous ladies like this woman engineer are not seen more in the media, but only idiotic vulgar or histrionic ones or smart but angry, asexualized ones are omnipresent? Here’s why. Here’s exactly why. Because the ones who can combine the whole package and are rational and kind to boot, are forced to become invisible and their voices silenced if ever they dare to come forward.

So I want to say to her: You go, girl! Don’t let the peanut gallery of the press, comments or the self-righteous morality-brigade silence you or those like you within your team and department. If I had a daughter, I’d rather she’d see you and the other girls on that team standing confidently in front of that car you helped build than let her look at any idiotic supermarket tabloid or read the rants of some ideological activist. Because all I see in that picture is a smart, self-assured woman taking some pride in an invention made by a team of intelligent men and women who she is also a part of and taking pride in her healthy curves.

This photograph would have enhanced Waterloo’s Engineering department as not being some man-only zone. Instead, alas, the actions of its Dean whether he acted on his own or through other advisors, whether he acted as some moral policeman or stubborn authoritarian trying to be protective of a woman and teaching her how she should give in to the already existing biases, only shows his remarkable degree of immature cognitive abilities.

Sedra said everyone on the team was penalized because “that’s the way it is in life.” A whole team can sometimes be brought down by the mistakes of a few and “this is part of their education,” he said.

NO – Dean Sedra – that is your personal bias and high-handedness and myopic view of the world that lacks objectivity. Do not try to project your own narcissism and warped view of objectivity as everyone’s “life.” Maybe it is you and that warped view that exists in engineering amongst many others (which cannot decipher good women from the floozies) that needs some counselling to see what inner issues of “life” and your own “setbacks” you are trying to avenge here.  

A super-smart Coptic Egypt-born woman engineer in Montreal I know well who runs her own firm, said she was so embarrassed with the way you brought your own 1950s views of Egyptian women into Canada. She said: “It was because of escaping sexism like this in Egypt – not in education, but more in dress codes – that I experienced freedom in Canada when I moved here in the 1970s. How sad that Adel Sedra did not completely adapt to this country that gave him so, so much, but instead he carries a patriarchal sexism that prevailed in the Egypt he left, despite him being a Coptic Orthodox Christian, not Muslim. Instead, he is forcing his students to accept those sexist ways of punishing women and their supporters. He does not realize how he has not only showed engineering as being backward to its attitudes to women, but also shamed Egyptian-born liberal Canadians by this show of blatant power-control and a decision that is just wrong, so wrong on so many levels. I now have to defend other Egyptian-born Canadians and say no, all our men are not like that and the women do have freedom. It is embarrassing to say this now, after all these years. He could have just scolded or warned them a bit and then allowed them to participate.” (In the news: Recent CNN news article on “virginity checks” ordered by a general in Egypt: http://www.cnn.com/2011/WORLD/meast/05/30/egypt.virginity.tests/index.html?hpt=T1)

I would like to add that regardless of possible cultural baggage, the patronizing sexist attitudes of men in the older generation of Canadian engineers and architects, be they of English or other origin, regardless of their religion, is a very real issue.

Hey Dean Sedras – maybe next time you step into the McGill Law Library in Montreal, or pose before the Fontaine de Torny in Quebec City, or step in the Aviation Museum in Ottawa – I should say you’ve committed the grave offense of misuse of power and are not welcome there.

After all – I, a woman architect and engineer have been a key part of the design team of those buildings amongst many others across Canada and the world – and if I had the authority like you do and copy your style of punishing harshly over trivial non-issues, I would say that your entire faculty of professors too should be banned from entering or viewing those structures – because I would not want designs I worked on and helped build to be used by you nor them because you proved yourself to be so mind-numbingly ridiculous.  And of course, I praise you for your “remarkable work” that you have done as an academician through the years and sincerely respect your qualifications, but in front of Objective Truth, please stop your hidden sexist biases and refrain from entering buildings I designed because I as a woman professional have found your actions and lack of rational integrity rather “inappropriate and denigrating”.

Maybe then you’ll know how it feels like to be excluded entry based on ridiculous bigoted reasons and lame technicalities.

Also, please know that these are my independent, individual thoughts and I hope you will not take a further bully’s stance of punishing your students even more, or being afraid to face the truth of your own inner insecurities and restrictions you (unfairly or fairly) earlier faced in life that you cloak through this outer need for control.

This should not just be a learning lesson for them, it should be a learning lesson for you. As a Canadian in New York now I have to give explanations and defend Canada to people who ask me if Canadian universities and engineering faculties are really so backward. Thank you for helping the “image” of Canada with your strange illogical stance.

And just one last word to Dean Adel Sedras: I am sure even the world’s greatest woman architect Zaha Hadid who has battled both sexism from men and sexual politics from other women and still broken through with her designs, creating some of the world’s sexiest curves and towers, won architecture’s highest award (and often likes carrying a sexy self-designed metal purse shaped like a woman’s derrière) will agree with what I have written here. And would say there is only one way to redeem yourself from the international embarrassment you alone and some of your ‘kiss-up-to-the-dean’-flatterers have caused and do some soul-searching yourself.

And lift your weird ‘suspension’ and let the team enter the Michigan competition (alas, too late now), instead of showing another example of bad judgment on your part. Because everyone makes mistakes, including you, and I am certain that deep inside that irrational ego, you are a reasonable and kind man, who I hope, will do the reasonable thing and see the flaw of such a harsh and senseless collective punishment.

The only ‘lesson’ you are teaching 30 young hopeful students here is that they should be judged by what they wear, not by a year’s worth of hard work and by their brains, and hence penalized by using lame excuses. And that – your punishment – is  incredibly illogical and damaging: to the students, to the sponsors and to the portrayal of your department. 

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THANK YOU RANDALL MUNROE OF XKCD. His cartoon on 9 May 2011. Couldn’t be more appropriate in context of this post at a time when Waterloo Engineering had also hung awful anti-Marie Curie posters. Guys and gals –  follow the wisdom of xkcd, rather than clueless ideologists.

Attention: For geek-girls with math and science brains only. Those men who like stereotyping all women as dumb and other women who didn’t come to defend us except when it’s convenient for them – stay away. You were never nice to us nerd girls in school. So now humbly accept that nerd girls ARE different (and brainier and more introverted), and let us fend for our own in peace.

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If the world was left to you socialites, we would all still be in caves talking to each other.” – Temple Grandin, engineer, inventor, author.

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Also, the story of Hypatia – the Greek woman philosopher and mathematician who was burnt alive as a witch by Christian monks – here.

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*Regarding the Slutwalk, I do feel very sad for real victims – and I myself have been attacked twice on Canadian streets while returning home late from work though I was fully clothed and thankfully I was able to break free from the attackers – but the point is I dealt with that discreetly and through the law; Many participants of the Slutwalk are people belonging to professional hedonist and exhibitionist clubs and exhibit histrionic personalities who seek attention – few real victims would actually like to parade in that fashion.

The walk might do more for women in countries where extreme patriarchy still exists, but largely in western liberal countries women do have a lot of freedom (sometimes to the point of punishing the kinder men). It seems illogical that here taxpayers’ money is used to organize a Slutwalk – while in some parts of the world female circumcision, stoning, acid burning, honor-killings and mind-blowing religious misogyny still occurs. There is far larger pain and atrocities in the world like the latter. Women in more well-off countries should get a more grounded sense of perspective.

Also, as regards the Dove commercials, there are certainly a few good ones with much older women who have aged gracefully and another showing Photoshop effects.

I am no 16 year-old either, but still will admit that I am objective and have enough self-esteem to understand that there is a difference between dignified self-respect vs. some delusional thrust to change evolutionary instincts.

Yes, women of all ages, sizes and shapes should feel confident, but it is also important to take care of one’s health and physical fitness. If one keeps packing pounds by eating pork sausages and unhealthy donuts or animal fat (besides the fact that those animals are raised and killed brutally) and still insists that attractiveness need not be based on objective instincts but subjective political-correctness – then I do see a problem.  

And that problem is a denial of Reality, a denial of human evolutionary instincts and a denial of the fact that authentic self-esteem comes from within – that it is one thing to be a 20-something woman getting in touch with her femininity in a sporty bikini which is very understandable, and quite another to be an obese 40+ or 50+ woman (obese due to bad eating habits and a lack of exercising, not thyroid problems) and still parade around naked in some ‘self-esteem’ slogan. Give me a break!

When I turn 40 or 50, I won’t be getting into some competition with younger girls and dress age-inappropriately, or relate my ‘self-worth’ to parading naked for an ad as though some male approval based on forcing cognitive dissonance on them is going to make me feel all fuzzy and ‘self-esteemed’ up inside.  

As women grow older – the sexiest qualities are an authentic sense of Self, self-confidence both with one’s work, personality and sexuality, honest dignity, calm, wisdom, compassion and self-assurance. As well as the ability to dress elegantly knowing the assets and flaws of your body with a realistic acceptance  – that does not reek of histrionically seeking attention by wearing trashy outfits in ‘slut’ walks.  

When you are intrinsically confident, in your 40s and 50s you need neither a Dove ad nor a ‘slut’ walk to roar ‘self-esteem.’ Really.

Those who have real self-esteem don’t feel the need to holler it from the roof tops in their middle-age.

And yes, there is a difference between a young woman model posing in a bikini vs. a 60-something model posing in one (unless she’s on the beach) and demanding that everyone find her sexually appealing. Unfortunately, though it is hard for many women to accept – evolution and objectivity does not work that way.

That difference is a denial of……. truth. And the sooner one learns about facing Reality and sees rational Objectivity, the earlier  one finds peace of mind and learns self-acceptance; and enhances the better qualities within oneself, as well as reconciles with one’s weaknesses and works on self-improvement, if only for one’s own sake. Cheers!

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A BIG and HAPPY UPDATE!!

Cassandra Cole, the girl in the controversy, took a semester off, after “hitting rock bottom,” went to work in California, but returned back triumphant, not only finding herself but now as the leader of the team to return to the competition.  Waterloo Engineering now has a new Dean – a woman. In her new role, Cassandra became only the 2nd women in a 25-year old history to lead a race-car-building team.  

(My blog post was spread by a few engineer girls in blogs and online mags, and I am happy to say that when the incident had first occurred I contacted the photographer and passed on this article and more to Cassandra.)

I think she is an amazing young lady and now, has found a perfect balance between her femininity and talents and whipper-smart brains. A happy ending at last. Linked here is an article, and a television news story about her new role as team leader., where you can see her speaking. Yesss!! Now, she has become a true inspiration, for not losing her spirit the way the peanut gallery tries to crush the minority of women who are like her, but instead silencing that gallery with both her brains and confidence. For the full story:

http://www.therecord.com/opinion/columns/article/776076–d-amato-bikini-girl-refuses-to-be-held-back

and

 http://kitchener.ctvnews.ca/university-of-waterloo-formula-motorsports-program-has-female-team-leader-1.910935

.

Related posts:

https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/06/02/racqueting-on-a-grass-court/

To my sisters in engineering and architecture and all other women with inner strength: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/07/06/anthem/

https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/sex-and-the-starchitect/

https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/05/16/a-heartfelt-comment/

One of the world’s most talented and innovative architects Denise Scott Brown (Venturi’s better half) writes about the sexism in the star system of architecture. A must-read:  http://www.myspace.com/bobanddenise/blog/208258270

Thanking the Will of Determination

THANKING   DETERMINATION

There are no two ways about it: Go watch Danny Boyle’s 127 Hours starring the versatile James Franco. I watched it on the weekend of its release in New York and was gripped by Boyle’s direction, Anthony Dod Mantle’s cinematography, A.R. Rahman’s soundtrack and James Franco’s rivetting performance portraying over-confident climber Aaron Ralston. If I had to pick the two most fascinating films of 2010 so far (not counting a few indie flicks) it would have to be Christopher Nolan’s Inception (https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/07/21/inception-movie-dreamweavers/ ) and Boyle’s 127 Hours. (Toy Story 3 of course, despite being a sequel – is definitely a winner too.)

Many critics have focussed on the one nerve-wrenching gory scene of the movie where the protagonist takes the ultimate step to break free. I instead would like to focus on the strength and determination it took for Ralston to try everything for 127 hours before breaking free from the mess he admittedly had gotten himself into, but with logic, level-headedness and a cocky indomitable spirit.

It is also surprising to sometimes see some snide, bitter comments by certain readers under the movie synopsis in certain sites (including under a review in UK’s Guardian) that Aaron ‘capitalized’ on his accident or that he ‘deserved what he got’ for his climbing! Mindboggling – that people can envy a survivor because he refused to see himself as a victim and evoked inspiration rather than pity. Nothing can bring back a lost hand, and sometimes in sticky situations, it is better to lose a limb than lose a life. Perhaps the fact that Ralston went through his ordeal while on a self-chosen activity of sport, rather than for some ‘self-sacrificial’ act as a soldier in a war, is what irks those who cannot enjoy the spirit of endurance and determination it takes to be a true survivor who did not lose his chutzpah. Or who voluntarily enjoys rock and mountain climbing. As an avid mountaineer myself – I know that there are risks involved and that precautions must be taken, but you can’t stop a guy/gal out of fear and cowardice from climbing rocks and flying planes and diving deep! As Edmund Hillary had once said : “It is not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.” 

Stories like those portrayed in 127 Hours of everyday ordinary people showing extraordinary courage and survival-instincts under impossible situations ARE inspirational, because they echo our hidden inherent optimisim that at the end of all the unforseen tribulations of life, or even the risks we knowingly/unknowingly take, steely determination and clear rational thinking can truly create miracles – many more positive ‘miracles’ than wallowing in self-pity or blaming supernatural forces to ‘rescue’ or curse, instead of taking full responsiblity for your own life, your own actions, your own errors and taking steps to rectify, heal, survive and live instead of giving up. Or to put it bluntly : “Ok – I made a serious error in judgment and am in deep shit now. What do I do NOW to get out of this shit and avoid a similar mistake in the future?” This attitude works much more than ‘shoulda, woulda, coulda’ or ‘Woe is me’ or ‘damn ye heavenly Father!’

On that note, I am very happy to place at the end of this post a youtube copy of a unique film that I think every man and woman should see. I had written a post about it earlier in June : (https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/06/06/d-day-and-dieter-dengler/ )

This is one of those tales that changes forever the way you view life, your place in it, the stories behind seemingly ordinary folks you run into at the grocery store or walk by the street; the manner in which you perceive reality in this world, the relativity of pain and sorrow and most of all, to witness first hand the incredible human spirit of survival against all odds. Yes, against every possible odd, when death is possibly your only friend and yet you do not give up on life. The documentary is named ‘Little Dieter Needs to Fly’.  Directed by the unique and amazingly accomplished and talented film maker Werner Herzog. I do not think words can do justice to the experience at a deep visceral and existential level that this film produces, so remarkably engrossing it is. Both visually and audibly in its unique artfulness. With just a real life character and a few hired locals from Laos who help re-enact Dieter’s journey as he narrates it, it is still the simplest yet most profound stories on film a man can experience.

The story of a man who grew up in great hardship and all he wanted was to learn how to fly, from the day  as a little boy he caught the eye of an Allied pilot who was shooting down his house. The grandson of the only man in his entire village who had not voted for Hitler and faced its consequences. The man who ended up as a pilot for the US Air Force and later a POW in Laos during the Vietnam War. And a man who for some reason just did not give up on life. I will not write the details of the harrowing tortures he went through in the hands of the Vietcong, or the details of the horrors he himself participated in due to his actions as a US army-man. Because this is a film to be seen, not written about, even though most of the experience of the viewer is simply from the narration of Dieter talking to the camera. What struck me most was quite simply the state of being of this man who was neither bitter, neither angry, neither judgmental nor traumatized but came across as just an objective, almost obsessive observer of life and the situations and realities that surrounded him. And saw both sides without any hatred, but only an obsession to fly. And in the harshest of circumstances since his childhood still somehow found inspiration.

In war both sides are victims in the power play of leaders who use their citizens and soldiers as pawns. There are no winners. One country’s hero is another country’s barbarian and vice versa. And the torture of a Caucasian is no greater nor lesser than the torture of the Asians killed by dropped bombs. (Although you do begin to understand why the Geneva Conventions for the treatment of prisoners of wars were made, in 1929 and 1949, not that they are still followed everywhere.)  As Dieter says: “I don’t think of myself as a hero. No, only the dead people are heroes.”

I have amongst my friends a few who were former US marines, corporals, officers and pilots. And an older lady who had fled Vietnam during the war and is a well established painter in America now. The marines I knew had entered the force more out of financial necessity. The lady had fled on a boat from Vietnam and would end up as a prominent painter and anti-war activist in the U.S. They had stories that were remarkable  and poignant. They had told me tales of their experiences and their views on war. The ways in which they perceived the world after that. How sometimes simple joys such as even lying back on a mound of grass and watching the sunlight filter through the veins of a leaf was a profound source of pleasure. This film only reinforced the point even more.

This is a documentary that despite picking up several awards is not something that has been shown around with great fanfare or publicity. There are no glamorous posters, and the online videos are insufficient. And though it was remade as a full length feature film later in Hollywood, the latter did no justice to the real thing. Dieter Dengler in real life with his ordinary looks and captivating thickly accented monologues is ten times better than any Hollywood actor playing his part. But every person who has seen this documentary knows that it is one of those rare gems that changes  your life forever. That makes you view every moment of freedom, every meal, every drink, every warm bed as a gift. And makes you thank your lucky stars for the gift of life and comfort. That makes you question why people get into wars over ideologies and religion. And most of all, gives you the courage and determination to overcome every little hardship in life without complaining. A truly remarkable testament of the human will, of luck and of optimism.  As one reviewer wrote on the IMDB site – ‘Cancel your shrink and watch Little Dieter.’

Stories like those of Dieter Dengler and Aaron Ralston are fascinating because they stand as testimonials that if they could survive and not lose their determination and spirits despite impossible circumstances, what excuse do we have? (especially if we are healthy, with adequate financial acumen and mental stability, and are lucky to live in countries with far better infrastructures and freedom.) As the holiday of Thanksgiving approaches, I think we have much to be grateful for…..and on watching Dieter’s story, much to thank for – everytime we have a warm meal and a comfortable bed, besides the love of true friends and families. (If only one complaint, I wish for turkey-eaters, there was a more humane way in which these birds give up their lives for this ‘holiday’- or that all turkeys raised would be cage-free and free-running. Or the ‘tofurky’ would improve its texture and taste.)

Oh well! All wishes don’t always come true….and after seeing what Dieter Dengler went through, the scene of Herzog’s camera showing the close-up of a dining-table feast takes up a whole new meaning!

Here it is. I would prefer you rent the DVD, since the youtube version is low resolution. 

Little Dieter Needs to Fly


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Watch ‘Dieter Dengler Needs to Fly’ in better quality than youtube on Daily motion here:  http://www.dailymotion.com/video/x3zw7g_little-dieter-1_news

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Sidetracked Alert: Some fun facts of the origin of the word ‘turkey’ – that denizen on your Thanksgiving dinner plate  (http://answers.google.com/answers/threadview?id=117173) :

From the Ayto Dictionary of Word Origins: “The term turkey was originally applied to the “Guinea-fowl”, apparently because the bird was imported through Turkish territory. When the American bird we now know as the turkey was introduced to the British in the mid 16th century it reminded them of the “Guinea fowl” from Turkey and they called the bird a Turkey bird.”

In French, turkey is called “d’inde”, or “from India”, either because it looked similar to the guniea-fowl or female peacock – a bird found in East India, or perhaps because French explorers on finding this bird in North America thought that they had reached the east. In Hebrew, however, the turkey is called “hodu”, which is the Hebrew name for the country of India. Another coincidence: The word “hodu” (=Hebrew name of turkeys, country of India) is related to the word “hodaya” meaning “the giving of thanks” (the Hebrew name for the holiday of thanksgiving is “chag ha-hodaya”.) It seems that Columbus’s interpreter for the expedition in the new world Luis de Torres was a Jewish man baptized shortly before the fleet had set sail.

The word “turkey” is connected to India in the following languages:

Arabic (standard) – turkey is diiq hindi, or Indian rooster.
Azari – ‘hindishga’, that’s something related to ‘Hind'(India).
Basque – “indioilar” or “indioilo”
Catalan  – “dindi”.
Hebrew – “tarnegol hodu” or “Indian rooster”
Polish – indyk, or more specifically indor ‘male turkey’, indyczka ‘female turkey’ from the name ‘India’.
Russian – indjuk_(male), indjushka/indejka  (female).  As food, the turkey is referred to by the term indjushka. In sum, it’s the “bird of India,” as in French.
Turkish – ‘hindi’.
Yidish – “indik”.

In Danish, Dutch, Finnish and Norwegian, it is associated with a town from the Malabar coast in southern India.

A whiff of If….

A WHIFF OF ‘IF’……AGAIN & AGAIN

GiGi movie poster

New York. September 9, 2010. As I still go through unpacking, arranging and maneouvering through the boxes and furniture and literally tons and tons and tons of books in my new city, and before I get the time to sit down to write any long posts, here’s a short one – of one of my favourite poems since I was a little girl: A poem which first written in 1895 still holds true to this day…….and somewhere still stirs up that 19th century Victorian part of my soul, even as I walk along the asphalt sidewalks and 21st century stores of the Big Apple, or traverse past its 19th and 20th century buildings.

Though I’ve always had my reservations against British imperialism, or the circumstances under which this particular poem was written, the writer of this gem and many of his fascinating books that I read as a child still remains one of my favourites – the youngest Nobel laureate in literature to this day, the Bombay-born literary genius Rudyard Kipling (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rudyard_Kipling)

And as I feel inspired reading his poem once again (which I used to keep posted on the wall above my drafting table through all my years in architecture school and at work), the only line I’d change would be at the very end – for that is how I always read it in my mind: instead of ‘you’ll be a Man, my son’ I change it internally to: ‘You’ll be a complete WoMan.’ As a certain 1903-born woman writer Anais Nin had rightly said : “How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.” Here’s to a sniff of IF, to every good, kind and strong man and woman.

GG (or ‘Gigi’ in the Victorian spirit ;-)

GiGi from the fin-de-siecle-Paris movie

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IF

IF you can keep your head when all about you
Are losing theirs and blaming it on you;
If you can trust yourself when all men doubt you,
But make allowance for their doubting too:

If you can wait and not be tired by waiting,
Or, being lied about, don’t deal in lies,
Or being hated don’t give way to hating,
And yet don’t look too good, nor talk too wise;

If you can dream—and not make dreams your master;
If you can think—and not make thoughts your aim,
If you can meet with Triumph and Disaster
And treat those two impostors just the same:
If you can bear to hear the truth you’ve spoken
Twisted by knaves to make a trap for fools,
Or watch the things you gave your life to, broken,
And stoop and build ’em up with worn-out tools;

If you can make one heap of all your winnings
And risk it on one turn of pitch-and-toss,
And lose, and start again at your beginnings,
And never breathe a word about your loss:
If you can force your heart and nerve and sinew
To serve your turn long after they are gone,
And so hold on when there is nothing in you
Except the Will which says to them: “Hold on!”

If you can talk with crowds and keep your virtue,
Or walk with Kings—nor lose the common touch,
If neither foes nor loving friends can hurt you,
If all men count with you, but none too much:
If you can fill the unforgiving minute
With sixty seconds’ worth of distance run,
Yours is the Earth and everything that’s in it,
And—which is more—you’ll be a Man, my son!

-Rudyard Kipling (1835 – 1936)

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For a list of all previous posts, please go here :

https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/index-of-articles/

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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UNFETTERED

“I have confronted my mortality on many occasions. And If I die tomorrow, at least I could say I’ve LIVED.” –  Independent film maker, animal rights activist & adventurer Tim Gorski.

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Cambridge, MA. June 16, 2010. No enormously drawling lengthy post today or for the rest of the week. Swamped with work and other commitments. (Though I’m looking forward to meeting Christopher Hitchens this evening as he gives a talk at the Harvard Book Store.) Instead a video today of a friend who in my opinion is one of the bravest men I’ve come across in life and one with a remarkable level of integrity.  As I write  this,  images of the massive oil spill in the Florida Gulf and the innocent wildlife victims who paid the price flash through……I had canoed in those waters during my stay there and it is so incredibly sad what the incompetence and lack of accountability of BP has brought about. It was in the state of Florida some years ago that I first met the animal activist who would become my friend.

Through my work  over the years I’ve often come across many environmentalists, most of whom are genuine. But I’ve also sadly come across quite a few who do it more for the publicity or funds and to get their name in the papers; or conversely there are animal rights activists who get rabid about protecting crocodiles and pythons and other wild creatures while being  active consumers of the usual meat industry through the local supermarket. (I’ve always found the second kind rather interesting and hypocritical in the sense how can you tolerate the cruelty of the slaughterhouses that remove newborn calves from their mothers and a list of many other brutal ways in which many other animals are raised, handled and killed, yet take a moral stand with placards about the lives of crocodiles in the wetlands? At least the latter are having free lives in the wild!)

But Timothy Gorski is a film maker and animal activist who walks the walk and talks the talk. There is absolutely not one shred of hypocrisy about him, neither in the products he uses, the food he eats, the life he leads or the causes he defends. And this is very rare to find and see put into practice in the real world. Very rare indeed. His first film ‘Lolita – Slave to Entertainment’ which he had written, directed and produced went on to garner 11 awards and was his campaign to highlight the conditions of whales in captivity. He has also done innumerable works and projects to aid, rescue and heal domestic, wild, captive, stray and abused animals through the years and had made videos to highlight the killing of dolphins years before the documentary ‘The Cove’ was released last year. One of the most down-to-earth and humble people I have known, a couple of years back I’d attended the premier of the documentary ‘At the Edge of the World‘ with him at the Toronto International Film Festival for which he was the cinematographer and had spent several months in Antarctica on board a ship with the crew of Sea Shepherd and Captain Paul Watson. The documentary would go on to win eight awards in various festivals including  the Haskell Wexler best cinematography award for Tim. At the TIFF screening when his name was called out he literally sank into his chair and gave a tiny wave, because he didn’t want to attract the audience’s attention as the applause broke out. Tim’s reward has always been in the eyes of the animals he could help and in the doing, not the human awards, though he knows the reality of marketing in this world if you wish to get the facts across. The man is an utter realist.

Anyone who has watched a video on how whales are slaughtered – literally slashed a piece at a time  and  killed-while-alive – will know why this cruelty is quite senseless and preventable. Yet it is not; and just this year, the US lifted the ban on whale hunts for Japan and Norway, as the ‘exchange’ of Japan’s forgiving some financial debts the US owed it. I have traveled up a few times to the north of Canada in the protected waters of the Tadoussac region to watch the magnificent whales from a zodiac and I still cannot fathom why these mammals are deliberately put through this torture  in other parts of the world when so many other options of food are available to people. During those northern trips, while the larger whales kept to themselves as you watched their gigantic backs and dipping tails from a safe distance, the white beluga whales were so friendly and naive, they would swim alongside you when you kayaked on the waters.

But the tale in Antarctica and the illegal whaling operations that go on there are quite another story….. The reason Paul Watson takes preventive action and had broken out from Greenpeace which he had co-founded, is because he felt that  many organizations would collect millions by showing slaughter footage but nothing was being done to actually save their lives. Only by being in the arena and in the mouth of the lion could slaughter truly be prevented or lives be saved. Something like those working for Doctors without Borders who actually go and do instead of simply talk or ‘pose’ for publicity. Here’s an interview of Tim on board the Farley Mowat in 2006 as part of the Sea Shepherd crew. At its end there are questions that speak very deeply to anyone who listens. It certainly did to me.

What I like most about Tim Gorski is his humility in person and his steely determination and zest for life. He has real life stories of adventures that he may quietly reveal over a glass of beer ranging from days lost in the Amazon (where he had to eat a rat at one point to ward off hunger); spending New Year’s eve amongst the Shan State Burmese rebels who oppose the Burmese Military Government, after he and his crew got lost in the jungles  and caves between Thailand and Burma; when he rushed to New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina but stories  there he doesn’t wish to talk about; getting swept away literally during the tsunami in Thailand and many more incidents. You know those explorers and film makers you see on some National Geographic show who are quite simply not afraid? And you wonder if they’re crazy to do the things they do or choose the places they go off to? And then when you meet them, you’re even more surprised for they seem to be the most humourous, humble and humane people you’ve come across? Well, Tim is one of them and I am proud to know him and those like him who are not afraid to defend rational ethics. There are many animals and birds big and small across the planet who I’m sure silently thank him. And I thank him personally for being who he is and as a living testament that men with unshakable and inspiring integrity still survive on this planet.

Here is a promo video of a documentary ‘How I became an Elephant’ currently in production and in search of financial help (since his company is a non-profit based on those who wish to help freely.) While horrendous facts of torture of Southeast Asia’s elephants are a reality, it is heartening to know that there is an elephant sanctuary in Thailand which tries to get the gentle mammals away from poachers and traffickers who put them through an unfathomable amount of torture to ‘break’ and capture them and either kill them for ivory or put them into hard relentless labour. Tim has been able to fund the rescuing of one of those elephants and help the sanctuary through one Hollywood donor, but much, much more work remains to be done, as acts of murder and brutality against these gentle giants still continue.  What is very grounded about Tim is that he understands the complex issues of poverty, trade and survival linked to animal exploitation and is not a clueless anarchist-type activist. But a look at the following video shows the risks he takes and the heart-wrenching torture the elephants are put through. When I watch this I truly wonder how some people can salivate over spending thousands on Blahniks and Fendis and Hummers and fur coats when there are so many more realities and ethics to be aware of. Or just simply know as facts that exist, if even out of a curiosity about the world and its many truths. And even more I wonder at grown-ups who fawn and squeal over fake soft toys on Valentine’s day and Easter and other occasions while real animals are tortured everyday both in the wild and in slaughterhouses. (Warning: contains disturbing footage although most has been edited out of this clip.)

Updated 2013, as the film has already been completed

A link to his company Rattle the Cage below. Feel free to pass this link, videos or this post on to those who genuinely care for the way animals are mistreated in this world and for those who would like to get involved in his film projects.

http://www.rattlethecage.org/

And here is a link to the Sea Shepherd Conservation Society and the film that took him to Antarctica. (do check it out….absolutely worth it.)

http://www.attheedgeoftheworld.com/

Keep up the good work, my bro! You really are an inspiration of what it means to truly live in this world….

“It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly; who errs and comes short again and again; because there is not effort without error and shortcomings; but who does actually strive to do the deed; who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement and who at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly. So that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who know neither victory nor defeat.” – Theodore Roosevelt (1858 – 1919)

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At the edge of the world


6-9.

June 9 : Today is a very special day for me for personal reasons. So I’ve decided to place something that I really love – an image from one of my long time interests – Astronomy. And a quote from one of my favourite scientists, three from two good authors; and one from a  favourite philosopher. (And I’ve added two more photos in my ‘about’ page.)

The following image is courtesy the European Southern Observatory. For more on this go to: http://www.eso.org

The Nebula NGC 6334 (click to enlarge)

The Cat’s Paw Nebula (NGC 6334) is a vast region of star formation. This new portrait of NGC 6334 was created from images taken with the Wide Field Imager instrument at the 2.2-metre MPG/ESO telescope at the La Silla Observatory in Chile, combining images taken through blue, green and red filters, as well as a special filter designed to let through the light of glowing hydrogen. NGC 6334 lies about 5500 light-years from Earth in the constellation of Scorpius. The whole gas cloud is about 50 light-years across.

NGC 6334 is one of the most active nurseries of massive stars in our galaxy and has been extensively studied by astronomers. The nebula conceals freshly minted brilliant blue stars — each nearly ten times the mass of our Sun and born in the last few million years. The region is also home to many baby stars that are buried deep in the dust, making them difficult to study. In total, the Cat’s Paw Nebula could contain several tens of thousands of stars.

The nebula appears red because its blue and green light are scattered and absorbed more efficiently by material between the nebula and Earth. The red light comes predominantly from hydrogen gas glowing under the intense glare of hot young stars.  – ESO


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“Two things are infinite: the universe and human stupidity and I’m not sure about the the universe.” – Albert Einstein

“During times of universal deceit, telling the truth becomes a revolutionary act.” – George Orwell

“A man will be imprisoned in a room with a door that’s unlocked and opens inwards; as long as it does not occur to him to pull rather than push.” – Ludwig Wittgenstein

“How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.” – Anais Nin. And from her again:

“Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one’s courage.”

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P.S. A very Happy Birthday to these achievers who have/had their birthdays today: Johnny Depp, Cole Porter, Jackie Mason, Natalie Portman, Aaron Sorkin, Michael J. Fox, Anoushka Shankar (sitarist), Kiran Bedi (first woman to join and become Director General of the IPS), Elizabeth Garrett Anderson (first woman mayor in England),  Gian Gomeshi, Canadian broadcaster and journalist), Johann G Galle (German astronomer), George Stephenson (inventor of RR locomotive)

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Sweatshops for your Sex and the City Too

My blog stats are showing that this post has been getting thousands of reads  from both sides of the Atlantic (and a trigger to launch a secret movement by straight men in the west called ‘no more wussification!’ & its sister movement ‘Greater Dignity, Fewer Shoes! more self-reliance, less Choos’  – kidding on that bit but it would be nice!) But thank you readers! – GG.

SWEATSHOPS FOR YOUR SEX & THE CITY, TOO.

(UPDATED Post – with a Super Sweet 16 video to show the end product of your ‘fabulousness’ and the link to a video showing the heart-wrenching heinous reality of brand-name Fur products that our fab-four have touted throughout the series and in the first movie.)

(OR)

HOW ABOUT A REALITY CHECK?

Warning: This is a post written for those with a blunt or INTJ sense of humour and those who don’t mind seeing the harsh reality behind consumerism without sugar-coating. Readers who might be offended for calling a spade a spade, or a boob a boob and don’t get the humour or a reality-check, proceed no further. Same applies to those who blindly think that SJP  has the same sex appeal as Marilyn Monroe or Grace Kelly. Stop right here. (This is very hard to explain  to many women, but something only straight men and women who are artists will understand – it’s something evolutionary that we can’t explain – on the same line as the ingrained biological differences between men and women…like the attraction to a certain waist to hip ratio for instance. So those women, please don’t confuse gender equality – which I’m 100% all for – to gender ‘sameness.’)

This post is suited more for straight men and for women who are individualists and had enough with the consumerism/shallowness touted.

Others, you’ve been warned ;-) and I’m not going to engage or deal with Miss cyber-bully-with-BPD (you know who you are – although you’re using different names, your IP address is the same.) Amusing how you spewed full force for my tiny photo at the end, and the fact that placing a mouse on it enlarged it. Deal with it, lady. I’ve done 7 years of architecture (a B.Arch & a M.L.Arch) & 10 years of work on the field.  And have slogged  very hard in life (since you’ve been sending me those vitriolic e-mails). And if my sarcasm or the fact that I’m a woman architect ‘upsets’ and ‘offends’ you, well, too bad. This is my personal blog – and you are free not to read it. (To those women – I’m  that girl you used to bully back in school for being the nerd who was good in studies and music. And doubled the bullying even more  ruthlessly if she happened to look nice.) Also, can the other miss cyber-bully (who has claimed to be a feminist,) give a logical explanation of your claim that my photograph on a site ‘kills feminism’??? I’ll state it directly lady – what you mean is that I should  look ‘manly’ and/or hate cooking in order to qualify for your concept. And you’ll defend me only if I shed all traces of femininity. Or walk around with an utterly misconstrued sense of ‘entitlement’ based on gender alone, without any hard work or self-reliance like that horrendous sense of entitlement with which the women in this film plodded on.  Sorry ma’am- ain’t happening here – I’m too objective – and think BOTH genders are EQUAL and being a woman does not ‘entitle’ me to be pampered. Nor would I look for ways to enhance myself at the cost of unfair man-bashing based on sweeping generalizations. Please take your notions elsewhere.

It is ironic that empathy is not reserved for bonded laboureres, child sweatshop workers or  the real victims of misogyny in rural villages, but truthfully calling shallowness -”shallowness” is seen as ‘not having empathy!’ Oh Rationality, where art thou?! Those wishing to spew ‘stead of humour, here’s a bit of Monty Python to lighten up: The Architect Sketch or chill out on my ‘Jazz’ page. And for those girls wishing to get  more upset by more sex and  women in architecture, go here: Sex & the Starchitect.

Next.

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So I went to see the movie Sex and the City 2  mainly to write a post about it. At a theatre near Cambridge, MA, for a matinee show and a ticket price of five dollars which I think is just about what I would pay during this recession to not partake in the overindulgence of consumerist frivolity that this movie endorsed.  I went alone as I have never ever dragged any man nor ever will to watch chick-flicks. Deliberate man-torture is not my style and I’m happy to say that I have also never dated any man who was into chick flicks. As for my other girl friends they are not the groupie-type either, so for that matter I have never watched any chick flick in my life with a gaggle of girls either. And here,  I don’t know if it’s because it was Cambridge or Harvard or just the student population around Sommerville theatre…..but surprisingly the main movie hall contained only 11 other women, all alone, watching the film and the only group was of two girls. Later I would read that in many cities this was a huge girls’ night -out event.

And oh my! Oy vey! Holy moly! I have only one reason I can think of why they made this movie: The cast and crew badly needed the money. A TV series that had started off as witty and sassy, despite all its sometimes funny, candidly open yet mostly frivolous messages, has sadly demised into an orgy of stuck-in-time ogresses touting consumerism and navel-gazing shallow, selfish ‘pain’ over trinkets and trivialities.

March of the Aunts : Part 2 of the Trilogy Lust of the Ring

Where should I begin? Perhaps it is best I write my peeves and pondering as an analytical list, and the rather unsubtle and unsettling messages the movie sent. Those in doubt, may go see the film to truly understand where this analysis is coming from. Really :

Message no. 1 : “We are preening, privileged princesses”: Let’s start at the beginning….the cheesy fairy-tale ‘once-upon-a-time’ opening line was already a dekko of what was to follow for two and a half hours of this ‘orgy of excess.’ Or a ‘greedfest’ as the Independent rightly called it. A story that prefers the omission of facts and the gritty underbelly of the world that makes your consumerist luxuries possible, ladies. To create a ‘magical’ fairy tale world of fantasies far removed from the reality of the sweatshops from where a lot of your shoes and bags come from.

So we have close –ups of the Chrysler building in the opening shot. Many, many of those till you scream internally – ‘I get it, I get it. New York City.’ Yes – we know it is New York City. A city which does have a few other buildings too, you know. Perhaps the ‘Abu Dhabi’ part of the movie was in tribute to the fact that  90% of the Chrysler building is currently owned by the Abu Dhabi Investment Council? Those in doubt – can wiki ‘Chrysler building’ to verify this fact. I felt like saying – yeah, go ahead bellas- ignore the 10% women architects who ARE doing something silently and unconsciously for gender equality so your Blahniks and Choos can walk over our designs.

Just to insert some reality check about the Chrysler building here’s an interesting fact (from wiki) about the man who designed it:

Architect William Van Alen had failed to enter into a contract with Walter Chrysler when he received the Chrysler Building commission. After the building was completed, Van Alen requested payment of 6 percent of the building’s construction budget ($14 million), a figure that was the standard fee of the time. After Chrysler refused payment, Van Alen sued him and won, eventually receiving the fee. However, the lawsuit significantly depreciated his reputation as an employable architect. His career effectively ruined by this and further depressed by the Great Depression, Van Alen focused his attention on teaching sculpture.

I had to insert that geeky fact up there just as a brief respite to clear my head from the frivolous ‘fabulousness’ that paraded for more than 2 hours before my eyes yesterday afternoon. I’ll try to keep the rest of the post geeky-free.

Message no.  2: “We are super-sexy Fabulous femmes even with our saggy boobs as long as we display them fully flapping – I mean fully drooping – I mean fully propped up – I mean…..we ARE beautiful, aren’t we? Validate us! Please, please validate us!:” Ok – I should clarify here (for my lynch-prevention by SJP fans) – I think the actresses (SJP & co.) who played the parts in their REAL life are nice ladies who went along with the script and fashions, and I am also sure that in real life they would have touted more relevant values and causes had they been made more aware. (Though an article in a UK newspaper details how the main character took home all the clothes and accessories for free and her nexus with the store that uses the movie for marketing its products; and some of her online interviews are so navel-gazing at one point going off for 15 minutes on David Letterman about her facial mole removal and not one word about the world except “I, I’m like, I, I, me?me?me!” Really. Give me Charlize Theron or Hilary Swank any day – those ladies came up in even harder ways in life – or the more privileged but smart Amanda Peet – and still are some of the most grounded, truly intelligent, outdoorsy and aware-of-the-world actresses in real life.) In any case, my take is more on the characters depicted in the movie, not the actresses in their real lives. So here goes:

We are greeted by the ‘fab-four’  and by the time the film ends you wish the scriptwriters had looked up the dictionary to find that there are more adjectives than ‘fabulous’ – a word that is flatulently repeated ad nauseum by every character. The original series, despite its unrealistic lifestyle-on-a-columnist-salary and $800-a-pair-shoe-buying message which ended up teaching many a young woman to have bad financial acumen and go into debt and look for sugar daddies to support a forced fairy-tale lifestyle (and as Gov. Spitzer’s former escort Ashley and actress Lindsay Lohan have confessed that the series were the ‘inspiration’ to their lifestyle), at least had some wit and sass, a refreshing sexual openness and candour not seen before on television and some hilarious scenes and dialogues. (one laugh-out-loud-line of Samantha outlining how oral sex felt paradoxically ’empowering’ to women: “You may be on your knees but you’ve got them by the balls.”)

And though I was younger than the age group the women portrayed in the series, I am told that it captured to some degree the reality of the dating and party-girl world of NYC in the late 90s, and early 2000s city life. This film unfortunately is like a female version of watching four retired flabby-bellied male Casanovas trying to recapture their old glory days and womanising with limp, tired, flaccid members. Only, here it’s 4 females in some sad effort to lubricate their labia with a vaginal Viagra version of nagging and complaining.

When I Googled Sarah Jessica Parker, Google’s  autocomplete popped up the sentence next to her name ‘looks like a —-’. I’m not kidding. It’s a dark humour site, and though disturbingly hilarious is a bit mean, though its profits go towards retired NYC city steeds. I began to wonder if Google had some inside joke with the South Park creators who had recently made an unkindly funny spoof about the star. In the looks department, I have to confess, that though SJP maintained a killer pair of legs, her other ‘pair’ needed some props, to say the least. (And whatever else, kudos to her for not having gone the silicon way.) Only Charlotte looks appealing on the big screen and Kim Cattrall, once so gorgeous, would do better to dress more age-appropriately. No offense,  she still looks ‘fabulous’ for 52, but a little dignity goes a long way. I don’t care so much about fashion details and embroidery, girls. I judge beauty more the naked way – skin, body shape, perkiness and facial bone structure. If that makes me like a man, can’t help it. I do have a mildly-aspie-male math brain and am a painter of the female form.

Should looks be important here? Yes – Only because ‘sexy looks’ and ‘fashion’ ARE what have often been the selling points of the SATC series so I think an objective appraisal should be made however politically incorrect it may sound. (Meryl Streep, unconventionally beautiful, for instance is naturally and uniquely sexy and dignified in every role and at every age precisely because she has never promoted herself as a sex icon but as an actress of exceptional abilities, which she is. And therefore she will never and absolutely rightly so, never have to contend with the objective criticism that the fab-4 have brought upon themselves. At the other spectrum, at 51, Madonna who has promoted herself as a sex icon always lives up to that image and does look unbelievably sexy and photogenic even now, and therefore can never be, and rightly so, never be criticized because she has lived up to her status without disappointing. Unfortunately our fab-4 failed to be both Madonnas or Meryls and yet are demanding the same adulation without the work – and I think that is what is so disappointing and feels forced for most rational people to accept. That is why the truth has to be spoken.)

I hate to say the truth for what it is: But the only visually redeeming breasts in the movie are definitely the Irish nanny’s.

Perhaps Carrie and Samantha should gracefully let the next generation take over when it comes to revealing exposed bosoms. I think women in their late-40s and 50s look more elegant if they wear tight turtle-necks with a bra underneath that could show the shape of their breasts and waists or perhaps V necks- that enhanced some parts instead of displaying full blast tired cleavages and droopy pears with sun-ravaged skin? Unless of course, you do have great skin and a real ageless bust like Monica Bellucci and some real natural beauts.  Ladies, with all due respect, the art of ‘sexiness’ is revealing sparingly with some element of mystery. When you have every body- part propped up or hanging out there in middle age, it just looks, well, sadly desperate. As though you are unable to gracefully pass the torch on to younger girls, rather than entering into some competition with them.(The same applies for men too – those Dorian Gray men who refuse to grow up.) Your ‘sexiness’ would be so much more appealing with some dignity, you know?  It would have presented such a better image of mid-aged women and not turned the real and far more grounded ones into jokes now. Take a page out of the glamorous yet superbly dignified and sexy Sophia Loren’s book – she and other older actresses like Audrey Hepburn, Katharine Hepburn and some others aged so gracefully without losing their sense of style. Perhaps there is a reason why Mr. Big is watching 1950s black and white films – wondering when did the woman’s sexual-freedom movement end up losing feminine dignity and mystique? (Or perhaps, he is figuring out that he should pull some hedge-fund investment scam  to continue supporting his royal smugness and her royal nagness in their over-priced lifestyle?)

Message no. 3 : “We don’t want men for husbands, we want rich whipped-wussies”: I saw a cartoon last year: “The road to economic recovery: Gay marriage registry.” In light of that perhaps the scriptwriters decided that an exorbitant film version of a gay wedding was exactly what we needed. Or perhaps because SJP largely owes her ‘fashion icon’ status immeasurably to gay men rather than straight men. So we are put through a 30 minute over-the-top wedding at the movie’s start with a dilated eyed-Liza Minnelli cavorting around with many gay chorus men. Really – girls who have dragged their boyfriends to watch this film, please, I repeat PLEASE see it as a sign of their selfless love for you. Had I been born a man, I’d have refused to be bamboozled into watching 2 and a half hours of this self-absorbed nasal-nag-shag-entitled-hag-torment. (The irony is that straight men live and have relations with straight women in real life. Yet gay men have decided to lay down the rules of engagement in heterosexual relations. and have promoted it through the films. Does this sound illogical and ironic to anyone else, too?)

The wedding scene is more relevant for eerily realising that the gay men seem to have more chutzpah than the straight men in the scene, because – lo and behold! the straight men in the form of the docile husbands of three of the women have invisible signs stamped on their foreheads: ‘Operation wussification complete!’ To think that these have become the new ‘representatives’ of manhood! There seems to be a silent competition of which husband can outdo the other in wussified docility to their nagging wives. Mr. Big takes the cake – his wussification and metrosexualizing has been so severe over the years, he has resigned to the finality of life with his long-faced, entitled, insecure and jealous wife. (The scene with his brief conversation with Penelope Cruz is a pointer to Carrie’s insecurity.) I don’t know what I preferred more: His past smirky smugness and indecisiveness or his present mildly abused persona grappling for some freedom by asking his wife if  he can take two days off his marriage every week…now why do I keep remembering captions and photos from the hilarious satirical site Unhappy Hipsters? (it’s on my blogroll those who wish to take a gander – absolutely worth it.) 

And boy – to think that Carrie is seen as some ‘unique’ woman in today’s world??!! Which the scriptwriters remind us a few times through the film. To think this consumerist complainer with her closet full of shoes and chain-smoking past habits (which has obviously taken a toll on her skin) and someone who in the series had cheated on her grounded nice-guy boyfriend with the then married Mr.Big and had displayed shallowness on many occasions even back then is seen as some ‘role model’??!! The reason she is so popular is because unfortunately she is so ordinary and there are so many women like that  who hoard excess, that to make them feel ‘special’ and justified for their consumerist overdose and self-centredness, this movie has been made. That’s what you get when you have a book written by a former party girl picked up for a TV series – although Candace Bushnell’s novel had some literary class and sassiness and it was a critique to this brand-worshipping man-chasing lifestyle as being ultimately hollow, not a glorification as the series turned it into.

I am waiting for John Edwards’ mistress to write a new book to launch another tsunami in the name of ‘women’s sexual freedom.’ You already have Gov. Spitzer’s former escort writing a sex column for the New York Post (not that she shouldn’t, or that they should be judged – it’s their life, but it’s funny sometimes the road to media notoriety that suddenly makes someone an ‘adviser’ in this country. Will that be filmed into a future series to ‘educate’ young women? Is it possible to get any more confused in the name of ‘sexual freedom’?) For once both film critics at the UK Telegraph & UK Guardian seemed to agree. That in a nutshell, this movie is so popular among many women because mediocrity in intellect and looks packaged as ‘special’ sells as it does not incite jealousy and therefore has more mass appeal. Period.

Except for a last somewhat redeeming act of a little generosity to a hotel staff in Abu Dhabi, throughout the entire movie Carrie comes across as the shallowest, naggy-est, most self-absorbed person of the foursome. (Miranda has the smarts, Sam has the humour, and Charlotte still seems sweet-though-overwhelmed, though you have to wonder what mother cries more over her ‘vintage Valentino’ skirt on the phone than be understanding  of her daughter’s playfulness.) Carrie instead gloats over her huge closet and an Imelda-Marcos-shaming shoe collection. She shows no gratitude to the husband who has paid for their lavish Manhattan apartment and for those shoes and clothes. No. Not at all. Instead, when the husband comes home tired after a beating in the stock market she nags and laments and uses guilt-trips to drag him to a movie premiere, only to whip him back the minute a lovelier woman talks to him. How about a back-rub to that husband who pays for your Choos, honey? She shows a lack of empathy bordering on clinical NPD (narcissistic personality disorder) as she fights with him for feeling tired after a long day of work. She raps him for placing his feet up on the expensive couch. She refuses to cook even one home-made meal reminding that she is more ‘Coco-Channel’ than ‘coq-o-vin’. Looked more ‘croc(odile)-o-whine’ to me, hon. She complains like it is a great tragedy that he has bought a flat screen TV as her anniversary present and not ‘some jewelery.’ Finally she does get some jewelery as her ‘reward’ after she has hurt said husband by smooching an ex.

So, husband gets a third degree at home for conversing with a bank president played by the beautiful Penelope Cruz and missus gets a giant diamond ring from husby for inciting his insecurity by smooching her ex and reporting it to him on a work morning with not one statement asking him how his work is going or if he is stressed out for the economy. Really, what kind of message are you sending women out there who are your fans precisely because they can identify their own shallowness, selfishness and materialism in you? To say that I found a lot of this sense of entitlement and self-centredness disgusting is an understatement. Sorry fans of the foursome – to me, that doesn’t come out as some woman’s ‘liberation’. That comes out as husband-abuse and narcissistic selfishness.

Message no. 4 the oft-repeated lesson of the series in general. “Crazy sex and skin exposure is the only road to girl-‘power’: Was women’s sexual lib necessary? Absolutely. 100% Absolutely. Yes. Yes. And it did exist in many ancient pagan cultures in the form of goddess-worship centuries  before Judeo-Islamo-Christianity masculinised religion. (Take a look back at the kamasutra and the romps of Greek and Roman goddesses.) But the past century’s  woman’s lib movement was necessary especially after many male-dominated centuries when women were suppressed and discriminated against. Does a woman have as much right and privilege to sleep around and enjoy sex and many sexual encounters the same way as a man? Yes. Absolutely. Undoubtedly. Without being judged and only if she wishes to. NOT  due to peer pressure or because media messages in the present age influence her to.

But is this sexual-romping the only route to women’s ‘power’ as this movie and series has tried to endorse? ‘To have sex like a man’ – which was the slogan of the series to begin with? Perhaps this is where I raise the voice of reason. And concern. And raise rational questions. Because to me ‘to have sex like a man’ is such a superficial skin of real strength or girl-power. Isn’t this on the same level as the line ‘dress like a man’ which was one of the bra-burner messages? Only now instead the ‘act like a man’ or ‘be tough like a man’ has been replaced by ‘have indiscriminate sex like a man with hundreds of partners because the TV tells you to.’ To me personally, I would feel more powerful if I could rather have ‘sex like a self-assured woman’ and choose NOT to sleep with any man or random stranger who wants to. Nor give it so easily and indiscriminately. Don’t get me wrong, I am an  imaginatively erotic person in exclusive relationships. But the man has to be worth it for me to go that distance. If you spread yourself so thin,  as the series promoted, doesn’t sex lose its value and become just some ubiquitous meaningless act?

In her recent book  ‘Enlightened Sexism: The seductive message that feminism’s work is done’ a scathing look at the messages that became rampant starting in the late 90s, professor and cultural historian and critic Susan Douglas makes a similar argument that in an orgy of the over-sexualised facade of ‘girl-power’ the over-sexualisation of girls, young and old,  is now seen as harmless and funny and in some weird way feels like a ‘creepy triumph.’ In a sarcastic ending she ‘dreams’ of the day ‘baby thongs’ and ‘baby pole dancing classes’ will become a normal practice. To quote from the closing lines of her ‘Sex R Us’ chapter which takes an objective assessment of the impact of Sex and the City and other TV series on contemporary culture, she concludes:

“So the question of whether the sexualisation of our culture is good or bad for females may not quite be the right one. More important is how girls and women have been sexualized, how that’s different from the way men have been, and what the consequences might be. Because while an increased frankness about sex in the media might indeed seem to be a liberal, even progressive advance from the days when the Catcher in the Rye and Lady Chatterley’s Lover were censored, the content of this media, the way girls and women appear in them, may often be as sexist as it ever was. The new hedonism and the sex-positive talk to, about, and among women in the media, which seemed so fresh, new, and controversial, was the shiny cellophane that helped mask a Mars-Venus discourse about men and women being fundamentally different – and thus maybe not equal. It also deflected our scrutiny away from the under-lying message: women were nothing without Mr. Right and so they had to do anything they could to land him. This is sexual liberation?”

I couldn’t agree more. Basically now the ‘new improved’ cultural reality of the message taken by many women in North America is :  70 years ago modesty was the value promoted to find Mr. Right. Today immodesty is the value promoted to find Mr. Right. What is my peeve with this?  The fact that the ‘means’ have changed but the ‘goal’ a.k.a Mr. Right remains the same! The fact that the  misguided message  sent  is  that a woman’s personal happiness is not tied with a strong sense of self of her own, or self-confidence, self-reliance and dignity, but more with actions directed to finding that Mr. Right to ‘complete’ yourself rather than finding yourself first before seeking ‘completions through others’ and/or obsessing about complementing another and then obsessing about ‘changing’ him/’holding’ him/ ‘wussifying’ him. My point is that a woman’s feeling of security (and sexiness) should  come from within – through a grounded sense of Self – whether without OR with a man; independent of the frequency or presence of  penises popping in. Mr. Right is not the goal, but should be rather the person who sees and appreciates you for who you really are and joins you in life for the Right reasons.

Message no. 5: “We have the kitschiest taste in books.” A book on faking your body clock written by dazed and confused new-age Hollywood quack Suzanne Somers makes an appearance early on in the film as Samantha’s inspiration for pill popping to stay young and the book pops up again in the finale touted by other women. Enough said. I do not even wish to get into the pseudoscience being promoted by Somers. People – prepare to see many pre-menopausal women shooting up oestrogen injections through their vaginas in the coming years thanks to the free-promo the movie provided.

I’m not the only one who has a complaint against her book. Newsweek wrote two articles on the craziness and questionable safety standards of the pseudoscience promoted by Somers. “Doctors who specialize in treating menopausal women feel they’re fighting a tsunami of misinformation. Highly sophisticated, unsubstantiated and downright dangerous marketing is leading women to go in and make demands for these bioidentical products, believing them to be effective and safe.” And here’s more from that article since Somers has been claiming how ‘successful’ her treatment is: “If you feel compelled to read Somers’s book, do so carefully. You’ll find lots to question. For example, she says bioidenticals kept her slim but then later complains about weight gain. She says she feels great but then later acknowledges that after years on bioidenticals, she was bleeding so heavily every day that she recently had to have a hysterectomy. That’s the kind of success we can live without.”

http://www.newsweek.com/2006/10/30/a-blow-up-over-bioidenticals.html

http://www.newsweek.com/2009/05/29/live-your-best-life-ever.html

What is so sad is that these women had such a loyal following and such a strong influence on millions they could have used it to promote 10,000 better and more ethical things and causes  I can think of – environmental sustainability, green design, frugality, moderation, organic gardens, a self-reliance sans penis-count or jewelery-negotiations, the horrors of sweatshops or the skinning alive of furry mammals for the fur fashion industry – and instead they chose to promote the most vapid, superficial, materialistic means of refusing to grow up gracefully and wanting to remain caught in a time-warp like female Dorian Greys. (Also anyone in doubt to what extent consumerism and hedonism in the US has increased need look no further than the nauseating reality shows – My super sweet 16, and the Real Housewives series which, alas, our ‘fab-4’ mention in the movie.) Infrastructure sustainability planners are up against an unbeatable tide and a losing battle crying out in vain that if this consumerism continues, a tipping point of no return will  be reached; that Americans have to stop the propaganda of excess that has become the dream-standard of other women in other nations too; that this lifestyle is just not sustainable for the planet- financially, environmentally, and I think I should add – even in the self-esteem department.

Message no. 6: We alone are emancipated women. All other cultures have backward, suppressed, fully clothed women. And because the radicals among Islamic men are conservative and dangerous and we can’t teach them a lesson without getting killed, we’ll make the American men pay the price for their crimes, by default that they are ‘men’ and hence should pay for the sins of other brethren of their gender:Hard to believe, but this is certainly one of the most illogical messages sent out in this film. In fact Sarah Jessica Parker in a gushing promo interview compares the plight of women in the Arab world to the ‘struggle with traditional roles of women right here in New York City.’ Puh-lease!!!! As a person who has traveled widely and seen and worked in many places of the world (including the Arab world) and as I have often retorted – you CANNOT, I repeat cannot, compare your ‘suppression’ or ‘misery’ of non-matching-purses-with-shoes and no-dinner-appointment-at-fancy-resto to the very real suppression that goes on in some other parts of the world. Materialistic self-absorbed selfishness like that is just SO appalling, I do not even know where to begin! For a reality check, the movie is banned from theatres in Abu Dhabi, so don’t compare your ‘crisis’ of which boyfriend you get to shag to the choices of public expressions of affection women have there.

The message here is the same illogical one that just because women elsewhere are suffering, we Blahnik-crazy shopaholics will bash the men a little bit more here, in NYC. This skewed logic is the same as how some people in relations treat the guy/gal in their present life like dirt to pay for the sins of a past lover. Doesn’t make sense, does it? But no – in this movie where our fab-four cannot think beyond their own problems, they look to the Middle East to draw parallels to their own lives. Miranda complains how she lost her job because she was a woman. How they can’t be more ‘free’. Can these gals think of anything or anyone beyond themselves and the mantra ‘me, me, me, buy-Blahniks, me, me, me, poor-me chicks, me, me, me, ogle-at-men’s-dicks?’ I will not mention it here but a certain quote of Nietzsche came to my mind halfway through the movie. And it had nothing to do with the resemblance of a certain actress to……

The eastern ethnic ‘man-servants’ at the luxury hotel are of course shown like genies to our princesses in an excruciatingly painful-to-watch colonial attitude and we begin to suspect that the hag-four will not be satisfied till they have whipped their own husbands back in Manhattan into servants in the future – all  in the name of women’s lib, of course.

Ok – I have to hand it though that the scene in the finale of Samantha flicking off ultra-conservative Islamic men surrounding her was a funny one. I rather enjoyed that, having seen firsthand the suppression of women that does go on in some of the rural parts of those countries. I think in that one redeeming act, Sam did echo the sentiment that many women feel of being enraged at the overtly (and sometimes criminally) patriarchal system of misogyny that goes on in rural areas there. Now that was a cathartic scene. One that touched a personal note to me, as well, as I recalled the time on a construction site long back in a certain conservative country these  really nasty men  had beaten an innocent girl falsely accused of being ‘immodest’. I was so enraged, I had picked up a bull’s balls from a butcher shop and (without revealing its source) had shown it to  those men and swung the balls around saying that if any man dared touch her or abused any other woman in their community, I’d snip his balls off. I was playing on the ‘eye for an eye’ dictum that works in certain rural areas. They let me be and backed off from the girl and the women thanked me later. I did have a couple of guards with me, I must confess, so I didn’t get torn to pieces myself. Those Americans wishing to know more about the condition of rural Islamic women can look up blogs written on the  Doctors Without Borders website, or even the recent TIME magazine issue.

But other than that, the condescending way in which the foursome talk about Arab women and their dresses is quite patronizing again. Agreed that dress codes are very strict there, but in desert climates (and I’ve been there) the sun is so scorching and the sand so fine that to protect your skin from premature wrinkling and even skin cancer, being covered is often the best option. But of course, in the movie the four  dames were shown as proponents to ‘woman empowerment’ through – well, human rights causes? No. Investigative journalism? No! Going to rural villages and setting up schools or encouraging/buying the textiles made by local women there to help them financially? No!! They were shown as ‘empowering women’ by – get this – singing karaoke. Yes. Really. By singing ‘Woman’ just before picking up a man at a bar.

I wanted to yell out – Hey ladies, the world’s greatest and most futuristic woman architect who has built many ‘fabulous’ fantastic contemporary buildings all over, including in Abu Dhabi and won architecture’s highest prize in the world, is a British Iraqi Muslim woman – Zaha Hadid. She is the only woman amongst the top 10 all time greats of architecture. (And just so you know has designed possibly the sexiest pairs of shoes, chairs and cutlery,other than buildings, too. Read my ‘Sex and The Starchitect‘ post) And she is such a powerhouse of true strength, all four of you together couldn’t even hold up a matchstick to her. And hey, just so you know, there are many countries of the world other than America which have had woman presidents and prime ministers since the 1950s. Here’s a list. How’s that for a reality check? Could it be that in some countries women just choose not to translate their power or liberation through rampant sex but rather in more substantial ways – such as ruling entire countries (and some of them are Muslim, just so you know.) And the longest ruling woman leader in the world of course was a secular Hindu (i.e. Indira Gandhi. Maybe she didn’t wear tube tops in public to show her freedom, she just was free to become the elected leader of the world’s largest democracy.) Here’s a list, just for some FACTS and not fairy tales for instance:

List of women Heads of State: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_elected_and_appointed_female_heads_of_state_and_government  

And talking about the U.A.E and our foursome’s take on ‘freedom’ I had to write the following incident because their premise on thinking they were so ‘powerful’ while being slaves to their own insecurities just seemed so misguided. Last month at a long infrastructure sustainability conference at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, the closing ceremony’s main speaker was a brilliant remarkable architect, planner and engineer who is the Director of Sustainability for building an entire 3 sq. mile eco-city in the U.A.E. and has a doctorate from U.K’s top school and graduated from UAE’s Engineering University. This person is a grad from Harvard Business School, a former deputy Director of the Abu Dhabi Police Force AND has scaled Mt. Kilimanjaro. And guess what – she is an Arab WOMAN, who wears a head scarf in public. She has spoken on panels invited by President Clinton himself, Brad Pitt apparently gushed on meeting her, and she is in charge of building the world’s first zero carbon footprint eco-city in the middle of the Abu Dhabi desert. Sorry to say, but in the U.S. in the sexist culture of architecture, for a woman to reach that level of leadership and power in engineering is still far away. I heard her speak at the conference and was blown away by her intelligence, sharp wit and the amount of work she has done. She spoke to me later (without the head scarf, which she only wears on the stage) and I was  so inspired by her beauty, confidence and strength in person. Here’s a link on a newspaper article about her before her Harvard stint (check it out):

http://www.abudhabiweek.ae/component/content/article/54-movers-and-shakers/1706-a-view-from-the-top-nawal-al-hosany?directory=69&Itemid=69

Why do I feel, ladies, when I read this, that I want to shake her hand and say she has done more for women’s freedom without losing her femininity than the parade of frivolities I saw you present in the movie where kissing some ex was seen as a ‘highlight’ and ‘crisis’ in your life. How sad. I must say Miranda, this lady in the news, Nawal Al-Hosany, is much more ‘liberated’ and a greater trailblazer and true pioneer who has battled sexism and come out with flying colours much more than even you have. You judge her by the scarf on her head, and not by the brain in her skull or the courage in her heart. I’d like to see how you would behave on the top of Mt. Kilimanjaro. From what I saw, you had to all carry an entourage of ‘slaves’ for just an afternoon in the desert and at least a dozen suitcases EACH for a week of vacation. I weep for the way you have stereotyped femininity, and especially stereotyped N.American women, for the masses.

Oh, and guess what, she and others like her I have met, treat the men in America as equals and with grace and respect without indulging into the power plays and wussification-whipping-and-complaining that your foursome parades as ‘girl-power.’ I also must confess that in my group of friends when we meet we talk of global affairs, design trends, the economy, ethics and tons of other things and keep our private sex life details private. I am not a Muslim and neither are my four best friends who were raised in N. America, although one of them is originally Lebanese (and a doctor). For those who wish to argue that SATC represents only privileged white  women, let me say that those best friends are white, educated, middle class and one  of them was born extremely privileged. And yet I can say that hardly any professional/non-professional, grounded, intelligent AND truly liberated women, regardless of their colour or ethnicity or financial status, really have the time of the day to get together for gaggly lunches 4 times a week and obsess about men or analyse every inconsequential statement they made. They’re too busy for that. And there are far more interesting things happening in the world than man-obsession. Really.

Message no. 7: “We crave for consumerism and have no clue of what goes behind, nor global realities.” Hey – girls, how about the sweatshops that make your purses or the bonded labourers who work on the construction sites of Abu Dhabi which created the hotel you salivated over?

There will be many bloggers and female reviewers who will gush about the fashion, the hair, the makeup and yada yada yada. I might be having some girly chip missing – I was born without it. Sure, I do groom myself well, and like keeping fit, but I will never, repeat NEVER understand the appeal of garish overpriced designer clothes and shoes and purses (the cost of which could literally save many lives of street children). Last year on a trip to India, I saw the sweatshops where many Italian companies manufacture their sunglasses and purses before they are shipped off to Italy to get the ‘made in Italy’ stamp and then sold in NYC boutiques. We can argue that these provide the locals with jobs. True. But the money you spend ladies to buy those Fendi purses would fund the education and food of 30 street children per purse. I kid you not. 

I’m writing this here because I do know from personal experience and application how little it costs to sponsor those children due to the currency exchange rates. And I support birth control methods too, because I do strongly believe that people should first think of the reality of the quality of life they will offer their children before making them. But regardless, omission of facts does not take away the reality of the sad manufacturing process of luxury items that are touted as ‘status symbols’. The sweatshops are in many other countries too. So, since pictures speak better than words, I decided to include here instead a behind-the-scenes imagery of what or who lies behind the making of your shoes, purses and clothes that grace your arses. And the appalling conditions under which the construction workers who build your luxury hotels in the U.A.E live. Just a reality check, madames. Omission of facts does not omit the truth about the world. And your fake fantasies do not obliterate the realities behind your royalty:

Sweatshop labourer for designer shoe, Vietnam

Gucci purse worker. Earns $1 an hour.

Awareness ad showing the the reality of the Apple I-Pod worker

Designer fabric beading sweatshop, India

United Arab Emirates – the beds of tired construction workers

Here’s an article on  child labourers used in a GAP sweatshop:

http://www.guardian.co.uk/business/2007/oct/28/ethicalbusiness.india

On the condition of sweatshop workers for Gucci, Prada and your overpriced status symbols.

http://www.mirror.co.uk/sunday-mirror/2007/12/02/designer-labels-sweatshop-scandal-98487-20191613/

And here’s an article on the human rights watch of the construction workers who made your $22,000 a night suites.

http://www.hrw.org/en/news/2006/11/11/uae-workers-abused-construction-boom

And hey, Miranda – maybe you could have represented the real tragedy of these girls instead of Samantha’s ‘pain’ of not being kissed in public.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8UNqiqm3L90&feature=related

And do you really want to know what goes on behind the fur industry of brand name products as well as cheaper stores? Fur, that Samantha you laughingly wore in the first movie, to feel sexy, and that Carrie and Co. have consistently touted since day one of their TV series that brought back a revival of fur products into city stores through the free advertising they provided? Take a gander with Stella McCartney here who shows the torture and literal anal electrocution of innocent animals whose fur is used for many designer (and non-designer) label clothes.  But perhaps it will make you consider how truly evil women who see fur as sexy and fashionable really must be to knowingly adorn this.  (Unless you’re into bedding those who knowingly endorse the skinning alive of mammals.) There are many alternative warming products available instead of fur.  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8rhFj2NfBsI (And this has been long known in the fashion industry and still continues! and is furthermore promoted by our ‘fab-four’ throughout the series and in the first SATC film and their star-struck followers. Remarkable, truly mind-rapaciously remarkable!)

If you also wish to see the unbelievably evil skinning-alive-for-fur video that Vogue and other high-fashion authorities have tried to bury please read this post, where there is the facebook link of the video that fashion houses do not want you to see: Literal skinning alive of innocent animals. Warning: That video is too gut-wrenching especially the end. Do NOT watch if you are squeamish. https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/09/17/saltationism-of-silliness/

If anyone has some sense of ethics or humanity and rationality in the world, I challenge them to read these, watch the links and then go and watch the movie and then realize just how nauseatingly hedonistic and heartless it seemed. I will be writing a separate post one day on the purse sweatshops I saw run for Italian designers. I want to say to the ladies in privileged countries: we cannot change many conditions, especially for those who were born due to their bad luck into poorer and sadder places, but what many  women in N. America CAN do, is nag and complain a little less, be more aware of global issues instead of their ‘princess attitude’, and stop this hedonistic consumerism that subsists on a slave society of letting the less fortunate slog for your luxuries. And unless you’re so heartless that you endorse the skinning alive of animals not much different than your dog and cat (and including dogs and cats in many countries), STOP buying fur! And shopaholic women – stop wishing  your husbands to become man-servants and instead make them more aware of realities other than your whiny dinner cancellations. And most of all, stop using sex as a negotiation game.

[If you really want to see the end product of what you are promoting here – Charlie Brooker looks at the mini-narcissist ‘princesses’ who have been produced by their mothers in the show Super Sweet 16.

Perhaps you will now see how this ‘harmless fun’ & ‘biased misogynistic reviews’ as some rabid women defenders of the film termed this hedonism as is nothing more than a new form of globalized slave society. I would feel more enraged that real misogyny and torture of child workers is not considered by these so-called ‘defenders’ but calling these heartless women out on their emptiness is seen as wrong??!! Wow! ]

Message no. 8: “Male architects are sexy beasts”: Oh boy, the past few years seem to be the comeback era of ‘architect sexiness.’ I had actually written a post on it way before this movie came out: https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/sex-and-the-starchitect/ The only somewhat masculine man (who has not been wussified) featured in this movie is a Danish architect who captivates Samantha’s desires. I actually know quite a few sexy Danish architects in real life and their girlfriends are all introverted non-consumerist grounded women who prefer camping and the outdoors to shoe-a-holicism; my ‘sexy Danish architect’ friends said that Samantha is really ‘not their type.’ That those women embody everything about narcissism and consumerism that Danish urban planners and their current culture has tried so hard to veer away from in the last few decades, leading to their present culture of post-consumerist moderation, eco-sensitive planning and an emphasis on happiness based on less, not more. In fact they were a bit embarrassed by ‘the sexy architect’ stereotype that they get stuck in. “It’s just a fantasy for the American ladies” said one. “They would find us too quiet and frugal if they knew us. And that we don’t want to change to fit into their unrealistic expectations.”  “The reason the architect in the film wanted to fuck her on the beach is because, as a Dane, spending $22,000 on a hotel suite would seem just too much of a waste,” said another. There you have it ladies – your ‘Lawrence of the Labia’ as Sam gushes out doesn’t crave for you enough to pay for even a bed for your booty.

Sorry ladies, I’m not done with my dose-of-reality yet. The sexiest Danish architect by far, creator of the Sydney Opera House, Joern Utzon was happily married to his childhood sweetheart till his death. And a recent extremely popular ‘young sexy Danish architect’ (who shall remain unnamed here for his privacy) had a long-time very sweet, beautiful and highly intelligent girlfriend who makes documentaries to outline human rights injustices and prefers bicycles and camping to anything that remotely resembles the activities Sam & friends partake in. And he is a fan of some really good literary works, reads the philosophy of Nietzsche and is a fan of film maker Charlie Kauffman and Christopher Nolan, all several cuts above the Suzanne Somers book you read and the movies you promote. So there ladies – I’ve given you a reality check of what the sexiest amongst male architects really prefer. Most male architects are quasi-schizoid and are so darn busy with work, they are lucky and grateful when they can maintain one steady relationship and are quite faithful to their partners. The same applies for the ‘sexy women architects’ too ;-) Selfish consumerist Casanovas are not our cup-of-tea either. Perhaps it is a telling message when the above mentioned Danish architect in the movie reminds Samantha that sometimes it is more alluring when a woman waits and shows some restraint.

AFTERTHOUGHTS: Ok – so the series was quite funny and the first film had some ‘girly-bonding’ substance. (Sorry – I’m not the girly-bonding type– never was, never will be, and my girl friends are individualists, but I can understand the necessity of female-bonding for most women. (Unfortunately  I belong to the INTJ personality-type on the Briggs-Meyers, only 0.005% women are. To the woman who found this ‘offensive’ (?) and sent me personal attacks on the comment section of my post, please know – we were the introverted girls in school who were bullied and left out of groups (and double if we looked nice). Finding our ‘type’ was probably one of the first steps to feeling normal for many INTJ girls. Here’s a link – so you know where our ‘self-confidence’ comes from : https://www.16personalities.com/intj-personality ) But as I looked at these ladies grinding out on their over boiled franchise, I thought there is something called the last bow, you know….. it was better to gracefully take the last bow when the going was good than to end up as the ‘last ho’.

And hey – to those supporters of this clueless consumerist propaganda who might think I am some angry ungroomed  unfashionable radical ‘feminist’ – here, pictures speak louder than words. And yes, I have lived and worked in many cities of the world and am not some clueless backwoods girl. London, Paris, Milan, U.A.E – seen it all. As for my knowledge of the U.S. – I lived in Miami for two years, I’m in Cambridge for two years, and will be in Chicago for this summer and then am moving to NYC’s upper east side this fall for the next several years.  And have traveled extensively around many states of this great country, my Canada’s southern neighbour. So I do speak from experience and am not doing any illegitimate lashing at the superficiality promoted in the film. (And also, to that girl who had ‘issues’ against all posters, and while ignoring the 10 pages of sensible stuff I wrote, got belligerent at me  for posting my photo on my own personal site – deal with it.  I refuse to engage in your cyber – ‘challenging’. Lady, if  I really wanted publicity I’d have used my actual name and much better photos since I’ve also done print modeling. And I’d have name-dropped my forefathers well-known in  the poltical histories of  Britain & Sweden. I rather enjoy this anonymity. Have been the silent-behind-the scenes-politically-correct-do-gooder far too long to keep silent and invisible any more, and probably the consumerism touted in this film was the last straw on this camel’s back to speak up.)

You know what feels rather “empowering” to me, Fab-4 ladies? That there are other roads too. When you have made it in a traditionally man’s field through your own hard work and education & because you love your work; When you walk on a site as an architect and conduct yourself with dignity and rationality, in a way that every construction worker and site engineer treats you with RESPECT and not as some easy sex-object; and when you have not discarded femininity in appearance even as towers that define a city’s skyline based on your drawings get built. When you are aware of the inequalities that occur in the world and do your best to help in small ways. How’s THAT for women’s lib, eh? And hey- you DON’T need any overpriced designer-wear nor  indulging-in-male-bashing nor hundreds of lovers  for that.

(Those who wish to know more about what women architects go through, click here: where sexism is part of the architecture Just to know how tough it is to get to the point of building towers. And if you think the problem is men, you’re wrong. As strange as it may sound, the truth is, it’s not men, it’s also women in various self-righteous ‘councils’ and even radical feminist groups who neither promote, nor write about nor let women architects or engineers be more visible in the media : Sex and the Starchitect. In fact, a sincere thanks to the brilliant Christopher Nolan – that for the first time someone (he) wrote and created the character of a smart self-assured woman architect in a movie: Inception. I still have to see any woman screenwriter write of a woman engineer or architect.)

I’ve always questioned – Why should femininity be compromised for feminism? And I think femininity goes far deeper than touting overpriced garish outfits. I do love to cook, and see nothing demeaning about it at all. Yes, I do know how to make coq-o-vin, Carrie.  And speak French too. And think that when a man I love comes home tired after a long day at work, just as he sometimes likes to give me a foot rub on his own when I’m tired, I like to massage his stressed neck and back too instead of whipping him to pamper every whim of mine or accompany me to parties where you can have fun but he cannot even talk to another beautiful  lady because of your insecurity. Because, real love and caring comes with empathy and genuine warmth and being secure and confident at an intrinsic level– something all the ‘vintage Rolexes’ and designer couture and giant-diamond-bribes can’t buy. And Ms. Carrie & Co.– I am OK being a no-nonsense person. Both when with and without a man. Without the need for brand labels. And knowing not just what makes stunning interiors and tall buildings, but what goes on behind the scenes in the lives of the construction workers, the stone quarry workers in far out lands where the granite you walk on comes from, the math behind structural engineering that hold up the towers you show in your opening scenes, and the intricate cycle of production and consumerism and economics and infrastructures. It’s called being a REALIST. And I salute  all the grounded, hard working,  rational, kind-hearted, self-assured, realist women in N.America and around the world, ’cause to me – that’s undeniably  authentically sexy.

Stick that up your labia, for a change ‘stead of those hormone creams. And you’ll realize that perhaps the key to sexiness comes from within. And needs only its own validation of authentic self-affirmation and self-acceptance to operate and bring intrinsic pleasure and joy. Whether your vagine’s virginal or ‘vintage’ (to use Carrie’s ‘in’ word).

Dig Dignity, you know. Often, that’s what represents the It, the je ne sais quoi, the Sexiness that is timeless.

And hey, just for the record – you got that from the mouth of a ‘sexy architect’. I’m sure even the sexiest of Danish architects you lust after would agree with all the facts and realities of life I’ve outlined here ;-)

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Sidetracked Alert: To get that consumerist fantasyorgy out of my head, I just watched once again the Ethan Hawke, Julie Delpy Before Sunset– probably the most realistic, romantic, grounded beautiful and dignified sequel ever made by an American independent film maker. And just to remind myself that there are still some women out there who can decipher fakeness from authenticity, I read these two witty, grounded, and oh-so-true articles written by Dr. Palmatier – You are Not a Princess (click here) & Blahniks for Selfish Chicks (click here.)

Finally – Some Sense in this City, indeed!

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(1) For a post on the lack of role models for young girls in the media today : https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/04/21/racqueting-on-a-grass-court/

(2) Do architects think of sex too much? Sex and the Starchitect : https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/04/03/sex-and-the-starchitect/

(3) For THE “ART’ OF COLOURING THROUGH RGB COMPOSITES OF LANDSAT7 & TERRA SATELLITE IMAGES click  here

(4) Thoughts on the relativity of happiness….This too shall pass.

(5) I’d rather go for the Monty Pythonesque Silly Walk than endorse the hideous YSL/Gucci/Prada Vogue-endorsed deigner purses made out of skinned alive animals for their fur : Saltationism of Silliness

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NOTE: I’m non-religious (and more a scientist & rationalist) and do not think ‘values’ of rationality or ethics are tied to religion per se.


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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