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 (and love it) 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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