i colori brillanti di Burano

Out in the Venetian Lagoon, around 4 miles north of Venezia,  lies the tiny island of Burano or rather the archipelago of four islands connected by bridges, with a population of just over 2,500 people.

While the nearby island of Murano is known for its centuries’ old glass-making craft, Burano boasts a reputation for lace-making. But the more fascinating feature of this little Italian island is the vivid vibrant colors of its brightly painted houses. 

The buoyant, brilliant colors of Burano seem straight out of a surrealist painter’s dream. Certainly, every proverbial crayon in the box has had a chance to shine here!

Here are a few from many photos I took during my last trip there a short while back. These are untouched and unfiltered and only two have been mildly rotated to straighten them. Like most places in Italy, Burano is yet another effortlessly photogenic one.

The hues of Fall will soon descend in the northern hemisphere as another September seeps in today. Here’re some more colors to warm up the cooler seasons.

(Click on any photo to start the slideshow but please do not download. These are for viewing purposes only. If you need to use a photo please email me at gipsygeek at gmail dot com for permission.)

Masquerades

Venice carnival "Masked Man". Photo by Maddy SJ for Nomad 9 Design. Featured in https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing in https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com web site are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com

The Venice Carnival is currently on. A spectacular splash of color and splendor, costumes and masks, masquerade balls and parades and parties on the streets and waterways, inside grand villas and palaces – it is a custom dating from the 12th century. There are several different types of Venetian masks, each type with its own purpose and symbolism. A mask for every occasion, for every personality-type, giving concrete form and literal manifestations to the masks people wear in everyday life…….

Venice Carnival - Masked Man© 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing in https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com web site are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com

Venetian Masks © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing in https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com web site are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.

Venice Carnival St Marco Square © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing on the website https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com

Venice Carnival St Marco Square © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing on the website https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws. The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com“The closing years of life are like a masquerade party, when the masks are dropped.” – Arthur Schopenhauer

 

Note: © 2015. Maddy SJ. All rights reserved. All images appearing on the website https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com  are the exclusive property of Maddy SJ/The Gipsy Geek and are protected under the United States and International Copyright laws.
The images may not be reproduced, copied, transmitted or manipulated without the written permission of Maddy SJ. Use of any image as the basis for another photographic concept or illustration (digital, artist rendering or alike) is a violation of the United States and International Copyright laws. All images are copyrighted. Email gipsygeek@gmail.com


 

 

 

Suddenly September

New York, September 15, 2013. It seems September slithered in all too soon, and summer passed by e’er so quickly. But amidst the incipience of the tender-crisp Autumn air that wisps in hesitantly unto the city streets and parks this week, it gives me great pleasure to announce that a new exciting world music project is afoot, and it needs the help of those who like exploring new cultural soundscapes and landscapes. 

This new project is called “Planetary Coalition.”

Alex Skolnick Planetary Coalition

(1) What is “Planetary Coalition?”

Conceptualized by versatile guitarist and writer Alex Skolnick, Planetary Coalition is an ethnically flavored collective of diverse musicians from all over the world. Its mission is to tie together the virtuosity of jazz, the power of metal and the passion of the musical styles of Gypsy, Middle Eastern, Mediterranean, Indian, Asian, African, Latin and other indigenous lands. Through the universal language of music, Planetary Coalition intends to bridge the gap between different cultures, increase ecological awareness and explore the threads that connect musical expression with regional identity.

But there’s more, as people from all over the world can participate, either by being directly involved in the project as supporters or producers, and/or by sending in essays, artwork, postcards etc. It is open to all. I’ll let the man himself explain in detail:

(2) What are some of the sounds and textures of Planetary Coalition?

Besides Skolnick, other global musicians will include several well-known instrumentalists from different regions of the world. These will include, for the first CD, artists from Mexico, Turkey, Argentina, Iraq, China, Cuba, India, Ghana, Ireland, Palestine, the Canadian Arctic, and other places. The following video gives an idea of only some of the sounds and “feel” of the project. (And yes, the piece “Sleeping Gypsy” is composed for yours truly as outlined in an earlier post on this blog). There is a separate video (available for participants only) which explains the process of composition of the tune.

(3) How can I participate in the production as well as experience of Planetary Coalition?

To be a participant and get personal access to the artists and to the creative process, go to the project on ArtistShare.com http://artistshare.com/v4/projects/experience/325/439/1/6

You can participate at various levels up to being an Executive Producer.

As well, as explained in the Welcome Video, you can participate in other ways by mailing in your letters, essays, experiences, photographs, artwork, which will be included in the final multi-media presentation.

Tune in for updates at http://planetarycoalition.com/  or follow us on Twitter and Facebook, as seen on that site.

Depending on the participation level, you can have access to the artists through in-depth interviews, videos made especially for you, or direct personal contact with them in the recording studio, during their music sessions, VIP access to their shows, personalized music lessons and much more. Each level explains what the participant can get access to, including credit listing in the final CD of the project.

There are many short films and mini-documentaries that are regularly sent out to participants – some outlining great world music inspirations, others’ on the composers’ creative processes. This one is a trailer of the music writing process of the project creator, showing a tiny glimpse of a mini-series.

For those curious to know more about Sklonick and his background, you can read his memoir “Geek to Guitar Hero,” which as outlined by many amazon reviewers is very inspiring and revealing, whether you are a musician or not. The story of a shy, awkward, geeky kid of Ivy League parents who ended up being, to quote Guitar World Magazine editor-in-chief Brad Tolisnki, “one of the most remarkable guitarists in hard rock history.” Few (and especially his metal fans who often see the “rock star” persona) know that in his private life, he is an avid classical and world music listener, and his mornings almost exclusively begin with Bach, Mozart, Debussy et al playing in the background, while his evenings are filled with jazz and world music. He is also a long time avid book reader, with Vonnegut, Hesse, David Foster Wallace, Chuck Klosterman, Dan Gilbert and many, many others practically spilling out of the shelves of his Brooklyn home.

Many of the intimate views participants will get through Artistshare include the behind the scenes glimpses into the lives of the musicians involved in the project.

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Planetary Coalition Alex Skolnick

Planetary Coalition represents a global collective of musicians, listeners, artists, architects, ecologists, researchers, writers and everyday citizens coming together for the sake of our own planet Earth.

We hope you’ll join us! Also, spread the word around to friends you think may be interested.

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(p.s If there is a glitch in the project link on artishare and it takes you to Maria Schneider’s project instead, click of the Planetary Coalition project videos on the sidebar. http://artistshare.com/v4/Projects/Experience/325/439/1)

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Bonjour from Paris

montmartre steps

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

To closure and to letting go.

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

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Related post:

“In memory of my Dad’s birthday”

And still my sitar gently weeps.”

and “The Four Mothers”

Parallel Lives

Split Screen : A love story featuring 3 cities

JW Griffiths’ quirky little film is shot entirely on the Nokia N8 mobile phone. It is the winner of the Nokia Shorts competition 2011. Two citizens from opposite ends of the Atlantic. At which common point will they meet, if at all? Shades of the “Griffin and Sabine” trilogy,   but in a more contemporary and refreshingly simple, concise manner.

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Director: JW Griffiths
Producer: Kurban Kassam
Director of Photography: Christopher Moon
Editor: Marianne Kuopanportti 
Sound Design: Mauricio d’Orey
Music composed by: Lennert Busch

Tambourine Time

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July 2, 2011. Here I go a-wandering somewhere in Montreal or Quebec City or Toronto and the roads and towns in between southern Ontario’s wine country. Through streets and crowds, familiar smells, ancient whispers, new sounds, the beats of the Jazz Festival in Montreal, the cheers on Canada Day in Toronto, and a song that for some reason always stirs that old wanderlust inside my gipsy heart. And reignites that vagabond whimsy buried inside: subdued through months of practiced stoicism and yet, stirring once in a while amidst summer heat and long amaranthine warm night skies, forgotten lyrics and the sheer abandon of tumbling, intoxicating melodies. 

And here I go a-wandering though poignant Paris, the labyrinthine streets of Venice, the merchants’ markets in exotic, overwhelming India and through the dazzling colors of Burano, the snow-capped mountains of Salzburg, the inexhaustible energy of New York City and pensive train rides along the ocean of the Pacific North-West……and I find a release to this restlessness, to a searching mind that is never satiated…..looking forward to the surprises around an unexplored corner, the fractal geometry of a new tree to marvel at, and at times, recalling the sheer exhaustion of working through the night at the studio and the nebulous state of heavy eyes and tired arms in the soft haze of the break of dawn.

And the resonance of rich memories and an inspired frenzy to learn and love, to live and laugh – permeates through the lyrics…..

Oh, Dylan! Whence from do such thoughts find way to your fingertips…?

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Tambourine Man – Bob Dylan

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.
Though I know that evenin’s empire has returned into sand
Vanished from my hand
Left me blindly here to stand but still not sleeping
My weariness amazes me, I’m branded on my feet
I have no one to meet
And the ancient empty street’s too dead for dreaming.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Take me on a trip upon your magic swirlin’ ship
My senses have been stripped, my hands can’t feel to grip
My toes too numb to step, wait only for my boot heels
To be wanderin’
I’m ready to go anywhere, I’m ready for to fade
Into my own parade, cast your dancing spell my way
I promise to go under it.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Though you might hear laughin’, spinnin’ swingin’ madly across the sun
It’s not aimed at anyone, it’s just escapin’ on the run
And but for the sky there are no fences facin’
And if you hear vague traces of skippin’ reels of rhyme
To your tambourine in time, it’s just a ragged clown behind
I wouldn’t pay it any mind, it’s just a shadow you’re
Seein’ that he’s chasing.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Then take me disappearin’ through the smoke rings of my mind
Down the foggy ruins of time, far past the frozen leaves
The haunted, frightened trees, out to the windy beach
Far from the twisted reach of crazy sorrow
Yes, to dance beneath the diamond sky with one hand waving free
Silhouetted by the sea, circled by the circus sands
With all memory and fate driven deep beneath the waves
Let me forget about today until tomorrow.

Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
I’m not sleepy and there is no place I’m going to
Hey ! Mr Tambourine Man, play a song for me
In the jingle jangle morning I’ll come followin’ you.

Time . Lapses . Limits

TIME . LAPSES . LIMITS 

A beautiful film made by Ville de Quebec film maker Dominic Boudreault showing a time-lapse montage of the cityscapes of Montreal, New York, Toronto, Chicago and Quebec City contrasted at the end with the stars of the night skies outside the city limits. It took him a year to make this. Please full screen it.…and enjoy its beauty of architecture and urbanscapes, ships and starry nights. Set to Hans Zimmer’s score Time from the unforgettable movie of dreams, architecture, travel and love Inception.

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I am very happy that the film features a project I worked on which won quite a few awards and has become a favorite postcard pic and a city landmark – the installation, urban design and lighting of the historic Fontaine de Tourny that was placed on the entry grounds of the Parliament building of Quebec City. It was a gift from Bordeaux, France, for Quebec’s 400th anniversary, and I’d worked on the conceptual and construction planning as well as lighting design of it with the firm I was with at the time. A few conceptual sketches and the final product below. Of course, I have not included the construction drawings, which are prosaic, technical ones but which hold the chassis of a project.

Due to budget restrictions, the original seating and artistic fence proposals made were not implemented and currently a very basic structure surrounds the fountain.

The sculptor who’d made it – only 3 copies of the fountain exist in the world : Mathurine Moreau

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Sidetracked Alert : Since Conan Doyle’s b’day is round the corner – an ode to Holmes from last year https://gipsygeek.wordpress.com/2010/05/22/elementary-dr-doyle/

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Overdosing on Facebook

I recently saw this thoughtful, minimalist and well-done little video made by a young  Scottish English teacher addressing ‘Facebook addiction’ from which he himself ‘recovered’ and is now traveling to various countries instead of being sucked by the social network Giant. Facebook addiction (along with texting of course) has become prevalent amongst many teenagers (and adults as well.) Pass it on to those who might need it or to concerned parents of  teens who did not even know of life before Facebook existed. Pass it on. Without judging though.

Although it is ironic that the cameraman (but not the protagonist) of this video has a facebook page, this is a relevant little video, especially at a time when online narcissism has been glamourized to mind-blowing proportions. And unless they are truly marketing, like some older professionals use facebook to do, an average young adult now without even having traveled or worked much has on an average anything between 500 to 5000 “friends.”

I do have an account under my real name.  Joined very late comparatively, though I used to walk past  for over 18 months along the streets and  wrought-iron fences of Cambridge that Jesse Eisenberg in The Social Network ran across in the film’s opening sequences. I only befriend those I know, those who I have met in the real world and those who are my real  friends and well-wishers or at most have common friends I know who are working in architecture or music. After all, how can you deny when architect  Ben Van Berkel himself sends you a friend request?  (On the other hand, okay, there are about 10 people on my list I haven’t ‘met’  in person but responded to their requests as they were architects and composers, with whom I shared common friends and we exchanged mails first so we were not total strangers. 10 ‘unmet’ on a list of 180 is not bad.) Yes, I do turn down many ‘requests’ but send a polite mail first to explain why – it is not personal, just a silly principle I’ve to follow to keep privacy and to an extent online security. I will also admit that I have not befriended those who were mean or bullied me back in school and now suddenly send me requests after years goodness knows for what reason.  (It is not because I hold any grudge, far from it since there’s nothing more liberating than forgiveness and equanimity –  it is because I believe that my private profile and photos are meant for real friends, not nosy priers or voyeurs or those who never cared in the first place but now are curious to find out about my life.) They are free to see my professional work site, but the personal is private.

It is okay to be all open too, perhaps to keep all your personal content public as many do on FB and I commend those who are brave or inclined enough to do so – privacy, spamming and security concerns be damned. Come to think of it, even this blog is in many ways a personal muse but one I willingly share in public. But for some reason, I draw the line for Facebook. FB is a convenient invention, but it is not our Master nor our tell-all diary. And one always has the choice on how one wishes to use or not use that networking tool. Perhaps there is something alluring to have the freedom to suddenly ‘befriend’ anyone from anywhere on this planet, to be on a network that has over 500 million people (and several fake profiles on it as well,) and no one should be judged on their choices – but every person is different and every person has a choice on how much they want to share.

And as this video rightly reminds – announcing every little mundane detail of your life as a ‘status update’ that millions of facebook users do is something the world has lived without for centuries and still can. True, FB is a great connecting tool, it has both pros and cons and is a great way to share information, but really – saying what you eat, when you pooped, how long you slept are details we can do without.

There is a whole big wide wondrous world out there that is not virtual. Yes, I do get the irony of writing this through a virtual medium. But still…..

Go out and see that world before it is too late.

Live. Laugh. Love. Learn.

Really.

You do not have to follow Ross or the message he gives in this simple  effective little video. You do not have to focus on how many times he licked his finger. But you can stop an addiction with determination, any unhealthy addiction if you have one.

Enjoy!

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“To be yourself in a world that is constantly trying to make you something else is the greatest accomplishment.”

– Ralph Waldo Emerson (May 25, 1803 – April 27, 1882)
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“The World is a book, and those who do not travel read only a page.”

– St. Augustine (November 13, 354 – August 28, 430)

(Hey – if this dude Augustine could travel waaaaay back then, what’s your excuse to not get out into the world and away from that computer screen? And by ‘travel’ I don’t mean package tours in Disney resorts, but real, visceral, tangible travel. Good for the bones, good for the brain.)

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Related post: (1) Mountain Madness and  Thinking in Pictures

(2) Is Facebook making some people sadder with too much unrealistic ‘comparing and judging’ or an online version of ‘keeping up with the Joneses’? A Stanford University studyA Slate online article – Here.

A Time magazine article on the same – Here

Be happy, not envious, for others’ joys. Just. Stop. Comparing. And see how liberating it is. (I haven’t for years after a wise teacher in my school once told the class in junior high – ” Self-improvement starts when you do not compare with others, but compare your self with yourself.”)

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1.1.’11

A year goes by. A New year comes. Every 365.2425 solar days.

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Two leaves and Marley’s tail. 2nd Avenue, New York, NY.

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A gentle little bunny rests on my lap.

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A fly rests on the corner of a horse’s eye in a farm in Wisconsin

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Jazz quartet with Charles McPherson at Joe Segal’s Jazz Showcase, Chicago

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Flanked by the great jazz saxophonist Charles McPherson and drummer/neuroscientist  Dave Johnson. Charles is an architecture enthusiast and a brilliant conversationalist

Charles’ music : here; On wiki: here. More: here

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My favourite patio at a secluded location where I’ve enjoyed many a meal and sunset staring out into the ocean in solitude. South Florida.

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Bass guitarist Norbert Marius strums at an instrument he custom-built himself. At Jules Bistro, West Village, New York. (Norbert has also done custom-built installations for Roger Waters’ studio in New York.)

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Moi, dressed as some space-age devil during Halloween, New York City.

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A street light seen from the back of my car seat. I took this photo after it was irreversibly broken after a near-death accident I had while driving it last summer.

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Sunset on a lake in Woodstock, NY.

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A view of the Chrysler building, New York.

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How do you define a Year in your life? Time? Age? Memories? Milestones? Life? (Did you know the Latin word for year is “annus”?) Or  a fixed period on a calender set this way: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Year ?

Or a new dose of hope for eternal optimists?

Happy 2011!

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Red December – Post 1

RED DECEMBER – 1

New York, December 1, 2010. In North American seasons, it seems more appropriate to say ‘Red October’ as the leaves change colours. ‘White December’ would seem more apt since most of the north has received its first snowfall by then. But for this December, I feel like writing three posts with a ‘red’ theme in common – Red – the colour of cherry-red lips, the predominant colour of Christmas wrappings and stockings, but most of all the colour of blood, of the heart, of the glow in a fireplace, and of Love.

I just returned from a week in Miami and Fort Lauderdale, cities I lived in for 2 years in 2006 and 2007 for work. Moving from Montreal, Canada, with its cold northern winters, the two Floridian cities were escapes to sun and sand and sea……the stunning turquoise blue waters of their Atlantic shorelines obliterating all the other problems and urban – sprawl lifestyle. Greedy to soak in the waters, I lived on the high floor of a condo on Pompano Beach directly overlooking the vast endless ocean. After two years of filling my eyes and ears with the colours and sounds of the ocean waves that I woke up to every morning, I returned back north. On this visit, after nearly 3 years, I met again those who were dear to me, those who were my friends; and after the hellos, I said goodbye more as a closure once again to those with whom I had shared talks and walks and an occasional drink on patios and on white sand beaches or gone on boat and canoe rides in the picturesque waters of the Atlantic ocean and the Florida Keys. Some friends will remain so forever, no matter how far the distance in miles and years. Here’s to lovely Michelle and Gladys and Debbie and Sharolyn – four versatile, multi-dimensional, incredibly good-hearted women, and to four other straightforward male buddies. Thank you all for your senses and sensibilities!

Florida Keys  

It often takes a visit back as a traveler to appreciate what you left or find closure and peace for why you did. It IS true that familiarity breeds contempt and scarcity creates value. That is sadly a truth about human nature. The scorching sun and the serene waters that I’d begun to take for granted towards the end of my stay there in 2007, bogged by the lack of intellectual or ethical values that predominated much of flashy-car-and-silicon-boob-and-loud-showing-off South Florida, reminded me that the warmth of the sun can be appreciated only after experiencing the bitter northern winters, and the fakeness that used to affect me could disturb me only as long as I allowed it to – for if I chose to look beyond the noise, I could always find a quiet little bench in a hidden boardwalk on a marina where the boats docked where I could sit and enjoy fresh oysters I’d bought from Mr. Fish on Pompano, or find quiet beaches away from the crowds and choose to bicycle and canoe without giving a damn of ‘what car I drove or someone else drove’ (a predominant showiness of status that is found most in South Florida and Los Angeles-area-California when you live there.) And I discovered that beneath the surface, there were many authentic, happy, laid-back people and friends who did care about Florida’s fragile ecosystems and had a joyous relaxed attitude, sunnily different than the neurotic “Go-Go-Go” hustle of the Big Apple or the overtly-intellectually-competitive climate of Cambridge, MA, that I had grown more accustomed to.

When I transformed into a traveler again, I became more open to the charms of the city that a fresh revisit can bring back, (unlike the fear I’d experienced while getting lost driving in Overtown, the most crime-infested neighbourhood in Miami; or another time when I naively was walking into a dangerous trap while buying something off Craigslist and was saved by a friend.) This time, I let it all be, and just went along without fear, focussing more on all the far better memories I had of the city. Fort Lauderdale brought back its lovely beaches and my favourite hangs behind porches of lesser-known gems of restaurants that looked out into the ocean. Sadly I saw on this visit that many smaller cafes and shops which I’d frequent had closed down due to the economic hit this region took during the recession. Chatty business-owners told me tales of how the economic crash had affected their lives and those of others. Some of those stories were sad, some were funny and a few outright bizarre. In another honest talk, a good friend of mine (who is a self-made entrepreneur and a rising star in the building trade, with a residential project-in-construction even on the exclusive Star Island that he walked me through,) explained to me that he bought his Porsches truly for their engineering, not as any ‘symbols.’ He explained how given a chance, most men who liked cars would like to own a Porsche – more for its speed and amazing engineering, not necessarily for any ‘show.’ Thanks to him I can now say I have experienced what driving a 2009 Porsche Turbo feels like ;-) (Still, nothing beats flying a humble Cessna…but that’s just a personal preference.)

And this time, with a renewed perspective free from any past preconceived ponderosity, Miami brought back its Latin flavours, its predominant whiffs of delicious Cuban cooking,  Spanish guitars and the heat of its warm sun-kissed Decembers.

I am no ethnic gypsy, just a metaphorical ‘gyspy’ due to my nomadic travels and the many cities I have lived and worked in, but what better way to start a Red December than the haunting strum of the musical mastery of a real gypsy group of Catalonian Romani gitanos who reside in Southern France – The Gipsy Kings? Though I had received training in classical dance for many years, for a couple of years later in my 20s I took a rigorous training in the style of dance known as Gypsy Flamenco. And it is hard to remain still when the Kings take off on their guitars and lively vocals. But for this post, I have attached one of their pure instrumental compositions – a sensuous Red rendition that stirs one’s inner passion, and reminds us once again of the poetry of love, of longing and long nights under an open sky, of the hopes and desires of timeless youth when hearts were open, and gazes held fire, and the flow of your blood pulsated against your skin with a Dionysian rhythm of an inspired frenzy surpassing the Apollonian mind……..

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Once in a lifetime

ONCE IN A LIFETIME

“That it will never come again is what makes life so sweet.”

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That it will never come again

Is what makes life so sweet.

Believing what you don’t believe

Does not exhilarate.

– Emily Dickinson (1830 – 1886)

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New York. 20. 10. 2010. If you ever get a chance, please take the Amtrak train from Montreal to New York in mid-October. It is certainly one of the most picturesque and magical rides you will ever take in this lifetime (or $ 60 well spent) – it is literally like winding through a painting enriched by spectacular fall colours and the breath-taking beauty of Lake Champlain along the shoreline of which and the Adirondack mountains the tracks traverse by. A long ride, but one that leaves you fulfilled and overwhelmed by the gorgeousness of nature’s colours and serenity; and the fragile-but-oh-so-beautiful gift of human life. As I’ve oft-repeated, it is one of those journeys that is a reminder once again that “We all have the right to feel sad at times, but we do not have the right to feel ungrateful.” Because, compared to what luck could have handed us, we are so, so fortunate………

The sweetness of life comes from days lived well, with the decision to follow the best of  rational ethics and integrity one is possible of practicing; of acts of love and kindness to others without losing wisdom or the logic to analyse and create and to think independently and not fall prey to hypocrites; the sweetness of life comes from the knowledge that at the end of each day the only person you need to stand before and answer to is your own conscience; to look back at a life led without hypocrisy, where you adhere to integrity if only for your own sake; and to know before you fall asleep each night that you have never knowingly hurt anyone for it takes very little to be kind, to think before you speak; to know that we are so lucky in comparison to far larger problems, injustices and sadness in the world and therefore to complain a little less and at times, a lot less; to know the truth of global realities and the reality of our own  strengths and weaknesses; to give a thank-you to the inventors and minds which made our infrastructures and taken-for-granted comforts possible; to thank the hearts of the gentle souls amongst us who are capable of healthy love; and to always remember that because life comes, but only once, to make the most of it.

Trust me on this one, for I’m on my fifth life now through four brushes with death in my past, and every day lived reminds me of life’s sweetness. We go through trials and troubles, fight back or climb out of abysses, but at the end it is only those who love the gift of Life and the responsibility of integrity and authenticity that gift entails, who know the pleasure of the sweetest of slumbers: the true exhilaration of a clear conscience and a life led without regrets. And with the strength to take full responsibility for every action you have committed or will commit once you have left the realm of childhood. The peace of mind for staying on-track on that one single choice? Priceless.

A typical view from the Montreal-New York train in Autumn. (photo by Kevin Ebi. livingwildnreness.com)

The Montreal to New York Amtrak route

Bicycle Alert: On the topic of land travel, check out the tales of an interesting and friendly young Franco-Swiss adventurer I met in Old Montreal who has been traveling along various continents of the world since the age of 32 on his bicycle for the last several years. He had just finished a tour across Central and South Asia and was setting off across America. Marco Ausderau : http://acrosscontinents.ch/Navigation/histoire-d-un-reve?set_language=fr&cl=fr

One of  the quotes that inspired him to embark on this long journey is Antoine de St. Exupery’s words: “Fait de ta vie un rêve et de ton rêve une réalité.”