3 Dec 2016

A Wes Anderson Yuletide

If there is one modern film director who is able to bring Christmas magic to children and adults alike, command your attention and massage your emotion, film maestro Wes Anderson is the man of the action! Expect to be delighted!

via H&M

Swedish fast fashion brand H&M didn't go cheap for its Christmas advertising campaign. It moved away from the obvious and embraced the experiential. No tipsy petticoats or swaying cocktail dresses! Instead it geared itself up as H&M Lines, and took us - courtesy of Wes Anderson - on the train journey of a lifetime. The famed American film director took the H&M brand and accoutrement outside the box and beyond any marketer's expectations to a place of story-telling, of family-friendliness, of style and elegance that might as well showcase upmarket fashion retail and the couture brands, let me tell you! It's all about attitude and how fluid you are about positioning your brand in a highly competitive market.

via It's Nice That

Anderson's signature directorial approach brings together a vintage yet timeless timeline as a backdrop to the storyline: nostalgia without the wallow. The sweeping camera technique frames each scene in its exactitude before neatly sliding sideways or upwards/ downwards to the next scene, taking us for the ride without a bump, bathed in ambient pastel colours that remind the sweet-inclined of those special occasion chocolates dressed in robes of whipped mint creams and rosewater sugar paste. I call it 'Retro Candiland'! Adrien Brody is relishingly moody, like a silent movie actor, and the rest of the cast play their moody, restrained and instrospected selves. They unravel with the plot, shedding the wallflower and warming up, growing on us as likeable characters.

ibid.

Wes Anderson is the ultimate crowd gatherer: the laid-back and the snooty, the young and the less so, the show-off and the parsimonious, the well-off and the lacking, will find themselves in his commercial, should they allow themselves to. Anderson's message resonates clearly too: the company you're in (i.e. the group of individuals) matters more than the presents, and no matter the journey, be sure to enjoy it rather than solely focus on the destination. Christmas goes beyond the one-sided retail relationship of giving and/ or receiving, it is about sharing and enjoying the special moment in togetherness!


via BBC


Trust me that this is one Christmas commercial that will not grate or ire you. It will also write another page in the grand history of brand advertising. It commands multiple viewings and makes you itchy to reach out for your closest and dearest: 'No matter what, I'll be home to you for Christmas! But if my journey takes me off a tangent, a change of direction beyond my control, I might as well make the most out of it.' The short film celebrates the vagaries of life and the little joys to be had along the way.




Meanwhile in his methodical approach, Wes Anderson doesn't lose sight of the child within. There is a little boy in the film, who so resembles Wes as his child alter ego. The little kid has every reason to cheer up as he steps into the lounge waggon. And the marveling little kid is everyone of us. Come together and keep the magic alive!


P.S: The robins are home for Christmas... or maybe not?

21 Nov 2016

I See You Reaping What You Sow

The time machine has whimsical ways to whizz you down tracks unchartered. How about take you down to rural Cambridgeshire, England, in the height of Summer 1938 just in time for the harvest? Put your straw hat on and follow me!

Farm Crops in Britain, illustrated by S.R. Badmin (1955)

In my personal quest for cultural heritage, national identity and the kinder ways to nature, I came across a short documentary (cf. end of post) currently listed on the homepage of Common Ground, a British charity established 33 years ago, and whose founders 'seek imaginative ways to engage people with their local environment.' An interesting mission statement which I am trying to apply here in my own modest way and out there, in the real world. Common Ground's England in Particular on-going campaign describes itself as 'a counterblast against loss and uniformity, and a celebration of just some of the distinctive details that cumulatively make England.' How charming, I'm in!

I was kindly referred to Common Ground by Philip Wilkinson, after I left a comment a couple of weeks ago on his award-winning architectural blog, English Buildings. In his informative blog, Mr. Wilkinson - an advocate of heritage preservation - partakes of anecdotes and photographic evidence of architectural gems from his locale that stand tall and proud as exquisite pieces of British quintessence.

ibid.

Buildings are inanimate objects, yet would it feel out of place to claim that they grace our lives with their presence? Their presence because they exude grace and charm and sobriety - or eccentricity - and other facets of interest that confer the weight, the presence, the personalisation that gets them noticed. They hold memories and figuratively have a soul. This presence you get from those older structures you simply won't get from the new. Such buildings are still part of our landscapes, whether thanks to a heritage preservation act, or the loving care of their owners, or out of sheer lucky fluke! Whatever the circumstance, they each challenge the uniformisation agenda that globalisation is promulgating under its worldwide takeover of our geographical, architectural and cultural landscapes.

The founders of Common Ground refer to national and local particularisms as local distinctiveness, which embraces both material/ physical heritage (architecture, design, infrastructures, materials) and intangible cultural heritage (processes, craftsmanship, techniques, way of life, celebrations, folklore, customs, oral traditions, dialects).
Here in Corsica, I witness first hand how the local distinctiveness in terms of architecture, crafts and design is fragile and endangered to the point of no return. Coveted, despised, uncared for or downright neglected, it falls foul of good intention. It ends up plundered, reinterpreted or altogether destroyed



For a ravishing recording of a way of life (on the wane), I invite you to view the English Harvest documentary (brought to us by BFI). It showcases a delightful visual treat of a portrayal of idyllic country life set in bucolic rural Cambridgeshire, and features harvesting and cultivation methods past. A bygone era that was laborious, ordained, organised, well-dressed and prim and proper. A time of rural thrift and hardship nonetheless, with WWII looming on the horizon to crash it all down. Yet this was a time when man and nature were still close, standing in communion and in unison.

Today our farmers have all the chemical warfare under the sun at their disposal, the machinery and the technology, not to mention the long stretches of uniform land for ease of manoeuvring. And yet their lives still teeter on the edge of poverty, crushed by the long working hours to scrap a living, the relentless bank loans that keep them artificially afloat in the moment and the burdensome bureaucracy of rules and regulations, notwithstanding from our non-elected EU Babel Tower over in Brussels.

ibid.

Add to this a malaise that is running deep, exacerbated by unrelenting mass consumerism that operates on low production cost demands and high corporate profits for the multinationals, and life as a farmer slides down an ever-shrinking - almost elusive - bottom line.

The modern farmer's life is short of servitude. The irony of it all is that his family land feeds the world while leaving him and his kids in the lurch, on the thrift side of a good hearty meal, and worked out to an early grave.  The farmer will be crying in his barn - out of sight out of mind - like his cattle taken to slaughter after they gave it all for no or little recognition.

The land still beats to the tune of his elders' heart, but the song is adrift with the mortal whiff of weedkiller and fertilisers, his mortal coil to be. Under this current relentless paradigm, the land is dying and is killing the farmer, when all he wanted was to live off the land he loves.

11 Nov 2016

Remember the Fallen

Hold Remembrance Day tight in your heart, high and proud, in your quiet moment of life. Do not let it fall off the wayside like a discarded wrapper. Do not allow for the vagaries of time to fade it away, trivialise it and ultimately engulf it into oblivion, to have it replaced by the false urgency, the false gratification offered by the trappings and lures of modern day, namely entertainment and other self-centred leisurely pursuits.

Find solace and fortitude in Remembrance for the Fallen shall have not fallen vainly. Make them proud like they make us proud. Hold the sanctity and dignity of their souvenir within you and pass it on to your children. Your great-grandparents history is your history and that of your descendants. Wear your poppy or your cornflower with pride.

'A Front Line Near St-Quentin' (1918), oil on canvas  by C.R.W. Nevinson (1889-1946), via Art UK

The Fallen fell for their Nation. They fell so you wouldn't have to. Therefore I plea that never under any circumstances shall you allow for the love of your nation, for national pride and patriotic values to be questioned, to be derided and to fall into disrepute. National sovereignty is sacred,  national identity is which cements a nation together and makes it whole, not fragmented.

May you not be fooled by the smarmy politicians and the snake oil salesmen who seek to mislead you off the path of progress, prosperity and integrity, by firing up dissent amongst their people, especially the misguided youth, allowing them to orbit off the moral compass of society, to trample their own flag rather than salute it. Deafen the brouhaha from the divisive media Medusa and keep to the legacy of those who made your nation great.

Whenever the dissenters seek for unity to be disbanded, urge for division to be pacified. Make your nation proud and it shall be proud of you. Work for it and it shall work for you.

(pict source)


Further Reading:

6 Nov 2016

A Vote for Donald Trump WILL Save the West

There are no two ways about it, folks... Donald Trump as President will not only save America but the whole West from the web of corruption brought about to destroy us!

On the other hand, a vote for Hillary Clinton is a vote for the New World Order, global elites, NAFTA, TPP, TTIP, mass-immigration - and World War III. A vote for Crooked is a vote for a jobless, subservient, open-border, Agenda 21-compliant society; a vote for the loss of national sovereignty and for the finalised collapse of the West. American friends, think carefully before you cast your vote. This election is the most important of your entire life and the future of the West depends upon you.

(Pict source)

Transcript for “Donald Trump’s Argument for America”:

Donald J. Trump:

"Our movement is about replacing a failed and corrupt political establishment with a new government controlled by you, the American people.

The establishment has trillions of dollars at stake in this election.

For those who control the levers of power in Washington and for the global special interests, they partner with these people that don’t have your good in mind.

The political establishment that is trying to stop us is the same group responsible for our disastrous trade deals, massive illegal immigration and economic and foreign policies that have bled our country dry.

The political establishment has brought about the destruction of our factories and our jobs as they flee to Mexico, China and other countries all around the world.

It’s a global power structure that is responsible for the economic decisions that have robbed our working class, stripped our country of its wealth and put that money into the pockets of a handful of large corporations and political entities.

The only thing that can stop this corrupt machine is you. The only force strong enough to save our country is us.

The only people brave enough to vote out this corrupt establishment is you, the American people.

I’m doing this for the people and the movement and we will take back this country for you and we will make America great again. "

18 Oct 2016

Buzz of the Summer Gone

Living in Corsica, one thing I clearly noticed this Summer - the first Summer I have spent on my grandma's property up in the mountains in approx. 25 years - is the scarce number of pollinators compared to 25 years ago. There was no scientific study on my part; I just pitched my remembrance of those bygone Summers vs. 2016, as flawed an indicator as this might be. As a child and teen coming to the island for the Summer holiday with my family, we would come across a healthy number of bees, wasps, bumble bees, butterflies and other winged creatures in our surroundings, without looking for them. The place was literally buzzing!


Sometimes you would get half a dozen wasps joining us for lunch (a hazardous gatecrashing that would meet its comeuppance, let us it be known!), and you had pollinators and all means of flying insects buzzing around us when we were relaxing on the terrace. Admittedly we had natural pollinator magnets close by, namely a huge bougainvillea and a lush peach tree (now both gone), but even if you ventured outside of the confines of grandma's property, you would come across pollinators without looking for them.

Summer 2016, my first Summer back in the old family holiday house after about 25 years, I was really able to gauge the stark difference in population numbers. What struck me most was the scarcity of honey bees - and alarmingly every single one of them I spotted on the terrace (a paltry dozen in the space of four months), were either dead or dying! Night-time wasn't faring better, as the moths I came across were few and far between compared to 25 years ago! The moths were also very small (the length of a thumbnail) for the vast majority (90%), and rather bland in colour (plain taupe or light grey) and insignificant in looks. What happened to those flamboyant, geometrical moths of my childhood?



WHY THE DECLINE?

Pollinators worldwide are in serious trouble, and I am able to witness it firsthand on my tiny isle without any scientific measurement systems. Pesticides, insecticides (including the notorious neonicotinoids), herbicides and other agribusiness by-products from intensive farming are directly responsible for pollinator decline. In addition to pollution, you have other factors like degraded natural habitats of meadows, prairies, pastures and marshes, the systematic mowing of road verges - underrated buffer zones that act like mini-ecosystems and whose wildflowers (if any left) play a role in feeding pollinators. In the last 25 years, the earth population has increased by 2 billion people, and the galloping demographics coupled to our consumerist ways are tipping the earth's ecology to the point of no return.

"This much is clear: we ignore bees at our own peril. What happens to them will eventually happen to us." - Joel Sartore, photographer, National Geographic

Here in Corsica, the local environmental agencies implement the insecticide-spraying of our resort towns, shorelines and wetlands a couple of times every Summer, late afternoon, supposedly to kill off mosquitoes, but the controversial insecticides are harmful to bees, moths and butterflies. Of course the agencies will not admit to it, while the islanders tend not to question the controversial ecological agenda that is being played out on different levels by the government and corporate interests, leaving our wildlife at the mercy of uncertainty and unsafety.

Queen Rusty-patched Bumble Bee, Madison, Wisconsin by Clay Bolt Nature Photography


THE CASE FOR THE RUSTY-PATCHED BUMBLE BEE

Across the Atlantic, award-winning natural history and conservation photographer Clay Bolt - a bee enthusiast - took matters in his own hands when he found out about the near-disappearance of the rusty-patched bumble bee (Bombus affinis), a native northeastern bumble bee whose very existence, on top of the dangers listed in our above section, has been further compromised by commercially-reared bees imported from Europe (and used for the pollination of greenhouse crops) which infected the rusty-patched bumble bee with fungal pathogens when coming into contact. The sharp decline of the bumble bee is staggering: 90% of its historic range since the mid-1990s!

Female Worker, Rusty-patched Bumble Bee, Madison, Wisconsin by ibid.

Clay set out to document the fate of the rusty-patched bumble bee, not only by way of investigation but also by raising awareness. He joined forces with The Xerces Society for Invertebrate Conservation on their petition to U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Animal and Plant Health Inspection Service, and Environmental Protection Agency in order to save the bumble bee, first by getting it listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

Meanwhile his 19-minute documentary, A Ghost in the Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee, is reaping nationwide and international recognition, having been shortlisted by four film festivals. The best award it garnered though was for the USFWS to finally agree (3 years 8 months after the petition was launched) to propose ESA protection to the rusty-patched!

The Xerces Society

"Pollinators are critical components of our environment and essential to our food security—providing the indispensable service of pollination to more than 85 percent of flowering plants and contributing to one in three bites of the food that we eat. Bumble bees are among the most widely recognized and well understood group of native pollinators in North America and contribute to the pollination of food crops such as squash, melon, blueberry, cranberry, clover, greenhouse tomato and greenhouse pepper, as well as numerous wildflowers." - The Xerces Society


FULL-BLOWN MECHANICALLY-CONTROLLED DARWINISM?

Some might argue that federal protection is too little too late, and that the USFWS and EPA are part of the problem they created in the first place - I agree. On his journey, Clay came to question whether saving one species rather than another made any sense. You cannot just save the one species by disregarding the wider environment because all species are interconnected. If one species is endangered, it is as a result of imbalance in the environment that is also impacting other species. Only a holistic approach can save the world, yet at this point we are too far gone down the path of ecological destruction for a holistic approach to be made possible. We humans are the problem to the decline and disappearance of fauna (and flora).

Male Rusty-patched Bumble Bee resting on Joe Pye Weed, Madison, Wisconsin by ibid.

So what can be done when our world has become what I would describe as full-blown mechanically-controlled Darwinism? How do we disentangle our economic models from the exploitation of nature's resources? How do we reverse the changes and grant nature its power back? If we cannot stop the process, does it mean we should just give up? No. What we can do is salvage what we can, review our consumer habits in order to slow down the process that way. Sounds lackadaisy but indeed all we are left with is damage control. Individually we can take matters in our own hands like Clay did, and it is up to us how we choose to do it. We can, for instance, make our garden, terrace or balcony pollinator-friendly. Go organic and encourage others to do so, shun pesticides and anything GMO-based. 

A Ghost In The Making: Searching for the Rusty-patched Bumble Bee 
from Day's Edge Productions on Vimeo.

Further Resources:

10 Oct 2016

Halloween Tingle Without the Tack

No need to look over your shoulder, Halloween has been creeping up on us like a shiver. A number of you will probably resurrect last year's fluffy spiders, stick-on ghosts and daffy ghouls from their boxed-in torpor for the kids, and shake them back into a semblance of duty. Others might renew their stock through a little expense. Hands-on types like the talented girls at A Beautiful Mess will no doubt go all creative over it. While those without young kids or the inclination to go festive, will just brush the thing away like a bug getting too close. Maybe still get candy for the Trick-or-Treaters (and dive in the bowl later!).

As an aside, why go studio when you have the location? If I wish to trick myself into Halloween I haven't much to do because in my old medieval hamlet, there's a bat colony living in an old ruined dwelling across the way, creepy-crawlies with the weirdest physique trying their hardest to crash my place ('tis that time of year after all!) - and yes I have the privilege (or misfortune) to live within walking distance of a handful of ruined edifices (and that includes a ruined castle up the mountain!). Maybe you too live in a place steeped in history and mystique and the last thing you want is put on a Halloween show when you are already 'living the show'!

Reliquary Box, Cloître de Gnadenthal, Canton d'Argovie, Switzerland (pict source)


The last piece on Halloween that I wrote dates back 6 years, a five-post extravaganza gathered together under A Working Week of Spook, an art project which really amused me back then as I compiled a scenario out of every scary movie title imaginable, with atmospheric snapshots to boot.

This time around, I have been looking at giving yet another adult approach to the theme, in a quirky yet light-hearted celebration of sorts minus the kiddie props, dressed-up pumpkins and silly nonsense. I have compiled a short list of simple ideas that I have practiced in my day (except not necessarily on Halloween), should you want a little pulse racing for Halloween without the tackiness or much effort. Please follow your host...


I.  DO THE GUIDED GHOST TOUR OF A HISTORICAL TOWN OR CITY

Nowadays every town and city has guided tourist tours on offer, and those with a troubled past (think Savannah in the Old South) even have ghost tours on their books. Don't do it solo, take your partner, siblings or friends with you, for the more, the merrier! I highly recommend it if just for the experience and fun of it, and for warming up afterwards at a local (haunted) pub over drinks and a platter of antipasti to share! I did the Lincoln Ghost Walk (U.K.), about ten years ago, October time, and our guide was so much fun and interesting! She had all the scary anecdotes, spicy details, the cheeky stone imps, the headless knight on horseback and other Tim Burton-like characters who gently tingled our imagination as we hushed past, from one haunt to the next. The hour-long tour started at dusk, giving old Lincoln's streets and edifices (including the castle and cathedral) a ghostly bias, a creepy ambience nurtured by tales of the unexpected, while the damp weather was closing in on us, slowly sinking into our bones, adding intensity to the shivers....

Foggy Bridge * Explored * (Biarritz, France) by Anth Optic, via Flickr


II.  VISIT A STATELY HOME, ANY STATELY HOME

Ghost or no ghost, I generally find stately homes pretty spooky per se. As soon as you push the door, you enter a different world, almost a static parallel universe. As much as it may look like a permanent show-home or museum (at least the parts of the house open to visitors), the mansion heaves with memories, if only testified by its age, history and historical significance. It is heavy with memorabilia, heavy with mementoes. The place has a soul and it feels like a lot. It feels starched up and stuffy: the high ceilings, the secret door, the solemn arrangements, the cellars, the faded grandeur, the ostentatious artefacts that seem to have sprouted out of the mantelpieces and furniture, the animal trophies on the walls, the cascading draperies, the chandeliers, the rugs that have defied time, the almost rarefied air because those houses are not lived in anymore (or only occasionally). People were born there and they died there. These creepy larger-than-life portraits that stare at you, casting that inquisitive glance in a 'I don't know you' sort of way that follows you around the room. Such encounters are likely to put you in a Halloween mood.

Even Boscobel House looks a little creepy (pict source).


III.  WATCH A FILM NOIR IN AN OLD PICTURE HOUSE

Technology has made it all too easy to tune into in-house on-screen entertainment (Netflix and the likes) to bother going to the movie theatres anymore, never mind the old picture house that has survived redevelopment blitz! Such a shame because these old cinemas are an experience all to themselves: colourful history, architecture and interior design, furnishings, creaky floors, warts et al! Some have been renovated back to their former glory like the Electric Cinema of Portobello Road, Notting Hill, London. Other oldies may still be operating in their raw (unrevamped) state, but don't let it put you off. As you soak in the atmosphere, watching a movie might become secondary! It doesn't have to be a scary movie; a psychological thriller, a film noir classic, or that Hitchcock flick you've meant to watch some day, or even a good comedy that will take on a little edge, courtesy of the location...

The Falcon Maltese film noir by John Huston (1941) is based upon the novel by Dashiell Hammett.


IV.  RIDE AN OLD VERSION OF THE GHOST TRAIN AT THE LOCAL FUN FAIR

So much fun as it goes rickety rackety in its vintage splendour, whisking you around its bends and corners. The ride isn't scary but it is fun to pretend it is, close your eyes and scream and feel liberated! The settings are so kitsch, make sure to snap photos! The ghost train I'm on about hasn't been startled by technology yet, so no laser beams, optical illusions and other special FX! The creatures are straight out of a bad remake of a 1950s low-budget monster movie and that is ace! Some of the mannequins bear battle scars and broken bits: no worries, that's part of the territory (of age)!

[29-Oct-2016 Update] Joel Zika has developed a habit out of the spooky rides. He is on a rescue mission to the remaining few scattered worldwide (some of which clocking up 100 years of age!). He is immortalising those remaining rides through a virtual reality project, a noble and innovative heritage preservation scheme.

You may add a little edible fright to the shindig! Those head out of Biscuiteers' kichen.

P.S: HALLOWEEN BONUS IN PARIS, FRANCE!

Les Catacombes: if you are into morbid art, then this place is a must! At the end of the 18th century, under a public sanitation order, the Cimetière des Saints-Innocents - which had been in operation for 10 centuries (1000 years!) - was closed down. Its remains (skulls and bones) were transfered to a depository - an ossuary - housed in a former limestone quarry (14th arrondissement). Throughout the 19th century, the remains from other central Parisian cemeteries were deposited at the catacombs too. Ultimately the ossuary holds the remains of 6 to 7 million Parisians! The beyond-the-grave showcase (as we are tempted to describe is as) is an artistic skull-and-bone display within a subterranean gallery, a symbiosis of place and content. You may surprise yourself holding your breath as you amble deeper than 6ft under past death personified in a way that might be too close to the bone for some! The popular place certainly isn't for the faint-hearted or the claustrophobic but you sure will get the Halloween tingle! More fascinating details from the illustrated guide.

Crypte Archéologique du Parvis de Notre-Dame: Admittedly the crypt underneath the square of Cathédrale Notre-Dame is neither scary nor does it house a cabinet of curiosity but awe has the power to tingle your spine all the same for building vestiges are holders of truth and mysticism, and imagination may take you places that summon a shiver. Archaelogical excavations (1965-1972) unveiled a condensate of 2000 years of the History of Paris through building foundation vestiges, including a 4th century bath house, with overlapping layers and untangled parts, like pieces of Lego from different eras that somehow managed to intersect and ultimately slot into one another. More fascinating details from the illustrated guide.

7 Oct 2016

Important Dates!

Spring and Summer yield seasonal produce that truly is hard to resist even if you are moderately interested in fruit and veg. Strawberries will always find a way to your heart, while those greens and tomatoes conjured up together in a salad are so refreshing, they are almost a tabletop necessity when the heat is on and a garden party beckons!

Three's not a crowd!

However Autumn (or Fall as it is commonly known in North America) and Winter may not be met with the same excitement. Yet in those heavy-duty root vegetables, rustic pumpkins, plump cabbages, rosy-cheeked orchard apples, and nuts of every variety and calibre, our bodies find the comfort food, the sustenance and the stodge they need to keep us warm and functional, and not fall into hibernation! And if you are my mum, add persimmons and dates to the list.

I must admit that I never was a fan of the latter two but I never gave up on them, to the extent that they are now a part of my Autumnal fruit bowl too, for added enchantment. This year I have reached a new milestone with those fresh dates, as three different types of them are cohabiting in the fruit bowl right now: Barhi, Medjool and Jujube! Save the date(s), I did it! Those Barhi and Medjools I got yesterday are from Israel. The Jujubes might be from Corsica, I'm not sure.

Sticky, gooey, yummy!

I have to pinch myself sometimes at the sight of these semi-exotic delicacies, yet by the same token remind myself that I live closer to Tunisia - a major date producer and exporter of middle-eastern produce - than to Paris! It is thus only natural that our market stalls and fresh produce aisles shall reflect the geographical proximity, which is a joy!

If you are not too keen on dates, chance is you haven't tried fresh dates. Those are the daddy! They are plump, juicy, sun-kissed, gooey, tasty, nutritious, generous and ready to lend themselves to those killer baklava and other sweet and sticky moist cakes with a middle eastern inclination! Give the shoulder to the thin dates tightly corseted into puny little plastic trays. They are the equivalent of factory-farmed food: unloved, they gave up the ghost way before their time and thus are dry and bland.

Eat as is!

All dates do not come from palm trees. I mentioned the jujubes in a post a while back, in reference to mémé (my grandma), who ate all sorts of unusual fruit while growing up in Corsica: medlars, mulberries, carobs, and the oddly-named  jujubes! The jujubier trees were introduced in Corsica in the 19th century from China, and their fruit (jujube) is also known as Chinese date. This forgotten date is making a come-back locally (in Corsica), no less so than in a mainstream fashion (i.e. down the supermarket aisle, and by the crate-load).

In matters of taste, it's a bizarro bite because not all dates taste of dates! Fresh jujube faintly tastes of apple, with a consistency to match, hence its French nickname of pomme surette (tart apple): an unusual taste for an unusual name! Fresh barhi - my favourite - tastes best when just ripe, in its off-white/ pale yellow robe and slightly giving to the touch as its skin starts to crackle. It tastes divinely of melt-in-the-mouth oven-baked/ caramelised apple, and will lend itself beautifully to the most amazing tarts and pies! The overripe barhi (brown and squidgy) however tastes like fermented apple, almost cider... Medjool doesn't taste of apple: it tastes of a fleshy date - with gusto!

Whichever date it is, enjoy it unadulterated. There are however other ways of 'dating' the date... by dressing it, blitzing it, and/ or baking it! I am well tempted by those three scrumptious recipes:-

Date, Banana & Coconut Smoothie by Tuulia
Mango Tahini Date Cereal Bars by Love Me, Feed Me
Pear, Date and Coconut Cake by Hummingbird High

30 Sep 2016

Pokémon Kids of Aleppo

I have non-PC questions for the mainstream media (MSM). Those people in the news being the people in the know, they should have all the answers. They've certainly had it clear cut to us for over 18 months now that Bashar al-Assad's regime must go.

Moustafa Jano Janographic

I am not disputing any of the atrocities going on - far from it. What's been unclear from the MSM though is how a one-time ally of the West, educated, learned, progressive, secular, westernised and praised by us, and seemingly on the same page as us, suddenly be pilloried... by us? Why must a country seemingly in working order, stable and prosperous to an extent, be pillaged, bombed and brought to its knees? How shall a leader whose wife, Asma al-Assad, once graced the pages of Vogue - the crème of the Establishment appreciation society, let us note - now be despised and ridiculed by said Establishment, and their country torn apart in some bizarre re-enactment of Bush's war on terror? Re-enactment as merely an extension of the on-going war on terror, fledged to any nation that is not compliant with a global agenda of some sort.

Since the MSM won't respond to me, I will have more chance of an answer from Pokémon as he quietly, compassionately sits by the side of those poor little kids caught in the frailty of life brought upon them by the globalists, shedding his digital tear to a reality that couldn't be more acutely real than the pain and suffering those little kids and babies are going through.

Moustafa Jano Janographic

By any twist of fate, is this misery being plagued upon Syria because Bashar is not singing from the same hymn sheet as those other Middle East nations that too were once prosperous, or at least on their way to modern civilisation, before being severely retrograded back to civil war chaos and theocratic regimes, like Iran, Irak, Libya, or Egypt, for the benefit of Big Oil and the global financial elite who would rather have ideologically-bankrupt rebels unleashed (ISIS)  and puppet tyrants run countries to the ground as a diversion, while crude oil carries on being pumped out and pipelined across lands and seas like poisoned blood running through diseased vessels, forwarded onwards to feed the goo to the consumerist paradigm, lining the pockets of the self-appointed rulers of this planet, namely a clique of control-crazed high-ranking financiers. Is that the reason?

Is this not a (faintly-veiled) religious war by the same token, the meticulous genocide of Christians and other minorities from ancient stock, an ethnic cleansing of sorts, that is raising no eyebrows from DC or the Vatican? Is this not part of a bigger picture, a wider roadmap, a blueprint for George Soros's open border societies, with hundreds of thousands of unvetted, undocumented, unrecorded refugees, mostly Islamist, pouring into the West, as a manufactured side effect of the war in Syria, killing two birds with one stone by redesigning both the Middle East and the Occident? History is being rewritten in real time before our very eyes, and the plot eludes us somehow because the rules have been changed. All I know is this is no Pokémon Go adventure!

Via The Daily Express

As if the web of deceit were not mucky enough for us to paddle through, things go bump on us, like the habitual James Bond villains that the financiers love to throw our way, engineering a second Cold War in the process. This time around, we are left wondering who the communists are - and it ain't Mother Russia.

In this day and age where freedom of speech is becoming a rare commodity, it is our duty to use it to bring ourselves to our senses and those around us. Use our freedom of choice to question and find out more, rather than lamely accept the MSM narrative.

World peace, the UN way, by Moustafa Jano Janographic

P.S: Should you be caught up - and stuck - in the illusion, be aware that Barack Obama is planning to surrender the U.S. control of Internet registration, privatising the DNS (Domain Name System) by handing it over to the ICANN (Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers), a California-based non-profit organisation, on 1st October 2016, putting our civil liberties under tighter global scrutiny in the longer term.

P.P.S (Update 01-October-2016): You will find more information about Syria - that the MSM won't tell you about - from 21st Century Wire. The tragic Syrian situation is to be blamed on 'a neoconservative agenda promoted by NATO-funded NGOs', according to 21st Century Wire reporter Vanessa Beeley. I have every reason to believe it.

"These NGOs paint the destruction of the historic city [of Aleppo] as being caused by the Syrian government under Bashar Assad, not the violent armed insurgents which receive arms, funding and training from Western governments and their allies." - Vanessa Beeley

Via Vanessa Beeley, 04-Sept-2016

Find out more about the Syrian crisis from 21st Century Wire, MintPress News, SANA and SyrianGirlpartisan.

22 Sep 2016

Mankind, The Unkind

2016 might be the Year of the Monkey according to the Chinese astrological calendar, there is still a lot of monkey business going on - out of sight, out of mind - that is making life for our smart cousins, the Primates, Hell. The one positive is that the astrological year has brought the monkey plea to the fore of the wildlife conservation agenda. Meanwhile a picture like this one is almost impossible to look at! It summons anger, resentment and powerlessness in me, and you are bound to feel the same:

PETA

This innocent little monkey sat forlornly in a padlocked cage, has likely been snatched out of his wild habitat by unscrupulous wildlife dealers, and this reality signs up the very downfall of Mankind: our flawed propensity for control of the natural environment, stealing it and locking it away, and our self-serving endeavours that put Man in the centre of the equation, using wildlife as a resource to meet our needs: entertainment (zoos, circuses and exotic pet trade), fashion (fur), medical science (testing labs), not to mention sustenance (meat) and sport (trophy hunting, poaching).

The 'Man' part of the noun 'Mankind' has the propensity to be the 'Kind' part that it is attached to. Kind to themselves, others, animals and the world at large. We truly have this kindness in us. We have a good heart at heart. Then a flurry of externals come to play, notwithstanding our lifestyle choices that command implicitly or complicitly the unrelenting attack on the natural environment. Here is the catch though: all is interrelated within the macrocosm and microcosm of life:
"Man has little chance to stop being a torturer for man so long as he will continue to practice on the animal his job as executioner." - Marguerite Yourcenar
P.S: You can do your bit! Help monkeys by hurting a bottom line, that of Air France, which is one of the last major airlines in the world to still transport primates to labs and other dens of death! Sign PETA's petition and boycott Air France until they stop being a shameful part of the deadly trade!

P.P.S:  Be a savvy consumer! PETA has issued a comprehensive database on cruelty-free companies.

16 Sep 2016

Inspire Aspire - Sir David Attenborough

Sir David Attenborough is a living legend. He harks back from the world of nature conservation and stands at the forefront of the collective psyche, in his home country and overseas! He is one of those rare and endearing national treasures whom we wish would be bestowed the gift of immortality by a nature faerie!

Sir David Attenborough is 90 years young! (pict source)

His passion for the natural world is infectious and we can only bow to his skill and savoir-faire in delving right into the depth of his knowledge base to bring out the right dosage of scientific knowledge which he then effortlessly distills out like with a pipette, translated in plain English to a broad and loyal TV audience, in long wondrous sentences that all to themselves have educated at least a couple of generations of kids outside of school. Sir David has made a resounding success out of his fascinating science-laced story-telling set against high-quality visuals and that makes him, in my mind, the best nature documentary broadcaster ever!

"Your lifelong service has created the most extraordinary educational legacy." - UK Prime Minister David Cameron to Sir David Attenborough, BBC One's Attenborough at 90

I have never come across one single piece of criticism towards the gentleman and that proves something. He is respected in his circles and beyond. He is an institution of fascinating science dissemination all to himself and a pillar of society who thrives by introducing us to nature with a childlike twinkle of awe in the eye.

Smart and passionate about nature! (pict source)

A plethora of members of the wild order have been named after him, as a sign of recognition and honour for his invaluable contribution to wildlife. This includes a dragonfly from Madagascar, and also a wingless beetle, a tiny spider, an ancient pygmy locust, a ghost shrimp, plesiosaurs (prehistoric creatures), a pitcher plant, a daisy, and the Sirdavidia genus! And as further homage to his worthwhile contribution to the United Kingdom, he was knighted by Her Majesty the Queen in 1985. The high number of awards and honorary degrees he has 'collected' along the years matches the uniqueness of the man.

What makes Sir David so popular has to do with his unique way in sharing his knowledge, and in his friendly persona, his humility, courtesy, go-getter attitude and strong work ethics, surrounded by a stellar team of audio-visual colleagues from the BBC  and elsewhere who excel in the art of film documentary of a high calibre à la National Geographic - although it could be that National Geographic got inspired by Team David in the first place...

David Attenborough's Conquest of the Skies 3D series, Episode 1: The First to Fly

This is no fly-on-the-wall haphazard camera phone moment. You are talking the Deluxe package of well-researched, well-documented, budgeted high-end productions that take weeks of preparation and filming in often remote areas of the world, in difficult weather conditions. Yet the passion of every member of the crew for the natural world permeates every second of an Attenborough documentary. It is one Heaven of an experience! The end result is a reward to their hard work: superb cinematographic views, captivating story-telling through Sir David's unmissable voice-overs, seamless montage, mastering of light and shade to their best effect, the crisp close-ups captured in their minutiae, the patient time lapses. All fuse together into a finished article of compelling delight to watch and behold!
 
Let us note in passing a few of Sir David's royal credentials. First off, he shares the same birthday year as the Queen (1926), which makes him a cool 90 years young! Like 'Lisbeth', he is not about to retire! Thus don't let his age faze you for Sir David is not your average senior citizen! He's a picture of health and still clocks more miles in a year than the average person half his age would in their lifetime. Globe-trotting the world for wildlife's sake is second nature to him.


Meanwhile Sir David's anti-celebrity status makes him instantly loveable as an ordinary man who just happens to have an extraordinary life and who's old enough to be your grandad. Except this one is still hustling, having fun for a living! His positive attitude and adventurous inclination have inspired anyone with a case of wanderlust to chase the dream rather than stay stuck in the safety of some hapless job. Not everyone will make the journey though because not everyone is cut from the Attenborough cloth. And if David wasn't enough, think about his brothers' contribution to society, actor, film director and producer Richard and motor industry executive John.

Sir David has wide knowledge and wisdom; he cultivates simplicity and honesty like we would garden herbs - daintily. He is no 'look-at-me' show-off. There is no ambiguity as to where he stands: nature is the star of his show, not him. It does help that he has the physical elegance to carry this through and his poised voice is instantly recognisable: he has the clear-cut elocution, the well-balanced pitch and warm tone of a classically-trained actor.

The famed naturalist has had a profound impact on nature lovers like myself. He has turned the combined celebration of biology, ecology, conservation and filmography into an art form with a strong pertinent message. He cultivates a sense of humour but there is no pathos in his speech when, say, a lion kills a wildebeest because he understands nature: life out there revolves around the battle of the fittest.

In good company, with a black noddy. (pict source)

An enjoyable character and an incurable optimist, he casts nonetheless a critical eye on the way man has been treating the planet. He brings to our attention that since he's started working, the Earth population has trebled in size, resulting in exponentional land encroachment and loss of natural habitat. As human demography is exploding, wildlife will suffer even more severe losses.

This is a man who goes beyond the format of traditional wildlife documentaries like only a well-travelled, curious, original adventurer of his calibre would. Education and creativity go hand in hand. He pushes the boundaries of curiosity and nature fascination always. For instance, The Amber Time Machine (2004), part of the Attenborough in Paradise and Other Personal Voyages series, explores the identity of creatures trapped in amber.

His latest documentary to date, Life That Glows takes us on a journey through bioluminescence, light created by living things. He also launched David Attenborough's Great Barrier Reef, an interactive journey.

Two giants! Sir David Attenborough 'rubbing shoulders' with an elephant seal bull. (pict source)

In cleverly bringing together pertinent scientific knowledge, the latest technological prowess, captivating story-telling combined with those spicy anecdotes of the natural world, not to mention an upbeat and warm personality, Sir David has made a success out of nature reporting and created by the same token a captive audience that spans wide and far. From the Royal echelons down to the inner cities, the nature presenter is a social leveller, handing out to us a tasty serving of nature at its best for us to enjoy, understand, learn from, love and respect. Long live Sir David! May your rare talent keep inspiring generations of nature lovers and may the wonder for the wild order, alongside wildlife itself, never go extinct!

13 Sep 2016

A Creative Illustrated Approach to the Bible

One way to deal with our troubled times, our modern day predicament whatever this might be, is to hark back to the past in order to seek solace, answers or simply to solidify the grounding of our core beliefs - faith for instance - that sit within the cultural territory of our heritage. And the revisited, nurtured grounding might just give us that extra footing so we can face the present more comfortably, with more assurance. Look at it like a watered, tendered, tilled garden. Or a book whose written content is interlaced with pertinent illustrations.

The Biggest Story by Kevin DeYoung, illustrated by Don Clark, via Invisible Creature

The purpose of this article is not for me to go all religious on you or for you to feel put off by the seemingly heavy topic of religion. The approach to and treatment of topics like religion (or philosophy for that matter) shouldn't need to be heavy either. I believe that the key to get children and adults interested in a book like the Bible, the way to make it appealing to them is visually: colourful, purposeful, unleashed creativity! I believe in the healing power of graphic design and how its magic and soothing, positive aura help tackle the (potentially) life-changing publications like the Bible, and outreach to a new audience or get them rediscovered. If I were to head the Ministry of Education, graphic designers, illustrators and other creatives would hold a pivotal role!

As a collection of sacred texts in Judaism and Christianity, compiled under the Old Testament and the New Testament, the Bible guides Jews and Christians in their spiritual journey. Christian believers should be somewhat connected to, acquainted to or familiar with the Bible, depending upon the depth of our relationship with faith and how much of a practicing believer we are. 

ibid.

The Bible, whose complimentary copy deposited by The Gideons in hotel rooms might be the closest some of us will ever get to in physical terms, and the closest opportunity to the path to spiritual enlightenment, yet a book which we might sadly only open if deprived of lighter reading matter, mobile devices or other forms of hotel 'entertainment'. Now if the Bible, or an introduction to it - which might suffice - were a pictorial feast like The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings Us Back to the Garden, written by Kevin DeYoung and illustrated by Don Clark, in a carefully-summed up, loving way that resonates with faith neophytes, chance is we would take more than a last-chance-saloon interest in the Bible!

Illustrations have the power to reconnect us with serious topics, and reawaken us, rekindle the flame within. For some, it might just be enough. Others might delve deeper, reach out for a de-facto copy of the Bible and start reading the Scriptures and maybe befriend the local church. As an aside, just think what a little illustrative licence would do to Tolstoy's War & Peace?

ibid.

Cultural heritage is certainly what children need so they get their sense of identity and belonging and grasp some form of understanding about the greater things in Life, the greater scheme of things that span the seen and the unseen, without adults tampering with it, getting all metaphysical and complicating it like only we know how.

By the way, I didn't grow up within an overzealous Christian family but my mum made sure we would attend church at least once a month. I was christened as a baby and when I was about 9 years old followed catechism, a weekly hour-long religious education syllabus provided by the local priest or his aide as a way to prepare us kids for catholic communion.

ibid.

To be honest, I can't remember a thing from my religious classes. Most of all though, what left a lasting impression on me and provided me with the tools that in turn helped develop my curiosity in God and the Universe, my spirituality, my critique, my imagination also, and the on-going willingness to find out more were those illustrated books that I had got from my parents and other relatives throughout my childhood. They were almost as visually-pleasing as The Biggest Story and they sure left an impact.

Richly-illustrated, graphics-driven, full-page decorative, symbology-strong children's books like The Biggest Story are bound to appeal to the young and the less so. They are the most enticing introduction to the Bible, a book that needs no introduction and yet that is daunting for a non-practicing Christian to open, or for a curious non-believer or the member of a different faith. Learning and personal development should be fun and visual appeal will facilitate it.

Limited edition 6" x 8" 'Ascension' print, ibid.


The Biggest Story: How the Snake Crusher Brings us Back to the Garden, by Kevin DeYoung and illustrated by Don Clark, was published by Crossway, Wheaton, Illinois in 2015, 132 pages. Kevin is the senior pastor at University Reformed Church (PCA) in East Lansing, Michigan. He serves as a council member at the Gospel Coalition, as Chancellor’s Professor of Systematic and Historical Theology at Reformed Theological Seminary and is a PhD candidate at the University of Leicester. Don is an artist and the cofounder of Invisible Creature, a widely respected and award-winning design studio based in Seattle, WA. The book is available to purchase from Invisible Creature and Amazon. Don't miss out on the free 25-page PDF preview!

ibid.

"The Biggest Story is a delight to the eyes, ears and hearts of its readers. With rich illustrations and even richer text, the biggest and best story is presented in all of its vivid colors - every dark shade and every bright tone. Parent and child alike will feel the ache of the fallenness of human nature and the comfort of an always-faithful God. From our family to yours, we wholeheartedly commend this book!" - Matt and Lauren Chandler 

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