17 Feb 2017

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society (Part 2)

In Part 1 of this essay, we established that theoretically speaking whoever strives to defy time would be able to make a claim for immortality. Thus whoever claims to be immortal has transcended the timely restrictions imposed upon their life as a human. The notion of immortality takes us back to the catchy aliteration of the timeless timeline of Time. Timelessness evokes magnitude, amplitude, uninterrupted vastness in space and time. It expresses continuity, cohesion and stability.

The Ouroboros symbolises eternity. (Pict source)

Transience, on the other hand, sits precariously on the opposite end of the spectrum. Transience implies a notion of time that is fleeting, brief, truncated, interrupted, non-lasting, whimsical and ultimately unreliable and inefficient. This is about discontinuity. There is a sense of disturbance to it like an underwater current. Beware the underlying chaos!
Now referring to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, the noun transience is defined as 'the quality or state of being transient.' Synonyms: Ephemerality, evanescence, impermanence, momentariness. Antonyms: Endurance, permanence.

The adjective transient is defined as 'passing especially quickly into and out of existence: transitory. [...] Passing through or by a place with only a brief stay or sojourn.'

Bearing in mind the immediate adversity imposed upon us by entropy and mortality, the human prerogative aims to make the most effective use of time within a competitive production model. For should it not to be the case, the process would ultimately lead to doom.

Detail of the Vault, Mausoleum of Galla Placidia, Ravenna, Italy

However it appears that our production model has redefined efficiency under a new paradigm. Efficiency used to involve durability under a long-lasting good or service. This as a mission statement had a vision to it, to serve not only the present but the future too. Transience does not and cannot sustain durability. It does not build upon an impetus, it interrupts it. A society whose production model is built upon transience is akin to a transient (casual) friendship that you cultivate with somebody: it does not grow roots or leaves, it does not evolve and deepen because there is no commitment to it, no fire, no bond, no guarantee. It is a stunted affair that remains so until the transient element is corrected.

The faceless banking corporations and multinationals that govern us have cleverly refashioned efficiency since the industrial heyday - and have accelerated its process with the coming of age of mass-consumerism. We mostly have one person to thank for this, Public Relations spin doctor and business insider Edward Bernays - Simon Freud's nephew - and a top influencer in the world of advertising and consumer psychology. He used consumer profiling to serve private interests, using strong-arm tactics to influence purchasing decision. He is indeed the father of customer trickery.

Another representation of eternity. (Pict source)

Bernays was also a trendsetter who wrapped both corporations and consumers tightly around his little finger. He for instance encouraged women to take up smoking by glamourising the cigarette in post-WWI New York City by way of savvy advertising campaigns that centered around personal gratification and desire, concepts that still ring true to this day in advertising. He also engineered water fluoridation PR campaigns to get public trust. Apart from getting us into bad habits, Bernays also wrote a few influential books, including Propaganda, a PR treatise whose most fervent reader was Joseph Goebbels, that's right, Hitler's henchman and future Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda under Germany's Third Reich.

When efficiency used to be defined by the clever use of time in order to accomplish a task and deliver a good or service via a process that would bring a lasting effect in terms of quality (to stand the test of time according to our human proclivities), this is no longer applicable. In the third and final part of this essay, we will see how vested interests have corrupted the production model under a socio-political ideology in order to reframe and rephrase efficiency, with transience at the core. I will describe the areas which I have identified as being of a transient nature, under the remodelled paradigm of efficiency. (to be continued)

14 Feb 2017

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society (Part 1)

In order to discuss transience, we need to start off with the unadulterated notion of Time. If we were to represent its timeline, it would be intrinsically timeless, infinite: imagine a continuous ribbon, i.e. with no beginning and no end. This itself is not easy to figure out as a human being. Our lives are brief (compared to the estimated age of planet Earth), and our biological clock takes us to sleep one third of every day, and in the remaining two thirds we cram activities that are structured around our lifestages and other rites of passage (the different echelons of education, household, work, leisure, travel, socialising, etc). To say that we humans are time-constrained by our frame of reference in relation to time itself is almost an understatement!


Mehinako Bench - Monkey by the Mehinako Tribe, via Xapiri

Meanwhile the same notion of infinity that applies to time also applies to space and the solar system, with no beginning and no end either. The notion of infinite is baffling for us mere mortals, it is a dimension all to itself that we cannot apply in our lives because we are by essence finite (at least in our body form).

Now as a human, when you hold a vision for yourself and the world, you need to take into account two fundamentally nonmutable parameters that make you stand right against the test of time: (a) the natural entropy (decay, degenerescence, obsolescence) of inanimate objects and the all-encompassing natural environment, and (b) the mortality of living beings, which occurs as the end point of entropy, the latter manifesting itself through ageing process, health problems, accidents, war and conflicts, etc.

Transient occurrence? Scilla autumnalis, Korsika, 1922, via ETH Zürich, photo by Eduard Rübel

If there is one certainty to expect - and accept - from life it is that, no matter what, we will one day cease to exist (at least in this dimension, under the current set-up). Death is not a probability, it is a certainty, a fact of life, a circumstantial expectancy. Even the wealthiest, healthiest, happiest, kindest person on earth will one day die. Pharaohs understood it, which is why they were very keen on prolonging human life into the afterlife, in order to bridge the finality expressed by death and bring on the idea of immortality to the defunct. More broadly, religion is here to help us accept the end of life and open to the probability of redemption and reincarnation. Because the notion of death as the all-consuming be-all and end-all, anticlimactic grand finale, is perceived by most of us as the ultimate human tragedy, we must therefore believe in the possibility of a follow-up, a continuity of sorts.

Transcending mortality in spirit in order to live on in death is one thing, but you can transcend mortality in more prosaic ways, through transmission; passing on a legacy, heritage to be inherited by your next of kin, local community or to civilisation as a whole (values, skillsets, discoveries, physical assets, material goods, hard cash). Leaving a trace on earth as you pass on is not only an act of philantropy, it is almost certainly a survival skill, a tangible proof of life ('Hey, I was here, look what I accomplished!'), however discrete. It might sound egotistical, yet essentially this is what we all do, whether consciously or not. Depending upon the individual and the circumstances, leaving something behind (as legacy, heritage) may not necessarily be positive and beneficial. Rather it may be morally and/ or physically nefarious: calomny, debt, detritus, a trail of death and destruction... Think about what Nero or Hitler left behind.

Wayana Bead Loin Cloth by the Wayana-Aparai Tribe, via Xapiri


Man standing the test of time in order to defy it has held true from the opening chapter to the History of Civilisation. From those early days on, the visionaries and luminaries of society in their widest scope have made it their goal to channel philosophical ideas, produce material goods and execute architectural constructions that would as beacons of grace and progress collectively advance the human condition and bring progress to society - and have a lasting effect. Think the greats of this world (The Founding Fathers of America's Constitution, Napoleon's Civil Law Code, Nikola Tesla, Gustave Eiffel, Marie Curie, Louis Pasteur, etc.). They materialised a vision for the better good for the now and most importantly for generations to come: legislation, a code of conduct, scientific discoveries. It was part of the organic, natural altruistic evolution of man: to labour for the betterment of oneself and others. Of course this carries on into the present but in Part 2 we shall find out how transience was introduced into our business, production and political model in order to thwart progress, and at the same time unhinge the present into a permanent fixture.

Ideas transcend time. The notion of immortality - or rather the defiance of time within its human constraints - is realised through art, sciences (inventions), applied to objects and constructions that bring a mechanical and/ or aesthetic (beautification) momentum and purpose into our lives and those of generations to come, erecting towers that take us closer to the Heavens and Wisdom. The Seven Wonders of the Ancient World are one example of the socio-cultural legacy that has perdured to this day, if only as accounts (feeding the stuff of myths and legends) or as scattered archeological fragments for most of them - bar for the otherworldly Great Pyramid of Giza, still standing in its time-defying, enigmatical grace. (to be continued)

Of space and time! Buchenwindform, Vizzavonapass, Korsika 1922, via ETH Zürich, photo by Eduard Rübel

11 Feb 2017

The Gumball Theory

In light of political events currently unfolding in the West, there is no more à propos video than the one I am sharing here right now, and which I describe as The Gumball Theory. Let's stay smart here: I invite you to watch it with an open mind and from start to finish (it only takes 6 minutes!) before casting judgement. From the outset, if viewing numbers are to go by, the video's 4 million views since its release in September 2010, proves this is a hot topic!

Baker Wardlaw's Vending Machine, via Designboom

Please do pay attention to the rationale and follow the logical process put forward by NumbersUSA founder, author and lecturer Roy Beck, through his ingenious and creative illustration of why full-scale, deregulated, open-door immigration (regardless of faith and ideology), promulgated on the basis of humanitarianism does not serve the humanitarian purpose. Put simply, it does not work for either the welcoming state or the state of origin. In fact none of the socio-economic problems (poverty, unemployment) at either end are solved, and no benefits are gained, contrary to what is being purported by the progressist (i.e. liberal) agenda.

This is no fantasist partisan presentation. Mr Beck's research is professional and factual, based upon data from U.S. Department of Homeland Security, U.S. Census Bureau, Population Reference Bureau and The World Bank. The presentation is not anti-immigration. It does however demonstrate that only sustainable levels of immigration - that is legal, controlled and managed - are to benefit both the new country of residence and the country of origin.



As a light-hearted note, you will never look at (or chew!) gumballs the same way after this!

P.S: NumbersUSA is an Education & Research Foundation, founded by Roy Beck and an advocate of lower immigration levels. It works in partnership with Moderates, Conservatives and Liberals. NumbersUSA describes itself as "a non-profit, non-partisan organization that favors an environmentally sustainable and economically just America and seeks to educate the public about the effects of high levels of immigration on U.S. overpopulation, the environment, jobs, and wages. We use government data to conduct research on the impacts of U.S. population growth, consumption, sprawl, and current levels of immigration and educate the public, opinion leaders and policy makers on the results of those and other studies."

P.P.S: Read the full PDF version (362 pages) of Roy Beck's acclaimed book, The Case Against Immigration, The moral, economic, social and environmental reasons for reducing U.S. immigration back to traditional levels, W. W. Norton & Company, Inc., New York, 1996.

5 Feb 2017

Action Station

If I somehow managed to convince you to fall in love with handwriting all over again, well done! Handwritten notes and letters needn't be fancy or pricey, as long as your heart is in the right place. Start off with whatever pad or notecards you have handy (this might involve a little treasure hunt down the depths of your drawers and boxes). However should you seek a little style in the form of office covet, read on.

Although you might find your happiness down the Staples aisle - and there is nothing wrong with that - more often than not the interesting stationery pieces happen to be located off the mainstream retail track. Here are some right little gems to get you started and lend a spring to your creative step. If vintage is your thing, you're in for a treat: we've got it covered as far back as the late 17th century!

Write like you mean it!   

Drawing Set, Paris, circa 1690, auctioned off by Invaluable

Don't be square!   

'Clarence' die-cut fold-out greeting card from a print by Sarah Young, 

via The Blank Card Company

  Lighten up your nota bene! 

'In a Write Spot' notepad by award-winning BerinMade for Chronicle Books, via Modcloth

Ink big! 

'Vert Empire' Fountain Pen Ink in Napoléon Glass Bottle by the oldest name in pen inks in the world, J. Herbin

Stay sharp! 

Caran d'Ache Pencil Sharpener by the reputed Swiss maison Caran d'Ache, via Calepino

Take your pick!   

  Eraser Pick & Mix by classic/ vintage office supplier, Present & Correct

Stick with it!   

  Paper Glue (with a marzapan aroma!), via Labour and Wait

Say it with flowers! 

  'Shanghai Garden' Thank You greeting card by Rifle Paper Co.

It's the thought that counts! 

  'Bouquet' Thank You greeting card by Rifle Paper Co.

Always a cut above! 

Beak Bird Scissors by Danish studio HAY for MoMA Store

Water cooler antidote! 

Yarrow Tea Stems by Le Bénéfique, via La Petite Papèterie Française

26 Jan 2017

Write to Your Heart's Content

Who still puts pen to paper nowadays? To those of you nodding a 'Not me', glancing away, or rolling those eyes like I'm out of touch, let it be known: the technological panacea may not apply to our personal communications after all. Time to dust off your stationery pads and replace those dried-out pens. I'm going to show you why this should be done.

Best Wishes from my hometown, via Delcampe

Our handwritten prowesses and the availability of stationery of all styles and denominations (fancy, formal, sober, classical, feminine - you name it), have been seriously put to the test by technological advances that have made it easier and quicker to communicate in our personal affairs the messages, announcements, invitations, RSVPs, thank you notes, letters and the likes. You can even send electronic postcards. Choose a template, tweak it or customise it if you wish to express some form of individuality and creativity, type up a few words and click 'send'.

Here's the catch. Notice how I put 'some form' in italic in the paragraph above. You have no reason to feel smug because no matter the fanciness and advanced level of the graphics, typeface - and/ or interface - the communication will remain purely electronic and robotic. Carrying sentiments in a personnal communication of the sort is doomed to be diluted, lost in the proverbial translation.

Souvenir from my hometown (ibid.)

As much as you try to make it personal and personable, the very essence of the personal touch is missing because the personal finds its perfection in the time, effort and dedication that were put into the making of the letter. This might involve the quirks of the handwritten prose (or poetry for that matter) that makes it uniquely you, the movement of the sentence being carried out by the way you form your characters, and the pauses that make the sentences come alive, breathe. The handwritten carries a letter. The electronic does not. The handwritten makes a letter individual and unique. It is an act of creativity all to itself. The handwritten letter is a one-to-one communication that reflects the commitment of the writer to the recipient. However no matter how much you tweak and customise an electronic file, you will not be able to recreate that individuality, that uniqueness.

Now think about paper, card, envelope, stamp, stick-on embellishments. A letter is physical: it is not just about word content, it involves the type of material it is written on and this too summons feelings: the choice and quality of the paper, its finish, its size and colour, the way it was folded, how the pen glided upon it - or maybe scratched it. How the ink got absorbed into the paper, the blots, the smears, the marks, the fades, the imperfections... Now look at the paper, touch and feel it. What's its condition? Is it soft, delicate, flimsy, thin, thick, embossed, filigreed, crinkled, aged? Does it feel ordinary? Expensive? What is the handwriting like? Neat, perky, flourished, eccentric, messy, illegible, tired? How about the spelling? There is no doubt that a letter carries a lot of meaning. It has more to say than words themselves. It is clear that a letter comes alive when it is handwritten.


ibid.

I remember vividly to this day how during my very first job in a small translation office in England, I used to sneakily type up a letter to my grandma on my fancy Mac computer whenever I had some 'free time' at work. I would then mail the letter to her that very same evening. However what I was doing by means of efficiency, expediency and practicality while genuinely aiming for a letter to my grandma, she would sadly feel that efficiency, expediency and practicality of mine when she opened my letter, and that kind of killed the spirit and purpose of my letters to her. My good intentions were a mixed bag, maybe because as a keen and yet traditional letter-writer, she held the belief that unless handwritten, a letter shall never claim to be that personal and committed.

I agree that a personal letter takes time to write and you have to be in the mood to do it. Yet if you consider it a time-consuming piece of work (a chore even), and look at ways to devise it with efficiency, expediency and practicality in mind, maybe you should reconsider sending that letter at all - or opt for a less ambitious communication: a postcard.

ibid.

No matter what, I believe in rekindling the habit of letter/ card writing. I started the year by sending out a few pretty cards to some family members who I had lost touch with, and to Marie, a 98-year-old lady friend of my grandma's who I have been visiting lately, wishing them a Happy New Year, enquiring about them and updating them on some personal news. That is a way to show you genuinely care and it will give them - and you - a boost!

17 Jan 2017

Five Mantras to Live Your Life By

Life is a bed of roses: beautiful and spiky, delightful and prickly. It throws fireballs at us and teaches us lessons along the way. Up to us to receive the teaching as a learning, or else, repeat mistakes and errors of judgement and go down the wrong path, sabotaging chances. However eventually most of us will mature and develop wisdom through the proverbial school of life (a.k.a. life experience) or school of hard knocks - when life rocks the boat senseless and tests you hard.


Wisdom makes life and lifestages easier to handle and puts things into perspective thanks to the tools we develop (thought process, repartee, extrapolation, problem solving etc.), and the methods we learn - by hook or by crook - on how to deal with new situations, setbacks and adversity under all their manifestations: stress, fear, loss, grief, pain, conflict, etc.

Along the years, I've got into a habit of collating quotes and other pearls of wisdom which resonate with me most, into a Word document. Whenever I feel a little low and in search of a boost or a little guidance - or just for the pleasure of words themselves - I open the file and reach out for them.

My Pinterest board, Unrequited ♥ Love, is an extension of that file, as a collection of quotes and metaphors from prominent artists, authors, thinkers, politicians, as well as from personalities away from the public eye. You may want to refer to my board for further inspo.

Right now, check out my five steadies for a little positive reinforcement


7 Jan 2017

Reasons to Heart January

There are indeed reasons to be cheerful in January! It shouldn't be dreaded or perceived as the anti-climactic month of the year - especially as it starts on a high note! Ringing in the New Year and its joyful countdown shouldn't turn into a hapless comedown. If you need a little convincing, then this post is for you.

Sitting on top of the world! Europe from space, photography by ESA astronaut Tim Peake, via Twitter

I heart January for many simple reasons. Here's ten of them, at the top of my head:
 
  • The year (habitually) starts on a high note as a festive celebration. Keep it up! Don't get yourself sucked into the bad vibes of the fatalist and the disenchanted.
  • Treat the new year as a blank canvas for your projects, ideas. A new start of sorts. Visualise that joy you felt at midnight and turn it into an impetus to get started on a project. It could be anything from rewriting your resume, to turning your balcony into an herb garden, to researching an author or a discipline.
  • In the northern hemisphere, days have been getting longer since the end of December, bonus! This makes Winter less drab! If you live in the southern hemisphere, fret not! The Summer there has only just started so there are still many days of good sunny weather to look forward to!
  •  Be kind to yourself and don't go overboard with resolutions: keep them few, simple and achievable.
  • If you need a little retail encouragement, you have Valentine's Day, Easter, Mother's Day and other landmark celebrations to look forward to, if only in terms of their window-dressing quality and the cutesy presents. Spending cash is optional when you do window-shopping!
  • Reconnect with family or friends who you are not in regular contact with. In France we have les Voeux (New Year wishes) tradition, whereby we send cards or give phonecalls to people within our circles especially to wish them a Happy New Year and catch up on the news at the same time.
  • Have a couple of appointments to look forward to in January, like a visit to the hairdresser (with a new hairstyle or hair colour to boot), or starting a new class or hobby.
  • Go out there and enjoy nature and witness it getting ready for Spring: buds and birds! Even if you live in town, you will still be able to catch glimpses of it in your daily endeavours or by nipping down to your local park.
  • Slip into a new healthy lifestyle regimen to shed those extra pounds and feel more energetic. And if you are in the cleansing mode, you may even consider a pre-Spring clean round the home or catch up with any overdue paperwork. Addressing procrastination may not sound like fun but the quicker you get round to it, the more time you will have to enjoy the rest of the year!
  • Yet most of all, you should just enjoy life because life goes at the speed of light and before you know it, youth will have morphed into middle age and middle age will have morphed into retirement age... You should simply be grateful for what you have and put things into perspective. Life could be better but life could also be worse. Life is a gift and the start of a New Year is an extra validation of life. It is so good to be alive and this is the number one reason for being cheerful, my friend!

Galapagos Islands, photography by ESA astronaut Thomas Pesquet, via Flickr

28 Dec 2016

God is in Your Corner

My last post of 2016 ties in with my customary yearly pep talk. We are slightly ahead of schedule here but it is a fitting moment as 2016 closes on yet another star shooting off the earth for the firmament of the afterlife: talented singer and songwriter Mr. George Michael.

George Michael, a star with human foibles. (Pict source)

The man who gave us a Christmas anthem that has been played on an endless loop (at least in Britain) in stores and pubs in the run-up to Christmas since its release over 30 years ago, died on Christmas day - alone. On the very day he had immortalised in a song that had office Christmas parties karaoke together, family members embrace one another and friends drunkenly hug in a festive embrace. The man whose song had brought people together, had faced the music of his own for many years now. The troubles in his personal life had made it clear that an unsatisfied yearning was burning him alive.

George died, alone. An ultimate and seemingly untimely irony played out in the seclusion of his postcard-perfect English cottage tucked away in rural Oxfordshire, a stone's throw away from the local church whose Christmas mass he religiously used to attend yearly - except for this year.

Home sweet home in Goring-On-Thames (Pict source)

Artists live out in the public eye - or within its periphery - the existential fears that keep some of us awake at night. Such fears exemplify why and how the quest for happiness shall not be found in fame and fortune for the latter exacerbate the loneliness that lies deep within us.

Artists and creators of George's calibre realise pretty early on in life that there is more to life than what is and that somehow we are living a lie, and artists cater for that lie. Artists burn because they put their heart and soul on the line, and this whether they ultimately become stars in their own right or not. Maybe there is no such thing as 'making it' when you are an artist, aside from achieving riches and fame, as you live head on with your innermost fears and unanswered questions. Maybe the key to contentment as an artist is about coming to terms with a blessing - or an illusion, depending how you look at it - realised for both the public and the artist.

The public, the fans, are there to witness the light live on or the sparkle fade because as much as we are fascinated with stars in the limelight, we are as fascinated - if not more so - when they face their human foibles (under all their guises and manifestations) head on in the limelight, and deal with them or fade away with them.

(Pict source)


Maybe the clue to George's personal demise may be found within the lyrics of his Christmas song because entertainment has ways to code in messages to those who care to hold God and highest wisdom in their hearts:

"Last Christmas, I gave you my heart
But the very next day, you gave it away
This year, to save me from tears
I'll give it to someone special"

Above all, being a talented artist like George is to have been bestowed Godlike qualities. And when God is in your corner, you are not alone. You are on your way to the next level. Look up the sky: if you are attentive, you may see George on his next journey.
 

P.S: I borrowed this post title from rapper DMX's words of wisdom to troubled artist Kanye West four weeks ago:

"I want to give a special shout out to Kanye. Let him know that my prayers are with him. My family’s prayers are with him. Remind him that when God is for you, who can be against you? No one or nothing. Stand strong, brother. God is in your corner."

Frank Sinatra's open letter to 'the reluctant pop star'

10 Dec 2016

Sweet Dreams are Made of This

Traditionally the lead-up to Christmas is sugar-coated bliss. Codename indulgence. It sees confectioners, chocolatiers, pâtissiers and glaciers (*) whip up a frenzy to a feast for the eyes and the palate. In order to experience the finished article, gently shoo the words away from this page for the photos to do the talking, as an inspirational appetizer. If you are dreaming of a white Christmas, you have it here in layers and textures... Layers of whipped cream and peaks of meringue and lashings of royal icing, for the layers of wool and other fabrics are unnecessary: they may safely remain cosied up in drawers!

Calissons d'Aix by La Maison Jouvaud
Amandines by La Maison Jouvaud

The pastry industry at large is empowered at Christmas: excellence is its byword. From muted sweet nothings to the more elaborate gâteaux, excellence seeks and excellence finds! Dusting off classic recipes, resurrecting old favourites, piping a soupçon of innovation into tradition, or throwing caution to the wind in order to surpass itself within the Christmas logs department.

Dacquoise is a great starting point!
Angelina Paris is sooo jolie! (pict source from top left: 1 * 2 * 3). Montage by LBM, assisted by PicMonkey.

French Christmas logs are likely to be nipped and tucked these days, turning their ephemeral works of art into edible covet pieces of couture. Traditionally every pâtissier worth their salt (and sugar) produces a Christmas log masterpiece every Christmastime. The idea is for the log to stand out and get attention. And if it does, it will end up gracing the pages of fashion glossies and reaping accolades. Art meets the palate, fashion gets eaten up... Call it as you please. We end up with a couture collection of innovative, eccentric and even totally crazed-up edible outfits for a log! Talk about edible design unleashed... The sample below is on the conservative side, but Elle has 33 more for you to gawk at!

L'Instant Féérique by Thiriet, via Elle

(*) glaciers = ice cream makers

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.

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