1 May 2015

The Human Paradox

The 70th anniversary of the liberation of the Dachau concentration camp a couple of days ago, 29th April, has brought back to the fore a thought that is never afar the fore for me: the duality paradox that inhabits Man, a Yin & Yang of frightening capabilities.

Life & Death, Love & Hate, Wealth & Scarcity, Creation & Destruction, Success & Failure, Order & Chaos, Heaven & Hell. The human capability for improving social welfare, saving lives from disease, nourrishing souls, inspiring minds, elevating spirits, and soothing hearts -- overshadowed by the human capability for their exact opposite, turning the earth into a purgatory. Man is Man's own best (worst?) friend and worst (best?) enemy. It wouldn't be far-fetched to report that: -

The greatest danger and fear on earth to Man is Man.

"Arbeit Macht Frei" (Labour Brings Freedom) at the gates of Dachau (also Auschwitz).

26 Apr 2015

Getting Used to Less on Agenda 21 - Call to Action

I do realise that it would take a heavy word count to truly get into the nitty-gritty of U.N. Agenda 21. My aim has been to raise awareness via my blog, and to provide the facts within a three-part presentation (1) Preamble, (2) Setting the Scene, and (3) Counter-Growth, that would cover most of the basics. As with every bit of research that I conduct, I have dedicated a fair amount of time to this particular subject, yet no doubt will I have the opportunity to debate it further in future articles, as my knowledge base expands.

Solar Impulse, prior to take-off from Chongqing, China, 21-Apr-2015
Now the last thing I want is to sound like some Doom Master. On the other hand, I could NOT not share my views and findings and those of other individuals in the know, because sustainable development as purported by Agenda 21 is no planet-friendly ecology manifesto.

My definition of U.N. Agenda 21 Sustainable Development: It is about the global acquisition of land and resources, and the redistribution of wealth, alongside the re-alignment of westernised societies to a post-industrial counter-rural model, with accrued monitoring and surveillance of our customer habits and lifestyles.

If you believed that films like Minority Report or books like George Orwell's 1984 were crazy fiction, I would expressly request that you rethink.

Occupy Wall Street (pict source)

In this last part to Getting Used to Less on Agenda 21, I propose a CTA (Call To Action) in a few pointers that will keep you alert and smart as a consumer and citizen. Prepare for take-off:
  • Share my article, and do find out more about Agenda 21 for yourself and at your leisure.
  • Watch alternative news to the mainstream elite-owned news channels.
  • Cultivate or take a keener interest in the world. Have opinions, be involved, sign petitions, join peaceful protests to defend our civil rights and liberties, volunteer to help (save your local church, clean up your local beach, walk the dogs from the local shelter, become a hospital visitor). Protect the causes that are close to your heart. Make it loud and clear that you oppose GMOs and other poisons that are being manufactured to create disease and decay.
  • See life as on-going education. Expand your knowledge. Read, learn, write a blog, be curious about the world, your history and heritage. Stay smart, do mental exercises (brain gym to keep your brain alert!). There are plenty of free educational tools online as a starter-point, as a teaser to awaken your curiosity. If used smartly, Wikipedia or Pinterest will introduce you to topics as varied as antiquities, travel, inventions, history, astronomy, physics, theatre, etc. Check my mood boards for ideas.
  • All in all, cultivate your critique and do not take things at face value or what the media or politicians tell you as truth. Attune to reinterpret what they actually mean. Wonder, ponder, question, doubt, find out for yourself. Be or remain a free spirit. Stay inspired and fired up for life.
  • Keep social media on a leash. Do not get sucked into it. You have a life to live out there in the real world and life goes by fast enough as it is!
  • Reduce your intake of junk food. Aim for organic produce whenever possible. Cook your own meals. Become a vegetarian. Steer clear of those zero calorie (i.e. aspartame) drinks. Boycott unethical brands. Ditch ibuprofen painkillers and ditch fluoride toothpaste!
Do not lose sight of the fact that world governance does NOT like NOR does it want a smart, educated, intelligent, dynamic, involved and spirited citizen and consumer. They want them dumbed-down and therefore easily-manipulatable.

Thanks for taking part in the journey. Meanwhile on a personal note, I would like to thank Roby, my better half, for being an inspiration powerhouse and a keen supporter of my work.

Surfing for Change

23 Apr 2015

Getting Used to Less on Agenda 21 - Counter-Growth

U.N. Agenda 21 sets the tone as a land planning and resource management set of directives spearheaded for the New World Order for this century and ratified by a quasi-global allegiance of no less than 178 governments. Agenda 21 is no pie in the sky or some hazy conspiracy theory because it is being implemented as we speak.

Moynaq, ship graveyard on the Aral Sea (pict source)

We saw in our earlier articles how (a) unsustainability has been fostered, and how (b) sustainability has now been engineered in such a way that the world populations - without exception - are being channelled into migratory fluxes as a result of economic recession, changing pools of employment, land redistribution, and/or war and unrest. The populations are being organised into controlled settlements, and their lifestyles regimented. The process may creep in faster in certain areas than others where it may only appear incremental and insidious.

Land grabbers: In the USA, federal land ownership and compulsory land purchase has increased at the expense of the small farmsteads, family land owners or indigenous (Indian) tribes, as witnessed too in Canada, Argentina and Brazil. What we see is federal land being then leased off to big Corporate for fracking, mining, and for other unsavoury uses.

Always idyllic on paper! The proposed Trafford Waters mixed-use development (pict source)

Mixed-use development: As a result of Agenda 21 and as early as the 1990s, mixed-use (housing and retail) developments under public-private partnerships have become the norm, and in a rather compact ('high density') form. For my part I shall look no further than Britain as Agenda 21 in action. Housing estates (subdivisions) and blocks of flats have mushroomed in the inner cities, in the sprawling suburbs with the shrinking green belt, and alongside the main road corridors. Home ownership is made to appear irresistibly affordable ('Move in for only £99.00 a month!'), hooks you up into debt. You get nothing more than ultra-compact - understand poxy, space-restricted, basic and flimsy - dwellings and the multi-layered problems that high-density living comes with: car parking, privacy, noise, lack of space, neighbourhood nuisance, non-descript architecture, shoddy workmanship, etc.

Made-up neighbourhoods: Besides the veneer of brand new floor space, is the not-so-hidden agenda of ridding of past heritage including historical landmarks, and creating communitarianism from the ground up, in a standard and pretty styleless built environment whose architecture is mass-marketed worldwide. You end up not knowing anymore whether you are standing in Atlanta or Barcelona or Cannes or Brisbane. Communitarianism throws together often-transient individual comeuppances into those cramped family-unfriendly settlement situations that planners and architects fondly refer to as 'communities'. "Regionalisation is the stepping-stone to globalisation and globalisation is standardisation of all systems." explains Rosa Koire.

Get rich or die tryin? The Neon Boneyard (pict source)

In my 11 years of living within such a so-called community, I had the chance to repeatedly witness how the passing of time and the lack of TLC are unkind to those residential estates, especially as original owners move on, or the properties are being rented out, or couples split up, or troublemakers from the local council estate move into the private estate and impose their lawlessness.

Human habitation, as it is clinically described as by Agenda 21, is urban-focused. Within each country, swathes of land described as wilderness will eventually be declared off-limit to humans by the world governance, as it will emerge. The plan has defined specific settlement areas, roughly corridor-shaped, for human habitation. In the meantime any agrarian land lost to road and building infrastructures, is being compensated by higher crop productivity. Surely Frankenfood professors Monsanto, Bayer and Syngenta are to facilitate this, aren't they?

Palm oil plantation vs. original Borneo forest (pict source)

Dependence upon convenience: As per the laws of nature, macrocosm transposes to microcosm. As much as nations are losing (have lost) their financial, economic and political autonomy, so have now individuals. A century ago, for instance, a family living in the countryside would traditionally farm the land and live off it, no matter how humbly. Beyond being farmers, they would multi-task as grafters: fruit growers, gardeners, shepherds, cooks, clothes-makers, builders and craftsmen. Those were independent folks. Nowadays individuals are lured into the convenience of convenience food and ready meals, not to mention the garage servicing your car, the window-cleaner attending to your windows, etc. while you pay for those extended guarantees that will give you 'extra peace of mind'. Basically you get charged for peace of mind and convenience, and you lose independence and autonomy in the process. You become increasingly entertwined to the system. Do keep in mind though that Agenda 21 is the system. Dependence upon convenience means that you lose your liberty.

As much as we saw in our preamble how consumers just keep on buying to offset planned obsolescence, and to satisfy an unquenchable materialistic need orchestrated by the media and the brands, you not only keep on buying but also keep on paying, in order to try to keep up and make your life easier. The costly paradigm costs you not only cash but your liberty too.

It might just so happen that liberty be the first step towards the pursuit of happiness. After all. (to be continued)

Further Resources:

22 Apr 2015

Getting Used to Less on Agenda 21 - Setting the Scene

Previously in our preamble to our U.N. Agenda 21 topic, we saw how wasteful - and therefore 'unsustainable' - our westernised civilisation has become, forced into an economic model of mass-consumerism aided by rampant loan and credit facilities (in other words debt) and fast turnover of production with limited lifecycle, based upon the principle of planned obsolescence, and praised by a marketing strategy that celebrates the satisfaction of needs in the moment.

Dubai City Marina District aerial photography by Dmitry Moiseenko, via AirPano
Meanwhile quality educational programmes, quality employment and in-job promotion opportunities are being degraded down to those Mickey Mouse diplomas leading to Mickey Mouse jobs (yes, the guy who 10 years after graduation is still flipping burgers, stocking shelves or Starbucking the coffees). The working class is now the service sector class. Welcome to the working poor! The erosion in quality academic and employment prospects results in the mental, cultural, spiritual and financial impoverishment of the lower-middle and working classes - in perfect contrast to today's (super) rich list hitting a historical wealthiest high - by the extra millions of dollars per (rich) capita compared to the 1960s.

At the other end of the spectrum, 30 million slave labour in poor parts of the world are 'chained' to the assembly line, producing the goods outsourced by those American, European and Japanese brands. The consumeristic profile as it is right now is escalating into a situation of no return, tainted by the ultimate fear of resource scarcity, a FOMO (Fear of Missing Out) of material, social and financial proportions. The powers that be - the elite above the elite - who engineered unsustainability in the first place, came up with a world governance document back in 1992, set for the 21st century and designed to reverse excesses and make our world sustainable again.

Child labour in India (pict source)

Of course this sounds like some twisted fairytale, whereby a quack poisons the local well, causes mayhem, and then eventually pulls out the magic cure potion from his bag of tricks. Are you not feeling a little duped?

The Rio Declaration on Environment and Development, and the Statement of principles for the Sustainable Management of Forests were adopted by more than 178 Governments at the United Nations Conference on Environment and Development (UNCED) held in Rio de Janerio, Brazil, in June 1992. The full implementation of Agenda 21 was reaffirmed at the World Summit on Sustainable Development (WSSD) held in Johannesburg, South Africa, in September 2002.

Street art by Banksy

And this is how that magic promising word - 'sustainable' - seeped into our vocabulary like a Freudian slip that would autocorrect 'ecology' into a workable lucrative economic model to address climate change and post-industrial society. For this is basically what Agenda 21 is in a nutshell, beyond its lofty parlay. Sustainable is the magic cure potion. How it is achieved is via the entire world inventory of its resources, and the redistribution of land and wealth, at the expense of the small family land owners, and at the benefit of governments and Big Corporate. Agenda 21 is no panacea. It is a socio-economic division that makes movies like The Hunger Games or Mad Max closer to reality than the scary fiction they are supposed to purport.

Agenda 21 is about the redistribution of wealth, and a lowering of living standards in westernised countries that epitomises the continued assault onto the middle class and seals its eradication. It accelerates governmental control of our lives, in pure Orwellian style. Agenda 21 sets the scene for communitarianism, with individual rights bowing to the collective. (to be continued)

Anonymous (pict source)

Further Resources:

20 Apr 2015

Getting Used to Less on Agenda 21 - Preamble

If we care to look at the world head on in the harsh reality of life, we are faced with a nightmare. But don't you worry, because the powers that be - the elite above the elite - have got it all sorted for us under U.N. Agenda 21. They created the problem, alongside with their solution to the problem. Their antidote at the ready is insidiously seeping into our lives, while we are being consumed by the lure of mass-consumption, an enticement attached to the pursuit of happiness.

Petropolis: Alberta Tar Sands are the size of England! (pict source)

We are in a state of urgency at this point and we must not kid ourselves that all is fine. We are stood on a planet that has turned into a ticking time bomb, on many levels. Firstly, the world population has more than doubled in the last fifty years, and our planet cannot sustain the pressure of exponential demographics, especially as plant, animal, freshwater and mineral resources are being plundered to extinction. I yet have to hear from governments - aside from China or Japan - taking measures to discourage high birth rates. As far as I understand, high birth rate is being encouraged and incentivised even. Although it seems that behind the scenes, the issue has been taking a sinister Malthusian turn, with certain members of the ultra-elitist Club of Rome, as reported by Australian politician Ann Bressington.

Global citizenship and regionalisation: The rise of globalisation - aided by technological progress and streamlining of competition down to a select core number of global FMCGs and service providers - means the world is turning into 'one big village'. Above all, it implies the loss of personal identity and the erosion of individual liberty within nations, as the latter are being amalgamated under different economic groupings, be they Euro Zone, EU, Schengen States, G20, Emerging Markets, TPP, TITP, or CETA. Those groupings do not serve the interests of the populations concerned. They foster the bully economic supremacy of a chosen few - namely the US.

Jonah Natural Gas Field, Wyoming, USA (pict ©Ecoflight) shows extensive damage caused by fracking

Globalisation aims for a levelled-down semi-homogenous median identikit consumer profile that fits global mass-market requirements. Additionally, our national (federal) governments blur the boundaries of traditional family units and values, and what used to ground us and unite us in terms of heritage, legacy, national pride (patriotism), socio-cultural identity, local folklore and traditions, craftsmanship, creativity, engineering, spirit of enterprise (free enterprise), is now dissolving away. Unelected committee-based governances like that of the EU imply "an erasure of jurisdictional boundaries, an erasure of national boundaries, and that is the goal" [for local Agenda 21.] (Rosa Koire).

As a result, we get fragmented, ostracised and isolated communities that in effect are communities no more. We are forcefully mollycoddled into political correctness that prevents us from calling a spade a spade, without being stigmatised. Our democracies are a shadow of their former selves since they are reinterpreting their Constitutions and turning into police states, attacking our civil liberties, one after the next. Honest and hardworking citizens are being fooled, silenced, ripped off and overtaxed by the rulers. Divide and conquer!

'Chips' New Islington residential development in Ancoats, Manchester (pict source)
Education has become a propaganda tool for governments, and is now nothing more than an impoverished form of knowledge transmission, very limited and linear, that educates just enough so you get a Mickey Mouse diploma that will fit you right into the mould of a Mickey Mouse job. Education has ceased to elevate and enlighten. Ask Sir Ken Robinson.

The manufacturing base in westernised countries has been totally wiped out and the machinery, knowledge base and industrial heritage exported to the Far East. This means that our countries are no longer able to be self-sufficient and economically autonomous and independent. Under the Blair government, for instance, the UK lost one million industrial jobs within a decade. It is pretty tragic for the Birthplace of the Industrial Revolution, to not manufacture anymore a piece of textile as trivial and basic as underpants, and being forced to rely on imports!

Nike's sweatshop fabulous! (pict source)

Land management: Prime and fertile agricultural land is no longer destined to feed the population. It is being built upon: highways, retail and leisure parks and those other temples of consumption! Pristine land and ecological havens are being mercilessly and extensively fracked, or turned to huge windpower farms, or extensive bitumen sludges. The ecological disaster projects are conducted by Big Corporate under the complicity of the governments, corporate banking and offshore private equity funds. We are pretty much within a self-destructing model that is set for yield in the moment, without a care for the future.

Let them eat cake and play games: In our leisure-focused society, the need to buy more and consume more has been collectively engineered by marketers and the media and pushed to its limits. Consumers are encouraged (and peer-pressured) to keep up to date with the latest trends and gadgets, with always an eye out on the latest model, the latest colour, the latest gimmick. Planned obsolescence helps to accelerate the process, and keeps people on the hook. You just keep buying. This puts pressure on already stretched resources, and it creates more waste, as yesterday's iPhones, cars, trainers and sofas are discarded.

Broken utopia (pict source)

With our production base relocated to countries with low wages and flimsy labour laws, and where child labour is solicited, slavery has become a rampant by-product of established high-street brands like Nike, Calvin Klein, Gap, H&M, Mango, Primark, Walmart, Ikea and countless others. Low production costs come at the cost of human lives.

Yet as I said earlier, "Don't you worry, because the powers that be - the elite above the elite - have got it all sorted for us under U.N. Agenda 21". (to be continued)

Further Resources:

19 Apr 2015

Birds for the Curiosity Cabinet

To whoever cultivates their sense of curiosity and sensitivity, beauty is to be found in the quirkiest of places and situations. Artistry captures beauty in the moment, and cinches it, nips, tucks, seals and stitches it. A curious English guy by the name of Mister Finch, who has mastered textile to a 'T', delivers his stuffed canaries in their cardboard coffins, and Poe-esque creatures complete with a morgue tag. And there we have death looking us in the eye and looking seemingly beautiful.

Yellow Bird by Mister Finch

The display of death on a plate somewhat reconciles us with beauty as birds that come to be and pass away, ground to a halt, and immortalised in their frailty and brevity. It strikes the chord that links us to the inner samaritan who strives to save the endangered bird life and other collateral victims of the human environment. It connects us with the child in us and our progeny who put on elaborate funeral ceremonies to animal creatures, big and small.

I have a few stories of my own on the latter, and to this day, still give - whenever possible - the dignity of a send-off to the furry and feathery casualties of life. Our response to the questions and mysteries of death finds no other answer than the subterfuge of ceremony and adornment. Maybe funerals and their embellishing attentions are part of the human coping mechanisms when faced with loss, mortality and ultimately with their own mortality. Or maybe not. Because some members of the animal kingdom - from elephants, to monkeys and milk cows, via dogs and whales - put on a ceremony of sorts. Animals feel the loss and they mourn a dead one as a result, admittedly within the constraints of their capacity for understanding, and therefore will not be devoured by our human metaphysical wonders of 'To be or not to be'.

Penelope by Mister Finch
Specimen Bird by Mister Finch
Extract from the book Mister Finch: Living in a Fairy Tale World

The ceremony is part of the mourning process. It smooths out some of the roughness and helps us in our solace for the departed and their departure from our lives. Yet generally speaking, our coming to terms with death is shy of a taboo. We choose to look away until it finds us and stares us in the face. Thankfully Mr Finch's dead birds do not make us look the other way. Or do they?

6 Apr 2015

Corsican Spring Flowers - Simply Natural Beauties

I always feel pride and joy whenever I delve into my personal photographic stock of wildflowers that I have garnered over my five years in Corsica. Pride and joy, not so much towards my photographic skills as to the subjects posing for my camera: natural floral beauties of the wild!

Should one be seeker of beauty and artistry, may they look out for it in its natural environment and habitat, before man-made works of Art. As much as I specifically love to describe butterflies as mobile works of art (artworks in motion), artistry embraces the natural world as a whole.

Catmint, roadside marshland, Pietracorbara (April 2011)
Unfortunately humans have been lured away from the beauty of nature and made to find it instead in the material world, with a price tag attached. Meanwhile the manifestation of those goods and services - that serve the trappings of urban life - mean ever-expanding cities and suburban belts. Retail, office, industrial and transport infrastructures blight landscapes, irrevocably compromise ecosystems, encroach onto natural habitat, fraction it away, brittle it down... Wild flowers are direct casualties. As forgiving and resilient as nature is, it doesn't however need to be put down and disrespected.

Meanwhile for us nature lovers, there is more wild Corsican flora to peruse, from our Month in Bloom series. Why not come say 'Hello!' to me in my garden and we'll share a garden mint cordial! Let's enjoy the beauty of Spring as displayed to us by nature in its magnificence.

Borage flowers are dramatic - and edible!  (April 2014)
Muscari comosum Miller struts its stuff like a Moulin Rouge dancer! (April 2010)
This wild flower is called Tickle! (April 2014)
Orchis papilionacea, next to Heather (April 2014)
Cyclamen, on the edge of green oak woodland (April 2014)
Periwinkle, star in its own right! (April 2014)
White Cistus, a photographer's delight! (April 2010)
Do we need introductions? (April 2014)
Genista corsicana, fierce and spiked! (April 2011)
Euphorbia duo (April 2014)
Mr Tickle! (April 2014)
Urospermum dalechampii, another photographic delight! (April 2010)
Cistus, the WOW factor!

1 Apr 2015

Some Fishy April Fool's Day!

April Fool's Day is traditionally a day of jolly hoaxes and pranks. It is related to a change in attribution of New Year's Day to 1st January in line with the Gregorian calendar (introduced in 1582), which resulted in quid pro quo amongst the populations of Europe. 'The motivation for the reform was to bring the date for the celebration of Easter to the time of the year in which the First Council of Nicaea had agreed upon in 325. Because the celebration of Easter was tied to the Spring equinox, the Roman Catholic Church considered this steady drift in the date of Easter undesirable. The reform was adopted initially by the Catholic countries of Europe. Protestants and Eastern Orthodox countries continued to use the traditional Julian calendar and adopted the Gregorian reform after a time, for the sake of convenience in international trade. The last European country to adopt the reform was Greece, in 1923.' (Wikipedia).

Fish Platter by Andrew Ludick Ceramics
Now if you are not acquainted with French, Belgian, French Canadian, French Swiss or Italian traditions around April Fool's Day, you may not be aware that we like it fishy! Children (and the young at heart) attach handmade paper fishes in the back of unsuspecting relatives, friends, co-workers (yes!) and passers-by. The fish has some religious (Catholic) connotation attached to it, but whether you are a devout or not is totally irrelevant. What matters is to bring a smile to someone's face.

These days though, instead of sticking fishes in people's backs, I'd rather stick a fish dish on a loved one's table as a present! Those featured here are by Irish ceramicist Andrew Ludick and they bring together the decorative and the practical. His dishy Handpainted Ocean Life Platters are available to purchase from Crate & Barrel.

Fish Bowls by Andrew Ludick Ceramics
Handpainted Ocean Life Platters by Andrew Ludick Ceramics
Andrew's latest Fish Bowls

21 Mar 2015

Spring Eulogy - Illustrated by My Mum

As a visual tribute to Spring - my favourite season of the year - I had planned a photographic article that would collate together a few items from my vast photographic collection of wildflowers taken over the last five years in Corsica. But when yesterday I rediscovered my mum's illustration portfolio as the 15-year-old budding artist she was then, I knew straight away which visuals I would rather use for my post!

I scanned my mum's illustrations and selected those two as a representation of Spring renaissance and insouciance. Mum and I had despaired lately that her portfolio might have ended up scrapped inadvertently by the builders when they cleared boxes out of my grandma's house prior to tackling structural work... But delightfully the precious drawings resurfaced just as I had given up on them!

Mum used watercolour, pencil and ink for her illustrations, and de-facto Canson paper, from the eponymous renowned French artist paper institution that has been in existence since 1557! I too was a Canson convert from the moment I started mainstream education and then art school classes every Wednesday.

My mum was a bit of an artist. As a teenager, she wanted to become a 'script girl' (script supervisor) for motion films, while caressing secret dreams of movie stardom. She sat in photobooths, moody and pouty and downright funny, and under auspicious climes her photogenic features would have caught the eye of a film-maker or casting director. She once attended a casting call, oblivious to the fact that it was scheduled on April Fool's Day, need we say more... I hearsay that she had some male friends on the beatnik side of life with guitar to boot, and when that cool dude with the sweeping fringe and duffle coat walked up to my grandma asking her permission to take her teenage daughter to some party, grandma went 'Huuuh?' followed by a vociferous 'No way!'.

Shortly afterwards, my mum met my dad. Although he was no sultry Kerouac type, he played guitar and harmonica pretty well and his repertoire span Django Reinhardt to Bob Dylan, via Charlie Parker, Little Richard and 'Saint Louis Blues'. Although she never became a 'career' artist, my mum has sought to incorporate creative elements into her life, despite not being overtly lauded or encouraged. I am sure she still has those script girl dreams at night.

14 Mar 2015

Inspire Aspire - As Time is of the Essence

No matter how much of a contraption or contraction time is to anyone who has developed a wide array of passions and interests, who cultivates observation skills and childlike curiosity, who is on an expansive inner-journey of spiritual and intellectual growth, the constraints imposed by our own mortality fuel us with the desire and urgency to cram in an extra experience, a new place to visit, another ponder and wonder.

To accommodate a spot of travel into the constraints imposed by timescales of our own device, and those imposed by work and social obligations. To contract space and time into a balancing act of a mutually-beneficial arrangement. Time-saving gadgets have come into their own to simplify modern life, yet with a curse attached. They keep life connected to the time-wasting curse of the social media vortex and those other internet distractions and temptations, thus turning time-saving procedures into time wasters to the soft-willed, easily-distracted and the unfocused - and even the more disciplined of us may lapse at times. Here's five pointers to keep in mind in order to stay on track:
  1. Keep internet interactions to a minimum (i.e. no idle browse and/ or aimless chats). Time your time online if need be.
  2. As a result of (1), streamline your online activities, including your blog reading list. Make sure to keep Lifestyle with Attitude on your radar!
  3. Get a good clock, of the conspicuous kind (see below) and hang it where it will catch your eye, so as to keep track of time and make it resourceful.
  4. Downgrade (Upgrade!) most of your online activities to offline, and rediscover the paper, design and lay-out experience of 'physical' books all over again! Put the keyboard aside and put pen to paper.
  5. Make sure your booklist (4) will include books that help you make the best use of your time (see below)!

Source: (1) Concentric Flora Green Scalloped Porcelain Plate Clock by Angus & Celeste. (2) Teaser to (3) '36 Hours Latin America & The Caribbean', part of the 36 Hours collection by The New York Times, edited by Barbara Ireland and published by Taschen. (4) Citix60 Berlin, 60 Local Creatives Bring You the Best of the City, published by Viction:ary, and available to purchase directly from the publisher, or from selected retail outlets like Anthropologie.

7 Mar 2015

Napoléon the Great Fascinator

On 1st March 1815, having sailed back to the southern coast of France from his exile on the Italian island of Elba, Napoléon set foot on the beach of Golfe-Juan. He took to the road heading north, with an army of loyals and associates, and made a triumphant return to Paris. To reconquer a nation that was being divided by the drawn-out Napoleonic campaigns and the power struggles between empire, aristocracy and bourgeoisie was a wild card for the emperor. He had 100 days to prove himself, until the fated Waterloo defeat against England (18th June 1815), resulting in his capitulation and forced exile to the British island of Saint-Helena, the ultimate insult to a man who had been the world over feared, envied and lauded in equal measures.

(Corse-Matin, 02/03/2015)
As controversial as admiration may be regarding warriors, Napoléon remains the greatest man borne out of France. He was born in 1769 in Corsica, one year after the island became French, making his arrival a timely - almost tactical, one might think - affair in favour of France, for should he have been borne one year earlier, his genius would have served Italy instead! He was 20 years old when the French Revolution broke out, then again a timely occurence for any ambitious, educated, self-disciplined young man working on an ideal.

Napoléon was a genius in many intersected ways: a gifted visionary, thinker, strategist, tactician, modernist, social reformer and re-organiser, high-calibre administrator and educator. He was a pacificator of France and a staunch patriot. He also happened to be a European, way before the EU, and acted as an Illuminati inspiration for New World nations! He left a legacy that is still relevant today: Code Civil (French Civil Law), Code Napoléon, Conseil d'Etat, Code du Commerce (Trade Law), Cour des Comptes (Finance Court), Pension system for army veterans, Légion d'Honneur (merit award distinction medal), Metric System (a rationalised measurement system), Baccalauréat (academic qualification leading to University studies), to name but a few of his achievements in Civil Life, not to mention that he was surrounded by a winning team of skilled supporters, including the discoverer and the decipherer of the Rosetta stone that brought quantum leaps into Egyptology. Moreover his reign delivered a sober and classic style in architecture, furniture design and fashion, that makes it incredibly fresh and contemporary. He also championed civil engineering programmes, Université Impériale and Concordat.

Napoléon Auction Sales Catalogue by Osenat (16/11/2014)

Meanwhile his military tactics are still applied today and studied in high places like the US Military Academy at West Point. Undeniably, to depict such an emblematic character of encyclopedic proportions in a blogpost will not do him the justice he deserves and I can only apologise to the Napoléon purists out there.

Napoléon's archenemies Nelson and Wellington respected him and praised his tactical approach. Whenever I have discussed Napoléon with Brits, their immediate description of him has been 'dictator' (their obligatory label) before lowering their voice to express their personal admiration for the man. What I find ironically admirable is that when you visit the Waterloo battle site, Napoléon is treated as the victor rather than the vanquished.

What fascinates me though is that beyond the grave, Napoléon has enjoyed enduring popularity. He is the historical character who has inspired the highest number of documentaries, fiction films, biographies and studies the whole world! No matter how little educated or historically-inclined Joe Bloggs is, they will have heard of him.

(Wounded Eagle Flag Post, 1804, auctioned by Osenat, image via Nouvel Observateur, 16/11/2014)

Auction sales involving Napoléon and consorts are extremely sought after and prices reach astronomical heights! Last November, the prestigious collection of Napoléon artefacts put up for sale by Prince Albert of Monaco through Osenat delivered results beyond every expectation! As the most striking example, Napoléon's famous hat, the 'Bicorne' model fetched 1.5 million Euros! We find out from the detailed description by Osenat that from 1800 to 1815, Napoléon wore a total of 120 Bicorne hats. He constantly had 12 of those hats on the go, each of those made to last 3 years, and 4 replaced yearly.

Entombed in granite and marble, Napoléon still reigns. He leads armies of worldwide supporters and troops of re-enacters who don the costumes and get muddy down the battlefields, or tactically advance scores of lead soldiers across maps, while consulting their reference books. He is a commonality as an inspiration, a fascination, an adulation even, and certainly a leveller that transcends nationality, age group, class and every affiliation under the sun. My better half, who is American, is a Napoléon expert and admirer, and his admiration can only make me prouder to be French.


1 Mar 2015

Of the Sack of Assyria and its Insult on Humanity

Since Saddam Hussein's demise, Assyria and Mesopotamia, the very cradle of civilisation (better known nowadays as Irak), have been nothing but crippled by war and death, pillaged away, looted, blown apart, crushed to cinders, and their populations, including the Christian minority, tortured and decimated. The latest instalment in Irak's ongoing tragedy is the ransacking of the Mosul Central Library and the Mosul Museum by the crazed-up ISIS iconoclast cohorts.

For classic Art appreciators like myself, the realisation of this pillage is unbearable! Historians, archaeologists, antiquities department directors, librarians, academics, intellectuals and UNESCO are up in arms too!

The Assyrian and other pre-Muslim artefacts and statues got smashed up on cue for the cameras, and 8 to 10,000 rare books and manuscripts were subjected to auto-da-fé. In other words, this wave of destruction was an orchestrated cultural ethnic cleansing with a brutal message of irreverence and intent eradication of civilisation, past, present and future. The defacing and beheading of statues is an echo to the beheading of hostages by ISIS. The LA Times (28/02/2015) adds that "the vandalism's cultural insult strikes deep. The Iraqi people, [Altaweel said,] "are taking the destruction of their cultural heritage - their identity, essentially - just as seriously as the beheadings."

According to UNESCO Director-General Irina Bokova, the large-scale destruction of books by ISIS across Iraq's cultural centres - already harked as the most devastating acts of destruction of library collections in human history - "adds to the systematic destruction of heritage and the persecution of minorities that seeks to wipe out the cultural diversity that is the soul of the Iraqi people.”

In this article, I will attempt to demonstrate why and how Art is besieged from the moment it takes form. And also how Art transcends its geographical and cultural origins to become part of humanity's spiritual, artistic and immaterial wealth. Therefore the destruction of ancient Art forms, wherever in the world, should concern us all.

Human-Headed Winged Lion (Lamassu), 883–859 B.C., Neo–Assyrian period, reign of Ashurnasirpal II,
excavated at Nimrud (ancient Kalhu), northern Mesopotamia. Via The Metropolitan Museum of Art.

Ancient Art promulgates spiritual elevation and educates humanity as a whole. It anchors modern civilisation to its past, roots it for a strong and resilient growth. It confers it direction and a reference point, a meaning, a sense of stability, belonging and progression. It summons respect and other values and symbolises immortality, the transcendence of the past into the present towards the future on a timeline of cultural continuity, evolution and expansion. The sack of Assyria is therefore yet another example of an assault against humanity as a collective.

Man's creation, borne out of a dream, a vision, a hope, a wishful thought, or a representation of reality, is sublimated and enchanted to heights godly of his own making. Art's portrayed sublimation of man and self as a tool, a vehicle, engenders reverence, awe, peace, admiration, adoration even. Yet creation is pitted against man's ability for destruction. Man is creation's best friend and foe. The way I picture this complex yet simple relationship is as a triangle between the Creator (the artist as an artist - or as an envoy of God to earth as luminaries tend to be perceived as), the Creation (the actual objet d'art) and the Creature (the recipient, the public).

Creation is no mere work of art. It is a currency, a pawn, a covet, a symbol, a collateral. The immortality it exudes is at the mercy of its shortcoming of imminent destitution and/ or destruction. In times of economic and political stability, Art prospers. Otherwise it is endangered, looted, smuggled, traded as booty wares, or destroyed. The LA Times (28/02) sums it up nicely: "It [Stone] is meant to express aspirations toward permanence, sometimes vainglorious and sometimes noble. Obliterating a revered stone edifice says - in no uncertain terms - that radical change has arrived."

Human-Headed Winged Bull (Shedu), bas-relief, c.713-716 B.C. Via Wikipedia

Let us make an aside for Irak's current situation and rewind 13 years. The Anglo-American interference in Saddam Hussein's governance opened a Pandora's box of oil-fuelled malevolence. It was a prophecy of doom realised, bringing to its knees a modern and progressive nation, and return it to the Dark Ages, with the complicity of religious fanaticism. The culture of chaos is used as a smoke-screen while the country's resources are being redistributed, because it just so happens that world domination is no piped dream, it is an intention that has been pushed through from the moment that man realised that his tribe, his settlement, his kingdom, was not sole and only.

Meanwhile, in a peculiar timely twist with the Mosul tragedy, The Iraq Museum of Baghdad reopened its doors to the public yesterday (28th February) after undergoing extensive rehabilitation under the patronage of UNESCO, following lootings in 2003. The museum brings together a collection of antiquities that testify the rich cultural heritage of this particular region of the world, in terms of Sumerian, Akkadian, Assyrian, Babylonian and Islamic cultures.

Our role as a collective is to safeguard our cultural legacy. Yet how can we achieve this unless we treat civilisation with reverence? The way culture is treated is a reflection of a malaise on a grander scale. Meanwhile, aside from witnessing cultural artefacts falling foul to world events, I witness in my daily endeavours fragments of culture from my immediate vicinity falling prey to greed, being wiped off the map under a slab of concrete, just ceasing to be. More often though, I witness fragments of culture chipping away, turning to rubble - not purely as a result of time's wear and tear, but as a helping hand from land developers, unscrupulous antiques dealers, opportunists - with the complicity of general apathy and the selective blind eye syndrome. This happens 'unnoticed', incrementally, insidiously, perniciously, cancerously, like a Chinese torture form... turned to an art form.

The Tigris River, seen from Mosul (1932). AP Photo/ American Colony Photo Dept. via Library of Congress.

Our dumbed-down society models dis-educate our white- and blue-collars on classic art forms, while rampant short-attention deficit disorder has become an excuse, yet suited to our lifestyle on the go. Meanwhile religious extremism goes rampant on the lost and the meek, empowering them with guns as their mode of expression. Intellect is shunned by the media and derided as elitist by politicians. Our consumerist model emphasises fast fashion, fast food, cheap wares, Mickey Mouse degrees and jobs, and worldwide uniformisation of style and taste under the umbrella of a handful of global FMCGs. All of those combined factors are challenging the appreciation and survival of Ancient and Classic Art at large. It is therefore the duty for individuals like myself to warn against such dumbing-down.



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