1 May 2017

A Floral Awakening

The end of Winter signals the start of Nature's Renaissance, a yearly art movement all to itself! And all the while, I shall never cease to be enchanted by Spring, my favourite season!

Semi-wild and heavy with scent: the roses at Château de Gudanes

Here in the northern hemisphere, nature is being reborn. The land awakes from Winter slumber, all aflutter in ways aplenty. It is sprouting a myriad of velvety catnips, soft to the touch. Sprouting tight buds, full of promise, unfolding into fresh tree leaves and floral blooms laden with sweet-scented aromas. Right now in Corsica, the air is fragrant with wild perennial Erysimum (wallflower), and elderflower, imbuing the air with their delicate yet intoxicating notes.

The joys of Spring will yield the boons of Summer (ibid.)

Our faunistic friends are busy nest-building. Bird songs speckle the canvas of our dusk and dawn with sparkles of sound, rich with joy, abundance and celebration. Enough to make you thankful to be alive! As I have said many a time... You are never alone with nature by your side.

Canopy of elegance: Albyzia trees (ibid.)

Hey, nature lover, more floral Spring delights await!

30 Apr 2017

Inspire Aspire - ASMR

Before you pop the $100 question, here is the four-word answer (and I cheated for it!): ASMR stands for Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response. As cryptic as it appears, it is even more cryptic to explain it. Basically it involves the senses but is no pseudo science - merely sensations that are triggered by a relaxation technique. A word of warning: it may come out woo-woo to some of you. Or you may finally be able to put a name to that sensation you have experienced for years (maybe since childhood) under certain circumstances. Call it goosebumps, but more generally felt as a tingling, kind of a hot tickling, that radiates from the crown of the head down the nape, across the shoulders and down the spine. A fuzzy head, feeling cosy, comfy and sleepy, almost in a meditative state.

A feast for the eyes and more! Certain sight, sound and/ or smell trigger ASMR.

It appears that the sensation (or state) which is probably as old as humanity, has only been officially reported, documented and researched over the best part of the last decade, and debated in earnest by the wider online community. Some individuals have even become internet sensations (pardon the pun) and household names in the process, and have spread the word. From being unacknowledged altogether until recently, ASMR has turned into a juicy lucrative business on dedicated YouTube channels and the likes. Maria at Gentle Whispering is an ASMR phenomenon and the go-to ASMR personality! She clocks 925,000+ followers and some of her videos have garnered more than two million views within the space of three months, and a staggering 10 million views over 12 months! In my eye, Maria is the best ASMRtist out there! Her videos are relaxing and send you tickled up to sleep!

Now the very first time I came across ASMR as such was through YouTube astrologer Karen Lustrup who had recorded a short relaxation video back in 2014, aimed at lulling insomnia sufferers to sleep. I realised straight away that I had indeed experienced ASMR before, for many years but had no idea this had been recognised and identified under some name.


Tyndall Figures, Lake Hoare, from "Gondwana" (2012), photography by Diane Tuft

Actually as a way of relaxing in the evening and basically fall asleep I find certain astrology channels to be conducive to this state of relaxation with all the tingling effects that go with it. Therefore sometimes astrology as a topic becomes secondary to me, if all I seek is a little respite that sends me to Nod.


Anything soft, delicate or muffled may trigger ASMR.

Here is a non-exhaustive list of ASMR triggers. First and foremost, anything soft, delicate or muffled is a potential trigger:

  • Sound triggers: light breeze rustling tree leaves windcharms, the harp, bells and other twinkling sounds rain drizzle, gently tapping against a window pane or a car roof, ocean waves crackling woodfire, flickering candle twigs cracking underfoot in the woods certain TV programmes (cookery, make-up, wildlife, gardening, cultural visits to châteaux and art museums) and this depends entirely upon the programme and the personality of the presenters, their demeanour (poised and relaxed, thus no Megyn Kelly material!) and voice (calm, serene, soft, slow, empathetic and mellifluous) cool jazz music, slow, moody classical music, ambient electronica light office environment (typing, rustling paper, muffled sounds, humdrum of printers, phones and other electrical equipment) guided meditation, yoga ― whispered conversations, etc.
  • Sight triggers: slow, meticulous, detail craft work (knitting, embroidery, dress-making, drawing, painting, calligraphy, jewellery-making, ikebana, bouquet-making), baking, clothes ironing, etc.
  • Smell triggers: perfumery/ beauty counters in department stores, aromatherapy (essential oils, depending upon personal preferences and susceptibility) percolating coffee, frothing up cappuccino, home-baked cake straight out of the oven ― (un-)wrapping gifts, sweets, etc.
  • Touch triggers: light warm breeze gentle beauty and wellness treatments (facials, head and body massage, jacuzzi/ bubble bath) and hairdressing soft materials (silk, sateen, lace, fur, feathers) touch (caress, stroke, tickle), etc.

Oftentimes a combination of triggers work out the ASMR. Not everyone is aware that they experience ASMR, yet if they do, might dismiss it. Approach the subject with caution with your grandma or your boss: you might get a funny look or two!

4 Apr 2017

Watch Out, There's a Hipster in Your Coffee!

I can't quite figure out how it came about. As my spoon cuts into the foam of my cappuccino and the cocoa constellation dissipates into the milky way of my cup, I look up across the packed out café and smile absent-mindedly. I vividly remember the turning point. At the turn of the millennium, the coffee revolution took us almost unawares and I welcomed it with open arms and a big kiss. In one swell swoop, it swept aside the shameless kettle and Nescafé combo, the gritty coffee pot at work whose treacle-like substance would be laced with lashes of full fat milk and a spoonful of sugar to tone the bitterness and general malevolence. The conservative coffee machine would not fare any better either if you were to self-proclaim coffee maestro. And tumble would the slightly higher-brow cafetière that only ever had pride of place in those households that vacationed in France and Italy.

The London Coffee Festival 2015

At that point, coffee had ceased to be that monochrome, low budget, one-dimensional, nonchalant affair, black or white, one sugar, no sugar. Strong and you call it espresso like you're in the know. Weak and you call it Americano, once again if you want to flaunt your two words of Italian (three if we add 'pizza').

The London Coffee Festival

Coffee would be and it would be much more: a coffee named desire. Coffee was going to finally exist, express itself, albeit with attitude and a price tag that yells out indulgence. The Italian vocabulary would expand, and be re-invented should its linguistics become suddenly too limitative. Enter Frappuccino, the foam-at-the-mouth, shirty, expansive creation that makes the paltry espresso look like a size zero, deflated, monastic model. Savvy marketers gave themselves carte blanche to jazz up, sex up, amplify and yuppify coffee and make it indispensable under its new guises. Under the new paradigm, coffee became art creation, indulgence, a liquid brunch - and a neat, no-questions-asked multi-billion-dollar endeavour at the check-out.

The London Coffee Festival North 2016

The revolution would redefine coffee to the point where it would take a long sentence to define your drink to the barman, sorry the garçon, sorry the barista. Just so you can listen to yourself saying it in that all-knowing encompassing 'I'm in the club' way while the punter behind you in the queue quietly rehearses their prose before their grand finale, a brief, sudden verbal diarrhea of a purchasing interjection, cured by a fancy drink that costs a pretty penny.

The London Coffee Festival North 2016

Along with that morning white that suddenly became a long Ethiopian roast skinny decaff latte, the staff behind the counter would be redefined too. Enter Barista, full steam ahead, the busy body that is all arms, concentrated like a strong coffee! They whizz their magic within a few square feet perimeter on the other side of the counter like a storm in a teacup, precise, repetitive movements, attached to shiny expensive machinery with pumps and gaskets, and through the steam, the pulls and the metallic thuds, you would be forgiven to believe they're operating the Orient Express. They add the drama that you bought and paid for to your humble cup, tick boxes and scribble ancient codes on it, spin a thousand variants and combinations around coffee like they're the key to the Graal's safe, so many of them, they've morphed into algorithms. They froth up a hot beverage like a coiffeur teases a curl, with painstaking dedication. And if the impermanence of coffee art weren't fleetingly irrelevant, you have latte art to ponder about.




Now to the crux of the coffee is that correlation of late between fancy, jazzy, niche-market coffee from the café in the know, and the hipster. If we are to believe the hype, it's being percolated to us like it's non-negotiable.

Coffee has become art and science, especially in its percolation. Coffee is edgy: it has become the new absinthe. And in its heyday, absinthe was the poison of choice to the creative mind losing its mind in the buvettes of Montmartre. Modern creatives or wannabe creatives display their edge by drinking connoisseur coffee, a safer healthier option! They still look like the 1890s never quite went away, bar for the rolled-up sleeves displaying elaborate tattoos on their forearms. They wear the bushy beard, checkered shirts, suspenders. Unroll the sleeves to hide those arms, and the chaps wouldn't be out of place on those long-forgotten family photos circa 1890. But why, oh my, did fancy coffee and hipster become an item, if only for the fact that both are stuff of a fashion trend? I doubt I will eat my words on this one: fancy coffee will outlive the hipster but for the time being, chance is you'll spot them together like two coffee beans in a pod behind the counter, about to squeeze into that ristretto.




Hurry up if you wish to catch a gulp (sorry, a slice) of the action! The London Coffee Festival is taking place in a couple of days, 6th to 9th April, Old Truman Brewery, Brick Lane, London.

10 Mar 2017

Papa, Get Well Soon!

As much as I like to keep my personal life private, I still wanted to send a little boost to my dad, via this blog. He needs all the encouragement and positive reinforcement he can muster right now. Maybe you want to send him a kind thought too. My dad's a fighter, he's fought many battles in his life, and he'll pull through this one! I know this in my heart of hearts.

So then, keep fighting, Jojo, you are not alone in this, we are right there with you! DAD, YOU ARE THE BEST!



22 Feb 2017

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society (Part 3)

Transience is supposed to be a temporary, transitory stage, yet we shall see in this third and final part of my essay how it is being made to drag on so as to become a permanent fixture of modern society. Transience applies geographically and figuratively and relates to transition, waiting for a change to manifest one way or another.

Transience is a state of limbo that occurs somewhere between a departure point and a destination point when events are fluid and uncertain. It summons aimless errance, perhaps drifting, with an element of waiting for circumstances to change for the better. It is the state of not knowing what's next and not belonging anywhere in particular at a moment in time and for whatever reason this might be. There are no roots to transience, no anchorage. It is the free agent for change, hence for uncertainty and unpredictability. It belies a period of unstability.

Lockheed JetStar and the 1960 Lincoln, via Plan59

I have identified herein five transience-generating areas within our modern society. The list is not exhaustive: -


 *  Paradigm Shifts:  Our governments, in cahoot with the media and corporate elites, have upped the ante to engineer a generation or two of confused kids: dumbed-down propagandist education system, gender theory, reinterpretation of the family unit, weakening of Christianity, radicalised angst-ridden feminism, political correctness, multi-culturalism, the sharing economy, and other paragons of humanist (undertand socialist) ideology jar with traditional homogeneous family values in terms of tradition, culture and history. We witness societal confusion, a shift in points of reference, landmarks sliding away. What used to be held in stone, held as truth by our socio-political system has now been questioned, deemed untrue. Reciprocally what used to be considered a lie is now held as truth.

Under European rule, Europeans are getting the feeling of not belonging anywhere anymore, not to their own country that they do not recognise as it is losing the characteristics that used to make it unique. Their national/ federal government is alien to their people and to the voice of discontent. Europeans do not feel allegiance to Europe either. They feel distrust towards this unelected body ruling unilaterally over a conglomerate of countries bundled up together because we so happen to live in close geographical proximity. We are all under the ludicrously remote, faceless, authoritarian governship of Babel (I mean Brussels).

This forced Europeanism on its way to the larger picture of globalism is a representation of transience. It stunts our organic growth as individual countries and puts us in limbo.

Labour to leisure: Parc du Haut-Fourneau U4, Uckange, eastern France

 *  Depressed Economy:  When jobs have moved en masse overseas, companies have restructured and fierce competition has increased, the job market gets tougher and job security scarcer. Lucky is being left with an entry-job for life (i.e. no or little scope for promotion and a career) and the general dead-end retail or office jobs that keep you on minimum wage for the duration of your working life. Employment opportunities are tough across the age groups, including those over-qualified graduates. You live in fear of not finding a job, not being able to keep it, getting on the dole, failing to make ends meet and falling onto hard times. There is no self-sufficiency, no financial independence in the picture; loans, mortgages, debts chain you down further. When unemployed/ on low pay, the State takes care of you with little it can provide, putting you in that shadow category, outside the world of workforce.

Lack of self-sufficiency, no sense of belonging, constant fear and discomfort are by-products of transience.


 *  Planned Obsolescence:  This good old trick that kicked in with Henry Ford in the 1920s is what keeps the production/ consumption machine oiled up to the hilt. It goes hand in hand with the fickleness of fashion and fast-moving trends that play right in the hand of disposability, and genuine technological progress whose pace has accelerated in recent years. Shorter lifespans and shelf lives, and little or no staying power... Even couture designers like ex-Dior's Raf Simons are burning out, complaining about the frenetic pace of the catwalk and fast turnover of fashion collections.

When you are on a constant move and feel you are playing catch up all the time, this unanchored, unsettled state is called transience.

Spend, spend, spend! Gucci Spring Summer 2017 Set, via Gucci's Instagram account

 *  Transhumanist Agenda:  Transhumanism is the science that correlates human and machine via AI (Artificial Intelligence). It demonstrates how technology is set to benefit us by increasing our mental, intellectual and physical performance with bionic aids, and in certain ways triggering our brain to think like a machine. Multi-lingual websites that are machine-translated subtly but surely show a facet of the transhumanist bias.

Transportation, media, telecommunications and information technology have transformed our lives beyond compare over the last 30 years. Meanwhile social media, a relatively new kid on the block, has already deeply changed our ways of communicating and interacting with others. Besides the treatment of information has taken on a strong transience bias. Instant messaging/ posting puts you right in the moment for the moment. The present has a very short, fleeting - even fickle - window of operation and lifespan. We are bombarded with so much information that our attention span is continuously challenged and titillated by other facts to consume fast without time for a thought.

We are literally drowning in an-ever expanding sea of news, visual distraction and solid ambient noise. Information is fed through technology, at the mercy of it being tampered with, manipulated, updated, upgraded, unplugged. Transience is right at home there!


Interstate 30 East of Dallas, for Portland Cement Association (1960), by Stan Galli, via Plan59

 *  Emperiled National Sovereignty:  Open-border policy and its resulting mass migration is the thorn in the side of the West right now. It acts as the wide-scale resettlement of an uncapped number of individuals (in their millions) allegedly fleeing war-torn, poverty-ridden countries (otherwise classified as emerging countries, Third World). They are essentially relocated to Western countries, which are economically richer, deemed politically stable, and with a welfare system in place.

Migration is a spur-of-the-moment, open-door policy that prides itself in being unchartered - and seemingly unregulated. The modern day migrants are mostly driven, angry young Muslim men, wearing fashion attire and technology-equipped. They land upon our shores with an erased past, a low IQ, high expectations and no expressed desire to integrate. No proof of ID required (which would technically have them qualified as illegals or refugees except they're not), and not a penny to their name. I shall add:-

When you erase someone's history, you undress them from the riches and depths of family, tradition, heritage, culture, self-worth. You uproot them, cut the anchors. You isolate them from their true self. Someone without history is not free and grounded; they are transient in their body, mind and spirit, on a quest to find out their origins, their true self. When you erase their history, you are left with a blank canvas. You may rewrite it for them, remould it as you see fit. This doesn't serve the individual, it serves the global agenda, which is all about short-term memory, superficiality and transience.

This incentivised mass population relocation is coordinated by a plethora of super-connected NGOs and not-for-profits financed by benevolent philanthropic elite corporations and tax-exempt foundations (The Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation, The Ford Foundation, The Rockefeller Foundation, The Clinton Foundation, George Soros's MoveOn.Org and Open Societies Foundation, etc.). What have they in common? They are New World Order and work in unison for a global socio-economic and political model that will fathom a rootless, pastless and futureless populace living in the moment for the moment. Transience in all its grace and glory!

Dissected/ Distorted reality? Matrix LED Screen, via MoMA Store

This forced multi-culturalism of sorts that is being expedited under globalisation personifies transience in modern society. It shakes up by its very essence the host countries' fabric in terms of republican and religious values, national identity, safety, homogeneity and unity to the core. Regardless of political affiliation, one must admit that migration in its current high numbers is not sustainable, and neither is this extended transience in itself. Meanwhile the natives feel invisible and unheard as all sorts of eccentric demands are placed upon them by their increasingly undemocratic government, in order to force them to surrender their nation to the global agenda that lies ahead, as the EU is increasing its governance over our lives - and we have no word in edgeways on the matter.

"Man without history, culture, nation, family and civilisation is not free: he is naked and condemned to despair." - French Canadian sociologist Mathieu Bock-Côté (translated from French)

P.S: Note the difference between migration and (legal) immigration. Legal immigrants move from their country of origin or residence to a new specific country where they settle down with their family. There is an immigration protocole for them to follow in order to become part of the local society: for example, visa, application for residence and Green Card if in America. On the other hand, migration is an open model of immigration without a roadmap or demand, uncommitted to responsibility, including that of integration, and who whimsically follows the pick-and-choose-a-country formula as it is presented to them. Migrants are the no-history, no-fixed-abode and no-fixed-destination travellers with the risks that such can bring: social misfits, drifters. Note the Houdini trick here: illegal immigration has been cleverly merged into migration. This legalises and legitimises illegals instantly and automatically (cf. Paradigm Shifts section).

P.P.S: Nomadic tribes are not technically classified as transient because their nomadism is a pillar of their society structure. They have a history, culture, way of life that revolves around travel, follows a specific habitual pattern, in relation to seasons, transhumance (seasonal migration of herds and humans from lowlands to the mountains), customs and traditions, availability of produce, and trade. Their nomadism is no aimless wander.

The steady unrelenting erosion of national sovereignty paves the way for globalism, a paragon of transience all to itself as its aim is to level down all countries to a pre-made model, where we will be formatted to think the same, speak the same, dress the same, live the same, behave the same and essentially be the same. This Orwellianism has become a feat of realism as it is already happening right before our very eyes.

_________

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society is a 3-part series:  Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3

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)

_________

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society is a 3-part series:  Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3

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 above and beyond 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 philanthropy, 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 and their accomplishments: 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, mystical, enigmatical grace. (to be continued)

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


_________

Transience, Pillar of Modern Society is a 3-part series:  Part 1  |  Part 2  |  Part 3

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

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