Atlanta: do you need a reason?

Atlanta isn’t on everybody’s bucket-list. There are far to many places around the world tempting us, even inside USA there are many more iconic cities on the top of our lists.

This wonderful city is mostly visited for business – Atlanta’s airport is the busiest world wide– after all it’s the third city, behind NY and Houston, to be home for more Fortune 500 companies. Among them: Delta Airlines, Southwestern Airlines, CNN, Coca Cola. This is the reason for the  huge variety of retail stores and restaurants, enough to please the most demanding travelers.

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I have visited it many times, for various reasons, nonetheless never ceases to amaze me. Atlanta’s allure for me, is that is REAL. A real city. The streets exude a history full of contradictions and differences, war and suffering, tradition and change, rebirth and generosity, dignity and peace. The people you encounter are mostly residents, many of them students that bring to the city a good amount of needed  heterodoxy. Nothing is staged for tourists, the energy is authentic.

 

During the Civil War, Atlanta was a strategic location for the Confederate Troops… it was constantly attacked. Numerous battles took place nearby, before falling definitely on 1864. It’s siege and evacuation were later (1936)  immortalized by Margaret Mitchell on her famous novel “Gone with the Wind”

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During the 60’s, this city was the epicenter of the Civil Rights Movement, leaded by Martin Luther King (born in Atlanta 1929). Later the city was the first one in America to have an African-American as an elected mayor. Today  is a city of great importance for the GLBT community. The opennes of the city and its habitants  was recently materialized in the new Museum dedicated to Civil an Political Rights, a place that I would recommend everyone to visit for an eye opening experience.

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The architecture of the city is different than other Southern cities, they decided to change the classical structures and buildings by more modern ones. Renzo Piano, John Portman and Richard Meier are some of the famous architects that have contribute to this new skyline.

Cinema and literature are also interesting in Atlanta, after the approval of a tax incentive’s program designed to promote the production of  films and television   – and with the undenniable benefit of the weather– has become a mayor destination for the industry, the most famous and recent TV series is probably “The Walking Dead” that isn’t only filmed there, but has Atlanta as setting for the story. The beauty of this city has also been the backdrop of great films like Driving Miss Daisy (1989); Fried Green Tomatoes (1991) and American Beauty (1999).

Every year on April,  the city hosts the “Atlanta Film Festival” which offers a wide array of independent films to the public, as well as conferences and events.  The city also hosts the biggest Independent Book Festival in USA, besides being the city where authors like Natasha Trethewey and Chandler Harris were born.

Last but not least, the southern hospitality is real, you feel it everywhere you go, and that makes your visit a very pleasant one.

As you see, there are many reasons to visit Atlanta, on my next post I will recommend you the places I treasure the most.

 

 

 

 

Wabi – Sabi: Japanese for Unconventional Beauty

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Probably in your language there are a few words untranslatable to other languages, I know we have them in spanish, and in english the word “wanderlust” is one of them.

I don’t know exactly how or when I came across with this concept but became really curious about it’s meaning and started researching. It wasn’t that easy to my surprise, to find books or any written information about it. Eventually I understood the reason why…

If you ask a Japanese to translate or explain Wabi – Sabi, they will probably hesitate and give you an apology for not been able to do so. But they all recognize the feeling of it for sure, because it’s a core concept in Japanese culture.

The best definition I found, was this that follows:

“ Wabi-Sabi is a beauty of things imperfect, impermanent, and incomplete.

It is a beauty of things modest and humble.

It is a beauty of things unconventional. “ ( “Wabi-Sabi” by Leonard Koren)

As you can infer this concept can be applied for visual arts, architecture, poetry, literature, philosophy and spiritual life.

The lack of written information contributes to the vagueness of the definition, but why does so much mysterie surrounds it? The origins of the word are related to the ceremony of tea, which was mostly performed by zen monks and zen tea masters. In their tradition, essential knowledge can only be transmitted from mind to mind and not through the written word.

My interest in this aesthetically and philosophical concept has me involved on a very particular mission:  to spread the word about it and  stop it from disappearing.

Since the mid 20th century the predominant aesthetic has been modernism – I am a big fan – but it has been so popular and preeminent that even in Japan now days Wabi-Sabi is fading away. In my opinion that would be a big loss for all of us. With that in mind I wanted to list here the differences between both, so that we can open our minds to perceive this other version of beauty that surrounds us. A beauty that is vulnerable, irregular, imperfect, intimate, unpretentious, simple and earthy. A bit like most of us uh?

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Modernism                                                                   Wabi-Sabi

 

Logical, rational.                                                           Intuitive.

 

Absolute.                                                                         Relative

 

Universal Solutions                                           Personal Solutions

 

Mass Produced                                                   One-of-a-kind.

 

Future Oriented                                                 Present Oriented

 

Pro Technology                                                   Pro Nature

 

Geometric forms                                                 Organic Forms

 

The Box as the metaphor                                The Bowl as the metaphor

 

Needs to be well mantained                         Accommodates to degradation

 

Intolerant of ambiguity.                                  Comfortable with ambiguity.

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As Hume suggested:   “Beauty in things exists merely in the mind which contemplates them.”   Let’s make some room and accept as part of our lifes the imperfect, faded, broken and ambiguous beauty that exists everywhere and in everyone, even in ourselves.

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Changing the world little by little…(or at least trying)

All of us, each of us, have the power to change the world.  It isn’t necessary  to become a hero or a saint, there is no need to be powerful, or rich. It would be enough to do all the ordinary things, even the boring and insignificant ones with extraordinary love, as Mother Teresa suggested. I try my best, not always can, many times lazyness or moodiness gets the best of me, but I know I must to keep trying.

Just the act of recognizing the existence of the other, as a sentient human being, makes a difference in their self-esteem. It is not possible to solve everybody’s problems but we can make them feel human, important, alive and loved.

Even though I am not an expert on this subject, I have put together a list of simple activities that we can all do in our everyday life to make a difference:

  • Recycle: It’s quite easy actually. Just buy two extra garbage bins  and advice the members of the family to separate in one plastics/glass and in the other one paper/carton. This little effort, not only helps the planet, but saves all the families that make a living from recycling of the unpleasant and often risky job of going trough our garbage.
  • Be an Informed and Responsible Consumer: Ask questions. Knowing the way our products are    fabricated is the best way to do it. As consumers we have the power to support those companies that work with social and enviromental conscience. One good example is to look for  the “Fair Trade” seal, stamped on the product or visibly displayed on the establishment. This certifies that the company pays for the farmers the fair price for their supplies.  When we buy this products we help support and assure the well being  of millions of families.

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  • Give Away what You don’t Use: Two rules of thumb in my house: 1) If we haven’t used in 6 months, donate. 2) If we buy one new, we donate one of the same.
  • Expose Your Kids to Art: Sounds irrelevant but it is not. Art is food for the soul, it opens doors to a world o satisfaction, enriches our lives in the most amazing ways. An art lover has much more chance to enjoy life without needing violence or money. Art expands our minds, makes us more tolerant, respectful and flexible. Read to them, watch with them good cinema, visit museums or just make them notice the architecture of your city all of these will plant the seed of curiosity on them for ever.
  • Donate Money or Time:  Soon I will post on the blog some links of different organizations that do amazing work and could benefit from our support.

 

Basquiat in Basque

“Believe it or not I can actually draw” Basquiat’s quote on the entrance wall.

The main attraction was the building itself. The Guggenheim, designed by the one and only Frank Ghery, if tele-transportation was possible, we would have seen it the day it opened to the public. After analyzing every angle, every unthinkable curve, every unbelievable wall (all of them proof that “ trying the absurd achieves the impossible” as Miguel De Unamuno said) came dessert: Jean Michel Basquiat.

Right on the entrance, a painting mounted in recycled wood picked from the streets by the artist himself. A car, an accident, a hurt boy laying on the floor. A drawing made with rough brush strokes, seemed done by a preschooler. Nonetheless it strikes me. I listen to a gentleman behind me complain to his wife about bringing him to see “this” I silently laugh.

 A couple of steps later, I find my self wandering about who is the authority that classifies genius from fraud, and who is the authority that decides who is that authority. In general, sole possesors of the truth, make me nervous.

Suddenly, children voices in basque make me turn around and see a group of very well behaved four years old coming in, hand on hand. All of them wearing plaid uniforms and wide open curious eyes, they sit down. Always at their best behavior , the teacher starts explaining in basque the painting in front of them. (During Franco’s era, the basque’s language was forbidden so many of the living on the Spaniard side don’t speak it any more, but a few years ago they included it in schools to revive it)

The teacher talks with great enthusiasm and the kids follow her gestures hypnotized. While looking at the next painting, I pay attention to the voice that has being playing on the back, it is a Martin Luther King’s speech. I notice that in the left corner of this one, there is a crossed out word, that was Basquiat’s way to call attention to it. I find interesting that even though he was so young, he was able to understand so well human condition. I also find interesting how infallible our memory is when it comes to remembering mistakes in other people’s life pages.

Trough the audio guide I am listening to an interview done to Lisane Basquiat, Jean-Michelle sister, talking about recently coming across a old Brooklyn Museum membership card that belonged to his brother when he was five. The Basquiats were a haitian/portorrican family leaving in New York, so they were all fluent in english, spanish and french. Eventough they were not rich, her mother always exposed them to art and literature. It was her who gave little Jean-Michelle “The Anatomy of Gray” to read while recovering from the car accident he suffered when he was eight. A lot of his art was influenced by this book and by Leonardo Da Vinci’s drawings.

The children are now in front of another painting. One of them is screaming: Hortza!! Hortza!!. I write down the word to look it up on a dictionary later. Another one is saying “tuberia” and pointing at the digestive tract drawn on the painting.

I am really amazed at the interest they show in his art. What kind of a genius can tell one’s story with out speaking a word? How does a Brooklyn street artist, gets a kid from Bilbao to show so much enthusiasm? How doesn’t he gets lost in translation? Is there someone who speaks the language of colors? Of relativism? Of mundane? Of pain? Of happiness? Of injustice? Of impermanence? Of dreams? Is Basquiat able to speak in the language of the Basques? In spanish? In forgotten? In anarchist? In offender? In tyrant? In human? Can a millennial from Basque Country understand the graffiti of a 80’s corpse? Is the history of nationalism similar to the history of racism? Is it similar to be an outcast to an alienated? Alienated to renegade? Did Basquiat also speak Euskera?

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I remember about the membership card. Wish that among this children is a future artist.