Facing a New Year

by | Jan 26, 2023 | 0 comments


NEW Year, New You… BS

It’s MY Photo and I’ll Smile if I want to.

I’ve never been big on this whole reinvent yourself guru mantra that gets spread at the beginning of every new year. Maybe it’s because my birthday always looms a mere few weeks after that fateful ball drop, but in general I’m a builder. There’s no time like the present. New Year, New You…what does that even mean? Sure, somethings have got to go, but a foundation is key as one asends to the sky like Mercury.

The beautiful thing about capturing people for a living is seeing all those faces come to life in pictures. Those years of success and struggle have shaped you into the many faces that you are… and I want that! I want the wrinkles of smile lines, the tear canals of struggle, the agelines of wisdom, and in my case a love handle or two. Sure, use that hair dye, or a little filler and botox, but not at the expense of not recognizing and more importantly not celebrating who you are.

New goals, boundeless energy for the journey ahead, giddy up! I am no different. As I make another trip around the sun, as does this magazine, I/We the writers, designers and contributors here at KARJAKA celebrate and thank you for perusing what we’re so passionate about in each edition.

 On a personal note, I’m eternally grateful to this amazing team of writers & contributors for what it takes to give and mount each month. Without them there is no KARJAKA, and lest we forget, without you there is no magic. Graciously Humbled.

Facing a New Year

I think so much in life is about duality. In thinking about facing a new year, it’s impossible for me not to face the old one. Often what I want for the upcoming year is directly connected to the things that I didn’t have in the previous one. I think in large part, this is a useful way to move through the world, this is how we grow. We write little reviews of ourselves and decide, sometimes with a little help, how to change. The idea that you need to face yourself first before you can step into the dreams you have for your life has always rung true for me. The more connected I feel to my inner thoughts, or as I like to describe it: the person behind my eyes, the more clear the path forward appears. 

But I spend a LOT of time thinking about the future. Lost in deep space of thought and time traveling through an endless cycle of hypotheticals about what’s to come and how to move through the world to get the things I want. There’s a huge source of comfort for me in planning weeks, months and years in advance.

So, in feeling hyper aware of my tendency to future-trip, and in the spirit of duality, for the first time in my life I find myself facing the new year with a strong sense to release all of that. To release the massive expectations created when the clock strikes midnight, and the ball drops in Times Square. I think being a New Yorker and being so close to a huge symbol of the new year in the western world, we feel this immense pressure to have big dreams and make massive changes more than anywhere else. But I think if the past few years have taught me anything as an artist and as a human, it’s that nothing is promised. 

I think it’s so easy to recognize in theory that the future is an illusion. But the minute you’re actually faced with the reality that what you thought would be was never going to be because of elements beyond your control, it’s incredibly sobering. 

It’s easy to feel loss in those moments. I think you should. The grief of losing a future you were near certain would come to pass can be one of life’s hardest knocks. But in many ways it’s an inevitability, and feels like a life lesson that should be taught from a very young age. Right next to the birds and the bees. We should be warned. However, in the end I think it’s something most of us learn from experience. 

And in my experience, more than anything, those moments have taught me one massive lesson: stay relentlessly present. That all I truly know is what is right in front me. In this year I want a renewed sense of that presence. Presence in myself, my art, my partner, my friends and everything in between. 

Realistically, not thinking forward at all is impossible. But I think I’ve missed opportunities in my life that were right in front of me because I was too focused on what was ahead of me. A quote from ‘The Pursuit of Happiness’ rings particularly true for me this year:

life is defined by opportunities, even the ones you miss”

I’m endeavoring in no missed opportunities this year. In finding new ways to remind myself that holy shit, I’m alive. I love this series Aleks and I shot together. We met by chance, on a beautiful summers day, on a fire escape that sat across from each other on the backside of two buildings in Harlem NYC. Complete strangers. We struck a short conversation, found a common love of art and photography, and eventually collaborated to create this shoot together. Saying yes to the present moment and it resulting in this work will always stay with me.  

This shoot was Aleks’s brain child. Pure portraiture exploring the range of what it feels like to just exist. I had the opportunity to express elation, depression, rage, exhaustion, contemplation and so many other nuanced emotions in front of camera in a way that didn’t feel performative. These images mean a lot to me because they feel like an expression of inner life in a way that is unfiltered. They’re just me. Being. 

All that we truly know is that we exist. And if you forget to remind yourself that you do, you’ll be on an autopilot journey through your life, asleep behind the wheel. So this year I hope to face the present moment more than ever before, accept it for exactly what it is, and fill it with every part of me. I hope you do too. 

Knock Knock

It’s the version of you before the
disorganized phenomenon
your Real Life
driving anywhere
through the sweet corn 

romanticizing another man’s job
romanticizing yourself   
like the things we do every day
like any Everyman

would, emerging to another 
new smell
the lovely dark on 
or under any rock

-Amanda Deboer Bartlett

On Photography By a Non-Photographer
Lahav Halevy

I have big eyes.

Not a metaphor, I mean, anatomically. I was born with big eyes, and I have had big eyes ever since.

When I was a child, kids used to laugh at me because of my eyes. In day trips, if I fell asleep on the bus, my eyes were left somewhat open. I know it because whenever I woke up kids were staring at me laughing. It’s a kind of memory one doesn’t forget.

Along the years, I overcame the embarrassment and grew up to respect the issue. My big eyes appeared to be a tool. I learned that I have a rather good sightseeing.

I started wearing glasses for short distances two years ago, by the age of fifty five.

Ten years prior to that, people around me developed some kind of antagonism towards the fact that I still don’t need them.

Through the years I’ve learned to use this tool I took my eyes to be. It is rather useful if one is a graphic designer, which I am.

And yet, to my great disappointment, never in my life I had an eye for photography.

I use photography on a daily basis. It’s part of my job. I like photography. I can tell between good and bad photos, but I can’t take a single decent shot. Unfortunately.

* * *

I got my first camera upon visiting New York for the first time in my life. This was 1986, and I was 21 years old. I entered the first store I saw in Times Square, and bought myself an FM2 Nikon. I didn’t even have enough money for a case, so I went down to Canal Street, entered Pearl Paint, bought some canvas leftovers, and made one.

I loved it, the FM2. I believed it’s an extension of my hand, which in itself is an extension of my brain. And it was all true, only I missed the part of eye in the equation.

* * *

Nowadays, I’m a teacher in the same Visual Communication Dept., in which I studied in (only by then, it was called “Graphic Design”…). When I speak to my students about photography, I emphasize on the distinction between “them”, the photographers, and “us”, designers.

“Their work”, I tell them, “is done the moment they press the button. Ours only begins after that”.


Helmut Smits is a “visual artist”, in his own words, lives in Rotterdam, Netherlands. He uses photography as his main vehicle of expression. A glance at his work and at my own, even a child can easily tell that his abilities are by far better than mine.

No wonder, I’d say on my behalf, giving the fact that I saw Rembrandt’s Night Watch for the first time when I was seventeen.  If Mr Smits did not see it at a younger age, it is only because he didn’t bother to spend the hour or so it takes the train between Rotterdam and Amsterdam, plus the tram between Amsterdam Centraal and the Rijksmuseum, where the painting is hanging since 1885, save the 2nd WW years, which were anyway some 30 years before he was born.

The Night Watch is, of course, only an example to the differences between growing up in the heart of civilization versus growing up in a small (ugly) suburban town in the northern part of a small country in the Middle East. Culturewise, that is.

And yet,looking at his photos, is not seeing his art. In order to “get” Smits’ art, one has to read the title of the work. It’s the dialogue between image and words that is the work. Non is a self-standing something.

Here’s a bunch of wires, ropes, tapes, cables, wool, etc. set on a white floor. Nothing to write home about. On the surface of things, it even looks totally arbitrary, laconic and somewhat boring.

And then, one reads the title: “1847 meter, the distance from my house to my studio”… (See the specs for yourself).

And here’s the most banal 1L bottle of Coke.

Until one meets the interaction between image and words:
“0.26 Gallon of Oil (1L Coca-Cola bottle filled with oil)” (2007).

Speaking of Dutch masters, here are 4 images I took while strolling in the village. Not much to say about any of them. Unless you have a different way to look at their meaning.

Same with Rene Magritte’s famous pipe (or not pipe). I care not about how the photo itself looks, but only as documentation for use later.

* * *

My second camera was a Leica, M4. My father gave it to me when I began studying in “Bezalel School of Art and Design, Jerusalem”. Having both an FM2 and a Leica got me many points among teachers and students alike, but none made me any better photographer.

I use the camera as a documentation tool, and I use photos as part of another picture, I wouldn’t say “a bigger picture”, as it is not. Just a different one, with a different approach to photography.

* * *

The Nikon, I gave it to a friend sometime before the turn of the millennium. Not long after, the woman moved to Japan, bringing the Nikon “home”. The Leica I gave to my son, who started the same art school, same department, as myself, few months ago. The Polaroid I keep. I love it, though I take pictures only with my iPhone (and the gadget did make my photos better somehow, I have to admit).

I forgot all about this Nikon long time ago. If to allocate memory space in my head for something I got on my first trip to NY, 37 years ago, it is better to use it for Coltarne’s “Love Supreme”, Miles Davis’ ”Kind of Blue”, and Bill Evans’ ”Sunday Night at the Village Vanguard”. This music changed my life way more than this beautiful all-manual SLR camera. Visually-wise too.

But few weeks ago I get a message from this friend in Japan. She tells me she’ll come visit homeland after 11 years of absence, and while going through old boxes, she finds this Nikon that “I don’t even now how and why I was so ignorant to take for myself”, and now she wishes to give it back to its original owner.

“I know you never liked the idea that the most beautiful pictures don’t just come out from the camera for you (in your own words. I did think you took pretty nice photos with it), but since your son started studying, maybe he will do something with it”.

And so, here it is.

And as for myself – whenever someone refers to anything I did as “pretty nice”, I know I failed once again.

Personify with Playlists: How Music can Help You Carpe The Damn Diem with Nicole Vitale

At the top of every New Year lies a mountain of pressure – pressure to be better, achieve more, reinvent ourselves. The familiar urge we have to “go big or go home” rears its ugly head, tempting us to go all in; Quit drinking cold turkey, bury ourselves in a mountain of vegetables and drown in green juices, or to hit the gym 7 days a week (despite fatigue, because “pain is weakness leaving the body”) and achieve the ideal body, an image fed to us by devious marketing schemes and compounded by the male/female/non-binary gaze. We’ve all been there, standing on our soapboxes of self-loathing, flailing our arms and screaming “NEW YEAR, NEW ME!”. But what if instead we stood back and took a critical look at the person we have become? What would we see? I prefer to take stock in the achievements, failures, moments and memories that have erected the person who stands proudly before you. Flaws and all, I choose to honor the person that I am, rather than completely discount her and attempt to eradicate her from existence. Now, I’m not saying you can’t have goals for the New Year. I’m just saying not to throw the baby out with the bathwater (what did that baby even do to you anyway, and where is its mother?). 

I find that in times of harsh self-criticism, or at the top of a New Year when we’re being bombarded with messages to change, the power of a well-curated playlist is immeasurable. Music is a constant. While trends in music change as often as you change your undies, our favorite songs are reliable and unwavering. We can depend on the music we love to be consistent, even if we ourselves as humans are not. Music transports us to different emotions and states of being by manipulating moods. I’ve been crafting playlists for years to match situations and emotional states; Any regular reader of Karjaka knows that this is my bread and butter. The accompanying playlists I create for each article I write are meant to enhance the words on the page and deliver the reader to the headspace I was in when I was furiously typing. They’re meant to be listened to in sequence, but can easily be shuffled and the same sentiment applies. I think of myself as fabricating an immersive experience of sorts…and the same goes for my personal playlists. Think of a playlist as a snowglobe; Each playlist is a microcosm, wherein exists a different reality. Your collection of playlists is like a shelf on which each one of these little worlds exist. Some are filled with tearful ballads and a resonant, rich chorus of strings, evoking a cloudy and gloomy mood for those days that aren’t so great. Others can be uplifting and sunny, riddled with sugary pop tracks and bouncy melodies to unburden the mind and lift the spirits. 

Some days we want to exist in our pity party bubble, tucked into a gravity blanket with a fistfull of tissues. Lewis Capaldi and his disconsolate tracks are excellent accompaniment to my sad sack behavior. Society tells us to push through our sadness and ignore our exhaustion. But why? I for one want to feel, because that’s what makes life so profound. If a sad Cabbage Patch Doll of a Scottish man wailing away doesn’t tug on the heartstrings, I don’t know what does. Now, when I want to remember what a boss I am, my playlist “cocky” is the move. It’s full of powerful, confident anthems by artists like Cardi B, RuPaul, Tinashe, Megan Thee Stallion and other similar artists who know their worth and proclaim it proudly to the world. I put this playlist on and S-T-R-U-T, very few (if none at all) f*cks given; My head held high and hips swiveling, feeling like the baddest 5’2” bitch on the planet. Now, I am not claiming to love every single thing about myself (though as you know, I am quite fabulous) or that I have it all figured out. I’m a sentient sack of blood of bones just like you! I’m fumbling my way through this journey of radical self-acceptance like anyone else would because I am human. It has taken me a long time to get to the place that I am, and every day I have to remind myself that I am perfectly imperfect, and that is more than ok. Our moods are meant to fluctuate, as is our progress. But the key is not to let it bring us down or wave the white flag and give up if we slip up. Even if I attempt something and fail, I dust myself off and carry on. I carpe the damn diem. Some diems, I don’t carpe as much. But a bitch does the best she can, and that’s what counts. 

I want to encourage you to really listen to what your body and mind are craving. Locate the behaviors, people, situations that are not serving you and strive to make changes that honor your needs instead of those that align with a societal ideal. F*ck what society thinks you need, you’re steering the ship here! We’re going to take the first small step in your self-preservation journey with the one thing I know best: music. Ok, now it’s time for the homework portion of this article. I want you to think about the soundtrack to your life. What does that sound like? What feelings do you want it to evoke? My assignment for you is to compile a playlist on whatever medium you choose (cassette for the OG’s, Spotify, Apple Music, pen & paper…) and determine at least 10 songs that allow you to bask in your uniqueness. Find your constants and immerse yourself in them. What type of music defines you? What artists empower you and lift you up? You can title your playlist as simply as just your initials, or assign a title that has a secret meaning to you and you alone. It can span across all genres, tempos and moods, so long as it comforts you and emancipates you from the notion that you are something to be modified rather than celebrated and commended.

There is so much about each and every one of you that should not be discounted or glazed over in an attempt to reinvent yourself. The truth of the matter is that humans are complex and messy and sometimes very lazy. We are flawed, and that is a truth we need to accept. The impulse to jam on the brakes, launch into a new routine and show everyone that you are in the process of achieving the equivalent of ego-driven social nirvana is not sustainable. And those flaws I was mentioning earlier? They are beautiful. They are what make you inherently, well, you. If you take away one thing from this article, let it be this mantra: “I honor who I was, who I am, and who I will become”. Here are some tunes to help empower you (in as non-cheesy of a way as possible) and remind you who the hell you are, you unique and wonderful son of a bitch. 

Facing You with Jeff Karly

An evening in Dubai during the height of the pandemic, this night was one to remember. Here I am riding on a camel heading to a dinner in the desert. The air was still and the sky was calm. The food and the hookah was hittin’ too (translated was very good). The night was going really good, but my mind was occupied and for some reason, this time it was noticeable to the people I was with. Towards the end of the night, my friend and I, a successful entrepreneur, and philanthropist were talking about the state of the world and our place in it. I guess my answers weren’t really inspiring to her enough, so she asked me an important question – “Why don’t you let people really know you, like really? I’ve worn the proverbial “I’m good mask” for so long, secretly, I wasn’t comfortable revealing it, mainly to myself. The separation of the creator from the man.

At the time, my career building was on the up. I was working full time, growing my brand and just signed a contract to design a few pieces for a reputable brand for their spring collection. I was being tapped to design, create marketing campaigns, attend panels, engage in fashion curriculum development, building my brand and while working with some of the most creative minds on some very cool projects. Like looking at the college admission pipeline, working on legislation that tackles human and environmental abuse in the fashion industry. It was/is fun and exactly what I want to do. I was growing, but I felt juxtaposed in my own story. 

I was doing exactly what I wanted all the while feeling exhausted. Many moments felt like I was just running on fumes. Slowly but surely those fume reserves were getting lower and lower. There was this unhealthy feeling that my next move will make or break me, so every move seems super important that I can’t stop. With everything I was working on, I had to remove something off my plate. In my own therapeutic trial, I noticed that retreating in the background while uncomfortable felt safe. Ironically, I am living my dream. I’d imagine it, but I never thought I’d be able to actually have a hand to create in multiple spaces  — . Fashion, film, education, music, theater and more. So if this is my dream, what is this feeling? For a while, I ignored the burnout. The pandemic had only exasperated it and proved that it was necessary to just rest. Was I ok with that? F*ck no. But when the simple things began to get hard, when the things that once brought joy feel like a chore…it sucked. This version of me was winning and I was losing.

At Least I thought I was losing, so I did a social experiment with myself. I asked the question, is out of sight out of mind real? I didn’t post my wins when I didn’t post my losses. I didn’t post the trips to the island or the half a year I spent living in Mexico kicking it with a Mariachi band. My compelling truth though is that my mind was never at rest.

A couple of weeks ago, I sent a friend a happy new year text; he said to me, “personally, I kinda hate the idea of New Year – like you know, New Year, New You in the sense that you’ve not been you for so long and now suddenly you’re new. New Year New You has been played out so much, it  just sounds like bullsh*t when I hear people say it, so much that a visceral f*ck you comes out in my mind.” I chuckled while pressing “Haha” on the text. On the one hand, his statement on New Year, New You, kind of resonated, like seriously, new you? But on the other hand, if you have the courage and or audacity to break the symbolic wall or remove the mask, then perhaps “this year” is the year you get it right, right? 

The anime geek in me thinks about the chapter/episode in Naruto Shippuden where he trains at the Falls of Truth to obtain the Nine-Tails chakra, a power that could change the world. The waterfall becomes a mirror that reflects one’s true self. To get this power, you need to defeat your true self, the version of you that holds doubt, fear, anger, and anxiety. I’ve reached the point in my career where I can take stock of my failures, victories, and losses. Success is fragile, and this shit is lowkey hard. Sometimes it felt like everyday had an infinite beginning with no actual start or a final ending. That loop was tough. I was letting the title character, the lead character, hide in the shadows. In the face of action and growth it presented as a lot of inaction. The conflict was 100% internal. After being approached so many times to explore a side that I instinctively hide, I finally agreed to do it, to let y’all in.

My friend’s text ended with, “I’d think for both of us it’s that opening up, unleashing, becoming more of who you are and meant to be….” I can’t say something had changed, but deep down, it lit a spark. It gave me the bravery to metaphorically travel to the Falls of Truth and begin training to face my inner self. And the goals are clear, flow in transparency, believe in myself again, and rid the inner conviction of worthlessness. Do you ever feel like you’ve made it? I promised someone who passed some time ago that I would be great and remain open to the journey. This piece isn’t a piece shitting on New Year’s, New You. It is a piece that encourages transparency and facing you. It’s to write and tell your own hero story. Anxiety can’t coexist with faith and trust. So New Year, New You? Perhaps, I’ll see you there if you have the audacity to do it.

Unleash the Inner Beast with Tavia Sharp

“One of the things that stands out the most from working with Tavia and her team was the styling and photoshoot experience in NYC. I had a major identity shift in the dressing room the day we went shopping. Looking at myself in the mirror in the new clothes, I saw the future version of me staring back. Also, being in New York City and doing a photoshoot with Karjaka in the middle of Times Square was fun and inspiring. It helped me look at my own world differently and I felt activated to unleash my next level.” 

Frank Kellogg shared about his recent experience working with myself and my team. Frank is a fitness coach and keynote speaker who was looking to level up his brand image. Before Frank came to me for help, he wasn’t feeling very confident in advertising his services, his Instagram was all over the place, his style and photos were outdated, and he did not have the necessary processes or systems in place in order to market or sell his business online.

First, I provided 1:1 coaching and creative direction for Frank’s brand image and social media profiles. Next, I planned a VIP Weekend in NYC including grooming & style appointments so he can start to look the part and become a match for his next level along with a killer brand photoshoot to capture new scroll stopping photos to use for his social media channels. Lastly, we worked on his marketing and sales strategy along with the LinkedIn Expert on my team to rebrand his LinkedIn profile so it can become a currency magnet for his brand.

“I now have so much more clarity in my business processes and learning all the programs Tavia and her team taught me, helped me be more organized and structured as well. I have more clarity on the programs I sell which allows me to be more confident in my sales process. And the way I’m showing up online and my brand image is more cohesive. I’m even getting sales calls booked from my social media channels which never happened before. I pay much more attention to my style and the way I present myself whether that is at a professional networking event, speaking on a stage or teaching a class. And I’m in a relationship now with an amazing woman which was a fun added bonus thanks to Tavia’s 1:1 coaching!” 

As a New York City based Image & Personal Branding Expert for entrepreneurs and client facing professionals, my team and I will overhaul your outdated image and branding to help you enhance your perceived value (aka, authority) so that you’re more easily able to attract premium clients at premium prices and exude more confidence on social media, your website and even in-person to become a magnet for new opportunities.

Your image should define who you are, compliment you, shape your brand story and do the selling for you. If you want to break through the online noise, stop the scroll and get noticed, you must have a brand image that is uncopy-able. If you’re ready for 2023 to be your year to stand out and be recognizable, I’m here to help you unleash your inner beast just like Frank did.

Black Hats, White Hats and New Years?
with Craig Thomas

As park guests entered the Westworld theme park in the HBO series Westworld, they had the option of selecting the white cowboy hat or the black hat.  White, as you may have guessed, represents the good guy—the upstanding citizen who plays by the rules.  The black hat is the villain, the renegade.  The Man in Black initially grabbed the white hat off the rack—he considered himself a virtuous, loyal soon-to-be-husband with a keen sense of integrity.  He believed himself to be devoid of self-serving actions.  Needless to say, he thought very little of his friend who invited him and demonstrated various acts of violence and hedonism (his friend chose the black hat).  

However, as he spends more time immersed in the debauchery of the theme park, he allows himself to take off the collar of obedience and abuse the life-like robots who represent the “hosts”.  With no repercussions for his actions, he reasoned that he did what any normal visitor to the park would do:  indulge in their every temptation.  Not only that, as he continued to frequent the park he lost his entire moral compass and felt zero empathy for the hosts he abused, maimed, and killed for his own pursuit.  He even took matters a little too far with his good friend (and brother-in-law) and left him in an abused and desperate situation. 

All of this was in pursuit of finding a child-like maze that he thought would solve all his problems and provide the answer to life’s biggest mysteries.  To say he had great difficulty separating reality from fantasy would be quite the understatement.

Perceptions can be tricky.  

New Year’s resolutions are probably the most criticized and scrutinized metric outside of politics.   They’re as old as time.  And yet we still all make these solemn promises to ourselves—and others—in vows of sworn self-testimony to make us better humans.  We want to believe that the turn of the calendar is reason enough to re-create ourselves, so we make bold declarations that are often very black and white in their expected outcomes. 

There is a certain tribal mechanism involved when it comes to any type of resolution, regardless of timing.  It’s often initiated by others who’ve publicly made their new aspirations known.  And I believe these pacts are better seen to the end when we know others are sweating, bleeding and crying as a syndicate during the process.  

Sharing this venture allows us to commiserate—within an understanding platoon—in a supportive way and lets us see that we aren’t alone. It can also be facilitated by having an experienced professional guide and direct decisions and actions along the way because they’ve been there before.  Academic advisors, financial gurus, lawyers and coaches are all within this ring of expertise that should be able to lead their clients through these life altering decisions.

There are no quick fixes.  No overnight solutions.  The truth about New Year’s resolutions is they aren’t so black and white.  They’re much more gray.   They can be nuanced and honed along the way as unfamiliar and new skillful regimens are habitually executed with techniques that get better over time. They need to be sculpted and drawn up to fall within the boundaries specific to the ability of the individual.  They should push someone into some discomfort, but not so much that they’re self-defeating.  

In two words, they are a delicate balance.

And these resolutions come in the form of 5 major categories (as per a survey by statista.com) for 2023:

  1. Exercise more (52%)
  2. Eat healthier (50%)
  3. Lose weight (40%)
  4. Save more money (39%)
  5. Spend more time with family and friends (37%)

And—as it’s been well-documented—new health, financial and social proclamations often fall short of their intended goal.  It’s almost expected.

And that’s often because many targets are (among other things):

—poorly structured and not organized or tracked
—set too high and unrealistic 
—anticlimactic because despair creeps in
—not given the proper allocation of time

Unfortunately, no one is Neo.  We can’t upload martial arts in 7 seconds and become an instant black belt.  We can’t have the ability to pilot a helicopter in 4 seconds.  It sucks.  I know.

Instead our bodies and minds must observe the laws of modifications that embody thinking differently and moving differently.  These laws (which I pseudo made up as “laws”) take time to adapt to. Objectives with the highest success rate occur when there are parts that make up the whole: ie smaller attainable sections that lead down the Yellow Brick Road to the unveiling of the Wizard of Oz.

Transition before we are “ready” for it is the definition of transition itself.  Transition rarely comes at a convenient time.  And it comes at a cost.  The best transitions are the ones that occur proactively with a knowing sacrifice at hand—not when we are forced to due to straining circumstances.

So, how do you do it?

I can only speak on the strength and mobility aspects:

Plan your goals in smaller increments:  instead of looking to shed 10 pounds of fat in 2 months, try fitting into 1 size smaller of pants/dress every 6 weeks.  Or look to lose 1-2% of body fat each month.  These are sustainable goals that can be achieved each month that manifest in lifelong habits and will keep you on track for a larger goal that you don’t have to worry about until much later down the road.

Eat just 100 calories less each day.  That adds up to a deficit of about 3,000 per month or roughly almost 1 pound of bodyweight (3,500 calories equals 1 pound of fat).  Couple this with a workout routine and you’ll soar past a calorie deficit each month and could lead up to 10 pounds of body fat loss over a year.  Which leads to….

…a planned out strength and mobility program that is consistent, concise, intense and achievable.  The consistency of a program is the needed transition the body must endure on a weekly basis.  That creates more thermogenesis which will create a daily uptick in metabolic efficiency and utilize more of the calories consumed.  

A fitness program will also remove the wasted time figuring out what and how you want to spend your time training.  It sidesteps doubt and formulates a part of your day that is inclusive with all the other daily things you do.  Finally, it most accurately documents improvements both in the body internally and with external weights.  A consistent program will measure your progress—or lack thereof*.

*stumbling within a program is not a bad thing:  a good coach will find a different exercise or regress the prescribed one in the program.  It also can sift out a weakness not known before that—once rectified—makes other lifts and movements stronger.

Add to that a coach that can hold you accountable and that can help to:

—> troubleshoot questions
—> instill proper form
—> map out effective routines and
—> encourage you to break through mental barriers 

That’s a formula that embraces a healthy and balanced lifestyle that can even allow guilt free meals from time to time. It’s a mindset that one workout doesn’t make or break a lifelong pursuit; rather it’s a blip that’s afforded once the body acclimates to improved metabolic and movement demands. And that goes for having a one-off for eating sinful foods every once in a while too.

Ultimately, the journey to an improved self is a lifelong dedication.  It’s something that needs to be entwined into a daily ritual and awareness.  Once a program is established and seen through, it’s like the center of the maze that the Man In Black was seeking in Westworld:  it’s an expedition that never has an endpoint—and it’s not meant to.  The process in getting there should be embraced and used as a learning tool.  Racing to the end and seeing the answers is not at all satisfying and never sustainable.  We do not learn from being handed the answers.  The patience of allowing ourselves moments of highs and lows within all learning curves is priceless and can’t be substituted for. 

We may never find the center of the maze like Dolores from Westworld, but we aren’t supposed to and that’s ok.  It’s the path to get to the center that matters.

And we absolutely do not need to choose either a black hat or a white hat to designate our preference.  We can fall somewhere in between.  Soft goals to start out are better to adhere to and they can become more firm as we move through weeks and months of adjusting our lives around new habits and schedule changes.

After all, if millions of people can undergo physical transitions every year, why can’t you?

New Year, New Facade? with Kat Chan

At the start of the new year, societally, I always get this vague sense of a monumentality or opportunity for great change. Many folks make resolutions and reset their intentions for personal or professional growth. Time moves a little slower for building facades than for us humans, but intentions and resolutions can still apply. Much like fashion or music, even building facades have trends and movements. They just can’t really respond or adapt as fast as us. In light of the new year, we’re going to look forward by looking back at arguably the greatest shift in architectural history.

We design and engineer based on past experience, with anticipation of what the future may bring. This can mean anticipating change, which can include change of use, layout, climate, etc.

In the past, we made facades based on what was en vogue and whatever building materials we had. Modern building materials came about through industrial processes that allowed us to build taller, wider, and stronger (quite like that Daft Punk song): cast iron, glass, steel, and concrete with steel rebar are just some examples that enabled buildings to reach unprecedented heights and previously unimagined use. And, the buildings were incredibly ornate; examples specific to New York City would be the Flatiron Building, Grand Central Terminal, and New York Public Library. The visual texture created by all sorts of elements and materials are inspiring, including motifs of mythology and representations of fauna and flora.

But, the continued advance of technology also ushered in the architectural Modernist movement, which embodied a shift in aesthetic, away from this ornamentation, which had been associated with wealth power status. The shift was driven by the adage form follows function. Away with the ornamentation! No more statues or decorative reliefs of cherubs or lions or clusters of grapes. It was a bad day for terracotta which had been responsible for enabling such ornate decorative reliefs on the faces of buildings. Concrete for its incredible strength (bolstered by steel rods called rebar) would live to fight another day. Note, concrete is great in compression but horrible in tension. Much like a cake, if you have a plate under it, you can top with all sorts of toppings and maybe even add another cake to make a multi-tiered cake. However, much like a cake, if you try to only support it on two ends, it will crumple. The steel rebar bends and helps counter the crumpling effect.

There are some New York Modernist architectural examples that are more austere than others, but the ones I find myself gravitating towards are specific ones that celebrate concrete, metal, and glass with flair. TWA Flight Center designed by Eero Saarinen, is an excellent example of smooth concrete, abstract and inspirational geometric form, and daylighting coming through glazing. It was recently renovated to be a glamorous retro escape, complete with fine dining and hotel.  An example of Late Modernism, the Ford Foundation, by Kevin Roche and Dinkeloo, who took over Saarinen’s firm upon his passing, features an absolutely gorgeous atrium and impressive concrete, steel, and glass facade. A pinnacle of the International Style of Modernism is One Chase Manhattan Plaza by SOM architect Gordon Bunshaft and it includes the sculptor Isamu Noguchi’s Sunken Plaza, a serene space that incorporates Uji River basalt; and Jean Dubuffet’s Group of Four Trees. All of these buildings have undergone extensive renovations, and the path leading to raising funds for said work was a bumpy one, including conversations of complete demolition.

You see, what we didn’t know then is that some of those ornate features (cornices, sills, ledges, lintels) had a function. Those elements would jut out from the face of the facade and help promote water to move off and wick away from the building to prevent leaks. The most common way major leaks happened in the past were through windows, doors, and openings, which were essentially jumbo holes in the facade.

We know now that our assumption that the ornate was completely functionless was incorrect. We were a bit too fast to eliminate window sills and headers. (Maybe we could have even kept a cherub for fun?) Maybe our resolution as an industry to push for the new, innovative, and cutting edge was a little premature? I’d argue that until you take the plunge you really can’t know. What is science in the first place without inquiry? As an industry, we’ve even embraced and modernized terracotta (what a comeback!).

The fact is building facade lifespans weren’t really given too much thought back in the day. It was always a product of what is trendy? And what materials can we use?

But, now we know how geometry and material are integral to facade performance. We also now think of them over a 50 year lifespan. With maintenance and better materials, we can extend that lifespan to 75 years, 100 years, or even more. These decisions cost money upfront, and both maintenance and money through the years to come.

Speaking of lifespans, sometimes we employ the analogy that buildings are kind of like human bodies. Our skeleton is the structure, our skin is the facade, our internal organs and systems are the mechanical, electrical and plumbing systems. We generally take care of our bodies because it feels good, and generally we would like to extend our lifespans. This approach helps explain concepts to inspire and empower anyone and everyone to get invested and maintain buildings, and to advocate for the maintenance of the facade! 

So, as we face this new year together, building facades and I would love you to remember as we shift or renew our intentions and maybe even embark on a trend or movement, be sure to make space for learning. We are quicker to respond and adapt than buildings, so curb that enthusiasm that inevitably sets us up for disaster and instead reserve a bit to keep an eye out for how shifts affect you and make you feel.

LOCATIONS: shorturl.at/adMW4

TikTok or Not? Should we be concerned?
Howard Globus

November 29th, 2022, South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem banned TikTok on state devices for government officials and contractors. Other states have followed suit with over 28 having a complete or partial ban on the application on any state owned, operated, or managed device.  School districts from K-12 around the country are doing the same, as well as some universities and colleges.  The Chief Administrative Officer (CAO) of the House Catherine Szpindor had warned in August that the TikTok app represented a high risk to users and the Committee on House Administration authorized the CAO Office of Cybersecurity to “initiate the removal of TikTok Social Media Services from all House-managed devices”. This ban of TikTok on Federal government devices was proposed by the Trump administration originally, though never enacted.

In November of 2022, Christopher Wray, the director of the FBI testified before Congress and raised concerns about the influence of the Chinese government over the TikTok application and data gathering capabilities and actions of the platform.

To be clear, the concerns of TikTok are not totally unfounded.  There are concerns about the spying capabilities of TikTok. However, these concerns are not limited to TikTok.  What we have seen over the last few years and what we should all be aware of is that the applications on our phones track us.  The applications on our computer browsers track us.  The applications in our cars track us.  These statements should come as no surprise, if you have been paying attention to the news and the terms of service and hell, even if you jus to open an application on your iPhone and are asked by the application to allow it to send data to the manufacturer.  Why does my note taking application, or my calculator need access to my contacts?  Again, if we have been paying attention we should already know that we are the product, the data units being packaged up and sold to advertisers.

In a marketing lecture I attended in December the speaker was talking about the 53,000 data points that Facebook has on each user of its platform.  These data points can be used to segment and micro target customers and hyper-customize advertising.  This discussion was not on how to protect ourselves.  This discussion was on how to use the data to sell products to customers and prospects through micro targeting.

So, if we dispense with the pearl-clutching of how our personal information is being taken up and used and sold and the concern that we all have of this, FOR THE CHILDREN,  as we tap “agree” on our Terms of Service contract wit the iPhone upgrade, without reading it, and instead peel back what is the  concern here.

What we are really talking about is Xenophobia.  The fear of the other.

Apple has created an enhanced security platform to protect end users.  Law enforcement is not happy about this development because it will limit their ability to extract data from devices to catch criminals and terrorists. There are good arguments for Law Enforcement needing access.  But there are also a bevy of privacy concerns.  For another article.

This is not that.

This is othering a product, finding a bogey man and pushing.  The Biden administration has been working with ByteDance, the parent company of TikTok, to house all US citizen’s data in the US and remove access by the Chinese government.  ByteDance a Chinese company that has to answer to the Chinese government does not want to budge.

In the meantime, making an app that a preponderance of young people use and putting it out of reach for law abiding citizens to use to communicate with their representatives creates a digital divide.  It creates a way to limit, or at the very least make it more difficult, information flow between elected officials and constituents. 

Security concerns aside (which there are many), the limiting of access to communications tools is designed to alienate a growing, vocal and engaged portion of the electorate. Look at who called for the original ban, who has been pushing the restrictions.  Who stands to benefit from a less engaged younger voting block? Finally, take note and realize that the millennial generation has already surpassed the Baby Boomers in number and as will soon be a larger voting block as the last midterm election showed.  These bans are designed in part to limit participation in democracy. This fact should concern us all.

We need to fix the data gathering, sharing and selling of personal information – on all tools and platforms.  TikTok is a politically convenient strawman. Companies operating within the US, foreign or domestic, need to abide by established laws with real enforcement mechanisms.  The problem is those rules need to be applied uniformly, for US and foreign companies alike.  Facebook, Twitter, Google, Microsoft, Apple – none want the rules to change to affect them.  If enforcement mechanisms were put in place, TikTok could be made safer or be prosecuted. 

But safety is not what this is really about.

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