July 31, 2006

Myth #1: Latin America is moving to the left

NY Times dismisses the myth that Latin America is rapidly moving to the left or center-left, at best - ignited by Hugo Chavez of Venezuela.

Happiness defined

If you're looking for happiness, go and live in Denmark.

It is the happiest country in the world while Burundi in Africa is the most unhappy, according to a report by a British scientist released Friday.

So, what does happiness mean to you? Undoubtedly, being happy
and measuring happiness (rtf file) is not that easy.
"Happiness is determined more by one's state of mind than by external events. Success may result in a temporary feeling of elation, or tragedy may send us into a period of depression, but sooner or later our overall level of happiness tends to migrate back to a certain baseline." - The Art of Happiness by the 14th Dalai Lama

"Happiness is not a simple thing. There are many levels. In Buddhism, for instance, there is a reference to the four factors of fulfillment, or happiness: wealth, worldly satisfaction, spirituality, and enlightenment. Together they embrace the totality of an individual's quest for happiness." - ibid
The Dalai Lama has also written a book - Genuine Happiness: Meditation as the Path to Fulfillment


"If it makes you happy... it can't be that bad"
crooned Sheryl Crow.
In an increasing trend, men lead meaningful lives with no jobs or ambition

Instead of heading to work, Beggerow, 53, fills his days with diversions: playing the piano, reading histories and biographies, writing unpublished Western potboilers in the Louis L'Amour style - all activities once relegated to spare time. He often stays up late and sleeps until 11 a.m..
Read more at the article.. no, its not from The Onion!

July 29, 2006

People : Sarah Shahi

Every now and then, one reads about some interesting person who you read about and say.."Hmm...." or "Wow...". So, I hereby begin a series called...well..not "Hmm..Wow.."... but for now, uncreatively titled - 'People.'

Reading the wiki entry for the 2nd king of the Qajar dynasty, the r
uling family of Persia from 1781 to 1925, Fateh Ali Shah Qajar, nephew of the the eunuch king & founder of that Persian dynasty, Mohammad Khan Qajar.. I read this....

Sarah Shahi, an Iranian Actress, is actually the great-great-granddaughter of Fateh Ali Shah Qajar of the Iranian Qajar dynasty from her father's side.

Aahoo Jahansouzshahi, whose Americanized name is Sarah Shahi (born January 10, 1980 in Euless, TX) is an American actress, model and former Dallas Cowboys cheerleader of Iranian descent. Shahi was named #90 on the Maxim magazine "Hot 100 of 2005" list; she moved up to #66 in 2006.

From royal lineage in Iran and a COwboys cheerleader, Maxim model, and Hottest woman list in the US... she sure must not find favor with the Iranian mullahs ;)

July 28, 2006

History of Iran

Via wikipedia... comes some information and understanding about Iran.
Do read...

Don't Think

Discharging an Arabic linguist -- despite critical need for translators -- because he's gay - The Idiocy of "Don't Ask, Don't Tell".

I put this under the Religion label because I see no other reason for such ridiculous illogical decisions. Religious illogic (tautology there?) is the only fallacy that goes unquestioned.

July 25, 2006

African Music Legends - Ali Farka Toure

The legendary guitarist from Mali, Ali Farka Toure, lauded as the King of the African Blues, the Godfather of Desert Blues, and the King of Sahara, passed away earlier this year. (Obituaries from BBC, NYT, Guardian, NPR, and various bloggers and online sites & forums remember him fondly.)

Thanks to BBC's World Music Audio Archive, listen to a great tribute show here (real player download)
Following the death of the mighty Malian guitarist Ali Farka Toure, Lucy Duran and Andy Kershaw presented a special tribute to their friend. The programme includes some of the desert bluesman's essential tracks, as well as material from the BBC's own archive, and contributions from Ali's friend and producer Nick Gold.

You can isten to a number of clips featuring Ali Farka Toure's music on NPR's All Songs Considered, including an interview (real player download) with his long-time producer, Nick Gold (also the man who bought us the Buena Vista Social Club). Nick describes his journey to Nikafune near Timbaktu to record the album, Niafunké.

...forsaking fame in Europe and the US, which came aplenty, Ali Farka Toure retired in the 1990s from all travel and music recitals abroad, instead developing and spending the remainder of his life developing his farm in Nikafune. He refused to travel to he US to even produce albums and apparently even did not travel to the US to get his Grammy, famously saying..."I don't know what a Grammy means but if someone has something for me, they can come and give it to me here in Niafunke, where I was singing when nobody knew me.")
Ali Farka Toure enjoyed his life in Niafune.
"Africa is my source of inspiration, my home base, my joy".
Contrary to many African artists, Ali Farka Touré was never tempted to exile himself in the West, during the seventies and eighties when the expansion of World Music drew many of them to Europe. Quite the contrary. This musician, whose musical culture is impressive, respected and revered throughout the world, is truly closer than any other to his own land, Mali. To such a degree that today, after winning over the international music scene with his sensitive, inspired blues, he now spends most of his time farming.
Markus James visited Ali Farka Toure in Mali in January 2006, a few weeks before Ali's passing, and shares his thoughts about his long-time friend and inspiration.

Reviewing his album,
Savane, released posthumously earlier this month, Robin Desenlow of the Guardian, writes:
There may be other recordings of his that have yet to be released (including sessions with the world's finest kora player, Toumani Diabaté, recorded at the time of their memorable concert together at the Barbican last year), but this is the last solo album by the best-known and best-loved guitarist in Africa, and it's simply outstanding. He described it as "my best album evera" and he was absolutely right. Even compared to the much-praised earlier work by Mali's "godfather of the desert blues", this is a set that's remarkable for its sheer variety and passion, along with the expected but still thrilling guitar work, and some less predictably fine vocals.
And Charlie Gillett reviewing the album, Savane, in the Observer wrote:
The great bluesman's posthumous album is the finest of his career. Remember him this way.
Farka Toure won his second Grammy earlier this year for Heart of the Moon, BBC's Album of the Year* (hear Hawa Dolo from this album) and his collaboration with Toumani Diabaté, the great African kora player, having won one for Talking Timbaktu, a collaboration with American guitarist, Ry Cooder, in 1994.

*The BBC review had this to say about the album: "It sounds like an established partnership made in heaven"..

Earlier Reviews in The Guardian
Ali Farka Touré/Toumani Diabaté, Barbican, London
24.06.2005: CD: Ali Farka Touré commit; Diabaté, In the Heart of the Moon
12.11.2004: CD: Ali Farka Toure, Red & Green

Other links of interest:
Ali Farka Toure- Live In Niafunke
Afropop makes the pilgrimage to visit Grammy Award winner Ali Farka Toure in his beloved hometown of Niafunke on the banks of the Niger River in northern Mali. In this sublime set, Ali plays acoustic with musical mates on the njarka (one string violin), and the gurkel (two string instrument w/metal piece for buzz) and calabash (gourd used for percussion). Ali talks about what family and his community in Niafunke mean to him. Listen to the selection of his songs at the above link or via
Read an interview with Ali Farka Toure

And last but not least, see these videos via YouTube:
Ali Farka Toure with Corey Harris
Ali Farka Toure part 1
Ali Farka Toure part 2
Ali Farka Toure part 3
Ali Farka Toure part 4
Ali Farka Toure part 5
Ali Farka Toure part 6

July 24, 2006

Music heaven

Oh yeah..... like a sex machine...

One of my favorite compositions - Dave Brubeck Quarter plays Take Five. Amazing playing on the alto saxophone by Paul Desmond, who wrote this piece.

And Guitar Heaven...

, shockwave-flash@http://www.dailymotion.com/swf/2BUrYDJszsrguvQ5" href="http://www.dailymotion.com/swf/2BUrYDJszsrguvQ5" id="">

And its coming up on midnight....time to go to bed - plan to fall asleep listening to this genius!

Letters from the heartland

Letter from the heartland of America reflecting what more and more Americans feel.. *
One day, we will wish Bush was never elected

Ok..Ok...maybe Montana is hardly the Republican
red-state in the heartland of America - the stereotype most people associate with the state is more of being a state with an anti-establishment streak - although there obviously are some conservative right-wingers in Montana too, like this other letter about 'declining morality' to the editor adequately proves!

The first letter reminds me of a
sticker I recently saw at an airport. It said.. "Don't blame me. I voted for Kerry" (in the 2004 elections.)

Also, speaking of
wingnuts, the heartland is not the only place you find them! Just this week, the mayor of the New Jersey city of Bogota got his panties in a bunch over a Spanish ad by Mcdonalds.
Mayor Steve Lonegan (R) of Bogota, New Jersey is ' calling for a McDonald's boycott if the fast-food chain does not take down a Spanish-language billboard advertising iced coffee.' Lonegan said the dvertisement is ' offensive' and 'divisive' because it sends a message that Hispanic immigrants do not need to learn English. ' The true things that bind us together as neighbors and community is our belief in the American flag and our common language.' - via ThingProgress.com
Does he hear himself? Its scary indeed if what he says makes logical sense to him! So much for those damn liberals from the blue states on the coast, huh! I say that tongue-in-cheek... in response to red-state rantings...er.. opinions and allegations about the Godless liberals and the immorality of the blue states (“the anti-God Left who have been using America’s courts to impose an anti-religion, anti-family agenda on America.” ) as contrasted against the morality of the Christian faith (Book review) & and the fundamentalism.. er.. conservatism of the red states. Anyone espousing such a holier-than-thou attitude is often times found to have more skeletons in their closet than the person they point their fingers at (whats the old saying about "When you point one finger at another, note that three point towards you!').

hypocrisy of the so-deemed 'Red State' allegations aside, Red State/Blue State distinctions make no sense to me although some people have come up with very incriminating data showing the divide spills over to such topics as minimum wage too. However, if you choose a hundred factors across the different states, then I think it is inevitable that data for some variable will fall out across these lines, especially when for a country as big as the US. Also, there are many other social and economic reasons and other long existing differences in viewpoints of urban & rural communities that can explain the same data but then I suppose all political leaning can also be attributed to a number of social and economic factors! I'm going around in circles now... but all in all.. I like the idea of a purple America ;)

And speaking of holier-than-thou bastards... I was trying to find info about this mayor of some city in Washington who was
embroiled in a sex-scandal last year... had meant to blog about him last year (maybe I did! Dont remember!) ...and lo..what a coincidence...found that he died over the weekend!!
The former mayor of Spokane, Washington, who was booted out of office last year after a sex scandal, died on Saturday of cancer, his family said in a statement released by a Seattle hospital. In December Spokane residents voted to recall the conservative politician following reports that he had offered city jobs to young men in hopes of having sex with them. The former Boy Scout leader had been a prominent Republican political figure and leading state legislator until 2003, when he resigned to run for mayor of Washington's second-largest city. While a legislator, West had co-sponsored a bill that would have made it a crime for unmarried teenagers to have sex, and often opposed gay rights proposals. The Spokesman-Review said West trawled gay Web sites, and the newspaper quoted three young men who said they had communicated over the Internet with West and had been offered city jobs or positions by him. (Also read: the Spokesman-Review editor Steve Smith's side of the story.)
In any case, rot in hell..hypocrite!

Mayor's in cities of Washington have historically been bigoted morons, I guess.... found this tidbit while google-searching the Spokane mayor story - In 1885 the then Tacoma mayor Jacob Robert Weisbach deemed the Chinese “a curse” and a “filthy horde.”)

Related: My rants against
Religious Dogmas in a blog post compilation that I keep adding to from time to time!

* Also read another such rant against Bush... this one in an interview with
Mike Wallace (of 60 Minutes fame):
Q. President George W. Bush has declined to be interviewed by you. What would you ask him if you had the chance?
A. What in the world prepared you to be the commander in chief of the largest superpower in the world? In your background, Mr. President, you apparently were incurious. You didn't want to travel. You knew very little about the military. . . . The governor of Texas doesn't have the kind of power that some governors have. . . . Why do you think they nominated you? . . . Do you think that has anything to do with the fact that the country is so fucked up?
Hard to believe Wallace used such language. Unfortunately I do not have the link to the above interview but I found it referenced at this blog post. Maybe the blogger just made that up in the midst of exam-week?

Meanwhile, Cheney is as popular as a rock-star in Wyoming.. but outside of Wyoming, you better not criticize the guy!

Steve Howards encountered Dick Cheney in Beaver Creek, Colorado and decided he would not pass up the opportunity to let him know he disapproves of the administration's Iraq policies. 10 minutes later he was arrested by Secret Service for "assaulting" the vice president.
Is this the Soviet Union or what? Sounds like a snippet out of a Milan Kundera novel or something!!!


No.. not talking about the song, Heatwave, written by brothers Brian and Edward Holland and originally performed by Martha & The Vandellas, with a 1975 remake by Linda Ronstadt reaching #5 on the Top 40 charts.

Musical trivia aside, this is a very serious topic and one that concerns me a lot. I keep a compilation of articles on the subject at my post on Global Warming & The Environment but thought I'll blog separately about the recent heatwave in the US (affecting people from California to St. Louis to Boston, not to mention deaths due to hottest temperatures in a decade in always-hot Phoenix; and not to forget the heatwave that is killing many in Europe, with temperature records being broken in many countries), I think 2006 looks set to break the hottest-year records set last year (see 2005 Recap below). (Reuters analyzes - Is the heatwave in Europe and the United States due to climate change? Well....all I can say is that scientists have predicted this based on modeling of emissions and other human-related causes.)

Emissions double heatwave risk 1 Dec 04

Update: Indeed..
enroute to another record breaking hot year! The first Half of 2006 is indeed the warmest on record for the United States.

Firstly, here are some tips on how to deal with a heatwave

Coping with a heatwave
Red Cross - Heatwave
Arizona Heatwave Website
State of Florida - Guide to beating the Heat
National Weather Service Heat Index Tabl

Heat Index Map
High Temp Map

Also read: Dying Alone, An interview with Eric Klinenberg, author of Heat Wave: A Social Autopsy of Disaster in Chicago ... about the 1995 heat wave in Chicago which killed atleast 600 people.

The Union of Concerned Scientists of USA (ucsusa) have spoken vociferously about this issue... but little is being done as the Bush administration continues its practice* of dissing global warming as an unproven theory...
Global average surface temperatures pushed 2005 into a virtual tie with 1998 as the hottest year on record. For people living in the Northern Hemisphere—most of the world's population—2005 was the hottest year on record since 1880, the earliest year for which reliable instrumental records were available worldwide. The year 2005 exceeded previous global annual average temperatures despite having weak El Niño conditions at the beginning of the year and normal conditions for the rest of the year.

Because most global warming emissions remain in the atmosphere for decades or centuries, the energy choices we make today greatly influence the climate our children and grandchildren inherit. We have the technology to increase energy efficiency, significantly reduce these emissions from our energy and land use, and secure a high quality of life for future generations. We must act now to avoid dangerous consequences.
Also at the ucsusa link,

World Temperatures Keep Rising With a Hot 2005

2005 warmest on record in north
The global increase is 0.48 Celsius, making 2005 the second warmest year on record behind 1998, though the 1998 figure was inflated by strong El Nino conditions.
Mercury rising 27 Oct 05
Carbon dioxide continues its rise 31 Mar 05

My blogpost compilation on the subject is at -
Global Warming & The Environment

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

And just like that, my #NPM2018 celebrations end with  a poem  today by Emmy Pérez. Not one more refugee death by Emmy Pérez A r...