March 31, 2007

Random Links - 3

  1. Japanese musicians overcame fatigue and a major earthquake to set the record for the world's longest concert on Saturday, playing 184 hours non-stop in a program that ranged from The Beatles' classics to Japanese traditional harp music.
  2. A social goldfish bowl... the Falkland Islands revisited 25 years after the England-Argentina war that killed almost a 1000 people.
  3. A French architect claims to have solved the mystery of how Egypt's Great Pyramid was built.
  4. IBM helps the blind 'see' web video
  5. Outcry cancels chocolate Jesus show
    What a waste of good chocolate! :) (then perhaps, being the US, it probably was not really good, huh? (I was in Belgium for a conference earlier this month... expensive but hmm..hmmm..hmm.... Belgian chocolate - now thats what I call good chocolate!!)


Reading Amit Varma's post, I had to look up the word tristesse since it is a new word for me. In doing so, I found there is a book called Bonjour Tristesse by Francoise Sagan. (Btw, Webster gives the meaning as melancholy.)

Thanks to reader, I gleaned the first para of the book...which moved me and left me feeling tristesse, if you will.. (Maybe that's what they call non-coital tristesse, Amit?)

A strange melancholy pervades me to which I hesitate to give the grave and beautiful name of sorrow. The idea of sorrow has always appealed to me, but now I am almost ashamed of its complete egoism. I have known boredom, regret, and occasionally remorse, but never sorrow. Today, it envelops me like a silken web, enervating and soft, and sets me apart from everybody else.

Even in translation, that was something! Never heard of the author before today but makes one want to read more!

Disclaimer: Maybe it was not the words that moved me. Maybe, I just woke up on the wrong side of the bed. Am spending the morning surfing as I listen to Billie Holiday, Nina Simone, Dinah Washington, and Ella...oh...Ella....God Bless her soul!


1) The wiki entry for Francoise Sagan, says Bonjour Tristesse means "Good Morning, Heartache." So, what am I feeling - melancholy or heartache? I think it may be nothing that serious - just ennui.

Also, wiki enlightens that and the title Bonjour Tristesse is the French translation of this Billie Holiday song. Nice coincidence!

The wiki article also tells us about some of the troubles she had in the last years of her life before her death in 2004 due to tax evasion problems with the French government...sad end to her life!

4) Here is a Paris Review interview with the author.

Wikipedia controversy

I am a great fan of Wikipedia, though I have myself never contributed to it. So, it is with much dismay that I read about the latest controversy raging over the past 2 months. 
Also, here is the New Yorker article that started it all, along with the editor's note appended this February. Also, read this Guardian article by Seth Finkelstein, a strong critic of Wiki, saying that it "fundamentally runs by an extremely deceptive sort of social promise" by selling contributors "on the dream, the illusion, that it'll give them the prestige of an academic ("writing an encyclopedia")."
While that may be extreme criticism by a vociferous critic, various criticism of Wikipedia has indeed been growing along with its rising popularity over the past couple years, as indicated by this entry at the wiki itself. However, some changes to the way Wikipedia screens its contributors notwithstanding, this one promises to do to Wiki's reputation what the whole Dan Rather episode did to CBS's repuation and what the Jayson Blair affair did to the NYT.

March 30, 2007

Free Hugs

Just saw a feel-good kinda pod on and so thought I'd blog about it instead of the usual depressing stories from Iraq and such (which I have tried to ignore for some weeks now!)

Unfortunately, the video is only for tv and not available for viewing on their website. The song that went with the video was very appropriate and it was an enjoyable three and a half minutes of watching.

Anyways, here is the webpage for this meme.
Sometimes, a hug is all what we need. Free hugs is a real life controversial story of Juan Mann, A man whos sole mission was to reach out and hug a stranger to brighten up their lives. In this age of social disconnectivity and lack of human contact, the effects of the Free Hugs campaign became phenomenal.
Actually, the video is on youtube and is linked to at the above page and seems the music/song that I quite liked is by a group called Sick Puppies. Also, according to the wiki page for the Free Hugs Campaign:

The video on YouTube was released on September 22, 2006 and has over 40,000 ratings at an average of 4/5 stars, and over 11.1 million page views, over 21,000 comments and has been favorited over 65,000 times (as of March, 2007), making it the 12th most viewed video on the site. The video clip was voted "Most Inspirational" in a YouTube poll released on March 27, 2007.
Picture at the website shows that the guy's already made it on Oprah too. Obviously, I'm a little late advertising his effort! :)

The phenomenon has spread outside of the countries where "Juan Mann" started this i.e. Australia and England .... including, the US (picture 4 in slideshow at the link), Italy, Switzerland, Taiwan, and with not-so-good results in China.

Of course India has the original 'free hugger'..
Mata Amritanandamayi, the "hugging saint" but I am trying to imagine the stares one would get if one tried this in a mall in Mumbai, India. Hmm... the possibilities.

March 29, 2007

Train to Bangladesh

Bangladesh, India to restore train links after four decades

Despite all the recent hooplah about restarting the Delhi-Lahore bus, I did not realize that India & Bangladesh also did not have train services, which were apparently stopped during the1965 war with Pakistan.

So, all those refugees from Bangladesh that some people keep whining about pouring into India come by buses, I guess? For some reasons, I had an image of trains full of refugees arriving at Calcutta station, as told to me by an ex-colleague who was an ex-Calcutta native. Maybe that was the case post-1947 but pre-1965, I now learn this obviously was not the case.

Anyways, surprising that train services were not re-established after 1971 either, despite Indi(r)a's help in the creation of Bangladesh through another war with Pakistan! Amazing that it has taken this long ...

Of course, all this is ironical considering the World cup outcome... but I say that just in jest and know it is a frivolous remark :)

P.S Speaking of Pakistan, read Amit Varma's recent essay, ”General Musharraf’s Incentives.”

March 26, 2007

Life's little pleasures

Like I had written before, I had indulged in some wishful thinking about wanting to see/hear live some of the great names in West African music....

...well, earlier this week, en route to my dentist's office to pick up some x-rays, I noticed that Toumani Diabaté and his Symmetric Orchestra are going to be playing at the Somerville theater
here in the Boston area. I HAD to go to this event and at $28 a ticket, some would say it was a steal to see the world's finest (video) kora (a traditonal instrument in Malian music, essentially a 21-string harp-lute) player from Mali and his assembly of very talented musicians from Mali and other West African countries around Mali.

Much joy comes anticipating the concert... I'll blog again about the experience soon. In the meantime, go hear some of the songs and see a video from their recent album, Boulevard de l'Independence, which was apparently 'recorded in two weeks' worth of all-night sessions in Bamako'.
Also at the site is a preview of Toumani's collaboration with Ali Farka Toure, In the Heart of the Moon - which was recorded over "three unrehearsed, improvisatory two-hour sessions at the Hotel Mande, on the banks of the Niger river, in Bamako, Mali."

Also at the Somerville theater, on April 21st the great Mali singer, Salif Keita will be performing. I am very tempted to buy tickets again despite the fact that it is almost sold out and available tickets are in the very last few rows of the theater. For now, listen to Keita's haunting voice on this song, where he sings with Cesaria Evora, Cape Verde's finest and most popular female vocalist.

Incidentally, Cesaria Evora will also be performing in Boston at the Berklee Performance Center in June.

See previous posts on music from Africa - 1, 2, 3, 4, 5

March 24, 2007

Music from Mali

Heard the Mali group, Tartit, on Andy Kershaw's show on BBC Radio. The playlist for the weekly show provided a link to Tartit's page on, where you can enjoy four of Tartit's songs.

Such joy...some day I need to go to Timbaktu!

also see previous posts on music from Africa - 1, 2, 3, 4

March 23, 2007

Zero is good

Just saw a link earlier today that talked about Zero-waste efforts: zero-energy, zero-carbon, zero-emissions, zero-waste

Indeed...low impact is is even better! The idea of using less instead of using indiscriminately and then trying to recycle, gels very well with the way I lead my lifestyle. Of course, one needs to use some basics and recycles what one can... but the idea of using less and even less is great.
Some people* are setting examples, as reported in this NYT article yesterday. (* webpage of Colin Beavan, the 'No-Impact-Man' featured in the NYT article.)

what would you be willing to sacrifice for a more environmentally sound life?

Also visit the Eco-Center web-site to learn about what they are doing to help people "strive for clean air, safe water, healthy communities, and environmental justice."

Reference: My compilation post with various links on Global Warming and the Environment.

March 19, 2007

A hiatus

The cricket World Cup is going on and a lot is happening. Unfortunately, I lack the inclination to blog.

I'll be back soon after this temporary hiatus.. probably in a few months days. I may occasionally link to some things of interest but on occasion, but like in the past 3 weeks, there may be periods of silence.

March 4, 2007

Global warming a human rights issue

Sheila Watt-Cloutier, an Inuit and winner of the United Nations' Champions of the Earth inaugural award in 2005, has said that global warming constitutes a violation of human rights for indigenous people in low-lying areas throughout the world.

How hot is it? So hot that Inuit people around the Arctic Circle are using air conditioners for the first time. And running out of the hard-packed snow they need to build igloos. And falling through melting ice when they hunt.

Read her others speeches over the years here.

By the way...what would be Bush's message to the Inuits? Adjust and adapt i.e. get used to it! After all, only those that adjust and adapt will survive. Didn't that Darwin guy say something like that? Ok.. I'm just saying this tongue-in-cheek, but that was pretty much the response when some people brought up the issue of the adverse effects oil drilling in the Alaskan National Wildlife Refuge would have on animals in the area. (citation needed.. had read this somewhere but cannot seem to find the article. Will link when I do)

Not sure if calling it a human rights issue is provocative hyperbole but climate change is no doubt as big if not a far greater threat to the world in the long run as international terrorism.. but guess where the billions are going!

Reference: My compilation post with various links on Global Warming and the Environment.

March 3, 2007

Hitting the snooze button

Just saw the documentary, Hot Times in Alaska on PBS's Scientific American Frontiers. If watching it does not depress you about the future of the world, nothing will... the alarm has long gone off, we are in perpetual-snooze mode!

What's the bad news, you ask? In short - Alaska is not so frigid, the lakes are disappearing , glaciers and ice are melting faster than ever before, the peat bogs and permafrost in the Tundra are disappearing and are a ticking climate-bomb which can unleash tonnes of methane and CO2 -- its bad news all around from this final frontier.

Remember that it has been less than 150 years since man discovered electricity... just about a century of the high-output mechanized world! We live in a consumption-is-God world and are "drunk on fossil fuels." And although the US is the leader* in this gluttony of consumption with reckless abandon, the rest of the world is fast catching up!

Like Vonnegut writes, "Human beings, past and present, have trashed the joint".... but people don't "give a damn whether the planet goes on or not." We are "too cheap and lazy."

Consider this:
Aircrafts produce about 3% of EU CO2 emissions - more than refineries or steel plants - today. It is expected that, with the increase in the number of flights, aviation will account for 5% of total warming in 2050. Any minor reduction in CO2 output is going to be offset by this and other similar outcomes of our lifestyles merely because of the rate of increase in the world population (9.4 billion by 2050; thats almost 33% more than there were in 2000!); not to forget that billions of people in China and India are moving up to Western standards of living.


* Reminds me of a snippet from the Simpsons, where Bart Simpson says, "What do I need..... More..More ...More... I'm American"

Reference: My compilation post with various links on Global Warming and the Environment.

Not one more refugee death, by Emmy Pérez

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