October 31, 2007

From room to room

A beautiful excerpt from Mark Strand's poem The Next Time, from his book of poems Blizzard of One

Nothing against the steady pull of things over the edge.
Nobody can stop the flow, but nobody can start it either.

Time slips by; our sorrows do not turn into poems,
And what is invisible stays that way. Desire has fled,

Leaving only a trace of perfume in its wake,
And so many people we loved have gone,

And no voice comes from outer space, from the folds
Of dust and carpets of wind to tell us that this

Is the way it was meant to happen, that if only we knew
How long the ruins would last we would never complain.


Life should be more
Than the body's weight working itself from room to room.


It could have been another story, the one that was meant
Instead of the one that happened. Living like this,

Hoping to revise what has been false or rendered unreadable
Is not what we wanted.

Actually...this excerpt-ing of lines that vibe with me does not do justice to this beautiful poem. Do read it in its entirety here.

Need to read the much-lauded villanelles from the same book- "The Philosopher's Conquest" and "The Disquieting Muses"; poems that were inspired by works by the Italian surrealist painter Giorgio de Chirico. (Also this article which probes further the parallels between painting and poetry.)

In the meantime, here is a NYT review of the book, an interview and an audio interview with the poet, and some more of his beautiful writing.

Sumptuous writing

Sumptuous writing...via the New Yorker magazine. This is why I am not really a poet...only a wannabe!
Only we, with our opposable thumbs, want
Heaven to be, and God to come, again.
- from Wanting Sumptuous Heavens, a poem by Robert Bly
Like Charles Wright writes elsewhere:
The basic pleasures remain unchanged,
and their minor satisfactions
The world as we know it,
keeping it fresh-flamed should tomorrow arrive.
Also this short poem, titled Consolation and the Order of the World, also by Charles Wright that packs a wallop in a few words - reproduced here in its entirety
There is a certain hubris,
or sense of invulnerability,
That sends us packing
Whenever our focus drops a stop, or the flash fails.

These snaps are the balance of our lives,
Defining moments, permanent signs,
Fir shadows needling out of the woods,
night with its full syringe.
and one last one - not because there is a shortage of poems at the New Yorker or elsewhere but because I have to stop somewhere. This one is titled We Hope that Love Calls Us, But Sometimes We’re Not So Sure and is also by Charles Wright.
Autumn night at the end of the world.
In its innermost corridors,
all damp and all light are gone, and love, too.
I'll leave you with a link to some more of Wright's poems and an interview with him on PBS , after he won a Pulitzer prize in 1998 for his book of poems, Black Zodiac.

October 30, 2007

Bouncing boobies

Its one thing for Playboy to research breasts (NSFW) but all these scientists researching breasts! Phew.. :)

Bouncing breasts spark new bra challenge
Hot on the tail of research that shows the average female breast size has increased in recent years is a new study from the UK that shows breasts move more than a standard bra or brassiere can cope with.

Also: Breast Size Attraction-to-Repulsion Survey

In all human relationships, with respect to interpersonal attraction and interpersonal chemistry, an ever-present amount of “balancing” attraction and repulsion reactionary tendencies function to facilitate the formation and dynamics of human bonding. In stable long-term marriages, for example, 5-to-1 ratio of attraction-to-repulsion functions as a stabilizing ratio. When repulsion tends to predominate at a higher ratio than this, such as 5-to-2, divorce or relationship breakup is inevitable, unless a significant change occurs.

Also, this supposed correlation from a journal simply called The Breast (no..it isn't Phillip Roth's book by the same name - it's an actual scientific journal from Elsevier!)

Breast cancer and the role of breast size as a contributory factor!

Here is another research study about differences in ideals and stereotypes associated with breast and chest size, delineating the differences in men and women's perceptions and preferences.

Damn... and why did I become a chemical/polymers guy? Well.. I could have been researching silicones...but I hate the very look of them fake boobs (sorry.. no links! Go google it yourself..what kind of a site did you think this is? :))

Related: The Power of Cleavage

So... if you're a business woman reading this blog -- remember -- cleavage IS power - and you must be aware of using your cleavage power responsibly!

It's a dog's world - 3

A man out hunting in Iowa was shot in the leg after a hunting dog stepped on his gun. The dog is from Texas but filed for candidacy from Wyoming..er....Iowa. Ok.. no.. I just made the second sentence up.

Around the world in 8 minutes

Look under the sofa... you may find more than spare change and the odd cookie! ;)
Berlin student finds baroque painting hidden inside old sofa

Elsewhere in Berlin...a broken-hearts museum
which collects ex-couple’s artifacts from their previous relationships including old love letters, photos and gifts.

Meanwhile in Japan.. a
teen sensation - 16 year old Taichi Saotome's portrayal of women's roles has theater audiences swooning in Tokyo.

And in the US, the United Methodist Church has ruled that a transgender pastor who applied for a name change can remain in the ministry.

Sadly in the Arctic sea...
massive ice loss over the years (a video: 1979-2007)

October 29, 2007

No redemption in objectivity

I recently started reading Enduring Love* by Ian McEwan and got through more than half of the book on a 6 hour cross-country flight a few weeks back. However, although I was gripped by the novel, I did not get back to it until this past weekend. McEwan is one of the best writers I have read -- have read Amsterdam & Comfort of Strangers before this (and also started Black Dogs but do not remember much and know I did not finish it..so I count it as unread) and hope to read Atonement next. But now, instead of a review of the books, at which I would be no good at, here are some excerpts from the book for your enjoyment.

First up is a well-written and quite insightful paragraph about memories, half-truths, perceptions and objectivity.
No one could agree on anything. We lived in a mist of half-shared, unreliable perception, and our sense of data came warped by a prism of desire and belief, which tilted our memories too. We saw and remembered in our own favour and we persuaded ourselves along the way. Pitiless objectivity, especially about ourselves, was always a doomed social strategy. We’re descended from the indignant, passionate tellers of half truths who in order to convince others, simultaneously convinced themselves. Over generations success had winnowed us out, and with success came our defect, carved deep in the genes like ruts in a cart track – when it didn’t suit us we couldn’t agree on what was in front of us. Believing is seeing. That's why there are divorces, border disputes, and wars, and why this statue of the Virgin Mary weeps blood and that one of Ganesh drinks milk. And that was why metaphysics and science were such courageous enterprises, such startling inventions, bigger than the wheel, bigger than agriculture, human artifacts set right against the grain of human nature. Disinterested truth. But it couldn't save us from ourselves, the ruts were too deep. There could be no private redemption in objectivity.
A couple other random sentences from across the book that I liked..
Observing human variety can give pleasure, but so too can human sameness.

A man who had a theory about pathological love and who had given his name to it, like a bridegroom at the altar, must surely reveal, even if unwittingly, the nature of love itself. For there to be a pathology, there had to be a lurking concept of health. De Clerambault's syndrome was a dark, distorting mirror that reflected and parodied a brighter world of lovers whose reckless abandon to their cause was sane.
And many gems in chapter 5, some of which I reproduce here..
The relentless plainsong of the divorce novitiate - the pained self-advocacy that hymns the transmutations of love into hatred or indifference. ..... To calm myself I turned to that evening clinic of referred pain, the TV news... What soothed me was the format's familiarity: the war-beat music, the smooth and urgent tones of the presenter, the easeful truth that all misery was relative, then the final opiate, the weather.

Within twenty minutes I had drifted into the desired state, the high-walled infinite prison of directed thought. It doesn't always always happen to me, and I was grateful that night. I didn't have to defend myself against the usual flotsam - the scraps of recent memory, the tokens of things not done or ghostly wrecks of sexual longing. My beach was clean.

So the meanderings of narrative had given way to an aesthetics of form; as in art, so in science.

Work had settled on me a veil of abstracted contentment...

There are times when fatigue is the great aphrodisiac, annihilating all other thoughts, granting sensuous slow motion to heavy limbs, urging generosity, acceptance, infinite abandonment. We tumbled out of our respective days like creatures shaken from a net.
And quoting Keats from one of his last known letters written almost three months before he died to an old friend, Charles Brown.
I'ts rather stately in tone and typical in throwing out, almost as parenthesis, a brilliant description of artistic creation: "the knowledge of contrast, feeling for light and shade, all that information (primitive sense) necessary for a poem are great enemies to the recovery of the stomach."
And these two excerpts are wordy but real good examples of how descriptive and evocative words can be. I do not have an eye for details and could never write like this!
I loved the pitch and roll of the fields and their scatterings of chalk and flint, and the paths that dripped across them to sink into the darkness of the beech stands, certain neglected, badly drained valleys where thick iridescent mosses covered the rotting tree trunks and where you occasionally glimpsed a muntjak blundering through the undergrowth.
and this description of a person..
It wasn't the pallor that was repellent, it was the puffy, inhuman geometry of its roundness. A near-perfect circle was centered on his button nose and encompassed the white dome of his baldness and the curve of his fattened chin. This circle was inscribed on the surface of a barely misshapen sphere. His forehead bulged, his cheeks rolled out tightly from below his little gray eyes, and the curve was picked up again in the bluish undimpled bugle between his nose and his upper lip.
I am through to about page 200 of this 248 page novel and am sure there are a few more gems to find in the last fifth of the book, not that I have transcribed all the beautiful writing here from the first 200 pages. The beauty and joy in reading an McEwan novel - based on all three I have read so far - is that the language is so beautiful (and difficult at times) but at the same time the story itself is unique and gripping. Both Amsterdam & Comfort of Strangers had very unexpected turn of events at the end, disturbing in the latter case, and I look forward eagerly to finishing this novel tonight.

* What a great title. What a great pun on the word "Enduring".

October 27, 2007

Creativity has no limits

Uber-Cool Website Designs

HBO-Voyeur...a very cool website... followed one guy leave a woman and kid out of a room, as he run out of the room to the stairwell outside, then when I move up one stair, he is still there..running up the stairs! Interactive genius!

Saizen Media

Great haiku but more importantly, its very creatively presented. A winner. Creativity overload!

Breathtaking photos of Africa

Uber-Cool Stuff

Detailed images of a complete miniature city

Detailed minitature dollhouses

Incredible Oragami

October 26, 2007

All said and done

It was tough to read Lovely Bones, which told the story of a raped and murdered 14-year-old girl who looks down from heaven as her death remains unsolved, and I didn't read beyond the first few pages when I had picked it up at the public library in 2005.

Well... Alice Sebold delivers an equally tough and bleak story in her latest novel, The Almost Moon, which begins:
"When all is said and done, killing my mother came easily"
.... which is what the protagonist of the novel, Helen Knightly says after smothering to death her 88-year-old mother, suffering from dementia, on the patio behind her home. And what perhaps makes it disturbing (based on my reading the link above) is that..
Helen's is not a freak crime of malicious intent, nor even a loving attempt to put her mother out of a degrading misery. It is a fantasy of revenge, acted out. "Once begun," Helen says, "I did not stop. She struggled, her blue-veined hands, with the rings she feared would be stolen if she ever took them off, grabbed at my arms...I held the towels for a long time, staring right at her, until I felt the tip of her nose snap and saw the muscles of her body go suddenly slack and knew that she had died."
Read another review of the book at the Village Voice.

Not feeling too good

A landmark assessment by the UN of the state of the world's environment paints the bleakest picture yet of our planet's well-being.

Commentary: We were warned 20 years ago. Now time is running out - Michael McCarthy

Relentless loss of habitat threatens first primate extinction for a century

UN panel to set new path on climate at meeting

Climate Change: Global warming and the impact of human activity.

Believing in strange things

TED Talk by Skeptic Society founder Michael Shermer explains why humans believe in the strangest of things and how they justify it to themselves....
In the absence of sound science, incomplete information can combine with the power of suggestion. In fact, he says, humans tend to convince ourselves to believe: We overvalue the "hits" that support our beliefs, and discount the more numerous "misses."

October 25, 2007

Monkey Business

About a year after the report last year that, in its infinite wisdom and because it did not have anything else to pass judgement about,...

India's Supreme Court ordered 300 monkeys captured from the streets of Delhi to be transferred to forests in the central state of Madhya Pradesh.*
the unruly monkeys of Delhi have struck again! This time they have been accused of killing a deputy mayor, who died of head injuries in hospital yesterday after falling from the first-floor terrace of his home.

* An earlier report was that the nuisance monkeys were to be exported. They probably figured the trade deficit would be too much and decided to send them to MP instead? An even earlier report from 2001 takes the cake though -- Monkeys invade Delhi government. Now we know why the Indian government system is as it is..

Tell you...it may be a dog's world... but monkeys have the most fun! Oh to be descendents of these wile creatures! :)

More monkeys in the news at this blog that tracks our simian brothers :)

And this from my old email files..

haha... maybe this is the solution for monkey problem in Delhi ;)

there is a short story somewhere in here... monkeys take over as Black Commandos guarding politicians in Delhi etc etc.. ;)

Indians and Gambling

Where Are All the Indian Poker Players?, asks Steve Dubner of Freakanomics fame

No... not Native Americans but (Asian) Indian-Americans...who according to Steve are conspicuously absent from gambling casinos. He wonders:

I guess there are two separate questions:

1. Am I right in my perception that Indians are underrepresented?

2. If so, why is that the case?

It might be a valid observation though there are many Indians who gamble, I can ..er...bet! :)

They value their money and know the house always wins and so do not enter into a losing game, Steve. As simple as that.

Of Bestseller lists

This is like that scandal a few years ago that movie reviews were written by people paid for by the big movie companies! Absolutely ridiculous to have a Bestseller list of books that are not really best sellers but books the list-maker wants to promote! Is there nothing we can believe in today? Everything is about spin and make-believe?

Tim Harford, joint-winner of last year's Bastiat Prize, who blogs here, writes:

Are the bestseller lists made up?

Seth Godin thinks so:

The Times' list is completely fictional. Made up. Divorced from reality. The stated goal of the list is to find (and promote) books that Times editors want people to read, not books that are actually selling a lot. (The editor of the Book Review told this to me years ago). So, they make up 'rules' to appear consistent. When Harry Potter was selling like crazy, they invented a new list so that they could take JK Rowling's books off the real list. When diet and other books started selling a lot, they made up a new ghetto (miscellaneous) for those books. When books started selling in places like Wal-Mart (thus driving the snootiness factor down) the Times penalized sales in chain outlets. And books like the Bible are banished because they're not current enough.

He seems to have a point. Here's the article that got him started:

Why does “Night” become an evergreen [and therefore dropped from the list] at 80 weeks when Malcolm Gladwell’s “The Tipping Point” remains on the list at 164 weeks?


A good friend of mine, Amit Varma, whose blog, India Uncut, I read religiously (almost) every day has won the Bastiat Prize.

Read more details at his post here.

Congrats, Amit. Heady stuff...but well-deserved. Keep up the good work. It is easy to get cynical and despondent when one talks about the concept of freedom in India (previous posts - 1, 2, 3) but the more awareness you spread through the columns at Mint and your blog, the better. I know I have learned a lot through reading your blog and I am sure there are many others that can stand to benefit.

October 21, 2007

Poetry , the Sacred Speech

An interesting (and well-written) essay in the Poetry magazine, though I read it in the 2007 Pushcart Prize XXXI - Best of the Small Presses - Facing Altars: Poetry and Prayer by Mary Karr
Any attempt at prayer in this state is a slow spin on a hot spit, but poetry is still healing balm, partly because it’s always helped me feel less alone, even in earliest childhood. Poets were my first priests, and poetry itself my first altar. It was a lot of other firsts too, of course: first classroom/chat room/confessional. But it was most crucially the first source of awe for me, because it eased a nagging isolation: it was a line thrown to my drear-minded self from seemingly glorious Others.

From a very early age, when I read a poem, it was as if the poet’s burning taper touched some charred filament in my rib cage to set me alight. Somehow—long before I’d published—that connection even extended from me outward. Lifting my face from the page, I often faced my fellow creatures with less dread. Maybe secreted in one of them was an ache or tenderness similar to the one I’d just eaten of. As that conduit into a community, poetry never failed me, even if the poet reaching me was some poor wretch even more abject than myself. Poetry never left me stranded, and as an atheist most of my life, I presumed its mojo was a highbrow, intellectual version of what religion did for those more gullible believers in my midst—dumb bunnies to a one, the faithful seemed to me, till I became one.
Do read the entire essay here. Lot more gems there, including
People usually (always?) come to church as they do to prayer and poetry—through suffering and terror. Need and fear. In some Edenic past, our ancestors began to evolve hard-wiring that actually requires us (so I believe) to make a noise beautiful enough to lay on the altar of the Creator/Rain God/Fertility Queen. With both prayer and poetry, we use elegance to exalt, but we also beg and grieve and tremble. We suffer with prayer and poetry alike. Boy, do we suffer.
Also, this sentence where I get the title from:
In my godless household, poems were the only prayers that got said—the closest thing to sacred speech at all...............Poetry was the family’s religion. Beauty bonded us.

October 19, 2007

The language of lament

Found this at the blog, Indian Writing

Q & A with Ashish Nandy in Outlook magazine (needs subscription)

Will the loss of Test cricket be lamented in India?

We have lost the language of lament in modern India. That is why Indian creativity in social knowledge has been so cramped. Modernity can become creative only when you have thinkers like Nietzsche or Dostoevsky, who recognise what we have lost in being modern. That sense of loss humanises society. We Indians are only supposed to celebrate the gains of progress, not the losses. I doubt if many will miss Test cricket.

Why do Bollywood and cricket unite India?

They do so because only three areas of our life—cricket, cinema (Bollywood) and crime—recognise capability wholeheartedly and unconditionally. Unlike other channels of social mobility, these have no caste or religious prejudices and are least bothered about social background and polish. That’s why all three areas have become so important for so many Indians and have acquired a pan-Indian presence. They are the three most popular professions today.

So..who is Ashish Nandy? I should admit I had not heard of him before today. I did not subscribe to Outlook to read the whole interview and so have to depend on a google-search to find out more. The information below was gleaned through the introduction to an interview with Time Asia in 2000.

Professor Ashish Nandy is a political psychologist, sociologist and director of Delhi's Center for the Study of Developing Societies*. He's also a versatile author, having written books on post-colonialism, alternative sciences, psychology and cricket.

... and books about what Bollywood tells us about the Indian psyche!

* I just learned that there is also a Center for the Study of Culture and Society (CSCS), based in Delhi...but thats different than the CSDS!


I have not blogged much about cricket recently, though there has been an overload of cricket in the last 2 months and the next 3 months looks the same, but many of my friends have received multiple mails a day as cricket matches play out around the globe.

But today there are no matches and is a day away from cricket. So, today is literature day for me. Typically, saturday mornings are good for literature but tomorrow there is the humiliation of the T20 match against Australia to enjoy..er...endure :)

And so what better place to start this morning than at Kitabkhana (instead of my usual morning visit to India Uncut --- people go do prabhu-darshan when they wake up; though this nastik is not in the habit of deifying things, my early morning darshans are of IU, e-mail, and Cricinfo, not in any particular order - more or less all at the same time; thanks to Firefox tabs :))

And though there are many gems at the blog, the Kitabkhana post I want to highlight to you is the aforementioned Booker shortlisted..er..long-listed... Animal’s People by Indra Sinha.

Khaufpur, a fictionalized version of Bhopal is where Indra Sinha sets his novel, Animal's People. (Do visit that link...they've created a whole website for this "c
ity of approaching a million souls situated at the absolute centre of India," including government, matrimonials, horoscopes, and classifieds. Marketing of a book taken to a whole new level!

Here's more through a review in the Statesman.

Nearly 20 years ago, Khaufpur was devastated by a chemical leak at a factory owned by an American firm, referred to by Khaufpuris as "the Kampani". Thousands died during what has come to be known as "That Night", including Animal's parents. Two decades on, women still carry the toxins in their milk, and Animal is condemned to walk on all fours after the poisons attacked his body and froze his spine. Physically deformed he may be, and the butt of much peer contempt, but he is still human - a sentiment he strenuously denies until the book's close. The tracing of Animal's emotional growth provides much of the novel's poignancy.

Also, two new books about the Raj.
The Scandal of Empire: India and the Creation of Imperial Britain by Nicholas B. Dirks
The Ruling Caste: Imperial Lives in the Victorian Raj by David Gilmour
(No...not that David Gilmour :))

William Darymple reviews them in the New York Review of Books:
Two new books on the British in India, both of them sophisticated works by established scholars, demonstrate how polarized the debate has now become. For Nicholas Dirks, who concentrates on the India of the East India Company, the British Empire is a terrible blot on world history comparable to slavery and fascism; to be neutral or even balanced on the issue is to tolerate the intolerable, and even to become complicit in oppressive violence and tyranny. For David Gilmour, however, working on the later period of the high Raj, the Victorian administrators of the Indian Civil Service could certainly be eccentric and fallible, but far from being oppressive exploiters they in fact "represented the British Empire at its best and most altruistic." It is difficult to imagine two books, on similar subjects, which have less common ground.

But it appears that the colonial hangover doesn't go away easily even in the "new India". I don't care much for books and movies about the "Raj"... but still do want to read William Darymple's well-researched and well-received book, The Last Mughal some day!

Maybe its just me... British India is not as much fascinating as the intrigues of the Mughals ;) Or Churchill put it best... "The further backward you look......the further forward you can see."

And with that quote, I end this post. I could go on and on as there are lots of other good posts at the very delectable and literary blogs - Kitabkhana and Indian Writing... do visit.

October 18, 2007

Sarah Silverman

First up: Some of the hyperlinked links in this post may be deemed NSFW. Careful as you click.

Phew.. Sarah Silverman, arguably the "hottest most controversial comedian" today, is quite something else! I had seen her on some MTV awards show last year (or maybe earlier this year?) for a few minutes but her actual comedy show is quite something else....

Her roast of Pamela Anderson is great. It started out really boring with me thinking WTF...who cares about her boyfriend's balls (didn't know she was dating Jimmy Kimmel)... but then her spiel got better when she got to Pam and and her hmm... assets :)

It seems she (Sarah) has a show on Comedy Central these days... (I was catching up on some Daily Show with Jon Stewart videos and that's how i ended up seeing some Sarah Silverman videos tonight.)

I had seen her rip Paris Hilton apart in June at the MTV movie awards* ... but hahaha...looks like she ripped off Britney Spears too. Delectable and well-deserved :) This one at the MTV Video Music awards on Sep 9, 2007, (with Paris in the crowd again and a point of discussion with reference to the earlier June incident), is even better.

“Wasn't that incredible? Britney Spears, everyone. Wow. She is amazing. She is 25-years-old and she’s already accomplished everything she’s going to accomplish in her life. It’s mind blowing.” Adding: “Have you seen Britney’s kids? Oh my god, they are the most adorable mistakes you will ever see! "They are as cute as the hairless vagina they came out of.” You kinda have to forgive Spears for not giving her best performance ever when she knew people were gonna talk crap like that about her after it.

* from some emails I sent some friends in June 2007...

----- Original Message ----
Sent: Saturday, June 9, 2007 2:33:20 PM
Subject: Re: paris hilton

Why did i see this coming. In fact, the day she walked into prison earlier this week, I was thinking to myself that she will be out in 3 days and we, the suckers, will learn that it was all a reality show tamasha... which it could be made out to be!

Hilton leaves jail early for home lockup

and she is NOT serious...comparing herself to Gandhi, Martin Luther etc.

The Paris Hilton Diaries..... from jail, of course. A sample entry:

Day 5: Gandhi went to prison. So did Martin Luther King Jr. So did Robert Downey Jr. and Martha Stewart Jr. and I think Nelson Mandela Jr. Mandela was imprisoned for, like, 50 years or something for being black and also for driving an uninsured vehicle, if I’m reading Wikipedia correctly. Nicky often mentions me and Gandhi and how incredibly thin we both are and how she wonders if he used bronzer.

Update: ooo...baby! ;)

Sarah Silverman rips on PH...and Paris is in the crowd!

btw, PH was sent back to jail...crying and sobbing. Well..what do they say...if you do the crime, pay the time, biatch!

October 16, 2007

The modern Indian

An interview in the Independent, author Amit Chaudhuri says:
"The free speech argument will only take you so far. You need to extend the argument to the autonomy of cultural space. If we look at India's erotic sculptures and say 'This is us', as if it were a constant lineage, we would be ignoring the disruptions...We cannot say that that the 13th-century tradition is still continuing. In India, if we draw too neat a line, as if we are automatic inheritors of that past, it would be wrong. By doing it we end up with versions of nationalism, some of which are unpleasant."
Also read this interesting interview with him from last year where he talks "about the West's love affair with Indian writing and the roles of English and literature in a multilingual, globalizing country."

Seems Amit Chaudhari, in addition to being an erudite man of letters, is ...
....also a talented musician, trained in Indian classical singing, and is in London this week for the release of his CD, This is Not Fusion. As its title suggests, this project is not to be confused with new-age music blending two traditions.
I found this via a really good blog that I have been meaning to highlight here for a while now - Prufrock’s Page. Along with Jai Arjun's Jabberwock (previously highlighted here) and the often-mentioned blog Amit Varma's India Uncut, Prufock's page has to be in the top 5 blogs by Indians that I enjoy a lot, though I do not get around to reading them as regularly as India Uncut.

By the way, I do not know the identity or name of this "Prufock" (which like zigzackly and Hurree-babu of Kitabkhana, another really good blog by a couple of literary Indians) seems to be intentionally kept fuzzy. Also, not sure what the significance of adopting a pseudonym after T. S. Eliot's famous poem is.

October 12, 2007

Green = Peace?

phew... I had not seen this earlier today!

Al Gore, UN Panel share Nobel for peace
Former Vice President Al Gore and the U.N.'s climate change panel won the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize on Friday for spreading awareness of man-made climate change and laying the foundations for counteracting it.
My wife and I always thought Bill Clinton would get the Nobel Peace Prize some day for his humanitarian work in Africa but guess what...poverty and death in Africa is old hat to the world - the enviro-crisis is the new thing everyone is worried about. A book and an award-winning documentary later... Gore is the face of the fight in this crisis..... and he gets a Nobel recognition for this activism. Kudos!

Heady stuff, I say. Detractors would argue that this continues the tradition of Nobel Peace prize being a political award given to someone associated with the issue-of-the-moment... but more power to the green movement, I say.

OReilly & others on Fox eat ur heart out tonight :) And yeah...you too, Bush. (Thank god for hanging chads, huh! :) What a ride its been since then!)

I am sure environmentalists everywhere are rejoicing at the Nobel committee's statement that green equals peace and while I may blog about other responses later, for starters here is something from Alex Steffen at the Worldchanging.com site:
Al Gore and the IPCC winning the Nobel Peace Prize symbolizes more than just a head-nod towards some eco-fad -- it shows that sustainability has finally moved from the outskirts of activism to the most central halls of authority. Concern for the planetary future is now as credible as it is possible to get. The beginning of the struggle to save ourselves from ecological catastrophe has come to an end and we can begin to see the outlines of the next stage of the struggle.
And though I don't see what the correlation is......

Expected perhaps considering there was a NY Times ad begging Al Gore to run a few days back!

October 10, 2007

Money can't buy you love

.. or a championship.

Some interesting numbers from MLB in the US

The most expensive team in baseball, the $189.7 million New York Yankees (and that's a pre-Roger Clemens figure) went down this week with a whimper. The team with the third-highest opening day payroll, the New York Mets ($115.2 million), collapsed long before that.

Nos. 4 and 8 – the Los Angeles Angels and Chicago Cubs, respectively – couldn't win a playoff game. Nos. 5-7 (Chicago White Sox, Los Angeles Dodgers and Seattle Mariners) didn't even make it to October. Neither did No. 8 to 12.

People like to decry baseball's salary disparity and lack of championship opportunities for small-market teams, but once again the playoffs are proving otherwise.

Yes, the $143 million Boston Red Sox, with the second-highest payroll according to USA Today's salary database, have reached in the American League Championship Series. But they're joined in the final four by the Cleveland Indians (No. 23), Colorado Rockies (No. 25) and Arizona Diamondbacks (No. 26). Those three payrolls total $168.2 million, $21 million less than the Yankees' entire outlay.

October 5, 2007


International Human Rights Film Festival


The bard of Dollis Hill

Winner of Best First Collection for 2007 at the UK Forward Prize for poetry went to Daljit Nagra, 40, from north-west London, for his book of poetry - Look We Have Coming to Dover.

The book has had quite a few rave reviews, corroborated by those who have read it and written comments at the above amazon.com link!

More information about the poet and his work:
With Sikh Punjabi parents who came to Britain in the late 1950's, Nagra took inspiration from his personal life exploring ideas of identity and immigration in contemporary Britain, whilst also acknowledging a rich literary tradition by paying homage to the nineteenth century poet Matthew Arnold and his poem Dover Beach, itself an expression of a modern sensibility. Yet, instead of the outward look at conflicts abroad, Nagra reverses the gaze to immigrants coming to Britain and to those who have settled here successfully.
The title poem, which won the Forward Prize in 2004 for best single poem, and a few others can be read here.

Power in numbers

Washington Post's

Eye on the World

This week's events from around the world, captured in photographs.

I loved pictures 1 and 14 in this photo gallery. Throngs of people....one protesting...one celebrating. Beautiful contrast.

Also, through WaPo some cutesy
Animal Views and this amazing story..

Brian Shaughnessy, a 68-year-old Washington, D.C. lawyer, came face to face with his distant past when construction workers happened upon a suitcase filled with his family's 1920s-era mementos.

Definition of is is

Bush says US 'does not torture'
President Bush defended his administration's methods of detaining and questioning terrorism suspects on Friday, saying both are successful and lawful.


China agrees not to take inmates' organs
China has previously acknowledged that kidneys, livers, corneas and other organs are routinely removed from prisoners sentenced to death row. But officials insist that this only happens when consent is provided.

The courage to see

Paris Review is a great magazine, which I like most for its fabulous interviews with famous writers in its The Art of Fiction section. I picked up the Winter 2006 issue at the public library couple days back and thoroughly enjoyed reading the interview with the Spanish author, Javier Marias.

First up...the priceless line from the interview, which I borrowed for the title of this post, and which would make a great title for a poem or short story or a book even! To me, it defines what writing should be about and what in fact life should be all about.

One must have courage to see what one does see and not to deny it for convenience.
Here is an extended excerpt that I loved (all emphasis mine):
Q: Does a reader need to read all of your books to fully understand your work?
A: ...... I don't understand what is meant by being "fully understood." You don't write books to be understood, do you? That is not the reason for doing it.

Q: What is the reason for doing it?
A: ....... Maybe I write because it is a way of thinking that has no possible match. It is a very active way of thinking. You think more clearly when you have to put something down in words........ Some have said that writing is a unique way of knowing, but it is a unique way of recognizing. This happens very often in Proust in particular. You read something and you say, Yes, this is true, this is something I have experienced, this is something I have seen, I have felt this, but I wouldn't have been able to express it the way he has. Now I really know it. That is what the novel does better than any other genre or any other art, in my opinion. I wouldn't say that I think best when I am writing. But I think differently.

Q: Is that what you mean when you've written of pensamiento literario - literary thinking?
A: The term is not new, of course. As a reader - and I am more of a reader than a writer, we all see, I suppose -- I can enjoy a good story, but in a novel, which takes time to read, a good story is not enough for me. If I close a book and there are no echoes, that is very frustrating.* I like books that aren't only witty or ingenious. I prefer something that leaves a resonance, an atmosphere behind. That is what happens to me when I read Shakespeare and Proust. There are certain illuminations or flashes of things that convey a completely different way of thinking. I'm using words that have to do with light because sometimes, as I believe Faulkner said, striking a match in the middle of the night in the middle of a field doesn't permit you to see anything more clearly, but to see more clearly the darkness that surrounds you. Literature does that more than anything else. It doesn't properly illuminate things, but like the match it lets you see how much darkness there is.

Q: It's interesting that you mention light and darkness because the characters in your novels often entertain powerful illusions, and self-delusions.
A: Illusions are important. What you foresee or what you remember can be as important as what really happens. We usually tend to tell our own story by mentioning only the positive things, but there is also a negative part of your life that forms you: what you didn't do, what you renounced, what you didn't dare to do, what you doubted and discarded, what you dreamt of, what you expected, what you left aside, what you didn't study but thought you would, the job you didn't take, the job they didn't give you even though you wanted it. The things youo're not are a part of you as well. We avoid talking about these things, even to ourselves,a s if they don't count. In my novels, I want them to count.
And here is an except which I completely identified with -- I do not understand music but I love it!
Q: You've written nonfiction books on film and on football - two of your pass-times. What else absorbs you when you are not writing?
A: I listen to music often. I probably consider music the highest art. In a way, I would like to make something like it with words, but that is not possible. The problem with words is that they cannot not have meaning, whereas music is so blessed: it can not have meaning. And yet there are some notes that immediately make you feel melancholic. Why is that? With words, you are telling something awful or sad -- of course, it would make the reader feel that -- but with music it's quite mysterious.

Also, gems that would be priceless for a budding writer:
The older I am, the less I understand the process of writing. I write every page as if it were the only one. It seems very odd and strange to me that something comes out in the end and it's this many pages and I know that I have done it line by line.

Q: Is there one quality that a novelist should have?
A: Patience.

Q: In Written Lives, you note that Joseph Conrad's natural state was "disquiet bordering on anxiety." What is your natural state?
A: Indecision -- but that doesn't mean I never decide. It means I take my time.

Aah.. I'm going to use that when I get blamed for being indecisive next time :)

* This reminds me of my recent attempt to read Vikram Chandra's Sacred Games. Too long... witty and ingenious...but after a while it got so long and drab that I didn't care any more and after 550+ pages, I gave up!

Note to self: Next interview to read is in the Summer 2007 issue: the iconic 'American Master' Norman Mailer ....on God, fighting, growing old, and the art of fiction.

October 4, 2007

Record breaking

Need a record broken? India will oblige

..the obsession to get into the Guiness Book of World Records (and if that doesn't work out, then at least the Limca Book of World Records) is stupifying but oh-so-real! Maybe there is a record-breaking record that we can confer on the whole nation? ;)

Update - Oct 27, 2007: Here is an example:
It's a record to remember and really boast about: 1,730 guitarists from across north-eastern states got together to strum Guns 'n' Roses hit Knocking on Heaven's Door for more than five minutes to perfect rhythm

Naughty problems

What? Not naughty? Knotty, you say? Damn English and its phonetics :)

Two physicists used string-tumbling experiments and mathematical models to create a step-by-step recipe for knot formation and determined which factors cause the knottiest knots.
Can I say that again...naughty knot....knotty naughty ...knottiest knot...not a knotty knot? What a karfuffle! Ok.. I need to stop now. ... before I get you all tied up in knots with my humor...NOT! :)

October 3, 2007

Time does not exist

...so says, Carlo Rovelli, Physicist at the Institut Universitaire de France & University of the Mediterraneum and Author of the book, Quantum Gravity
I am convinced, but cannot prove, that time does not exist. I mean that I am convinced that there is a consistent way of thinking about nature, that makes no use of the notions of space and time at the fundamental level. And that this way of thinking will turn out to be the useful and convincing one.
Read the complete essay,written as part of the very fascinating series of answers to The Edge's 2005 Question to the world's leading thinkers and intellectuals: "What Do You Believe Is True Even Though You Cannot Prove It?"

Read it online or buy the book: 120 contributors & 60,000 words - it is a treasure-chest of fascinating thoughts and hypothesis... flights of imagination...theories, some believable (but unprovable, of course) and some really far-out there and in the realms of science fiction (today).
Fascinating stuff!

The times they are a-changin'.

A New Bold Bright Era is dawning...

The year 1998 also saw the debut of Forbes' annual "E-Gang" feature—a series of profiles of leading companies and entrepreneurs in the year's hottest technology sector (that year, it was E-commerce pioneers like Yahoo and OnSale). How times have changed.

This year, on the cover of the Sept. 3 issue of Forbes, is Applied Materials CEO Michael Splinter in front of the headline "Shine On! The New Players in Solar Power Generate Golden Returns (Really)." The article profiles solar energy leaders like Applied Materials, Miasole, Kyocera, and Germany's Conergy—the Forbes E-Gang of 2007.

From the Nevada desert to the roofs of Wal-Mart stores to the legendary plains of Spain, solar is entering a bold, bright new era. Each week, solar seems to be winning new enthusiasts like Forbes, new investors of all stripes, and new large-scale business users like Wal-Mart, Macy's and Kohl's.

My 2c worth:

Today commercial ventures and solar farms out in the desert are what is keeping the solar companies and their ever-expanding plant capacity busy today...but policy changes are and will drive market penetration into residential sector. I (and you) may not have 30-40,000$ for a solar roof today but in a couple years prices will drop and tax credits will make it possible to afford one easily. It makes sense for the future of the world - for your kids and grand-kids (to come) -- but within 5-10 years, solar roofs will also make economic sense and be not only the right thing to do but the most sensible thing to do from all standpoints.

hence...2 things for those of you in the US to do:

  • Write to your senators & congressmen through this link askng them to vote for solar in the Energy Bills which are in the House & Senate currently. These bills represent our biggest opportunity yet to jumpstart solar energy in this country.
  • The National Solar Tour is this weekend. This involves a series of open-houses and informative tours where participants learn about renewable energy options, energy efficient design, real-world costs, current rebates available, and other valuable insights.

This is a free shinding the ASES (Americal Solar Energy Society) puts together every year..

Find 2007 National Solar Tour events Click Here >>>
See photos of select tour homes and buildings Click Here >>>

And yes...spread the word!


If your time to you
Is worth savin'
Then you better start swimmin'
Or you'll sink like a stone
For the times they are a-changin'.
- Times they are a-changin by Bob Dylan

DISCLAIMER: I do not have ANY vested interest in solar technology or solar company stocks, though I have read a lot about this topic in the past few months. That said, I have always been environmentally conscious but realized that one-man's lifestyle cannot change the world. Hence the "preaching" of late...

Memories of Death

Zachary Scott-Singley was a sergeant in the 3rd Infantry Division, stationed in Tikrit, Iraq. Here are some excerpts from his blog - A Soldier'sThoughts, which I heard about through reading The Best American Nonrequired Reading 2006, ed. by Dave Eggers.

Some excerpts:

MEMORIES OF DEATH - April 29, 2005

There is good out there even though at times it all seems bleak. There is also Death. How many have dealt in death? Some would call it murder. Well, I have a confession to make, my platoon and I have had over 192 confirmed kills during our first deployment here (during the war on our way to capture Baghdad). We targeted people and then they just disappeared. Why? They were going to kill me. I had my orders and they had theirs. We were mortal enemies because we were told that we were. There are some who would tell me to not think about what I had to do, or it will drive you insane. For me however, I can't help but think about it......
.....more here

and this one reproduced here in full..

Our Walk Through Life - October 27, 2005

What is the human condition? Here in Iraq we fight terrorists and insurgents. We give them names (haji, towel head, rag head) to peal away their humanity. We focus only on the horrible things that have happened so that we can bring ourselves to kill, but in doing so we too become changed. No longer do we fit in when we get home. We become outsiders and misfits amongst our own families and distance ourselves as others too distance themselves from us.

Alone, it becomes easier with time to be that way. You can't let others know the things you have done because they would never understand and it would only serve to make us even more alone.

We must build as well; we become so proficient at building that we could be engineers. Walls are our specialty, so we build them thick and high around ourselves. Theses walls shut out all the pain and hurt we feel when others can't seem to understand why we are the way we are, or when they judge and condemn us as if they were God Himself. The walls don't just keep those things out, but they serve to keep so much in as well. All of it, the guilt, the pain, and the fears we have can be kept deep inside where nobody will have to see them except ourselves.

That is ok though, because from there we can learn one last and important skill, that of the beast tamer. Like a monster everything we keep inside locked away can take on a mind of its own creating even more pain. Some of us fall apart at this point, hitting the ground so hard that we decide we can not get up and so it ends.

The rest of us learn tricks to keep that beast inside so that nobody will ever have to see how much of a monster we have become. In doing so we can continue our walk through life. That is the soldier's cost of war, and it is ours to bear alone until the end.
All I read was the two posts I mention here...the facts are too disturbing to read more. But imagine - some people cannot escape this madness because this is their life now. You and I have the luxury to moving on to the next website or not read the newspaper or flip the TV channel whenever horrible news from Iraq keeps filtering in day after day... but for many, both in Iraq & in the US, the war is a reality that they will suffer through all their lives. And all this for what?

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...