December 30, 2007

kunwaare hont

Must have missed this earlier this year. This HAS to be the quote of the year: 'Tere hont kunwaare hai. Tujhe jung lag chuka hai.' :) (Does not translate well but it sorta means: 'Your lips are virgin. You're rusted.')

Amit Varma takes a look back at the WTF stories of 2007

In January, Rakhi Sawant steams it up on Bigg Boss, with one choice conversation being the bit where Roopali Ganguly tells her that she hasn’t been kissed in five years. “Tere hont kunwaare hai,” Rakhi tells her. “Tujhe jung lag chuka hai.

Meanwhile, Shilpa Shetty enters Celebrity Big Brother saying “I’m very synonymous with glamour”. While teaching Yoga to a fellow contestant, she says, “You’re not breathing right. We’re so occupied with life and the stuff we have to do that we don’t breathe.”

and so more at the original. :)

December 29, 2007

Git it in your soul

Charles Mingus, fiery temperament notwithstanding, is one of my favorite jazz musicians.

Take five... and experience it in your soul.

First up, Better Git it in your soul

Another famous hit from the same album (Ah um, an album every jazz music fan should own!)

Goodbye Pork Pie Hat

Another favorite of mine... Moanin'

Mingus in his New York loft, plays with his daughter, plays some piano and bass

Here he is playing a novel interpretation of Duke Ellington's 'Take the A train', with the great Eric Dolphy on bass clarinet

And last but not least... the first 10 minutes of Epitaph, his two hour long 'magnum opus'
premiered by a 30-piece orchestra at the Alice Tully Hall in the Lincoln Center and produced by Mingus's widow, Sue Graham Mingus, at Alice Tully Hall on June 3, 1989, ten years after his death.

Triple play

the most 300s the other day and like I wrote to you that record is held by Bradman (334 and 304) and Lara (400* and 375*).

Bradman could have been the sole holder of the record but like I was telling you on the phone, he was left stranded 299* in one test as the last man got run out for 0 when "in an attempt to keep the strike he tried a risky second run, and Australia's No. 11 Hugh "Pud" Thurlow - a fastish bowler from Queensland who was playing in his only Test - was run out by Syd Curnow's return to the wicketkeeper Jock Cameron."

Also, this 299* was in the middle of his amazing streak that began with the famous Ashes series of 1930. His streak leading up to the 299* reads: 8, 254, 334, 14, 232, 4, 25, 223, 152, 43, 226, 112, 2, 299* tests against England, WI, and RSA.

Note that other than Bradman's own 334, there had been only 1 triple century then by the first-ever triple centurion, Andy Sandham, who had scored 325 when he was in his 40th year - a mega 10-hour innings at Kingston, Jamaica, when England piled up 849 off the West Indies bowling - in what was to be Sandham's last test!!

However, in the next inning after that great 299*, Bradman got a first-ball 0. That 0 came in the first inning of the (in)famous Bodyline series, where Douglas Jardine used questionable tactics to stop Bradman's flow of runs! Here's a report from wikipedia:

He withdrew from the first Test at Sydney amid rumours that he had suffered a nervous breakdown. Despite his absence, England bowled Bodyline (as it was now dubbed) and won an ill-tempered match in which Stan McCabe scored a famous century.
The public clamoured for the return of Bradman to defeat Bodyline: "he was the batsman who could conquer this cankerous bowling... "Bradmania", amounting almost to religious fervour, demanded his return". Included as a replacement for ALan Kippax, Bradman walked to the crease on the first day of the second Test at the MCG with the score at 2/67. A world record crowd of 63,993 provided a standing ovation that delayed play for several minutes.Anticipating the bouncer first ball, Bradman moved across to play the hook shot. The ball failed to rise and he dragged it onto his stumps, thus making a first-ball duck in a Test for the first time. The crowd fell into stunned silence as he walked off.
This was the low point of Bradman's illustrious career. Bradman had gone 11 innings without a century, the longest such spell of his career, prompting suggestions that Bodyline had eroded his confidence and altered his technique.

And then came another high-point... the 1934 return series to England to reclaim the Ashes...when Bradman surged back into form with 758 runs in the 5 tests, including his 2nd triple century followed by 244 in the next test (which was part of a long-held but now-overtaken record partnership with Ponsford of 451 runs for the 2nd wicket)

P.S. When he scored 334 (his highest score) at Leeds in 1930.... he scored 309 of those runs in one day!

11 Jul, 1930: Day 1 - Australia 1st innings 458/3 (DG Bradman 309*, SJ McCabe 12*)

These days, the entire team scores 300 runs in a day and we are amazed. Bradman scored a triple ton in one day (record still holds for most runs scored by a batsman on one day.) He was in prolific form in that series and scored 974 runs at an average of 139.14 in just 7 innings!

Don Bradman set the record for most runs in a Test series during the 1930 Ashes in England. He scored 974 runs in five Tests but actually batted only seven times, hitting two double-centuries and his career-best 334. In fact, that innings alone was nearly as much as Australia's second-highest runscorer, Bill Woodfull, managed in the entire series: 345 runs at an average of 57.50.

Its perhaps been done...but some day I'll write a book on Sir Donald Bradman. The man was amazing! Jo bhi batting record dekho..he's on the list! And this after 6 decades of cricket (he retired in 1948 60 years next year) and many amazing feats of batting since then! (Given the pace at which he played, one could be sure that he would have made an amazing ODI and T20 batsman!!)

A double century and a century in the same match -- would be a nice record* to boast about when he is 80! Gavaskar (124 and 220 at Port of Spain in his debut series) being the only Indian to do it so far. (Guess who else has that enviable record -- Ganguly's friend - Greg Chappell, who scored 247* and 133 against NZ in 1974 when Ganguly was < 2 years old).

this is one of the few batting records that the prolific Bradman does not have - he never scored a 200 and a 100 in the same match (though he scored 300+ runs in a single day!.

Also, Vishal: Bradman has test records of 2 300s (shared with lara) and a record 12 200s but in first-class cricket, no one comes close to his record: 37 200s and 7 300s!! And he has 117 100s in 338 innings, better than one every three innings. Nobody else has done better than one in five. Little wonder then that he is the fastest man to 100 first-class hundreds - in a mere 295 innings (next best Denis Compton in almost twice that many - 552 - innings!) and has the highest average in first-class crickets too -- 95.14 (no other player with 25,000 runs or more above 57) to go with his now-famous 99.94 average in tests.

A sordid intoxication

Having finished Making Love, I am back to reading Toussaint's Television, which I had read just 6-8 pages of some weeks back. I really like the author's writing style and so will attempt to read two of his books back to back. A break after this book in early January, when I intend to concentrate on just one non-fiction book, which I need to read for some work-related stuff - To Cork or Not to Cork by George Taber.

Anyways, I barely restarted the novel and I arrive at yet another great paragraph. this rate, I might be transcribing the better part of the novel here! (This one is short too - at 164 pages.) Actually, fear not - I will try my level best to not type every great paragraph from the book. However, this paragraph is a great reflection of my feelings about the "sordid intoxication" that takes over a majority of living rooms around the world every evening and I am transcribing it here.

Sometime before, as if caught up in some sordid intoxication, I'd taken to turning on the TV in the evening and watching everything there was to see, my mind perfectly empty, never choosing any particular program, simply watching everything that came my way, the movement, the glimmering lights, the variety. At the time I didn't quite realize just what was happening to me, but looking back, I see that short-lived period of overindulgence as a classic forerunner of the radical decision that was to come, as if, to make a clean break, you first had to go through such a phase of excessive consumption. In the meantime, I spent hours every evening motionless before the screen, my gaze fixed, bathed in the ever-shifting light of the scene changes, gradually submerged by the flood of images illuminating my face, the long parade of images blindly addressed to everyone at once and no one in particular, each channel being only another strand in the vast web of electromagnetic waves daily crashing down over the world. Powerless to react, I nevertheless understood full well that I was debasing myself in these long sessions before the screen, unable to drop the remote, mechanically and frenetically changing channels in a quest for sordid and immediate pleasures, swept up in that vain inertia, that insatiable spiral, searching for ever more vileness, still more sadness.

and then a great paragraph that conveys well the relentless assault of TV on our lives. Why do we put ourselves through this? Why do we miss this when/if the TV ever goes off? What has mankind come to... letting the machines take over our lives or at the very least becoming so dependent on our TVs, our game-boys, our PSPs, our Xboxes, our mobile phones, our Blackberrys...and my own poison - this PC which I use to connect to this endless web of information - the internet.

Everywhere it is the same undifferentiated images, without margins or titles, without explanation, raw, incomprehensible, noisy and bright, ugly, sad, aggressive and jovial, syncopated, all equivalent, it was stereotypical American series, it was music videos, it was songs in English, it was game shows, it was documentaries, it was film scenes removed from their context, excerpted, it was excerpts, it was the snatch of song, it was lively, the audience clapping along in time, it was politicians sitting around a table, it was a roundtable, it was the circus, it was acrobatics, it was a game show, it was joy, unbelieving stunned laughter, hugs and tears, it was a near car being won live and in color, lips trembling with emotion, it was documentaries, it was World War II, it was a funeral march, it was columns of German prisoners trudging along a roadside, it was the liberation of the death camps, it was piles of bones on the ground, it was in all languages and on more than thirty-two channels, it was in German, it was mostly in German, everywhere it was violence and gunshots, it was bodies lying in the street, it was news, it was floods, it was football, it was game shows, it was a host with his papers before him, it was a spinning wheel that everyone in the studio was watching with heads raised, nine, it was nine, it was applause, it was commercials, it was variety shows, it was debates, it was animals, it was a man rowing in the studio, an athlete rowing and the hosts looking on with anxious expressions, sitting at a round table, a chronometer superimposed over the picture, it was images of war, the sound and framing oddly uneven , as if filmed on the fly, the picture shaking, the cameraman must have been running too, it was people running down a street and someone shooting at them, it was a woman falling, it was a woman who'd been hit, a woman of about fifty lying on the sidewalk, her slightly shabby gray coat gaping half open, her stocking torn, she'd been wounded in the thigh and was crying out, simply crying out, screaming simple cries of horror because her thigh had been ripped open, it was the cries of that woman in pain, she was calling for help, it wasn't fiction, two or three men came back and lifted her onto the curb, the shots were still coming, it was archival footage, it was news, it was commercials, it was new cars gently snaking along idyllic roads in the light of the setting sun, it was a rock concert, it was series, it was classical music, it was a special news bulletin, it was ski-jumping, the crouching skier pushing off down the ramp, serenely letting himself glide onto the jump and leaving the world behind, motionless in midair, he was flying, he was flying, it was magnificent, that frozen body bending forward, motionless and immutable in midair. It was over. It was over: I turned off the television and lay still on the couch.

Phew..The above description seems to be of European TV... a similar description of TV in the US would be even worse -- I am shuddering just recalling the inane nonsense on the local evening news, followed by the even more ridiculous Hollywood/celebrity gossip shows and game shows that I let into my house every evening after work (6-7.30pm) in the past few years!! And I didn't even get to an endless stream of sports-talk or the talking heads on CNN/Fox News etc! Oh...the calamities! Now you know why I do not get TV subscription! Why would I do that to myself?

Previous excerpts from the book: 1, 2, 3.

A statement of aspirations

Justin Wolfers, an economist at Wharton and a great explorer of everything from racial bias in N.B.A. refereeing to the decline in women’s happiness to divorce myths, blogs at the Freakamonics blog about New Year Resolutions. (Link to the Freakamonics blog post via a India Uncut post.). Here are his 7 theories about what NYR are all about.

1. Aspirations: a statement (to self; to others?) of who and what I want to be. New Year’s Eve is simply a focal point for this statement of aspirations.

2. Commitments to self (or my future self): a statement of what I want to be. And if I don’t achieve it, I will be left with the guilt of not having lived up to a promise to myself. If that is costly enough, then the commitment may be useful.

3. Commitments to others: many of us describe our commitments to our friends. Henceforth, it is their job to hold us to it, or else to make us feel bad. Describing my commitment to my friends is like posting a bond, based on my future good behavior. (And perhaps this is a less costly commitment than betting at

4. A clean slate: we rarely respect the irrelevance of sunk costs in our behavior. The New Year is a clean slate. If my behavior is history dependent (why not eat the chocolate cake if I’m already overweight?), then the clean slate allows my behavior to escape past poor behavior.

5. A signal: I only get to make a small number of resolutions, and so making a resolution about fitness is credible, relative to the fact that I chose not to make a resolution about tardiness. (In this sense, it is like the A.E.A. signaling system, where aspiring assistant professors can make a New Year’s resolution that they really, really would like to work at two specific universities.) Perhaps related to Nos. 2 or 3.

6. Intertemporal reallocation: diets in January follow gluttony in December. Or hard work in January follows slacker time in December. And this is more efficient than forgoing all that terrific food/all those wonderful celebrations/all that time off in December. By this theory, it isn’t surprising that so many resolutions are about health/diet/fitness, and it isn’t any concern that we rarely respect these resolutions past February.

7. Cheap Talk: New Year’s resolutions are simply hot air, stated at around 11:55 pm, on a night involving plenty of alcohol. They are rarely respected, and there is no way for them to be enforced. They are a ritual, but not more important than kissing a loved one 5 minutes later.

So, what is your new resolution? And when will you break it? :)

I never really made resolutions but somehow in the last couple years did take the opportunity at the turn of the year to take stock of where life had been in the past 12 months - a period of reflection, if you will - not remonstrance of any kind - and then think about what I could/should do in the new year to make some changes in areas where they were overdue but procrastination, and sheer laziness had led to a long period of inaction.

December 28, 2007

A green year

Katie Fehrenbacher reviews The Year In Cleantech at the Earth2Tech blog.

Also another article at CNET which reviews the year in which the Nobel Peace Prize was given for people who have worked to raise awareness about climate change and during which Greentech grew flush with green

Play it again, Matt

With the demise of Oscar Peterson last weekend and Dave Brubeck & Herbie Hancock not getting any younger, it is with great joy that I read this NPR piece about the pianist prodigy Matt Savage
...barely a teenager, yet he's already played with Dave Brubeck, Chick Corea, Clark Terry and Jimmy Heath. It's an unlikely start for a young man who, as a young child, was unable to tolerate noise, much less appreciate music.


At 15, Savage is promoting and performing following the release of his sixth studio album, Hot Ticket. His list of accomplishments includes being the youngest person to be signed as a Bosendorfer piano artist and the youngest performer to have played at New York's legendary jazz club, Blue Note. Savage has also won three consecutive ASCAP "Young Jazz Composer" awards.
You can also listen to an interview with the kid on NPR's All Things Considered in 2002. And below are five youtube videos of him playing the piano.

Dainty duo

Martinis: one is too few, three is too many. But like women’s breasts, two is superbly right, says Christopher Hitchens, in his review of the book How's Your Drink? Cocktails, Culture, and the Art of Drinking Well by Eric Felten.

Reminds me...wasn't there a joke that god made man with 2 hands and women with 2 breasts for a reason...or something like that? And then there was that 3-breasted android in Total Recall that made Aaahnold say 'Makes me want to have 3 hands' ;)

Caught in a "matrix of indeterminancy"

Finished reading the novella  Making Love by Jean-Philippe Toussaint this morning. And this is how it all ends.
There was nothing left, just a crater smoking in the faint moonlight, and the feeling of having been at the origin of this infinitely small disaster.
The unraveling of a relationship.... an 'infinitely small disaster' indeed! But one that leaves you nauseated and empty.

A page before...this monster sentence:
Marie was there. It was not, properly speaking, a hallucination, because the scene took place outside of any visual representation, in a purely mental register, in a fleeting flash of consciousness, as if I were witnessing the scene all at once without developing any of its potential components (a lightning-swift arm, a figure fleeing and falling to the ground, awful smells of fumes and burning flesh, cries, and the sound of headlong flight across the parquet floor of the museum), a scene that remained in a way imprisoned in the matrix of indeterminancy of the infinite possibilities if art and life, but that, from simple eventuality - even in its worst form - could become a reality from one moment to the next. Marie, I said in a low voice, Marie. I was shaking slightly. I was afraid. I took a step foward. No one was there.
However, at 120 words, the above long sentence pales into insignificance before this one, earlier in the book!

We had continued on our way, still without speaking, and we hadn't yet left the bridge when - turning towards Marie, who was walking silently beside me in that icy drizzle of melted snow falling on the city, as I was getting ready to make a gesture toward her, to touch her arm or take her hand - I felt as though my head were wobbling, and dovetailing with this vertigo, the rumbling of an invisible train began to make everything tremble at its passage by noisily shaking the metal latticework of the bridge parapet that began to quiver from top to bottom next to me in the sprays of bluish sparks and flashes of fire I saw spurting suddenly from a switch box below that imploded on the spot in thick black smoke that began to boil up from the tracks where a train going full-tilt slammed on the brakes trying to stop, while, in the quick look around I took behind me on the footbridge amid the swaying lampposts, I saw passersby pitching as if on the bridge of a boat heaved up by an enormous wave, brief and violent, some of them losing their balance and struggling to stay on course by accelerating as though they were hurrying in pursuit of their umbrellas, others crouching down, most of them halting right where they were, seemingly petrified, paralyzed, shielding their hands with an arm, a briefcase, an attache case. And that was all, that was absolutely all. That was all there was. Barely thirty seconds, one minute later - after a moment fraught with panic and waiting when nothing else happened and nobody moved, everyone was looking at everyone else, still crouching among the briefcases lying here and there on the ground, still livid, damp with snow, ready to hunker down and protect themselves some more, expecting the worse, an immediate aftershock, perhaps a much stronger one (it was the second earthquake in a few hours, and it could start up again at any second, the threat was now a permanent one) -- people gradually stood up and walked away, the crowd on the footbridge disappeared, while an invisible dog barked far away in the grayish dawn.
Must be a record of sorts at 241 words! It is a art to write such long sentences with the right grammar and without losing the reader - even the diligent one - but this one, perhaps lost in translation, did seem to falter on both counts.What was being said got lost to me somewhere along the way and I did not enjoy it as much as I usually do great long sentences in say, Ian McEwan novels.

December 27, 2007

Think, then drive!

...or drive the Think! Had blogged couple weeks back about the upheaval at the electric car maker Tesla but missed this piece of good news!

The Green Wombat enlightens:
Amid the upheaval at Tesla Motors last week, a milestone in the annals of the electric car went largely unnoticed. At Think Global’s factory in the Norwegian countryside, the first of the company’s battery-powered City urban runabouts rolled off the assembly line. A canary-yellow two-seater sporting baby-seal-eye headlights and a bumper-to-roof glass hatch, this first production Think City will go about 112 miles (180 kilometers) on a single charge. It’s zippy, fun to drive and could well be the Honda Civic for the age of global warming.
Read more about the comparison to the Civic and more about the Think story at the article itself. (Also, for more information on the Think's car read the Green Wombat's Business 2.0 magazine feature story on the car.)

Hmm... I used to have a Honda Civic (and an first three cars were Hondas until the SO suckered us into buying a VW Passat, which is what we now have.) And some day - next time I shop for cars - I will seriously look at the hybrids, if not an electric vehicle.

Also see my previous posts on the subject: 1, 2, 3, 4

LEDs Twinkle Brighter

While many green-holiday gift givers are handing compact fluorescent light bulbs (CFLs) to their unenlightened friends and family, the real future is in light-emitting diodes (LEDs), writes Craig Rubens.

And below are some random bits and pieces of information about LEDs and CFLs that I gleaned from a few different articles online.

A comment at this article about GE Lighting's future plans in this space says:

LED based lamps burn 1/100th the power for the same light output as a typical incandescent, and last hundreds and even thousands of times as long as an incandescent, for about 20 times the price of an incandescent.

Compact Fluorescents are the stupidest energy saving device one can own, burning over 10 times the power of an equivalent LED and lasting only about twice as long as an incandescent.

Fluorescents are so over,” wrote Barnaby Feder of the New York Times recently

States and even entire continents are considering plans to ban the incandescent bulb. In five years cheap, inefficient incandescent bulbs will be illegal in the US as mandated by the recently inked Energy Bill.

Lighting accounts for 22 percent of the energy usage in the U.S., according to the Department of Energy, energy-efficient lighting technology — from fluorescent to light-emitting diodes — is literally lighting the future. It is estimated that the switch from incandescents to CFLs will save $40 billion and 50 million tons of carbon emissions.

December 26, 2007

A state of being, a death agony

Another great quote from the novella, Making Love, which I have about 20 pages left to read.
But breaking up, I was beginning to realize was more a state of being than an action, more a period of mourning than a death agony.

December 24, 2007

Oscar Peterson

Oscar Peterson died last Sunday. Big loss to the jazz and music-loving world. :(
Mr. Peterson was one of the greatest virtuosos in jazz, with a piano technique that was always meticulous and ornate and sometimes overwhelming. But rather than expand the boundaries of jazz, he used his gifts in the service of moderation and reliability, gratifying his devoted audiences whether he was playing in a trio or solo or accompanying some of the most famous names of jazz. His technical accomplishments were always evident, almost transparently so. Even at his peak, there was very little tension in his playing.
Enjoy the wonderful music in a few videos below of Peterson playing the piano, thanks to youtube.

and last but not least - a piano 'duel' between two piano greats - Oscar Peterson and Herbie Hancock.

Emotional dresses

Dress changes color with your mood

Electronics firm Philips has designed a purportedly "emotion-sensitive dress," which monitors biophysical changes associated with different human emotions. Ingrid Bal from Philip's Design said: "You could programme the material so that it turned red if you were angry or stressed, or green when you're calm."
Wonder what happens when you are in a 'naughty' mood :)


A story to warm the cockles of your heart this holiday season...

With Diet, Exercise and Friendship, David Smith Loses 400 Pounds

Hopefully inspires some people to get off their sorry whining a--es and get into action to put their lives back on track in the new year. Easier said than done!

Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will.” - Mahatma Gandhi (He oughta know something about will power! Everything he achieved, including shaking up an empire, was based on his 'indomitable will'.)

December 23, 2007

My apologies

I use Firefox exclusively but opened Internet Explorer for some reason today and found myself at this blog. Yikes...the template code has been horribly disheveled by my modifications! This page is almost unreadable and looks icky on IE. So, my apologies to IE users.

I lack the time and the inclination to fix it now...maybe in the new year...but until then, you have two choices. Move to Firefox, which I think is a much stabler and better browser than IE anyways, or do not read my blog.

Ok.. I did it...the one or two readers I have may now leave! Oh well.... another day, another week, another year .... I'll survive.

Happy Festivus today, btw. :)
The holiday includes novel practices such as the "Airing of Grievances", in which each person tells everyone else all the ways they have disappointed him/her over the past year. Also, after the Festivus meal, the "Feats of Strength" are performed, involving wrestling the head of the household to the floor, the holiday only ending if the head of the household is actually pinned.
So...get started....air your grievances about this blog, about anything actually.... but no wrestling - I'm not inviting you to my house, just my blog. (You can try e-wrestling if you want. :))

Insult my pasta

Chocolate Jesus rises again!

"My Sweet Lord," an anatomically correct milk chocolate sculpture of Jesus Christ that infuriated Catholics before its April unveiling was canceled, returns on Oct. 27 to a Chelsea art gallery.

This is like the brouhaha over MF Hussain and his deity paintings. I do not find both so offensive personally that I would ask to ban them. That said, I do think putting a cross in piss and calling it art ('meritorious art', at that!) is NOT art and is definitely offensive. Many may claim it is all perfectly ok under the aegis of freedom of expression but with freedom comes great responsibility. Many people forget that!

Related: Read Amit Varma's article -
Don’t Insult Pasta.

'It's good to be king'

India's Modern Maharajahs
An exhibition by Indian photographer Prashant Panjiar focuses on kings from ancient Indian royal families known as maharajahs. Accompanying it is his book, King, Commoner, Citizen.

Speaking of maharajahs...

Sultan of Brunei's uber-rich lifestyle laid bare in court case

Long before Roman Abramovich was yachting around the Mediterranean, the Sultan of Brunei was the most celebrated globe-trotting billionaire, living a life of extravagant luxury. But now he has been forced to reveal the extent of his indulgences by supplying the Privy Council in London with details of his personal finances.

The revelations have come as a result of a bitter legal battle between the world's richest monarch and his "playboy prince" younger brother, Prince Jefri. The latest chapter in a decade-long feud concerns an accusation by the Sultan that his younger brother failed to pay all of a £3bn out-of-court settlement in 2000.

And speaking of rich people...this is a couple months old but worth a mention. Wow....what a life: Almost dead at 18 months but will soon be a millionaire soon at 25, thanks to the generosity of people from that incident when she was 18 months!
Baby Jessica waits to collect $1M fund
The 18-month old girl pulled from a backyard well two decades ago is now a young wife and mother -- one waiting to collect donations given to her during her ordeal that are expected to total $1 million or more.
The post title comes from here.

December 21, 2007

The season of Hillary

WTF line of the day! How does one go from the season of wangs on-screen to relating it to being the season of Hillary!
But in the age of Hillary, men may want to get used to the male member being objectified and thus robbed of its power—much the same way the naked female form has been used by men to strip women of their allure. - NY Observer least they didn't say she likes menage-e-trois because of this photoshopped picture from a Radar magazine cover! :) Well...not yet!

Hmmm...'disempowering and deflating'? Sounds like a Costanzaesque 'shrinkage' problem, huh? ;)
Just as the cinematic baring of female breasts led many women to compare themselves and despair, putting the male organ out their for public consumption may strike many men as disempowering, deflating and just plain icky.

Severing the daemons

Quote from a review of the box-office dud, The Golden Compass *ing Nicole Kidman and Mr Bond (Daniel Craig) and based on Philip Pullman’s famous His Dark Materials trilogy.
Everyone’s daemon is utterly unique and extraordinarily precious, and the severing of a daemon from its owner would be unthinkable.

The language of sex

Quotable quote I say:
“Each time they have intercourse, it’s like a conversation — and sex is the ultimate body language,” says Ang Lee.
This is said in an interview in the context of his movie this year, Lust, Caution, which
is based on a 1979 novel by Eileen Chang and won the Golden Lion, the top prize at the prestigious Venice Film Festival. It got mediocre reviews at Metacritic & Rotten Tomatoes (60-65% rating). (Update: This article about awards-bait movies calls it a box-office dud, having raked in a mere $4.4 million in 143 theaters over 80 days. That said, see below about what may have killed it to some extent!)

However, I am a great fan of Ang Lee's direction in Brokeback Mountain and also love Tony Leung's screen presence (in his Wong-kar Wai movies - Chungking Express, In the mood for love & 2046. I don't quite remember him in Zhang Yimou's Hero, but I was paying more attention in that movie to Zhang Ziyi and all the action that was happening in that fanciful movie.) So, I really look forward to seeing this movie. I should have seen it on the big-screen but the movie did not get widely released (likely because of the NC-17 rating*) and I missed it.

* Like this reviews in the New York Times says:
The Motion Picture Association of America, that tireless, cheerless band of Comstocks who regulate all things sexual and few things violent on behalf of the major studios, has saddled the film with an NC-17 rating — no one 17 and under admitted, even with an adult — because of “some explicit sexuality.” The horrors of female nudity (unshaven armpits!) and the vigorous pantomime of coitus apparently offended the sensibilities of the M.P.A.A., which routinely bestows R ratings to movies in which characters are tortured to death for kicks.
For more about the ridiculousness of MPAA in the way it hands out NC-17 rating, the death-wish for a movie because of limited release and distribution options, is covered in a great documentary I saw on TV earlier this year - This Film is Not Yet Rated.

Time for a wrap-up

No...not time for another hiatus here though blogging will be minimal next week due to some other engagements which will prevent me from getting online too much next week. Rather it is that time of the year again when society collectively and individually takes stock of the year that has been (played out in the media in a series of inane Best-of-2007 lists), wonders how your life changed over the last year, and looks forward to the new year with resolutions and hope and anticipation.

I was never one for new year resolutions... I'm a backward looking kinda guy anyways who rarely plans ahead. The future, as a wise man once said, comes soon enough. :)

And so in that spirit, here is a look back at the year that was.

They say a picture says more than a thousand words and so let me start with Reuters’ Pictures of the Year

NPR has a nice compendium of 2007's Memorable Moments.

Time has a list of what it considers are
"the best examples of what's new and exciting about the Web right now."

Time magazine anointed Putin, the Tsar of Russia, as their Person of the year .. back to a real person rather than having a vague ubiquitous YOU last year.

If you love books like I do, here is alink to NYT's 10 Best Books of 2007 but if you are really into books, NYT has a list of 100 notable books of the year. Also, check out Best books of 2007 lists byPublisher's Weekly, by,

(Amazing -- I read so much and yet there is hardly a book in these lists that I have read!)

Coming to the world of entertainment, here is Metacritic's Best Albums list thought I should add that I am not at all in tune with the music of these times - preferring instead to mostly listen to jazz and blues from 50+ years ago and music from Mali and other African countries. Related: NPR has a list of top 10 great unknown artists of 2007. Also from NPR, some recommended jazz box sets - maybe as gifts for this holiday season!)

And of course there is the usual fare of best movies of 2007 to discuss but more about those during awards season in 1Q 2008. For now, I merely point you to
Ebert's review of some good movies of 2007 and movie reviews in NYT by AO Scott, whose reviews I love reading.

Travel & Leisure magazine lists
Oberoi Udaivilas in Udaipur, India as the #1 hotel in their World's Best Awards for 2007.

Rex Sorgatz at Fimoculous has a list of what he considers are the Best Blogs of 2007 That You (Maybe) Aren't Reading.

And last but not least... in tune with this time of the year of endless shopping, go find out more about PC World's Best Products of 2007 and Business Week's Best Product Design of 2007.

Also, Popular Science Magazine's Best of What's New in 2007, which
lists Nanosolar's Powersheet (flexible solar) as the Innovation of the year.

P.S. Seems like a lot of lists already but there is a whole lot more. For example, see 1, 2.

A certain existential emptiness

Loved these lines from Making Love by the French writer (I should actually call him an artist) Jean-Philippe Toussaint
It didn't matter who was wrong -- no one, probably. We loved each other, but we couldn't stand each other any more. There was this, now, in our love: even if we continued to do ourselves on the whole more good than harm, the little harm we did do ourselves had become unbearable.
Such is life, sometimes.

Note: Took the title of this post from this profile of the author:
With each new book, Toussaint has never moved away from a certain existential emptiness, through the restless and melancholic wanderings of his characters, haunted by details, by objects, by a sense of insignificance heightened to the point of anguish: the whole world reduced and confined to the few square metres of a bathroom, the epitome of a sanitised and empty place; or the whole world contained in an everyday object that has become deadly...

December 20, 2007

I am scientific!

A string of posts here tonight all gleaned from articles I found at Boing-Boing - The Directory of Wonderful Things.

This one - Science is linguistic as well as numerical - is about a comment about a recent Scientific American article on gender bias in science and math and is one that makes me feel good!

Why? Because one way or the other, I can now truly claim that I am a scientist. Not just because I have a PhD and am in research & development (R&D) but because I love words, language and literature that complements my analytical mind.

Now if only I could get it to focus on one thing. Too many things to read, to little time to do anything myself....and this internet ain't helping! Time to log out and go read a book or something. Au revoir....until tomorrow!

The Polish friend didn't know you had wishes you "Wesolych Swiat Bozego Narodzenia and Szczesliwego Nowego Roku."

That's "Merry Christmas and Happy New Year" to you in Polish.... in case you receive one of these cards from Poland and start wondering what it says. :)
Brian Sack has offered to drive a person of your choice crazy with mysterious postcards from Poland while he is vacationing there. The postcards will be laced with odd personal details about this person, supplied by you, and signed with an indecipherable signature. So far, Sack reports, some 73,000 people have bid on this since yesterday.

Hey Ram!

I had not heard of this hoax until I just read it at BB just now.

Five years ago, "IronKite" submitted this wonderful photo illustration to a Photoshop contest on the theme of "Archaeological Anomalies." The powerful picture was transformed into an Internet urban legend about the National Geographic Society's discovery of the remains of giant humans in India. Several media outlets reported the story as fact. To this day, the National Geographic Society continues to receive international inquiries about this race of giants. National Geographic News reports on the myth behind the meme:
 News Bigphotos Images 071214-Giant-Skeleton Big

(One) story went on to say the discovery was made by a "National Geographic Team (India Division) with support from the Indian Army since the area comes under jurisdiction of the Army."

The account added that the team also found tablets with inscriptions that suggest the giant belonged to a race of superhumans that are mentioned in the Mahabharata, a Hindu epic poem from about 200 B.C...

Variations of the giant photo hoax include alleged discovery of a 60- to 80-foot long (18- to 24-meter) human skeleton in Saudi Arabia. In one popular take, which likewise first surfaced in 2004, an oil-exploration team is said to have made the find.

Here the skeleton is held up as evidence of giants mentioned in Islamic, rather than Hindu, scriptures.

Link to National Geographic, Link to Snopes entry.
Lucky that RSS loonies have not gotten hold of this yet - otherwise, after the recent hoo-haa about the Supreme Court's conclusion (later withdrawn) that there is no proof of Lord Ram ever existing, we'll have the right-wingers claiming that this is proof that Ravana or Kumbhakarana existed and so by extension, Ram did exist and everything in the religion... in the Ramayana is real! :) (What? That's silly? More silly that the loons asking us to prove a negative with statements like: "Nobody has proved that Ram does not exist." ?)

Worthless Words on Worthless Paper

I initially had a tough time with this news item that I found at the The Raw Story, wondering if it was real news or if The Raw Story was a satire magazine, quite like the immensely hilarious and creative The Onion.
The Lakota Indians, who gave the world legendary warriors Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, have withdrawn from treaties with the United States, leaders said Wednesday. Lakota country includes parts of the states of Nebraska, South Dakota, North Dakota, Montana and Wyoming. The new country would issue its own passports and driving licenses, and living there would be tax-free -- provided residents renounce their US citizenship. The treaties signed with the United States are merely "worthless words on worthless paper," the Lakota freedom activists say on their website. The treaties have been "repeatedly violated in order to steal our culture, our land and our ability to maintain our way of life," the reborn freedom movement says. - via BB
Well...turns out, this is for real.
Sitting Bull's tribe declares independence -
Lakota withdraw from treaties, declare independence from US – USA Today

Many other traditional news outlets also carried this story today!

December 19, 2007

Pictures from Africa

I heard about this master photographer earlier today in the context of his latest book of photographs: Africa (Hardcover - Oct 31, 2007).

The celebrated Brazilian photojournalist Sebastiao Salgado has recorded numerous major upheavals on the African continent, beginning in the mid-1970s -- wars of independence, civil wars, drought, famine, genocide. In "Africa" (Taschen: 336 pp., $59.99), more than 300 of his photographs, dating from 1974 to 2006, are beautifully reproduced. They are disturbing images -- a record of extreme human and natural violence -- and they are also heartbreaking, because the Africa of your childhood imagination is here too: the stupendous skies, the moss-laden forests, the gorillas on the flanks of a volcano, the migrating wildebeests, a solitary leopard drinking its fill in the Barab River valley. All of these photographs have an eerie immediacy you can get lost in. - LA Times review

Brazil's Sebastião Salgado's black and white work from the 1970s onwards has focused on developments in the Third World. It seems Salgado discovered photography while working as an economist for the World Bank. He is now one of the world's greatest photographers .

He has a # of books full of great photographs but to get a flavor look at

- First up... some pictures of Africa probably from the recent book via a Google-Image search.

- this series appearing in the Guardian over 8 years (2004-2012). Apparently, "he is seeking out places that are still as pristine as they were in primeval times, places that provide hope. First stop, the Galapagos Islands."

- this excerpt of images from his 2000 book "Migrations"

- and this great series in the NYT about land reform movement in his native Brazil.

Citizen Cyborg

Amit Varma has an interesting article today in which he calls for a rethink on doping in sports, be it through genetic modifications or other means. While I may not agree with everything he says, some thought will have to be given to the arguments he makes over the next few decades as the era of ‘designer’ sportsmen (and ‘designer’ human beings, in general) dawns. One can argue for or against his claim such modifications actually make for a level playing field but there is no argueing that for better or for worse, this genetic revolution is coming and will impact the way we lead our lives much more than that caused by the industrial revolution in the 19th century or even the technology and physics revolutions in the 20th century.

Without going into too much details – because the topic is too broad and controversial (the temptations of eugenics, anyone?) for me to make minor points for or against it here – let me express one concern I have, specific to sports. Does letting genetic tailoring of athletic prowess provide an unfair advantage to those with money and the privilege to get these so-called upgrades on their systems. Surely there is some of this disadvantage today – in some sports more than others - but far too often we hear of athletes from families with limited means going on to achieve a lot through their natural talents and hard work. A genetically modified world undoubtedly will stand to leave such people behind.

In any case, I will leave you with an interesting quote that I gleaned from an earlier article Amit wrote some years back at the popular cricket site, Cricinfo. This is excerpted from Francis Fukuyama's book Our Posthuman Future: Consequences of the Biotechnology Revolution, an alleged (alleged because I have not read it - not saying it ain't so) "polemic against genetic engineering":

The deepest fear that people express about technology is ... that, in the end, biotechnology will cause us in some way to lose our humanity - that is, some essential quality that has always underpinned our sense of who we are and where we are going, despite all of the evident changes that have taken place in the human condition through the course of history. Worse yet, we might make this change on the without recognizing that we had lost something of great value. We might thus emerge on the other side of a great divide between human and post-human history and not even see that the watershed had been breached because we lost sight of what that essence was.

Related books:

In addition to the afore-mentioned ‘polemic’ by Fukuyama, read the book I borrowed the title of this post from:

Citizen Cyborg: Why Democratic Societies Must Respond to the Redesigned Human of the Future by James Hughes

And couple books that take the pro-genetic-modifications stance:

Redesigning Humans: Our Inevitable Genetic Future by Gregory Stock

More Than Human: Embracing the Promise of Biological Enhancement by Ramez Naam

Also: Remaking Eden by Lee M. Silver and Enhancing Human Traits: Ethical and Social Implications by Erik Parens (editor)

and last but not least - an interesting debate between the two schools of thought.

Human rights and dignity

I had read about this news snippet from Saudi Arabia in outrage some weeks back but had not blogged about it. Today, I just read about the final (?) outcome of that sad saga! What an unseemly sham! Sadly, the guy probably believes it when he says:

"It is a victory for justice... and for the defence of human rights and an affirmation of female dignity."

Incidents like these and honor-killings while sad in and by itself also have a very negative impact in creating impressions around the world. In the US, I bet right-wing radio hosts and Fox News must be having a field day with this! All these stories make it easier for the Fauxers to demonify Islam - not that they need an excuse to do it!)


When you have treated people worse than dogs... whats the big deal here!

Guards Shoot Dog at Baghdad Bureau

The State Department is looking into an incident in which one of its security contractors killed a dog at The New York Times’s offices in Baghdad during a precautionary sweep of the compound for explosives.

But let me leave you with some PRETTY COOL STUFF!

Altered google-earth images to show scenes from history.... like real old 'history'.....Crucification, Parting of the Red Sea by Moses, Adam & Eve covorting in Eden, and Noah's Ark stranded on a dry spit of land amidst Flood waters!!

Brilliant creative stuff. Look for this stuff to be all over the web soon i.e. you will see it on many websites and through emails from all and sundry. But remember you saw it first through me :) (And I saw it first at...but of India Uncut. :))

Mimicing Britney?

"Life is about learning, gaining experience and in that process we have a tendency to observe and mimic the actions of others. Ideally we mimic what makes others successful and avoid unsuccessful actions others have trialed (and paid for). In reality, humans seem to have the tendency to mimic the overall behaviour pattern of higher status or more successful others. This explains why celebrities act as role models for broad ranges of behaviour they display - good or bad."
That's Charlotte De Backer of the University of Leicester who found that Amitabh Bachchan, Shahrukh Khan and Aishwarya Rai serve as more influential role models for youngsters in Indiathan any of the famous figures from history! Take that, Gandhi!


Also see my earlier post with a quote about our celebrity pop culture.

December 18, 2007

Lesson for the day - 1

Eat ur fruits, veggies, and legumes...
A polyphenol antioxidant is a type of antioxidant containing a polyphenolic substructure. In human health these compounds, numbering over 4000 distinct species, are thought to be instrumental in combating oxidative stress, a syndrome causative of some neurodegenerative diseases and some cardiovascular diseases.

The main source of polyphenol antioxidants is nutritional, since they are found in a wide array of phytonutrient-bearing foods. For example, most legumes; fruits such as apples, blackberries, blueberries, cantaloupe, cherries, cranberries, grapes, pears, plums, raspberries, and strawberries; and vegetables such as broccoli, cabbage, celery, onion and parsley are rich in polyphenol antioxidants. Red wine, chocolate, green tea, olive oil, bee pollen and many grains are alternative sources.


Surrogate Mothers: Womb for Rent
Customer service, tech support...these days we outsource everything to India. So why not pregnancy? Here is a report on the growing number of Indian women willing to carry an American child.
When they said... oursource your life ... I didn't think they meant this!

Dickheads of the Year

The subject line says it all. Rolling Stone magazine lists them for us, in case we needed a reminder. (Link via IU)

So, which d-head do you want to elect next time* around? :)

* I am following the build-up to the 2008 US Presidential elections like an innocent bystander. I am a bystander alright..since I cannot vote in the US but I cannot help avoid peeking in from time to time at this dog-and-pony show without developing a real appreciation of the stance of different candidates on various subjects that affect American life. So here then is an interesting exercise to help you
select a candidate whose positions most match your points of view.

Please answer the following questions (at the above link.) If no answer is acceptable to you, leave it unanswered. You may also indicate issues that are important or not important to you. These choices will affect your match.

This survey is not designed to tell you what candidate you should vote for. It is intended only to help you think about your positions and then introduce you to the candidates. We have an extensive collection of information about each candidate, and their positions are much more detailed than what appears on this survey.

I answered the questions in a kind of hurry over the weekend and so may have lost nuances in answering some of the questions (or rather missed the nuances of the answer choices) and this may have affected the order below, I figure but overall, the top 5 and the bottom 5 probably do not change.

1. chris dodd.....28
2. hillary clinton....24
3. john edwards...22
4. dennis kucinich ...22
5. barack obama ...21

and bottom 5 were
Mitt Romney ....5
Duncan Hunter ...who?!! .....3
John Mccain........3
Tom Tancredo (WHO!!).........3
Fred Thompson...........3 first choice...Dodd...YOU GO SIR! (Watch Chris Dodd defend the political blog, The Daily Kos as Fox's O'Reilly starts criticizing it as a site full of hate-mongering...based on one picture! And that brings us full circle back to the topic of dickheads! :)

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