Eighteen seconds

on February 28, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Eighteen Seconds to Fight Global Warming, that is...

To
quote David Filo, co-founder of Yahoo!

The mounting evidence for global warming is so sobering that it may be difficult to imagine how individual actions can make a difference. With 18seconds.org, we're using technology to illustrate that small lifestyle changes can indeed add up to having a tremendous collective impact on our planet -- city by city, state by state, nationwide."
Also from the same article linked above:

"This movement is about empowering the individual -- to say to every person in America that with one easy step, they can become part of a movement that will literally change the world." - Lawrence Bender, producer of Inconvenient Truth
More power to them!
--
Reference: My compilation post with various links on Global Warming and the Environment.

So much for this 'research' about sleep positions -- I am neither gregarious nor brash... but the "freefaller" position is how I sleep.

Freefall: Lying on your front with your hands around the pillow, and your head turned to one side. Often gregarious and brash people, but can be nervy and thin-skinned underneath, and don't like criticism, or extreme situations.

Just to clarify - I am not ranting about this particular "theory" and did not take it seriously enough to want to rant about the bogus generalization's inability to apply to my particular case but I get ticked at the random generalizations people often make after such alleged 'studies'. Such 'psychology' of reading too much into general behavior patterns of people is plain ridiculous - things like"She has a long nose and so must have a dominant personality"- (ok..I just made that one up but you know what I mean!) and sheer idiocy and certainly not scientific. It is probably worse than trying to determine a persona's personality or future by looking at sun and star positions!

As Amit Varma wrote recently: typical of us to try to discern patterns in all of this. But these patterns, these mandates, they’re illusory things. Also read his related essay, Don’t Think in Categories

And coincidentally,
Scott Adams (of Dilbert fame) blogs today about something similar, although in a different context - that of basketball player, Tim Hardaway's prejudiced comments (video) about gays:

The impulse to discriminate is a feature of our brains. We look for patterns and make decisions based on them. Sometimes the patterns are illusions, and we come to irrational conclusions. Likewise, we all have different preferences.

Also enjoy these 2 other hilarious posts by him at his blog in the past couple days...

Mummy dearest (re: find of a butler mummy as in mummy of a butler ;))

Because he thought he could (re:
Ralph Fiennes alleged sexcapade in a plane enroute to India)

Amazing...a lot of hype and talk lately re: Global Warming but I did not realize it has meant a surge of 100s of % in the stocks of some companies involved in alternative energy technologies!

I agree with the article linked above that this surge is a bubble because cynical-me thinks this whole 'concern' for the environment is just a passing fad and will fade away...right around 2008, when the next US government takes office, signs the Kyoto agreement, and stops propounding that Global Warming is an unproven theory! In some ways, t
he attention this topic has received has been a backlash at the Bush administration's absolutely radical "f----the-environment, f--Kyoto-protocol, f--whatever-else-the-rest-of-the-world believes, and put a cloud of doubt over everything scientists say about global warming" attitude.

"As a people, we can either be defined by what we consume, wear, and drive- or by what we honor, value, and save." -- T.A. Barron

Not to say this is not a matter of great importance but it is too convenient and easy not to make an effort... and the pessimist in me tells me that people at large do not honor, value, or want to save much! (Note: I believe that though there are many that are making great efforts to raise awareness about the topic, there are only a few that genuinely care about the topic enough to make lifestyle changes to ensure they leave as lttle a footprint as they can as they pass through this world, while, I fear there are millions of other people who just do not care enough... and continue to "make thermodynamic whoopee with atomic energy and fossil fuel" and "trash the joint", in the words of Kurt Vonnegut.

And so, here we are ---- its 2007 and the concern about global warming has suddenly spawned various fads and engendered buzz-words like "
sustainability" and "green buildings" or "eco-imagination" over the past 2-3 years as various groups and major companies join the bandwagon. A lot of it is what they call 'green-washing' - indulged in by those that are just riding the 'green' bandwagon to sound or look good ..er..green!

Like a recent NYT article
said: "Be It Ever So Homespun, There’s Nothing Like Spin"

That said... for the time being, global warming and 'green efforts', with all their
political and business ramifications, will continue to be in the limelight: be it in construction, energy conservation, reducing fossil fuel dependence
by
tapping into renewable and alternative energy sources around the world, or even planning the Oscars! This emphasis on all-things-'green' is no doubt thanks to Gore's tireless efforts and his timely documentary, which have providing a much needed push to the efforts of various scientists and other organizations that have been raising this issue for some years now. (Seemingly, the cause has gotten a fresh boost of energy after the awards won by The Inconvenient Truth at the Oscars over the weekend. Supreme irony then... - a whole lot of the brouhaha surrounding 'green' sometimes seems as hollow, superficial, and hypocritical -- like the Oscars and Hollywood, which the Oscars celebrates.)

Note (lest my above rant be mis-interpreted): Global warming IS and should be a matter of great concern for all of us.


Related: Its a surprise right-wingers did not go after Gore earlier. All the attention he and his cause have been getting surely rankled them no end... am surprised it took an Oscar for them
to get back at him! :)

--
Reference: My compilation post with various links on Global Warming and the Environment and also Oil Politics and Energy Alternatives.

Indians in the news - 1

on February 18, 2007 with 0 comments » | , ,

Subhash Kak, Distinguished Professor of Electrical and Computer Engineering at LSU, claims to have solved what is commonly known as Einstein's twin paradox, which deals with the effects of time in the context of traveling near the speed of light.

What's the paradox, you ask:

The paradox has been described using the analogy of twins: If one twin is placed on a spacecraft traveling near the speed of light while the other twin remains earthbound, the unmoved twin would have aged dramatically compared with his interstellar sibling. That time slows on moving objects has been documented through repeated experimentation. But the paradox is the earthbound twin is the one who would be considered to be in motion -- in relation to the sibling -- and therefore should be the one aging more slowly.

Bangladesh Nobel laureate and founder of Grameen Bank, Muhammad Yunus on Sunday made a foray into politics making a formal launch of his 'Nagorik Shakti' (Citizen's power) party.

Update - May 2007:
Bangladeshi Nobel Peace Prize winner Muhammad Yunus abandons plans to form his own political party.

I have often agonized about throwing stuff away into landfills (old computer monitors, old phones, a TV and VCR which does not work perfectly well but would cost more to repair than to buy a new one, and many other things). I used the "For Free" section of Craigslist.com recently to get rid of some things I did not have a need for but which no one would buy.

The Freecycle (TM) network provides another way for people to give away things that they no longer need for free.
And its not just in the US - including UK , Australia , Canada , Germany, and many other countries around the world. I learned about this after watching a video, that was uploaded on current.tv, about a Freecycle event organized in Brooklyn.

Freecycle™: Changing the World One Gift at a Time

Give stuff away-- keep good stuff out of landfills!

Also, use the FreecycleFinder page to look for stuff people may be looking to give away. Also check out these del.icio.us posts tagged Freecycle.

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

Ravages of Time

on February 15, 2007 with 0 comments » |

For our aging brain cells...(I for one am finding I am forgetting things I would have never forgotten in the past)...

How to remember stuff
or not: part I, II, and III. (via Mefi)

The Ramanujan Prize is for Young Mathematicians from Developing Countries. The Prize, named after the famed Indian genius and mathematical whiz, Srinivasa Ramanujan, is awarded annually to a researcher under 45 years of age and from a developing country and is funded by the Niels Henrik Abel Memorial Fund

The 2006 winner was Ramdorai Sujatha of TIFR, while Marcelo Viana of Brazil won the inaugural award in 2005.

February 15, 2007 is Free Kareem Day in cities around the world. There will be peaceful rallies to support both Kareem and the right to freedom of expression.

22-year-old Egyptian blogger Abdul Kareem Nabeel Suleiman (better known by his Internet pseudonym, Kareem Amer), was arrested for expressing his secular views on his personal blog. His trial has been postponed to Thursday, February 22, 2007, and he is expected to be sentenced up to ELEVEN YEARS OF PRISON.

For more on his story, see FreeKareem.org

Weekly Review

on February 13, 2007 with 0 comments » |

I quite enjoy reading Harpers.org's often tongue-in-cheek Weekly Review column.

The following are gleaned from this weeks review:

William Donohue railed against "incendiary," "inflammatory," and "scurrilous" bloggers...[CNN]

Congressman Gary Ackerman insisted that it would take little more than a "platoon of lesbians" to chase the U.S. military out of Baghdad [Thinkprogress via Nerve.com]

"farcical, saucy, and somewhat tragic, man-breasts" were deemed ideal "fodder" for the British tabloid media :) [Times online]

Donatella Versace told Hillary Clinton to stop wearing pants.[Reuters]

In Washington state, proponents of same-sex marriage pursued legislation that would annul all connubial unions still barren after three years [Washington News]

Keith Urban, the country singer sued Keith Urban, a painter, after the latter Urban registered the Internet domain name keithurban.com "with the intent of producing confusion."[Playfuls.com ]

U.S . Representative Joe Baca denied calling a congressional colleague a "whore" [ Raw Story]

In Texas, elementary school children were increasingly becoming addicted to "chees", a potentially lethal combination of heroin and Tylenol PM. "Any child anywhere can afford a hit of cheese," said a detective. "It's just horrific." [ABC News]

French interior minister Nicolas Sarkozy publicly advocated "an excess of caricatures" depicting prophet Muhammad. [Reuters]

Zimbabwe outlawed inflation [NY Times]

A British Muslim high school was under criticism for using textbooks that depicted Jews as apes and Christians as pigs, and predicted that all non-believers would be condemned to hellfire.[This London]

Remote-controlled "zombie computers" attacked three of the world's largest Internet servers [Boing Boing]

Arthur Sulzberger, publisher of the New York Times, said he wasn't sure if the paper would still be printed in 5 years, "And you know what?" Sulzberger added. "I don't care." [Haaretz]

Hmmm...
a) If Elle McPherson says she can't get a date and has been celibate for two years, what chances do mere mortals like us have! In unrelated news today, scientists reported findings that early social experiences influence romantic relationships.
b) Well... you could be a 'hero' and enjoy quite a life - fathering
"at least 100,000 daughters and countless sons". RIP, Galtee Merci, the '' stud bull who died earlier this week. Not sure being a stud was all its purported to be.. but atleast he didn't risk suffering from dementia, huh? :)

--
The ridiculous
a) Our President APJ Abdul Kalam wants a solution to end terrorism, so he decides to ask us on Yahoo! Answers
b) Does Pink Floyd's Roger Waters really like the color pink?
c) Teens convicted of producing and possessing child pornography for taking pictures of themselves.
---
Technology
a) dlog is a new document visualization system that attempts to show writing not as a static document but a progression of frames over time. - via Mefi
b) Is quantum computing finally here?
c) Clash of the Comets...

---
Health (all via Scienceblog.com)
a)
Loneliness Associated with Increased Risk of Alzheimer’s'Missing Link' in Process Leading to Alzheimer's Disease
b) Omega-3 fatty acids may slow down early Alzheimer's
Curry may help body clear itself of Alzheimer's plaques

T
hese guys are no scientists...they just wanted to go to the adult book store & study people getting aroused ;)
c1)
Sexual stereotypes influence behavior in adult bookstores
c2)
Men, women get turned on equally fast


---
Sociology
Men will be apes will be men will be...


Biological anthropologists speculated that male chimps living in communal "free love" simian societies attempt to control the sexuality of their female partners by beating them [Science Now]

---
Uber-Cool Stuff (all via Metafilter)
a)
Detailed images of a complete miniature city
b) Detailed minitature dollhouses
c) Incredible Oragami
d ) Christmas Island sits just northwest of Australia, and is the perfect place to go if you're trying to get over a fear of being surrounded by small animals. Every November/December about 120 million Red Crabs make their annual migration to the ocean to mate and spawn. The masses of crabs cover some routes so densely that they can be seen from the air. - (via Mefi)

---
US Politics

a) The Psychology of Security. An essay by Bruce Schneier on the difference between the feeling of security and the reality of security. [Via MindHacks.]
b) What the US could buy for $145 billion - the 2007 Iraq war budget (Apparently, with the latest war Budget, the Iraq war costs have topped Vietnam)



Sidhu-ism

with 0 comments » |

Speaking about the elections in Punjab, Navjot Singh Sidhu, in an interview with CNN-IBN, says...

The sun is going to pierce through these clouds. There is going to be a new day coming in for Punjab. A new sun will shine in the state - the sun of Prakash Singh Badal. Prakash means light - there is going to be a new light in Punjab. The current rule of tyranny, which has spread fear in Punjab, which has looted Punjab, which has sold the interest of Punjab, where the interest of the poor has been ignored by the state government is going to come to an end. These elections will be the victory of good over evil.
Prakash means light but Badal means clouds. So.... could be that the future looks cloudy and bleak, no?

And someone please explain to me what Sidhu means by this...
When trouble comes, Navjot Singh Sidhu discovers his strength. My advise to the Chief Minister is, make hay while things are going haywire and they are going haywire all the way down to the wire.
I c
annot believe people are quite taken by such verbal diarrhoea; though as this blogger suggests such 'idiomatic stroke-play makes politics his natural playing ground.' But it is amazing that unlikely as it may seem to a logical mind, this kind of nonsense has lead to his immense popularity on the Indian political scene, with celebrations marking the stay-order by the Supreme Court, reversing the recent conviction for a murder he committed in 1988 in a fit of what can be deemed road-rage.

hoohaaaa

on February 12, 2007 with 0 comments » |

The world would be a lot less funnier if it were not for kooks like this, who seem to abound everywhere.. :)

A Florida theater has changed the name of The Vagina Monologues on their marquee in response to a driver's complaint. The new name? The Hoohaa Monologues.

Serious....not making this up though it sounds like something out of The Onion...it is so funny and so stupid on so many different levels.
Damn... now I know what that perv Al Pacino kept saying in the appropriately titled movie, Scent of a Woman.

Now someone explain to me what haahaa-heee means and I will know what she meant by Life Isn't All Ha Ha Hee Hee :)

Have got the book, Making Globalization Work, by economist Joseph Stiglitz, who won a Nobel Prize in Economics in 2001, and hope to read it soon.

The Amazon.com publisher's blurbs have this to say about the book:

Stiglitz's seminal Globalization and Its Discontents (2002) argued that globalization has not benefited as many people as it could, a failure attributable to structural flaws in international financial institutions as well as limited information and imperfect competition. With this selection, the Nobel Prize-winning economist suggests a host of solutions by which globalization can be "saved from its advocates" and made safe and worthwhile for the poor and rich alike.
and
Stiglitz focuses on policies that truly work, offering fresh new thinking about the questions that shape the globalization debate, including a plan to restructure a global financial system made unstable by America's debt, ideas for how countries can grow without degrading the environment, a framework for free and fair global trade, and much more. Throughout, Stiglitz reveals that economic globalization continues to outpace both the political structures and the moral sensitivity required to ensure a just and sustainable world.
More about the book after I read the book as I think it is particularly relevant for India... especially in the context of making globalization work not for a select few but for the millions - afterall, the stark contrast of the successes of the minority taken forward due to the effects of globalization and those that are left behind (750 million of them!) is nowhere more evident than in India...

For now listen to a lecture he delivered in Chennai on Jan 4, 2007 and read this
interview from November 2006 with the journal Oxonomics in which he calls for new forms of global governance and diagnoses some of the problems of the International Monetary Fund.

Also listen to this earlier lecture about "the questions that shape the globalization debate, including a plan to restructure the global financial system, ideas for how countries can grow without degrading the environment, and a framework for free and fair global trade."

Read this article by Stiglitz in NY Times -- How to fix the global economy

And lastly, there are many other links available through Wikipedia...



And for a counter-point from a big globalization advocate.. read this book review of In Defense of Globalization by Jagdish Bhagwati, also a faculty at Columbia University, like Stiglitz.

For more, see posts at the IHT maintained blog - Managing Globalization, which has Q&A sessions with Stiglitz, Bhagwati, and Jeffrey Sachs, another famous economist - Director of the Earth Institute at Columbia University & head of the UN Millennium Project, (read more at my post on "Fighting poverty & hunger.").

Some good blogs that I would like to recommend today are:

Guy Kawasaki's Blog
Freakonomics Blog
Tom Peter's Blog
TED Blog
and Seth Godin's blog. (Also read his various books... and download his free e-book)


Instead of surfing Dailykos.com, Plastic.com & other sites for political and sports news, I should be reading the above blogs daily and not merely take a perfunctory look once in 6 months.... but then what fun would life be without the ecstacy of the arts, the joys of literature, the agony of human stupidity in politics and other daily affairs... variety, after all, they say, is the spice of life. But I admittedly suffer from a lack of focus and drive or ambition in any one area and that reflects in the range of sites I surf, the variety of topics that interest me, and this blog is just an extension of the same!

Communication

on February 9, 2007 with 0 comments » |

I saw the movie Babel (trailer) on BA on my way back from Mumbai recently. Unfortunately, thanks to the travails of traveling, I fell asleep mid-way and lost about half an hour of the movie. But it is no doubt a good powerful movie and worthy of the attention it is getting via various awards and nominations; though surprisingly Yahoo! Movies has overall ratings of B (critics) and B- (Yahoo! users). It won the Golden Globe Award for Best Motion Picture - Drama & been nominated for 7 Academy Awards including Best Picture and Best Director. It was also considered a top contender for the Palme d'Or at Cannes but did not win, though Inarritu did win the festival's best director prize.

You can read the review in the LA Times and Roeper's review in the Chicago-Sun Times but I recommend you go in and see it without reading any reviews.

Amitava Kumar blogged about Babel some time back, calling it a movie about 'our moment of globalization.' Today, he revisits the movie and links to a review by Michael Wood, who writes about how the movie is more than your typical hyperlink movie, with multiple plots all tieing in to reflect the global fabric we all are a part of but is more about 'the sense that we are always about to step into an aftermath we can’t imagine.'...

To me, the movie was about the universal difficulty human beings have in communication - words come out but no one wants to understand or cannot understand - and the tragic fallout of this disconnect. Michael Wood puts it much better than I can, writing:

The stories of Babel are not about the limits of language but about the limits of understanding.

Indeed! We are confronted with a multitude of languages and different mediums of communication and yet there is so much confusion due to people not understanding each other. In the middle of all the chaos, the interaction between Brad Pitt's character and the Moroccan man who helps him, is a lesson in how basic human instincts can guide us to a common understanding despite the differences. So, does the universality of the human condition allow us to overcome these obvious limitations in communication in a globally interconnected world or are they unsurmountable because we lack the desire to understand? The disconnected feeling of the deaf-dumb girl in Japan or the disconcerted pleas of the Mexican lady at the US border...

The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place. - G B Shaw

The more elaborate our means of communication, the less we communicate. - Joseph Priestly


I had liked another movie, Crash, surprise winner of the best movie at the Oscars last year, much more but I really should not be comparing the two movies... esp. given the soporofic condition in which I saw Babel. Like Babel, Crash also talked about the interconnectedness of various people - although the scope was not global and everything happened within the confines of a city (Los Angeles), the message driven home was that we are all connected in ways we do not understand despite the prejudices, the stereotypes, and the hatred that divides us all..

A few years back, I had started seeing Inarritu's previous movie,
Amores Perros (Life's a Bitch), but I was not in the mood for a gory movie - so, after the initial dog-fight scene, the DVD was taken off. I have his other movie, 21 grams, also with multiple interweaving plotlines, and enjoyed it very much. I thought that Traffic was also an Inarritu movie but just found out it was by Steven Soderbergh. Anyways, Traffic remains one of those good must-see movies that I never get around to seeing despite seeing it in the shelves at the public library (for free viewing!) many times...

The other movie to see is the Penelope Cruz starring
Volver by the one and only Pedro Almodóvar. This movie has also gotten great reviews and all sorts of awards/nominations. Hmmm...too many good books to read, too many good movies to see, too little time, too little discipline...

Death be not proud - 5

on February 8, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Larry Stewart, known to the world as Kansas City's Secret Santa for his practice (from 1979 to 2006), died at age 58 on January 12, 2007.

He had made a habit of anonymously handing out small amounts of cash, typically in the form of hundred dollar bills, to needy people. The total amount he gave away is estimated to be 1.3 million dollars. Stewart successfully kept his identity hidden until 2006, when he was diagnosed with esophageal cancer, which would later claim his life. He chose at that time to reveal his identity as part of an effort to encourage others to practice philanthropy.

David Rattray, a well-known historian and tour guide of the 1879 Anglo-Zulu war in South Africa, was brutally murdered on January 26th at his farm in KwaZulu-Natal in circumstances that are under investigation by the South African police.

Molly Ivins died last week (Jan 31st) of breast cancer. What a loss...so now which Texan will pick on the Bush family's exploits!! Expectedly, tributes pour in for this fiesty lady...

Alan MacDiarmid, 79, Professor of Chemistry at UPenn and Nobel Prize winner in Chemistry in 2000 along with Alan J. Heeger and Hideki Shirakawa for the discovery of conductive polymers, died yesterday.

He apparently died "after a fall down stairs in his home in the Drexel Hill suburb of Philadelphia while rushing to catch a flight to his native New Zealand, said his wife, Gayl Gentile. Dr. MacDiarmid was ill with myelodysplastic syndrome, a leukemia-like disease, and had expected to live only a few weeks, during which he wanted to go to New Zealand to say goodbye to his siblings, his wife said."

He is one of the few Nobel laureates I have had the luck to hear/see in person... having attended a seminar he gave in University of Akron in 2001-02.

And lastly, today, a sudden end to a bizarre life....

Reality TV star and former Playboy playmate (sorry..no links! :)), Anna Nicole Smith, is dead at age 39. She was pronounced dead after being found unconscious in her Florida hotel room.

I had highlighted some articles on Independence Day last year on what freedom means in India...

Here are some more recent articles on the subject:

The 2007 Index of Economic Freedom is out. India ranks 104. Read more here. (via India Uncut)

Three articles from the new Indian newspaper, Mint (free registration required).

  1. Niranjan Rajadhyaksha's editorial in the inaugural issue of the paper In defence of freedom.
  2. Mistaking froth for fact -
  3. Where's the Freedom Party? by Amit Varma, who has also cross-posted it at his blog.
Is India Overheating?
The government says no. The evidence suggests otherwise.

India overheats..
India cannot run as fast as China without further reform (from the Feb 1st print edition of

The Economist
(available in full only to subscribers)

The Indian tiger is on the prowl. This week, in an apt piece of symbolism, Tata Steel, which dates back to the days of the Raj, leapt into the league of top producers when it bought Britain's Corus, which includes the steelmaking remnants of the old imperial power. Nor is Tata alone: younger Indian companies such as Infosys and Wipro are storming international markets.…

Unfortunately, you'll have to read the full article in The Economist itself (aah... no...trust someone to infringe copyrights...here is a link to the article. I am very divided as I link to this URL!). Also, an interesting discussion thread about the Economist article at the Indian Economy Blog.

The topic has been raised by others in December 2006 too, much before the press this month with the Economist cover story and its burning-tail-tiger cartoon on the cover

And finally.... I agree that we are over-heating in other ways too... as witnessed by me last week in Mumbai with temperatures soaring to a humid 35C in January... but lets not get me started on global warming now ...esp. with the temperature a frigid 12F (feels like -3F) here this morning... :)

On a personal front, I have lost any notions/illusions I had of being a 'writer' after reading the blog posts of Chandrahas Choudhury and Jai Arjun, whose blog I have highlighted before. I could never write this well! These guys are well read in the blogosphere and will hopefully slowly change the face of journalism in India in the near future.

During a recent trip home, I was so sickened by reading the tabloidish, nonsensical fluff in mainstream media publications in India, replete with the worst possible English - chockful of grammatical misconstructions and crazy sentence construction. It is easy to deride how bad Indian newspapers have gotten over time but maybe I just know better now through exposure to excellent journalism and articles in the New York Times, Washington Post, etc., and magazines like New Yorker, Atlantic Monthly, Harpers, etc. So the argument could perhaps be made that things have not gone any worse now in Indian media circles than what they always have been - the denouement of the newspaper to a tabloid-ish tone notwithstanding. Afterall, a movie review to us has traditionally been the nonsensical stuff from the likes of Khalid Mohamad and not the stuff that a Roger Ebert or a Pauline Kael indulges the readers with..

If you want to understand better where I am coming from -- here is an excerpt from something Khalid Mohammad wrote last week in the Hindustan Times, that I transcribed after recoiling in horror.... is this even English!!

Just yesterday, he thought I was a snake. And I thought he was a porcupine. To comprehend what made him behave the way he did - tetchy, suspicious - I sought to pub his mind-set. Well what the hell, after much air-clearing, I found an actor who feels that much wrong has done to him by the pen scrawlers. To give the Kal ka khiladi and today's versatile performer his due, straight off I asked him if he felt he can handle the arch-competition from the Khans, the Bachchans, plus the upcoming insta-fame kids on the block. To which he responded without hemming and hawing. So in the classic tradition, here are excerpts from our conversation.. conducted in a frigidaire cold vanity van parked on the helipad of Film City.

Need I say more?

However, there is hope.... so far, I like the content and quality of the articles I have seen so far in a newly launched newspaper in India called
Mint. It is a collaboration between Hindustan Times and Wall Street Journal and is in a nifty Berliner format.

You can always go back home

on February 7, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Woman on the wrong bus lost for 25 years

A woman who boarded the wrong bus on an attempted shopping trip from Thailand to Malaysia has returned home after 25 years. Jaeyana Beuraheng told her eight children she accidentally boarded a bus bound for Bangkok instead of Malaysia, and once there she boarded a second incorrect bus because she could not read or speak Thai or English, The Times of London reported Wednesday.

Beuraheng, who speaks only the Yawi dialect used by Muslims in southern Thailand, said the noise and traffic of the big city confused and disoriented her, leading her to board the second wrong bus to Chiang Mai, near the border with Burma. The woman said she spent five years begging on the street in the city and was often mistaken for a member of a hill tribe because of her dark skin tone. She was arrested in 1987 on suspicion of being an illegal immigrant and was sent to a social services hostel when authorities were unable to determine her origins. However, last month, three students from her home village arrived at the hostel for training, and they were able to communicate with Beuraheng and help her find her way home.

I am all for smoking bans and ban on cell phones while driving and maybe even trans-fat bans in resteraunts... but isn't this taking policing to new dismal levels... anyways, no more swaying to music as you walk around in NYC, it seems..

New York may ban gadgets while crossing street

New Yorkers who blithely cross the street listening to an iPod or talking on a cell phone could soon face a $100 fine. New York State Sen. Carl Kruger says three pedestrians in his Brooklyn district have been killed since September upon stepping into traffic while distracted by an electronic device. In one case bystanders screamed "watch out" to no avail.

Or in other words, I cannot make up my mind if I should rejoice at the amazing new find of a rare species or cry at the loss of an amazing creature...

Rarely seen 'living fossil' shark caught off Tokyo

A goblin shark -- a rarely seen species often called a "living fossil" -- was caught alive in Tokyo Bay but died after being put on display, an aquarium said. The grey, long-nosed shark was caught in fishermen's nets around 150 to 200 metres (500 to 650 feet) deep. It was discovered by officials of the Tokyo Sea Life Park when they took a boat with local fishermen on January 25.

---
Related links:
A piranha seems tame compared to the Candiru (via.) Also, see an ocean sun-fish and a rare shark captured on film, and a not--so--lucky giant squid. Also, be amazed by the bio-diversity in Antartica.


Brevity, the soul of wit

on February 6, 2007 with 0 comments » |

This is how people break up in today's e-world...

I decided to never look at his MySpace page again.

This was posted by someone called Serena at Onesentence.org, where writers try to pack a wallop in a single sentence. Most fail...a few succeed.

My only contribution at the site to date was:
Life began to unravel into a jaded routine of inconsequential moments as soon as he stopped believing in himself.

Also see the following websites which live up to the idiom 'Brevity is the soul of wit'

Ten Word Review . One Word . One Sentence . Two Sentences . 100 Words . 400 words

I wanted to see the movie Parzania when I was in India last week after hearing/some really good things about it... no melodrama... no taking sides... just the narrating of one family's tale of grief and horror during the infamous Gujarat riots. Instead, I chose to go for the typical Bollywood melodrama of Guru...(ok.. ok..a Mani Ratnam movie is not typical Bollywood fare but the movie still was disappointing due to its over-stated melodrama.) More about Guru some other time.. but the reason I have chosen to come out of blog-hibernation is to write about a few recent books by Indian authors.

First up is a novel,
Fireproof, by Raj Kamal Jha, who apparently is a mechanical engineer from IIT, who went on to do his Master's in journalism from USC and then worked for Indian Express in India. The book deals with the Gujrarat riots of 2002 and has been reviewed by somone I consider to be one of India's up-and-coming journalists, Chandrahas Choudhury. Chandrahas, who blogs at Middle Stage, has reviewed the book for The Observer. He had also blogged about the book earlier. Go read the post - some amazing stuff and insights abound!

In my opinion, Chandrahas and Jai Arjun are well-read and know quality reading when they see it. So..if Chandrahas says this is good stuff ... it must be good. So, here are two more recommendation gleaned from posts at the Middle Stage.

The first comes via an interview he conducted with Samrat Upadhyay, whose book of short stories The Royal Ghosts reviewed by Chandrahas for the Los Angeles Times and which Chandrahas wrote is was "among the two or three best books I’ve read in 2006."

And the second recommendation from Chandrahas is:

Christopher Kremmer's Inhaling the Mahatma, published last month by Harper-Collins, is a very rich, pleasurable account of India in the tumultous nineties. The title refers to the immersion of some of Mahatma Gandhi's ashes in the Ganga in 1997, nearly half a century after his death. Much of the book is about the reverberations of 6 December, 1992 in India, but Kremmer's is not a narrowly political account: returning on more than one occasion to Ayodhya in the decade after the desecration of the Babri Masjid, he also searches for the heterodox, liberal Hinduism obscured by the politics of Hindutva. Reportage is often not too interesting stylistically, but I found Kremmer's book, on a purely sentence-by-sentence level, to be a thing of "beauty and pleasure". Kremmer kindly agreed to answer some questions on his book and on the craft of nonfiction.

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I hold Jai Arjun in even great esteem for his amazing book and movie reviews - there are many other gems at his blog that I could point you to... but considering I myself have not read them, I'll just point you to his blog ... and merely highlight two interviews he recently conducted with Kiran Desai, recent Booker winner for Inheritance of Loss.

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Another interesting out-of-the-box concept in literature for Indian writers.. the graphic novel*.

Sarnath Banerjee came out a few years ago with what is deemed India's first graphic novel - Corridor. He is now back with another graphic novel - The Barn Owl's Wondrous Capers, which blends the satirical sketches of the 19th century Bengali writer Kaliprassana Singha with the story of the Wandering Jew, brought up to date in 21st century Calcutta. (found this via Kitabkhana, a great blog by a couple of Indian journalists / writers / literature-enthusiasts)

Another interesting book in the same genre is..

... the short novella, Doppler Effect by Rohit Gupta (also an engineer (chemical) from IIT!), which has been rendered into a comic by Gabriel Greenberg. Earlier, Rohit's Towers of Silence, was also featured in Mid-Day (page seems to be down) as a special comic series.

In Rohit's own words, The Doppler Effect, deals impassionately with the Hindu-Muslim riots of Godhra (Gujarat) and Towers of Silence with the decline of Parsi population in India.

Wow....what imagination! A penchant for toying with words notwithstanding, I surely cannot ever hope to be a (good) writer.... I lack the creative instinct and cannot really tell a good tale either!

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Another book I saw in India that should make an interesting read (I later caught the end of an interview with the author on TV and rued not picking up the book at the store!) is Mira Kamdar's
Planet India: How the Fastest Growing Democracy Is Transforming America and the World, which "tells the dramatic story of a nation in the midst of redefining itself and our world."

Kamdar has previously authored the book, Motiba's Tattoos: A Granddaughter's Journey into her Indian Family's Past, where she traced a memoir of her "family's odyssey from her grandmother's 1908 birth in rural India through her own 1960s childhood in the boomtowns of the American West Coast"
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And last but not least... something interesting that is not related to Indian literature but is still a very interesting development that I just learned about...

In the past, I have read about a blog called Baghdad Burning which became famous on the internet and won quite a few Blog awards in the last few years. The blog is written by a 25-year-old Iraqi woman who is known by the name, Riverbend, and provides a day-by-day account of the American siege on Baghdad

Well... little wonder that publishers have jumped in and have published her blog as books - 2 so far! This is the first time I am hearing about entries at a blog being published in book-form.

Baghdad Burning: Girl Blog from Iraq
Baghdad Burning II: More Girl Blog from Iraq