Informing the imagination

on April 30, 2007 with 0 comments » |

This sentence from a blog post by Megan caught Amit Varma's eye today..

“Life is too short for a non-activity with stilted conversation.”
I, on the other hand, empathized with these sentences in the last para of the post.
"I haven’t felt ambitious in years, and I don’t think that is coincidence. I’d be hard pressed to tell you a detailed vision of something I want, besides to stay in my pleasant life here, because I can’t let my wants off the leash enough to inform my imagination. I think I’m paying an energetic cost in holding down the want, and a lack of drive from not wanting anything."
--
“Ambition is the last refuge of failure.” - Oscar Wilde

Monsters Inc.

on April 27, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Dailykos is a great political blog but though I read it frequently, I rarely link to articles at the blog because I tend to stay away from political issues here (except for the rare exception.)

But today, I found this Dailykos post that enlightens us with this very sad fact...

One in three Native American or Alaska Native women will be raped at some point in their lives. Most do not seek justice because they know they will be met with inaction or indifference.
.. and I decided to blog about it as the Pretty Bird Woman House, a women's shelter on the Standing Rock Sioux Reservation in South Dakota, which is going to close due to a lack of funds. They have a fund-raiser to raise $25,000 which will keep the house open....and are looking for people's help.

Practice maketh perfect maybe but the innate talent in these kids is amazing..

a violin virtuoso

a young tabla ustad

a great voice

jazz pianist

another pianist
These and more at this Mefi thread

--
“If I were to begin life again, I would devote it to music. It is the only cheap and unpunished rapture upon earth.” -Sydney Smith (quote from this page)

I learned today via Linkastic, where I am a contributor also, about a woman deleting the internet*.

Wow...the Chinese must be happy... problem solved! :)

* Don't worry...its fake-satire news... but then how much more ridiculous is the Chinese government wanting to rid the Internet of "unhealthy" content...or moral police in India getting their knickers/langots in a bunch
and ”burning effigies because Richard Gere kissed Shilpa Shetty. The situation has reached such ludicrous levels that a judge is now ordering for Gere's arrest because..

After examining video foot-age of the event, the judge said that the stars’ behaviour was “highly sexually erotic”, “transgressed all limits of vulgarity” and “denigrated” Indian culture and social values. He also noted that Shetty’s attitude had been “cooperative” towards Gere, who has already left the country.
I would be laughing harder at this if it were not so ridiculous and sad! I don't see any protests over basic human rights being denied or abject poverty -- we live with those situations very comfortably -- but oooo... a kiss in public and the crack-pots get out of the woodwork and create a big hullabaloo, with the media feeding the frenzy but lets not even go there!

cat-fight

on April 26, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Cannot believe I am adding to the ridiculous hype by even posting about this...but here goes...

I have not really followed this but it is hard to avoid reading about the Trump-Rosie fight play out in the media the last few months....(Youtube video here if you have been living under a rock and have no idea what this is about; also many other related videos on the right) .

Today, after news of Rosie leaving the ABC daytime TV show, The View came out, here is what "the Donald" had to say: (emphasis mine)

... pointing out the ridiculousness of the suggestion that Barbara was surprised by Rosie O'Donnell's announcement yesterday morning, Trump said,...[snip]..... Barbara's got to be the happiest woman in the world to get rid of that slob."

Also this
We both understood she's basically a person that self- destructs. She's got some serious psychological problems.
They dont mince words, do they!

... NOT! (sorry for the misleading subject line ..couldn't resist).

won't think of bunny ears the same way again.. after seeing
Conejo!!

Just started reading Best American Essays 2006 and came across a couple sentences in Poe Ballantine's piece 501 minutes to Christ*, which I would classify as quotable quotes.

"Like pornography, the news is a lurid concoction that panders to the basest emotions."

True indeed of much of what is on TV these days!

Another good quote (written in the context of a crazy woman, narrating weird tales to fellow passengers on a bus, being on the wrong bus...but I think it applies more widely to life in general!)

"I suppose the joy of finding an appreciative audience is better any day than some feeble notion of a destination."

Also, a few sentences from the Introduction by the editor, Laura Slater, that one can appreciate in our darker cynical moments: (emphasis mine)

"Sickness is the natural state in which we humans reside. We occasionally fall into brief brackets of health, only to return to our fevers, our infections, our rapid, minute mutations, which take us toward death even as they evolve us, as a species, into some ill-defined future.

The essays in this volume are powerful, plainspoken meditations on birthing, dying, and all the business in between. They reflect the best of what we, as a singular species, have to offer, which is reflection in a context of kindness......"

---
* I just found out that the essay can be read online (pdf) for free at its original publication in The Sun Magazine. Do read it...the author takes you on a wild weird ride on the kind of journey we'd never take, to places we'd never go to...and yet can associate with its basest moments! Isn't that what reading is all about? :)

Observing and investigating

on April 25, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Art is born of the observation and investigation of nature. - Cicero

1)
Life in 4 pictures (more of the artists work here.) Poignant and conveyed in such a beautiful way!

2) 3-D Glass-Art

3)
The International Illustrated is a free e-zine, collaboration effort of international illustration artists around the world to create and submit an artwork on every issue’s topic. - via

4)
Paper Art

5)
I'll add something here later...gotta run!
-
Many more interesting art work, if you be so inclined, at a post where I compile interesting art and photography from around the web.

Random Links - 7

on April 22, 2007 with 0 comments » |

1) Haah.... an old encyclopedia says comic books make kids do "wicked acts." Read more here.

2) hahaha...this has got to tick the Christian right wingers in the country off :)
The Blasphemy Challenge is a website that invites people to submit video testimonials denying the existence of the Holy Spirit. Those who do will get a free copy of the documentary, The God Who Wasn't There. - via BB
3) Bizarre and quaint ...

Amazing inventor Athanasius Kircher designed this cat piano in in the 17th century. Kitties with differently-pitched voices were placed in the pens and then "triggered" to meow with a sharp poke in the ass. - via BB

Also see
The Extreme Piano! Some people have too much time on their hand... (actually, we all have the same amount of time. I just don't put mine to good constructive use!)

4) "On April, 20th, Bill Gates went to Peking University to give a talk titled "Creativity, China, Future". After the talk, someone held a piece of paper written with 'Free software, Open source' rushed to the stage before Mr. Gates while spoke word to support open source software. It is said that that man is named Yang Wang, and he is a representative of LPI (Linux Professional Institute). - via BB

5) Adjustable breast implants and inspirations from breasts! (What would be the adjective for breasts? Breasty insipirations?)

Emptyness

on April 20, 2007 with 2 comments » |

Perusing through the Pulitzer prize winning pictures by Renée C. Byer (found via Amit Varma's blog today), I got all teary-eyed by the time I got through the first half a dozen pictures!

A dose of perspective early in the morning as sulky-me wakes up to another day....! And what a day it's already been - between the pictures and the Stephen Dunn poems I read this morning! (The poem that resonated the most is reproduced below for your pleasure. A great beginning and a delectable ending... hallmarks of a
good great poem - not the rest of the poem was any less enjoyable! Now I know what tristesse feels like!

-------

Emptiness

I've learned mine can't be filled,
only alchemized. Many times
it's become a paragraph or a page.
But usually I've hidden it,
not knowing until too late
how enormous it grows in its dark.
Or how obvious it gets
when I've donned, say, my good
cordovans and my fine tweed vest
and walked into a room with a smile.
I might as well have been a man
with a fez and a faux silver cane.

Better, I know now, to dress it plain,
to say out loud
to some right person
in some right place
that there's something not there
in me, something I can't name.
That some right person
has just lit a fire under the kettle.
She hasn't said a word.
Beneath her blue shawl
she, too, conceals a world.

But she's amazed
how much I seem to need my emptiness,
amazed I won't let it go.

(c) Stephen Dunn
Published in his book of poems, Everything Else In The World.
The poem previously appeared in the Summer 2005 issue of Prairie Schooner .

Random Links - 6

on April 18, 2007 with 0 comments » |

1) Don't know what to say...am just laughing away after seeing this..

Horny Dog Relief - Doggy Sex Doll


I think someone should put this up in a gallery somewhere as 'art'...after all, there is no saying what can pass as art these days! :)

2) every kid should have this much fun...

Apartment Slide

and every adult should have this much fun :)

Jet-man ....see the video at the link.

3) An inspirational story...

Finishing the Boston Marathon

Jacob Seilheimer went on a diet and lost 89 pounds (an accomplishment in itself), which got him down to 349 pounds. Then he ran the Boston Marathon (as an unofficial entry), and finished! Dead last... (Link)

... but that's besides the point!

4) I won't complain about my job...at least for the next hour :)

Here's a video of a 'high voltage power line cable inspector' at work (via)

and then there's the plumber that burned down a £5 million mansion on his first day at work! :)

5) Great ad from Huggies! This ad was #2 at the AdCracker Top 10 Creative Ad awards .
The #1 ad was a PC-vs-Mac ad and I must admit that whole series is very funny.

6) Shudder...!

With over 3,920 body piercings and tattoos (192 piercings in her face alone!), Elaine Davidson currently holds the world record of most body piercing.
7) Guess what tops the list as the biggest Internet Crime of 2006

8)
Two snippets from Harper's Weekly Review from early March that may be worth blogging about now, albeit long after the 'news'. News like this can never be stale!


Female koalas in Australia were ignoring males in favor of five-bear lesbian orgies. [The Advocate]
Social scientists found that Americans born after 1982 have succumbed to an epidemic of pathological narcissism.[Christian Science Monitor]

And speaking of koala lesbian orgies.... one only wonders what/how these cows were 'used' before being so unceremoniously put out for sale... :)

Used Cow For Sale

Note to self: Must alert Amit Varma ;)

9) I'll add something here later...gotta run!

10) And I'll end with an awesome cartoon

Evolution and Peanut Butter

on April 16, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

Kooks! Do not want to say anything else...the video speaks for itself! I cannot tag this with Science. Has to be filed under Humor, no?

The nominations for the 2007 Photobloggies are out.. and the winners will be announced on May 1st, 2007.

See the Photobloggies webpage for the various categories but here are two I highlight ... one for the country I live in and the other from where I came...

Best American Photoblog

Best photoblog from the countries of South East Asia, China, India. including South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Sri Lanka, and islands of the Indian Ocean.)

Actually, here are two more categories... I am big fan of black and white photography and so..

Best Black and White Photography

And I am always moved by photographs that convey the message far stronger than any news article can.

Best Photojournalism

And of course the...

Photo of the Year

And last but not least..

The Photoblog of the Year

STEP IT UP...

on April 14, 2007 with 0 comments » |



Today is National Day of Climate Action .... 1377 events around the 50 states to mark this occasion. Read the New York Times article (can read essentially the same article via IHT, if you don't have a free NYT subscription) and these two Boston Globe articles for more details about the event. The Sea of People in New York City should be an interesting one!

You can search what's happening near you...and step up and participate.

I plan to be at Boston Commons this afternoon for the "One Earth, One Climate" Rally - one of many events being held in the Boston area. This other event is closer and is starting in 5 minutes but I was indisciplined enough to sleep in this Saturday morning or rather sleep late on Friday night.

Although this is a US-based event, people around the globe are acting in similar ways. On April 8th, some people in Australia launched a 3 Step Climate Change plan to reduce the impacts of global warming, with the mandate to..
1. Take personal responsibility for our emissions
2. Motivate leaders to put in place climate policies
3. Broadcast urgency for climate action

Point is... wherever you are... step up, take responsibility and do what you can (not only today but every day) to help the cause....even if it is something as simple as spreading the word about the effects* that global warming has on the environment and why it is important to safeguard the future of the planet. It is easy to point fingers at other people (eg: blaming people for their excessive consumption habits)... but in the end we all live in one global community and the effects of global warming know no political affiliations or national boundaries (though, admittedly,
some people will be affected much more than others!)

--
Update - 6pm:

Just came back from the rally in Boston Common... with the highlight undoubtedly being the children choir which joined Chad Hollister and his band in performing some great music at the end of the event. One particular girl ...not more than 10-11 years young (sorry.. cannot remember her name - will try to find it later) sang the first two lines of one of the song.... and ...wow...what a voice! Had my hair on end... such was the power of her voice. You WILL hear of her sooner rather than later some day!

Anyways... I am finally back home tired... (of course, I walked to the train station and back, took the T to Boston Common, was standing for over 2 hours at the event and on the way back even stopped at one of the stations to do my groceries... and walking back home with the groceries is what finally got my back to act up!) .. and will try to write more about this event later.


Update - 7.00pm:

I just learned
from this blog post (I added some links to the sentence below) that Step It UP 07 is ..

..the brain-child of writer Bill McKibben, author of ten books on climate and social issues, McKibben was one of the first to warn about global warming in “The End of Nature” in 1989.

Bill writes eloquently here about why he started this mass movement to raise awareness and halt the devastation caused by climate change. Also read this article he wrote two years ago, titled, 'What the warming world needs now is art, sweet art'

I do not plan to cover details about the event per se. In short, it was a good 2 hour rally though large number of people walked away after the first hour of speeches (a necessary evil, I suppose - someone has to speak up and address and communicate with a gathered crowd or what else will they do!) and unfortunately missed the great music (see below) later. Perhaps 1000-1200 people showed up (though I may be completely off - do not have a good feel for guesstimating sizes of crowds!). I think I had expected more - but its ok.. its not an end in itself..its a means to an end and I think the coverage the day's events are getting in the national news media is a good start.

I rarely lecture on any topic as it is not my nature to impose my views on others...but I have chosen to lecture a bit about this topic today. I avoid doing this because it turns people off when you impose your ideas on others but today I realized that me taking personal responsibility is a good start but the effort will be in vain if more people do not get involved and make a difference in their own lives and do what they can to further the cause.

The events organized today were no doubt necessary and I welcome more events like this to showcase and highlight the issue - because, as one of the speakers said: most change in US society have been effected by the power of numbers - be it abolition of slavery, women's suffrage, or civil rights. Also, like U.S. Representative
Edward Markey, (who is the Chairman of the recently formed 'Select Committee on Energy Independence & Global Warming' which was recently put together by the Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi), said at the event, quoting Gandhi -- "We have to be change we want to see in the world."

More power by the way to this
15-member strong Committee as they take on the Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman, Congressman John Dingell, and the vested interests he represents, in the months to come...

Back to my thoughts about the rally. The cynic in me is quibbling that a very very tiny fraction of people in the country changing their lifestyles will not effect the change desired i.e. 80% reduction in CO2 emission by 2050. I got a feeling that the speakers at the event, which included several political and community leaders, were preaching to the choir. Also, while it is true that community leaders and politicians have to show the will to pass legislation to regulate emissions from industries but major change will be difficult to achieve unless a majority of the population believes in this issue and wants to make a change and acts on it by changing the way they live their life and more so by refusing to buy products from greedy rapacious industries that look to further their bottom line with scant consideration of its impact on the environment. Conservationism may be a personal virtue,
per Cheney, but in my opinion is a necessity and unless a majority (not 51% but 70-80-90% maybe!) of the population believes in this, long term changes will not be effected. When people believe, industry reacts...governments change...revolutions happen. Any arguments made about not not spending more and being prey to the allure of consumerism being bad for the economy and hence unpatriotic in some sense is sheer hogwash!

A few hundred (may be up to 1000-1200?) people came to the event... but as I see the local evening news on TV as I type this...there is no mention of the event. They talk about the weather and the effect rain will have on the Boston marathon on Monday, car accidents, the tornado in Texas, a stolen dog, slashed tire crime wave in a suburb..and other inane topics! There was coverage on the network news at 6.30 and we'll have to wait and see if the 11pm local news brings some coverage but I did not see any TV vans at the event - just some press photographers from papers and zines. Maybe I am being overly pessimistic but in my mind a few hundred people getting together for a couple hours in support of an issue, albeit a very important one, just won't even make local news, let alone get the politicians in DC take notice...unless that 'some people' turns into a mass movement of millions of people.

Again.. I am not criticizing the organization of today's events... it HAD to be done and is a good start. And though the larger goal may be to make it a mass movement, which is necessary to effect change.. maybe it is important to remember that every journey starts with a single step. Today, we took the first step and in the days ahead each and every one of us, individually, has to become more and more aware of the issues to glean the truth amid the din of points and counter-points and then make whatever changes we can in our lives... (I realize not everyone of us, me included, can live like the
No-Impact man. Currently, I walk to work, my wife takes public transportation, we avoid the car and walk whenever we can even if it is inconvenient and takes a little longer (I have driven all of 10 miles at the most in the last 3 weeks; though this is unusual and perhaps 25-30 miles a month is normal in the last 6 months), we try to manage paper, heat, plastic, and other perishable consumption as much as we can, and recycle whatever we can (and consequently have very little garbage but 2-3 bins full of stuff to recycle every week!), ....and so on...but obviously can keep doing more!)

Enough said.... for now!


P.S. Also, rather fortuitously, I was standing next to and got a chance to talk to Clara Wainwright, famous quiltmaker, public celebration artist, founder of First Night Boston and the now discontinued but famous once-upon-a-time Great Boston Kite Festival. In my field of work (which should perhaps change!) and my social circle (which I should develop!), I rarely meet artists, musicians, painters, poets, writers and people of that ilk. Today came a golden opportunity, without even going out to seek it, and for that I am really glad I went to the event! At least for those few minutes, I was interacting with a very well known local community leader and celebrated artist, and after the event, I am, at least for the time being, inspired to do more for the community and society around me. You see now why I started lecturing today..

Update - April 15th:
For people like me who were wondering if anyone had noticed... New York Times had a
front-page article and a gallery of pictures from around the country. Also 2000+ pictures from around the nation; including a few pictures from the Boston event. (Lots of creative ideas from people in stepping it up... but this one is neat! :))

Also this article by Thomas Friedman in the NYT today:
The Power of Green
What does America need to regain its global stature? Environmental leadership.

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

While listening to some jazz music on Last.fm, I heard a piece just now called Shuba Yatra*, from the album, Outdones by Bela Fleck and the Flecktones and though what I heard was NOT jazz, in my opinion, my interest was piqued as it sounded like Indian classical music, mixed in with some western classical music. (*You can listen to it on Rhapsody - free subscription required.)

I had never heard of Bela Fleck and so looked him up. Seems, Bela has associated with musicians from around the globe -- hear, for example, the album Tabula Rasa, with the musical genius Vishwamohan Bhatt and famous erhu player, Jie-BingChen)...and that explains the Indian music influence!

Anyways, their Greatest Hits Of The 20th Century album should be a good introduction to their music though there is a good sampling of a live performance available at the Internet Music archive.

Karass

on April 13, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

Some days back, I wrote about learning a new word - tristesse.

A new word for today is karass, which means "a group of people linked in a cosmically significant manner, even when superficial linkages are not evident."

The interesting thing is that it is a word Vonnegut created:

In his classic novel Cat's Cradle, Kurt Vonnegut explains how the world is divided into two types of social organizations: the karass and the granfalloon..

Well, coincidentally, just this morning after reading about the New Jersey Governor getting into a serious accident en route to moderating a meeting between the Rutgers women's basketball team and radio personality, Don Imus, I was thinking that life is indeed like a movie (Short Cuts & Crash came to mind!).... ..

…..somewhere out there in NJ (not quite LA..but you get the picture), is probably a guy who drives a red pickup who came off the shoulder onto the road too early, causing the aforementioned accident....and who who is working hard to put his child to college, possibly Rutgers. Tonight, he/she will not sleep well!

Oh well… as Vonnegut would say… And so it goes. We are all indeed part of a karass caught up in this existential life to nowhere. Am in a weird musing mood, this Friday evening…as you can tell!

Kurt Vonnegut is dead

on April 12, 2007 with 0 comments » | ,

Novelist Kurt Vonnegut is dead! :( I will miss his writing!

More tomorrow... its too late in the night to be getting this kind of news!

Update in the morning:

This New York Times link has all their reviews of Vonnegut's books as well as some other interesting links at the bottom.

I am at a loss for words... not that a person dieing at age 84 is
an unexpected thing... but I am sad because I'll miss Kurt and his acerbic wit. We know the world will need someone like Kurt to tell it as it is - in a world of "twerps", Kurt's sanity and moral rectitude will be missed more in the next 50+ years to come than the 60+ that have gone by since WW II.

All I can say for now is to quote Robert Scholes, who apparently summarized Vonnegut's 'Slaughterhouse Five' in the New York Times Book Review with:

'Be kind. Don't hurt. Death is coming for all of us anyway, and it is better to be Lot's wife looking back through salty eyes than the Deity that destroyed those cities of the plain in order to save them.'
The bird has flown (screenshot of the official Kurt Vonnegut website below!)... have fun wherever you are, Kurt.


Update - April 13, 2007
- Farewell to a master
- An extract from his book,
A Man Without a Country, which I read just 4-5 weeks back!
- You can read the 1977 interview from The Paris Review online. It is also part of the recent collection of Paris Review interviews published as a book.
-
WaPO Book World columnist, Michael Dirda conducted an online chat session on Thursday "to discuss the life, work and legacy of author Kurt Vonnegut, who died Wednesday at 84." One of the people who joined this session pointed to an interesting interview from Playboy magazine from the 70s with both Vonnegut and Heller. Also, the transcript had a link to a Vonnegut photo gallery

Happiness and Choices

on April 10, 2007 with 0 comments » |

Do read this post from the Presentation Zen blog.

Happiness, decisions, & the paradox of unlimited choices

It is a follow-up to a previous post at the blog and mentions a presentation from TED on the "liberating effects of constraints." It also mentions a 2004 book, The Paradox of choice by Barry Schwartz, where he put forth ideas on how pursuing the maximizing of choice is not as liberating as one may believe but in fact is a cause for unhappiness.

Aah... don't we all ride the satisfaction curve!

Also read this Business Week article the post links to…
Creativity Loves Constraints ...but they must be balanced with a healthy disregard for the impossible.

…and a response to the article: Opportunities, Constraints and Barriers affect Creativity

Also see this great cartoon - Less is More is Less

1) An interesting experiment!

Internationally renowned violinist Joshua Bell played busker at a Metro station in Washington, DC during morning rush hour recently. It was an experiment to see if anyone would recognize him, recognize the talent behind the music, or would drop money in his case.

Anyways, go to the end of the rather long cover story from the Washington Post Magazine (includes videos of the experiment) to find out what happened... - via a Neatorama post

Learn something new everyday.. busker = a person who entertains in a public place for donations (chiefly British)

2) Interesting scientific advances
- The cover story in this week's Science news is about computational photography, new methods to capture an image that result in a profoundly different photograph than is possible using a traditional camera (analog or digital).

- A group of scientists have found a way to bend and direct liquid using only the force of light

3) General interesting (and sometimes odd) snippets from here and there - mostly from Digg, del.ici.ous, and other social bookmarking sites. Sorry.. I did not keep track of where I found them as I use Google Reader these days to subscribe to feeds from a variety of sources.

- Human pixelated graphics: Like the Sovient Union of old, totalitarian N Korea... can get people to practice to put on shows like this! Ok..its either totalitarian govts or college students with too much time on their hands that can do such things - case in point: Donkey Kong graphics using Post-It notes!!

- Smithsonian's Behind the Scenes Tour (check this one out!)

- Hilarious ad... careful opening it at work ...wouldnt call it NSFW but it has half of a moon-shot....someone passing by who glances at your computer might take offence and get you in a spot of bother. Don't blame me!

- Pink Polka is a band out of Toledo that does polka covers of Pink Floyd songs. Never would have put Polka and PF together!! (- via)

4) This happened north of here...several people from work saw it over the weekend...apparently, the road is still red!

The northbound side of Interstate 495 in Littleton was one big splash of color after a truck spilled wood-chip dye the night before.

5) Outrageous!!


- Professor Walter F. Murphy, a Korean war hero and McCormick Professor of Jurisprudence (emeritus) at Princeton, was delayed while flying because he's on a "terrorist watch list." The check-in clerk told him that he was probably added because he gave a speech that was critical of the president (who dodged his military service). - via