Sunday, May 31, 2009

Sebastiao Salgado

Yesterday's Times had a story on master photographer Sebastiao Salgado. I was not familiar with his work at all but I loved what I saw in the paper.

Many of his photo-essays are online. Other than the striking "Genesis" images, the one that really impressed me was his series on the Serra Pelada in Brazil. You can see some of those on this Flickr photostream.

The Guardian carried a series of columns between 2005 and 2007, written by the photographer himself, on Genesis. For some reason, the images are not easily accessible on The Guardian.A little Genesis sampler can be seen here. Also on the Guardian: Salgado's "best shot".

Friday, May 29, 2009

"Phil Spectored"

Or, as the court put it, 19 years in prison

A 1965 version of "A simple desultory philippic" (you do know it's a song and not just the title of a funny blog, right?) featured names of other famous personalities, including Indian politician Krishna Menon (rhymed nicely with "John Lennon"). Link goes to the original folksy, jangly version of the song on YT.

FOXP2; Now We Have To Put Up With Their Idle Chatter?

Wife: "Did you hear that"?
Me: "It's probably just mice in the kitchen"
Wife: "But that's not a squealing sound I hear"
Me: "Really?"
Wife: "It's like they are...talking"
Me: "You are right - they are talking!"
Wife: "What do you think they are they talking about?"
Me: "They are complaining about the new brand of peanut butter in the pantry"

Scientists haff vays of making ze mice talk.

You can also read a good background analysis of the FOXP2, or the so-called "language gene", and keep that in mind as you read sensational newspaper claims about scientists trying to make mice talk.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009


Air-conditioning is air-conditioning, right? Not if you have experienced the "khus-khus" cooler. Also known as the "desert cooler", that contraption - and there is no other word to describe it - was a lifesaver during the summer months in India. Northern India, to be accurate. (So a chicken mesh, a fan, a small water pump and some wood shavings was India's Mason-Dixon line?)

Don't bother googling for the khus-khus cooler though. Most results are about khus-khus drinks. I am also surprised that there are no images of the appliance on the web. Seriously, not one picture?

But 3 Quarks Daily has something even better: a delightful post about air-conditioning, architecture, town planning (with some good ol' Delhiana thrown in). You may want to get a glass of jaljeera first before you start reading it.

Tuesday, May 26, 2009

Sing Out Loud

Musician, producer and strategist Brian Eno, about the benefits of singing:
"Well, there are physiological benefits, obviously: You use your lungs in a way that you probably don't for the rest of your day, breathing deeply and openly. And there are psychological benefits, too: Singing aloud leaves you with a sense of levity and contentedness."
From NPR's "This I Believe".

I agree; singing and harmonizing with a bunch of friends is fun. But remember, if you pick songs like "Love hurts", which appears on Eno's list, only one of the two can survive: the song or the friendship :)

Tuesday, May 19, 2009

This Land Is Your Land

Out in the country,
Far from all the soot and noise of the city...

(Taken from one of my most favorite albums, "The Kinks Are The Village Green Preservation Society". Yes, I do recognize that I am echoing Ray Davies' words "Gawd darn it, isn't it a pretty scene".)

Swat on Flickr.

They are calling it the "worst internal displacement crisis" since the Partition of 1947.

As of May 2009, MSF has halted their relief operations in the area. To learn more about how to donate, visit the Swat Plea blog run by Pakistani citizens.

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Cost, Price And Value

Has the CEO* of a company sounded more like a dinosaur? Here's Carolyn Reidy, of Simon & Schuster, in the New York Times:
“The concept that because a book is an e-book it should automatically be priced significantly lower than a paper book is one we don’t agree with,” said Carolyn Reidy, chief executive of Simon & Schuster. “What a consumer is buying is the content, not necessarily the format.”
The Times story questions that assumption.

Is Ms. Reidy arguing that the price of a book should be set by its value and not its cost? That's just, uh, priceless. The digital format makes the hardcover/paperback distinction about as relevant as a 9.6K modem today. If more readers don't want to pay 26 bucks for a digital copy of that latest legal thriller, well, then $9.99 just has to be accepted as the new standard. Why is that so hard for these companies to understand?

*No, he never said 640k would be enough.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

"The Interview Project"

3-5 minute conversations with regular people. That's David Lynch's latest brainchild, "The Interview Project". (Studs Terkel would have done this if YouTube was his medium.)

If the rest of the interviews (or rather, the interviewees) are anything like the first one, I am going to be watching all 121 of them.

Just one quibble: I wish Mr. Lynch (or his editors) would re-consider the use of background score. Using long, slide-guitar notes in a Southern or a rural Mid-western setting is a cliche. But using such sounds to underscore an emotional scene in an interview, like at the end of the linked video, reminds me of interviews on network TV. And I am pretty sure most fans of Lynch don't like watching interviews on network TV. But then, what do I know? Lynch knows his films.

I hope some filmmakers in India are inspired to run their own little Interview Projects and bring us conversations with "everyday Indians"; people that we don't often get to read and hear about.

Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Be Flat Together

A very cool experiment in the key of B flat. (Click on the "more info" on the linked page to read about the project.)

I took the Strat clip (second video in the first row), added the clarinet (third vid from the left, second row) and then pulled in that spoken-word thing (first vid, third row) and what I got was something that sounded like a Pink Floyd-ish track. (In my imagination, of course.)

Monday, May 11, 2009

Not Everything Looks Good in Black And White

Mention the years 1963 or 1964 and chances are, they bring black-and-white images to your mind.

Funny how that colors our perception of the music of the time. The Beatles' songs from the period, or the early Kinks or the early Stones - they are all "black-and-white" songs. Whatever that means. The music sounds older and even quaint. How different the music from 1966 or 1967 sounds because of its association with the images from the period. (A bit ironical, considering that one of the earliest acid-rock albums from that era does not have any color on its cover.)

So when you see a picture like this, it comes as a surprise. (It's hard to believe that that fresh-faced kid in the picture would go on to write "My back pages" a year later.)

Look around for more lovely pictures of some famous (and some not-so-famous) "folkies". Then there are pictures of blues legends like Son House. We are accustomed to seeing fuzzy, grainy, b-and-w pictures of the "original" Delta bluesmen. But color photographs make them look so much more real and immediate.


Thursday, May 07, 2009

Tintin, Vincent And That Good Night

Roger Ebert on his mortality:
"I was perfectly content before I was born, and I think of death as the same state."
A terrific post and, as always, the comments on his blog are just as much pleasure to read.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

Gauguin Did It

Everyone knows the delightful story about how Van Gogh chopped off his right ear and presented it to Rachel. (Kids: this was long before greeting cards and Evites and Facebook became popular.)

Now art historians say "Fou-Rou" did not mutilate himself. It was Paul Gauguin that wielded the razor and separated poor Vincent from his beloved ear. (Which may have led to Van Gogh writing the classic, "It was a very good ear". Okay, no more.)

Let me get this straight - Gauguin walked around with a fencing epee and lopped off his friend's ear and Van Gogh checked himself into Saint-Paul-de-Mausole?

(Via MeFi)

Monday, May 04, 2009

Sexist Physics?

The "beard-second": the length an average physicist's beard grows in one second. (Link to Futility Closet)

Friday, May 01, 2009



An eyewitness account of a beheading in Saudi Arabia. (Link to The Walrus; found on Kottke.)