Madhava: the desi robot kid

Check out this clip. Its in top youtube clips today. Reminds me of some of my childhood friends who could repeat some slokas or mantras or the multiplication tables without having any f**ng clue as to what it means. In all these cases, some pushy parents were the culprits :)

Poor kid. I feel sorry for him and his childhood. Surely this kid has amazing capacity to byheart things just like some Jewish kids who can memorize the Torah or some Muslim kids who can memorize the Koran. But so can any computer or any number crunching machine. Someone please call the 911 :)


Tribute to Prafull Goradia

Click here to see him in action or click here to read some of his stupid rants.


Copy of M F Husain Bharat Ratna petition

Finally managed to get hold of a copy of the petition sent to the President of India, urging consideration of honoring M F Husain with the Bharat Ratna. Thanks to Shashi Tharoor and Ram Rahman for giving me a copy. Click here to read the pdf version. Personally, I don't understand his paintings very much and am no one to comment whether MFH deserves the Bharat Ratna or not. But the names in the letter are "big names" in their fields. There is a clip on CNN-IBN which you can watch by clicking on the image below. Pretty useless clip in my opinion and I wouldn't expect anything better from Ghose anyway. It was such a great opportunity to literally rip off this insane creation called Prafull Goradia and she totally missed it. I really wish Karan Thapar did this piece instead of her.

When Ram Rahman (himself an artist and photographer) wrote to me, I realized that the "Dashrath Jataka" exhibition which I had mentioned in my earlier article was infact designed by him. What a small world! The exhibition was part of "Hum Sab Ayodhya". You can read more about it here. I am attaching an excerpt below.
Meanwhile ‘Hum Sab Ayodhya’ was attacked in Faizabad by 15 Bajrang Dal activists looking for something to make an issue over. What they found was a text reference to the Dashrath Jataka, from the Buddhist tradition, the earliest known version of the Ram Katha, where the narrative and genealogy of Rama are at variance with the Valmiki Ramayan. A rumour was floated that we had made a ‘poster’ blaspheming Rama and Sita as brother and sister. Not having succeeded in scuttling ‘Mukt Nad’, the day after the programme, both in Parliament in Delhi and more effectively through the RSS machine, this rumour was spread across the country.
Btw, Ram Rahman is the son of Indrani Rahman (1930-1999) , who was India's cultural ambassador, a legendary dance performer in various styles including Bharata Natyam, Mohini Attam, Kuchipudi and Odissi. She was Miss India 1952 ( along with Nutan ) and the first Miss India to participate in Miss Universe Pageant in California in 1952 :)


The decline of Mayans according to drunken Gibson

A nice funny re-cut of Apocalypto. Its so hard to think of the movie, think of Mel Gibson without thinking of the DUI incident when he made statements like

Fucking Jews...the Jews are responsible for all the wars in the world

What are you looking at, sugartits ?
Here is the youtube clip:

Thanks Abraham for the clip :)

Why I chose the Nikon D50

After spending about an hour everyday for the last couple of weeks reading reviews on various Nikon and Canon digital SLRs, I landed up buying a Nikon D50 last night from ritzcamera.com. Its literallly a throw away price ( $450 and $430 if you use google checkout). I also ordered a Tokina 12-24mm wideangle lens from normancamera.com. The Nikon 18-200mm VR lens is out of stock and I have backordered it from ritzcamera.

Here was my strategy to buy these. It was literally a constrained optimization problem with a budget constraint and (feature+lens choices)/price ratio as the cost, or rather benefit. I would have gone for the Canon Rebel XT if Canon had a very good lens choice/variety. From the reviews I read, it appears like Rebel XT performed better (sharper) than Nikon at high ISO numbers. Also, Rebel XT is a 8MP camera, but this is something I am not really worrying about right now. A 8 x 10" printout at 300 dpi requires 8 x 10 x 300 x 300 = 7.2 MP image. For most eyes, even a 6.1 MP from Nikon D50 should be good enough.

Given that lens prices don't drop much ( if at all they drop ) but the body price drops a lot over a year or two, it made sense to me to invest in the Nikon D50, 6MP and buy very good lenses for it. Nikon D80 is about $500 more and the Nikon D200 is about a $1000 more compared to the D50. Both of the latter ones are 10.2 MP cameras with lots of extra features. But then, I really don't know if I will make use of these extras very much. I will use the D50 for a while and see how it goes and if after a year or two, I miss the D80/D200, I might consider selling off the current D50 and buy the D80/D200, which I hope will drop down to the current D50 price by then.

Here are some of the websites I used to make my decision. Inputs from MP and Sujiet were also quite useful.

Some other tips which helped me save about $100 are:
  • If you are buying two or more items above $50 each from buy.com or ritzcamera.com or any other site providing googlecheckout services, do separate checkouts and save $20 on each checkout.
  • If you don't have amazon.com card yet, get one. I got my Samsonite camera bag for free that way.


Achappam and Chinese Pretzels

Its hard to find a mallu who hasen't heard of the crunchy snack "Achappam". It might actually be equally hard to find a chinese who hasen't heard of "Tong Wan/Chinese Pretzel" :) We got the chance to try this during our Hawaii visit in 2003. Looks the same and tastes the same. A google for achappam or chinese pretzel recipes also confirms it. Most of it has the basic ingredient as

1. All purpose flour or maida or rice flour
2. Milk or coconut milk
3. Sugar
4. Blask sesame seed

Most mallus tend to add eggs and some even add bananas. If I were making, I would also try experimenting with vanilla or cinnamon essence. If you are daring enough and want to make it yourselves, check out the recipes at the following links. You will need a achappam/chinese pretzel mould to fry it. If you don't have one, you can buy the Swedish rosette mould from amazon.com. See a picture below.

Chinese Pretzel recipe at University of Hawaii

Achappam at hindu.com


Petition to honor MF Husain with Bharat Ratna

Its been a year since I wrote my piece on M F Husain. Things have turned out so bad for the artist that he is now on a self imposed exile and resides in the UK. Here is what some of his critics want out of the whole issue:
  • The Hindu Personal Law Board had announced a Rs 51 crore reward for beheading the artist.
  • A local leader in Gujarat promised one kg of gold to anyone who gouged out Hussain's eyes.
  • In Madhya Pradesh, ex-Congress leader Akhtar Baig, offered nearly 20,000 euros to the person who would chop off Hussain's hands.
Sounds scary to hear these in 21st century India. Weren't we told that the Taliban is restricted to Afghanistan and Pakistan ? To his critic's surprise, there has been a petition floating around addressed to Abdul Kalam asking him to consider honoring the 91 year old artist with a Bharat Ratna. Some of the notable signatories are Tyeb Mehta, Ram Kumar, A. Ramachandran, K.G. Subramanyan, Jogen Chowdhury, Laxma Goud and Paritosh Sen, Shyam Benegal, Mira Nair, Ebrahim Alkazi, Amiya Bagchi, Irfan Habib and most recent being Shashi Tharoor. Here is what Tharoor has to say:

Looking at the Mahabharata-inspired work in this exhibition, it seems to me that Husain is simultaneously honouring and appropriating the epic. If there is a message to the work that features in this exhibition, it would be that of the continued relevance of the stories, issues and images he has derived from the Mahabharata. That, in turn, is a twofold message: first, of the need to re-examine the received wisdom of the epic in today's India, to question the certitudes, to acknowledge the weight of the past and face its place in the present; and second, to do so through a reassertion of the epic's dharma, defined not as religion but as the whole complex of values and standards — some derived from myth and tradition, some derived from our history — by which India and Indians must live. In offering his vision of the Mahabharata to India and the world, Husain has paid a fundamental tribute to his own civilisation, one which he has, through his reinvention of the past and his reimagining of the present, immeasurably enriched. He deserves the Bharat Ratna.

In my opinion, one of the main person behind the Hindu-Talibanisation of this issue is the former Rajya Sabha member, Praful Goradia, whose book "Anti-Hindus" has been used by hardliners like Sanatan.org and Hindu Janajagruti Samiti to smear MFH. In the interest of avoiding repetition, click here to know about Goradia's involvement. I have also been trying to get a copy of the peitition sent to Abdul Kalam. Will post it if I manage to .

Selvaraj Thevar: The Aircraft Engineer from Dharavi

BBC special reports has a nice piece on Dharavi, Asia's largest slum. If you are bored of the recent media obsession with Sanjay Dutt story ( or "saga" as they call it), you might want to read this instead. Click on the image below to read about their personal stories and struggles in life.

Name: Selvaraj Thevar (46)
Occupation: Aircraft maintenance for Jet Airways
Earns: $260 (£140) per month - sole earner in family
Home: One room tenement shared with wife and son
Time in slum: 27 years, but hopes to move out

I can kind of identify with them as I had a couple of friends from Dharavi whom I used to visit quite regularly until my undergraduate days, or rather until I had the time to passionately take care of my fish tanks. Yeah, there are lots of good, professional, "exotic fish" breeders in Dharavi. And many of them help maintain show tanks in luxury five star hotels for example. Hope to catch up with some of them once I return back.


Kansas Outlaws Practice Of Evolution :)

Thanks MP for the link. Check out the "news" at The Onion by clicking here. Nice take on Intelligent Design movement in Kansas. It reads

"From now on, the streets, forests, plains, and rivers of Kansas will be safe from the godless practice of evolution, and species will be able to procreate without deviating from God's intended design," said Bob Bethell, a member of the state House of Representatives. "This is about protecting the integrity of all creation."

Also of interest is the theory of "Stupid Design", an alternative to the theory of Intelligent Design. The advocates of SD claim

Stupid Design is an extremely popular and scientifically advanced theory which is accepted nearly worldwide by all the people who matter.

The theory states that some forms of existence are simply too stupid to have come about by random chance. Ergo, they must have been designed to be stupid by someone at least equally as stupid as the stupidity that has been created, a Stupid Designer like God or Calvin Klein and not just any old mediocre designer.

You can read more at wiki. Also see this funny movie at youtube.