Monday, June 22, 2009

628 : The river which cracked

Ever tried throwing a pebble into a river,
It cracks, there are ripples on the edge of its sliver,

Seconds pass, the deviant wave is gone,
The river is still again, pregnant….waiting for another dawn

627 : Canon SX1IS + EX 270 (Camera at Hong Kong)

On 17th of this month, I bought the Canon SX1IS and the EX 270 canon Flashlight.

I paid about the same price I would pay @ US. I bought the camera from Fortress on Henessey Street and the Flashlight from Hing Lee Camera @ Central.

Both places bargaining worked. I would highly recommend both these camera Shops to visitors in Hong Kong.

canon_sx10is_back sx1-is canon_powershot_sx1_is


626 : Confessions of a re-reader : Verlyn Klinkenbor (from NYtimes)

I re-read books all the time and could not agree with Verlyn more.

The link is at have copied the article below for easier reading.


Some Thoughts on the Pleasures of Being a Re-Reader


Published: May 29, 2009

I’ve always admired my friends who are wide readers. A few even pride themselves on never reading a book a second time. I’ve been a wide reader at times. When I was much younger, I spent nearly a year in the old Reading Room of the British Museum, discovering in the book I was currently reading the title of the next I would read.

But at heart, I’m a re-reader. The point of reading outward, widely, has always been to find the books I want to re-read and then to re-read them. In part, that’s an admission of defeat, an acknowledgement that no matter how long and how widely I read, I will only ever make my way through a tiny portion of the world’s literature. (The British Museum was a great place to learn that lesson.) And in part, it’s a concession to the limits of my memory. I forget a lot, which makes the pleasure of re-reading all the greater.

The love of repetition seems to be ingrained in children. And it is certainly ingrained in the way children learn to read — witness the joyous and maddening love of hearing that same bedtime book read aloud all over again, word for word, inflection for inflection. Childhood is an oasis of repetitive acts, so much so that there is something shocking about the first time a young reader reads a book only once and moves on to the next. There’s a hunger in that act but also a kind of forsaking, a glimpse of adulthood to come.

The work I chose in adulthood — to study literature — required the childish pleasure of re-reading. When I was in graduate school, once through Pope’s “Dunciad” or Berryman’s “The Dream Songs” was not going to cut it. A grasp of the poem was presumed to lie on the far side of many re-readings, none of which were really repetitions. The same is true of being a writer, which requires obsessive re-reading. But the real re-reading I mean is the savory re-reading, the books I have to be careful not to re-read too often so I can read them again with pleasure.

It’s a miscellaneous library, always shifting. It has included a book of the north woods: John J. Rowlands’s “Cache Lake Country,” which I have re-read annually for many years. It may still include Raymond Chandler, though I won’t know for sure till the next time I re-read him. It includes Michael Herr’s “Dispatches” and lots of A.J. Liebling and a surprising amount of George Eliot. It once included nearly all of Dickens, but that has been boiled down to “The Pickwick Papers” and “Great Expectations.” There are many more titles, of course. This is not a canon. This is a refuge.

Part of the fun of re-reading is that you are no longer bothered by the business of finding out what happens. Re-reading “Middlemarch,” for instance, or even “The Great Gatsby,” I’m able to pay attention to what’s really happening in the language itself — a pleasure surely as great as discovering who marries whom, and who dies and who does not.

The real secret of re-reading is simply this: It is impossible. The characters remain the same, and the words never change, but the reader always does. Pip is always there to be revisited, but you, the reader, are a little like the convict who surprises him in the graveyard — always a stranger.

I look at the books on my library shelves. They certainly seem dormant. But what if the characters are quietly rearranging themselves? What if Emma Woodhouse doesn’t learn from her mistakes? What if Tom Jones descends into a sodden life of poaching and outlawry? What if Eve resists Satan, remembering God’s injunction and Adam’s loving advice? I imagine all the characters bustling to get back into their places as they feel me taking the book down from the shelf. “Hurry,” they say, “he’ll expect to find us exactly where he left us, never mind how much his life has changed in the meantime.”

625 : Music 50 : Yeh Na thi Hamari Kismet ( Mirza Ghalib – Chitra Singh)

5 hours ago Ek Fankaar updated this on his site.

This is a song, I grew up listening to. I love Chitra Singh in this song. I will never get over this song. 

And the meaning explained by our friend is brilliant, to say the least.

Thank you stranger, you made my day.

624 : Movie 25 : Last King of Scotland

last-king-of-scotland-poster-1 225px-The_Last_King_of_Scotland

One of the most intense movies I have seen in recent times.

It is superb is the depiction of the fact that a man in power is a man lying to himself constantly. It repeatedly demonstrates how Amin lives in a make believe world and rationalises his own actions in the guise of a greater cause.

Did I like it? I loved it.

Forest Whitekar as Amin, and James McAvoy as Dr. Carrigan, both are immensely brilliant in their roles.

The movie also seeks to touch the fickle nature of power and its associated need based friendships.

More of the
Movie at

James McAvoy at


Forest Whitaker at


Go watch it, 9 out of 10 for a great effort. It makes you wince, it makes you enter the live of Amin, and that as per me is the ultimate compliment for the director.

623 : Movie 24 : Jai Veeru



Jai Veeru (Kunal Khemu, Fardeen, Anjana Sukhani, Dia Mirza) has to the crappiest movie I have seen in recent times. Even Jimmy (parts of which I had the pleasure of watching) and Drona rank above this one.

God knows that the editor was cutting sniping, the director must be a cannibis bhakth, and the music, the dialogues, lesser said the better.

Having cribbed so much, I must admit its a good movie to watch with a huge gang. You can laugh your way through this torture.

I would give this 0 out of 10. 

Sunday, June 21, 2009

Post 622 : Insight 8 : The Joy of Less – Pico Iyer

Another brilliant one from NYTimes….

Article at reproduced here for easier reading.

June 7, 2009, 10:35 pm

The Joy of Less

By Pico Iyer

“The beat of my heart has grown deeper, more active, and yet more peaceful, and it is as if I were all the time storing up inner riches…My [life] is one long sequence of inner miracles.” The young Dutchwoman Etty Hillesum wrote that in a Nazi transit camp in 1943, on her way to her death at Auschwitz two months later. Towards the end of his life, Ralph Waldo Emerson wrote, “All I have seen teaches me to trust the creator for all I have not seen,” though by then he had already lost his father when he was 7, his first wife when she was 20 and his first son, aged 5. In Japan, the late 18th-century poet Issa is celebrated for his delighted, almost child-like celebrations of the natural world. Issa saw four children die in infancy, his wife die in childbirth, and his own body partially paralyzed.

In the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno’s arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied.

I’m not sure I knew the details of all these lives when I was 29, but I did begin to guess that happiness lies less in our circumstances than in what we make of them, in every sense. “There is nothing either good or bad,” I had heard in high school, from Hamlet, “but thinking makes it so.” I had been lucky enough at that point to stumble into the life I might have dreamed of as a boy: a great job writing on world affairs for Time magazine, an apartment (officially at least) on Park Avenue, enough time and money to take vacations in Burma, Morocco, El Salvador. But every time I went to one of those places, I noticed that the people I met there, mired in difficulty and often warfare, seemed to have more energy and even optimism than the friends I’d grown up with in privileged, peaceful Santa Barbara, Calif., many of whom were on their fourth marriages and seeing a therapist every day. Though I knew that poverty certainly didn’t buy happiness, I wasn’t convinced that money did either.

So — as post-1960s cliché decreed — I left my comfortable job and life to live for a year in a temple on the backstreets of Kyoto. My high-minded year lasted all of a week, by which time I’d noticed that the depthless contemplation of the moon and composition of haiku I’d imagined from afar was really more a matter of cleaning, sweeping and then cleaning some more. But today, more than 21 years later, I still live in the vicinity of Kyoto, in a two-room apartment that makes my old monastic cell look almost luxurious by comparison. I have no bicycle, no car, no television I can understand, no media — and the days seem to stretch into eternities, and I can’t think of a single thing I lack.

I’m no Buddhist monk, and I can’t say I’m in love with renunciation in itself, or traveling an hour or more to print out an article I’ve written, or missing out on the N.B.A. Finals. But at some point, I decided that, for me at least, happiness arose out of all I didn’t want or need, not all I did. And it seemed quite useful to take a clear, hard look at what really led to peace of mind or absorption (the closest I’ve come to understanding happiness). Not having a car gives me volumes not to think or worry about, and makes walks around the neighborhood a daily adventure. Lacking a cell phone and high-speed Internet, I have time to play ping-pong every evening, to write long letters to old friends and to go shopping for my sweetheart (or to track down old baubles for two kids who are now out in the world).

When the phone does ring — once a week — I’m thrilled, as I never was when the phone rang in my overcrowded office in Rockefeller Center. And when I return to the United States every three months or so and pick up a newspaper, I find I haven’t missed much at all. While I’ve been rereading P.G. Wodehouse, or “Walden,” the crazily accelerating roller-coaster of the 24/7 news cycle has propelled people up and down and down and up and then left them pretty much where they started. “I call that man rich,” Henry James’s Ralph Touchett observes in “Portrait of a Lady,” “who can satisfy the requirements of his imagination.” Living in the future tense never did that for me.

Perhaps happiness, like peace or passion, comes most when it isn’t pursued.

I certainly wouldn’t recommend my life to most people — and my heart goes out to those who have recently been condemned to a simplicity they never needed or wanted. But I’m not sure how much outward details or accomplishments ever really make us happy deep down. The millionaires I know seem desperate to become multimillionaires, and spend more time with their lawyers and their bankers than with their friends (whose motivations they are no longer sure of). And I remember how, in the corporate world, I always knew there was some higher position I could attain, which meant that, like Zeno’s arrow, I was guaranteed never to arrive and always to remain dissatisfied.

Being self-employed will always make for a precarious life; these days, it is more uncertain than ever, especially since my tools of choice, written words, are coming to seem like accessories to images. Like almost everyone I know, I’ve lost much of my savings in the past few months. I even went through a dress-rehearsal for our enforced austerity when my family home in Santa Barbara burned to the ground some years ago, leaving me with nothing but the toothbrush I bought from an all-night supermarket that night. And yet my two-room apartment in nowhere Japan seems more abundant than the big house that burned down. I have time to read the new John le Carre, while nibbling at sweet tangerines in the sun. When a Sigur Ros album comes out, it fills my days and nights, resplendent. And then it seems that happiness, like peace or passion, comes most freely when it isn’t pursued.

If you’re the kind of person who prefers freedom to security, who feels more comfortable in a small room than a large one and who finds that happiness comes from matching your wants to your needs, then running to stand still isn’t where your joy lies. In New York, a part of me was always somewhere else, thinking of what a simple life in Japan might be like. Now I’m there, I find that I almost never think of Rockefeller Center or Park Avenue at all.

Author Photo

Pico Iyer’s most recent book, “The Open Road: The Global Journey of the Fourteenth Dalai Lama,” is just out in paperback.

Post 621 : Insight 7 – The Limits of Control by Lenonard Miodinow from NYTimes


Great insight read. Tells you how once you have lost it all, and adjusted to it, its difficult to be “innocent” again…or at least thats how I interpreted it.

Article at

Reproduced below for easier reading

June 15, 2009, 9:36 pm

The Limits of Control

By Leonard Mlodinow

My mother had always feared domestic animals, but now as a plump neighborhood cat ran up our driveway, she gazed at the feline, and revealed that 70 years ago she had had a pet cat. Her 87-year-old eyes teared up. Her cat was white, she said, and so thin you could see its ribs. Still, she loved to cuddle it. It wasn’t a house cat – it couldn’t have been, because she was imprisoned at the time, in a forced-labor camp the Nazis set up in Poland, the country where my mother was born and raised. Back then she was as emaciated as the cat, but still she shared her food with it. It gave her comfort she said, and it was a way of fighting back, to help this animal that, like her, the Germans planned to let die.

The need for control can inspire great achievements, such as dams, medicines and chocolate soufflés, but it can also lead to sub-optimal behavior

The psychologist Bruno Bettelheim concluded that survival in Nazi concentration camps depended on “one’s ability to arrange to preserve some areas of independent action, to keep control of some important aspects of one’s life despite an environment that seemed overwhelming.” Studies suggest that, even in normal conditions, to be happy, humans must feel in control. We are currently confronting economic hardship that, though a far cry from the horrors of World War II, has eroded the feeling of self-determination for many of us.

Eliminate control, and people experience depression, stress and the onset of disease. In a study of elderly nursing home patients[1] , one group was told they could decide how their room would be arranged, and could choose a plant to care for. Another group had their rooms set up for them and a plant chosen and tended to for them. Eighteen months later 15 percent of the patients in the group given control had died, compared with 30 percent in the passive group.


The need for control can inspire great achievements, such as dams that prevent flooding, medicines to ease our lives, and perfectly confected chocolate soufflés. But it can also lead to sub-optimal behavior. Though people generally view “control freaks” in a negative light, that need makes us all vulnerable to making bad decisions – especially when it comes to money. Studies show that people feel more confident they’ll win at dice if they toss the dice themselves than if others toss them [2], and that they are likely to bet more money if they make their wager before the dice are tossed than afterward (where the outcome has been concealed)[3]. They’ll value a lottery ticket more if they can choose it than if it is given to them at random[4]. And in a well-known 1975 study in which Yale University students were asked to predict the results of coin tosses, a significant number of presumably intelligent Yalies believed their performance could improve through practice, and would have been hampered if they’d been distracted.[5] In each of these situations, the subjects knew that the enterprises in which they were engaged were unpredictable and beyond their control. When questioned, for example, none of the lottery players said they believed that being allowed to choose their card influenced their probability of winning. Yet on a deep, subconscious level they must have felt it did, because they behaved as if it did.

That people are prone toward feeling in control even when they are not probably endowed our species with an advantage at some point in our evolution. Even today, a false sense of control can be beneficial in promoting a sense of well-being, or allowing us to maintain hope that a bad situation can improved.

My mother’s illusion came to an end when, one day, her labor camp cat stopped coming. She never learned exactly what happened to it. Unfortunately, that became a template for nameless outcomes by which her sister, her father, and most of her friends disappeared. Of her many illusions of youth that the Nazis snuffed out, the feeling that she could control her destiny was one of the most difficult to accept. But for my mother, and for all those who lived through similar experiences, surviving meant not only possessing a special toughness of body, but also of mind. She found a way to face the world without the illusion of control, of dealing with life as it comes, day to day, without expectation.

On a far different scale, we face losses today. To economists our plight is a “severe downturn,” but to me it feels like a roller coaster ride in which I discover, first, that I have no seat belt, and then, that the concession operator is Norman Bates. Given my jitters, it is a comfort to know that my mother survived a far worse experience and yet maintained the capacity to be happy when, for instance, her grandchildren hug her, or she discovers a tasty new sugar-free dessert. But more important is what I’ve learned from the fact that the current events don’t seem to bother her.

It’s not that my mother hasn’t lost money, or that she doesn’t need it. She isn’t bothered because her early experiences of utter powerlessness taught her to give herself up to what she calls fate. Understanding my own need for control – and exactly why I cannot have it – I now take comfort in letting go of the illusion, and accepting that despite all my efforts and planning some aspects of my future are beyond my sphere of influence. That realization has given me permission not to kick myself for the losses I have incurred. That can be a liberating thought in trying times like these, or any times at all.

Author photo

Leonard Mlodinow teaches randomness to future experimenters at Caltech. His books include “The Drunkard’s Walk: How Randomness Rules Our Lives” and “Euclid’s Window: The Story of Geometry from Parallel Lines to Hyperspace.” More of his writing and information about his work can be found at his Web site.

Post 620 : Departure by Kumiko Makihara from IHT

The actual article at

Republished below for easier reading.


Published: June 19, 2009

TOKYO — My brother peered into the coffin lined with dry ice and tugged at the sheet of gauze that had frozen onto my grandmother’s cheek. “Let me do it,” I said, pulling the cloth away with the sound of tearing Velcro.

“You’re a lot less squeamish than I am,” he marveled.

Those are the only words of approval I recall from members of my family at the time of my grandmother’s death, even though I felt I had held down the fort while they were away.

I was reminded of that intense time many years ago as I watched this year’s Oscar-winning Japanese film “Departures,” about an undertaker and the dramas that play out around the deceased.

I was in my late 20s, a journalist basking in selfish freedom. One night after dancing at a reggae club, I came home to a message from the retirement home where my grandmother lived. She had suffered a heart attack.

When I arrived at the hospital, my grandmother was struggling to speak. “Eighty-eight!” she blurted out; perhaps a reflexive answer to all those dementia tests that had asked how old she was. She turned to the woman we had hired as her caretaker and said, “I caused you a lot of trouble.” She asked after my mother several times. I like to believe she wanted to apologize to her daughter-in-law for the years of belittlement.

Throughout the night and the following day, the caretaker, my great aunt and I kept vigil, rubbing my grandmother’s feet, holding her hand and sometimes laying our heads on her body to catnap.

A young German man I’d met a few days before in Seoul while covering the Olympics showed up, having followed me to Tokyo. I was touched that he had navigated the train system to the suburban hospital, hours away from the city center. But the whole time we sat in the café, I worried that my grandmother would die, and I would not be there.

“We could do surgery,” the doctor told me, to keep the heart alive until my parents and brother arrived from the U.S. I declined, unable to justify any more torment to her body. My grandmother died just before midnight.

Life gone from the room, nurses wiped the body clean and laid it on the bed in a purple cotton kimono, hands clasped together on the chest. A breeze blew in from a window, sending the curtains billowing. I thought I saw my grandmother raise her arms just as she had done the day before. I scanned the room for otherworldly signs.

At home, a relative had already turned the pictures around to face the wall to banish any festive signs, the first of many rituals. We lay my grandmother on a futon in her bedroom, head north like the position of Buddha at his death.

I rose at dawn, put on a black dress and saw the German guy off at the airport terminal. We joked that my grandmother really must not have wanted us to get together. And we never did.

When I returned, the house was stirring. My great aunt and her daughters were making rice balls and stewing vegetables for the anticipated visitors. My parents and brother arrived from New York.

My brother removed his shoes at the entryway and turned them around so he could slip back into them easily, a practical and polite gesture. “How thoughtful he is,” my mother observed, in habitual praise of the favored son. I lashed back, listing in a high-pitched voice all the family duties I had fulfilled over the last few days. My mother wondered aloud what was wrong with me.

The funeral director droned on about how the deceased must be well prepared to make her treacherous journey over to the afterlife as we tearfully placed straw sandals by her feet and banged nails into the coffin with a small stone.

At the crematorium, the staff propped my grandmother’s photo onto a large easel, and we placed our palms together and stared into the coffin for the last time, wanting to hold on to her body as the casket was eased into the furnace.

An hour later, my family surrounded a table of charred remains. Starting with the bones of the feet and moving up the body, according to tradition, we worked in pairs to pick up the gray and white remnants and transfer them to the urn. My brother and I carefully balanced a piece between us, delicately holding it together with chopsticks and, at least for that moment, standing on equal footing.

kumiko makihara is a writer and translator based in Tokyo

Post 619 : Times of India vs. IHT

5 days @ HK and I was reading “International Herald Tribune”, the International edition of NY Times, and I must say, it was so more pleasant to read on the content, on the mind and in a real sense it left me more “enriched”, and then I came back to rape obsessed “TOI”, the contrast could not have been more stark.

The NY Times is outstanding in terms of editorials and content. Times of India…well, lets say, I am sure I am going to un-subscribe.

Post 618 : We love rape

I am getting tired of my morning newspaper…quite frankly…I really am….BCCL (the promoters of Times Of India) seem obsessed with “Rape”.

The Sunday Times on 21st June 2009, had almost 14 different items on Rape. Guys, this is my weekend, I want to know the next book to read, the next movie to watch, not really who raped whom.

At this point, I almost feel raped by Times Of India. At the rate they are going, they will soon need have “Rape” as a page heading in addition to “Metro”, “Nation”, “International”, “Business” and “Sports”

Come 1st of July, I intend to stop newspapers, if my spousey signs up for the idea.

Post 617 : What moves us and why?

What attracts us to a diving deep into a photo, a painting, a piece of music, a book – do you ever wonder, just I like “everyday” what makes us relate to an image clicked by Ansel Adams in 1970. Why do some paintings have such profound effect on us, that they continue to provide us a glimpse of their beauty, everytime we stare at it.

I can’t help but marvel at the masochism of the wirings within our brain.

At this point, the answer is printed in our DNA, in the search of our own little truth, we try and dive into anything mysterious, anything that is un-explained but yet “real”, a bit like the wind or the air…or even the “you” and “me”.