Friday, October 12, 2007


Congratulations to Al Gore and the IPCC. The conflation of issues the NPP recognizes is certainlygetting interesting...although I cannot ignore the irony in an American winning the prize for work towards global climate change! It would have been entirely justified to award the IPCC the award by itself given how much global impact the publication of its fourth report had earlier this year, but the inclusion of Al Gore is a potent reminder to the Americans - who still hold most of the trump cards at such talks - by the Nobel committee about who it feels is on the right side of this debate, with the implication that Bush, Gore's political nemesis, being still very much on the wrong side. With Bush thankfully now into the final phase of his disastrous presidency, it can be safely assumed that he has his legacy very much on his mind. Anything that can nudge him towards choosing the right course of action on climate change is welcome - but I suspect forlorn.

As for Gore, I wonder whether this will now persuade him
to go again for the biggest prize of all? Well, the $1.5m Nobel prize fund should help pay for a few hours on the campaign trail, if he does.

I love the BBC readers' forum on this one....10+ pages and counting!

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Precious cover, blank book

This weekend's movie accompanying take-out-Chinese, turned out to be a teasingly unsatisfying meal. For all its hip-and-trendiness, Japanimations can be downright vacant. Lavish graphics, cartoon plot. The wonderfully detailed animated Japanese flick "Tekkonkinkreet" is a wonder to look at, even as its increasingly pretentious manga-inspired story line outstays its welcome.
It's set in a crumbling Bladerunner-esque metropolis called Treasure Town, where a childlike (I suppose because he is one) 11-year-old urchin named White and his slightly older friend Black fly through the air - and get caught up in a Yakuza boss' scheme to level the old city and replace it with an amusement park. Save for an avuncular prune, Gramps , the adults who pass through their lives, including a couple of kindly cops and some oddly dressed gang members (they look ready to rumble with droogs), generally pass through without much comment. They offer the children greetings though precious little else, which makes the loneliness that clings to Black and White — illustrated by the expressive use of negative space — all the more poignant and unacceptable.

Beautiful and a touch bewildering, “Tekkonkinkreet” kinks up a fairly familiar story of love and loyalty with a helping of underworld crime action, the usual juvenile agonies and fuzzy philosophy. And more exasperatingly, this well-worn record seems to be stuck on a never ending "replay". The first-time feature director Michael Arias, an American who lives and works in Japan, stuffs a lot of exposition and action into 100 baggy minutes. Amid all the sharp turns, the periodic slicing and dicing, the gangsters and the shifty deals, the old man in the bathhouse and the snake in its lair, it can be tough to pinpoint what precisely Black and White are up to, much less the filmmakers.
Even so, “Tekkonkinkreet” demands to be seen, if only for its beauty. The generally bright palette and overall soft look work a nice contrast to the dark theme, as if the world itself were on the children’s side. The character design of the boys is particularly lovely, almost loving, from the scar slashed across Black’s right eye like a warning to the hat shaped like a bear’s head that White wears, his mischievous, smiling face peeping through the animal’s open mouth. There’s a touch of Saint-Exupéry’s “Little Prince” in these two children, whose adventures and lessons seem plucked right from this book: “To forget a friend is sad. Not every one has had a friend. And if I forget him, I may become like the grown-ups. ...” And that, as everyone knows, would be disastrous.

Monday, September 24, 2007

total masti?

India won the first 2020 Cricket World Cup. I am sure this is big news in the subcontinent. Yuvraj Singh and Mahendra Dhoni. Imran Nazir and Shahid Afridi. There is a solid defense of the Twenty20 format by Osman Samiuddin from the Pakistani [and Indian, as well] perspective:

About right, too, for the format is one the average Pakistani, fan and player, easily recognises and feels comfortable with. England may have been responsible for institutionalising and selling the concept, but its informal, Asian cousin, played out on streets with apartments as spectators and on grounds with cement pitches and dangerous outfields has long been Pakistan cricket’s lifeline.

This is, then, really the game that desi kids played and play. The tennis ball version [taped ball or not], usually 10 or 12 overs; the hard ball version, 20 or 25 overs; on a cement pitch; front-foot, across the line batting; block hole, yorker bowling; aggressive fielding, running; uptempo and hurried pace. Here is the rub, though. In this version, the goal is to get better, to learn to stay at the crease, to master the art of bowling according to a plan not as a reaction, to learn to keep control of the ball even after you have hit it. The goal, is to play a full game of cricket. There were/are tons of yuvrags, afridis … everyone had to have such players. They were called sloggers. I can't recall any particular pride associated with such a designation.
Admit it. The odds are stacked against the bowler in cricket. The batsman is padded, and has a very thick stick and can catch a break by moving to the non-stricker’s end. The beauty of cricket is to make those odds even out - by pitch, by bowl, by field, by pace. And then ask the bat to rise to the occasion. 2020 makes a mockery of that balance and stacks everything to credit the bat. Smaller boundaries, hampered field placement, and the urge to “measure the distance of the Sixes”.
Sure it is fun comparing Yuvrag’s 6 in six balls performance, to Gibb’s 6 in six balls during WC 2007 and, further back, to Sir Gary Sobers’ 6 in six balls in 1968. But do these batsmen qualify as genus Britannicus, to quote CLR James? Judging from the Test career of Sir Gary Sobers, of course. Will we get a similar chance to judge the young Yuvraj Singh? I have no idea. And I fear that we will not find out. I fear that the 2020 will splinter a team into a perfectly natural division of skill-sets, of specialist sloggers like Shahid Afridi never having to grow beyond what they played in their backyards. How will someone like Shane Warne or Abdul Qadir or Imran Khan emerge out of this format? Nathan Bracken? Pfft. That, in a nutshell, is the reason I remain unenthusiastic about this format.

Saturday, September 22, 2007

netflix encounters #1

Through a recommendation, I recently discovered a director.
Here is the first of the films I have seen of Emir Kusturica:

When Father was Away on Business (1985)
The title euphemism of ''When Father Was Away on Business'' refers to a trip taken by the young hero's parent - not a business trip, but a journey to a labor camp. It also indicates the boyish perspective from which the story is seen. This warmly appealing Yugoslav film makes charming use of 6-year-old Malik Malkoc and his outlook without sacrificing a larger and more knowing directorial overview.
While offering a humorous, richly detailed portrait of Malik and his family, Emir Kusturica also outlines the political climate in which the story unfolds. Set mostly in Sarajevo in the early 1950's, the film makes frequent references to the uneasy relationship between Marshal Tito's postwar Yugoslavia and the Stalinist Soviet Union. Stalinist loyalties are continually being put to the test, so that when Malik's father, Mesha makes a sarcastic remark about a political drawing in a newspaper, he risks dire consequences. The fact that Mesha's brother-in-law, a stern, bureaucratic Communist Party official, shares Mesha's interest in the same flirtatious young woman only seals Mesha's fate. He is sent to work in a mine as a result of his vague transgression, and the rest of the family is left to manage on its own.
Kusturica creates a wonderfully vivid sense of the various family members and their life together. Malik's long-suffering mother takes in work as a seamstress and looks after her father and three young sons, while also pining for her absent husband and conveniently forgetting the philandering that helped put him away. One of Malik's brothers is a bookish type who hoards every snippet of film stock he can lay his hands on. Malik himself has a habit of sleepwalking and a remarkable talent for interrupting adult sexual encounters. In one of the film's most affecting sequences, a funny scene that is also terribly sad, Malik goes to extraordinary lengths to keep his parents apart after his mother is finally able to arrange a visit to the mine at which her husband is imprisoned.
The film, which has a broad, expansive narrative style, follows the family through this crisis and back to some sort of equilibrium; in the meantime, it also captures some of Malik's formative experiences, including his first stirrings of love for an amazingly diffident little girl. Kusturica's measured direction is able to weave all these disparate elements together into a gentle, touching film alive with humanity and humor.

Monday, September 17, 2007

an alien in america: entry 3: shopping for world piece[s]

from l-r: saddam hussein, tony blair, kim jong-il, george bush, osama bin-laden

the flip side (osama to the left): war criminals. (these are special edition. especially the ghost saddam)

I am preparing my christmas wish-list to avoid crowds. This is wish list item #1.
Plastic God’s Axis of Evil is a limited edition boxed set of 5” rotocast collectibles, featuring everyone’s favorite cast of current political icons: Saddam Hussein, Tony Blair, Kim Jong-il, George “W” Bush and Osama bin Laden. The dolls have 7 points of articulation and come packed together in a flip open window door box

Friday, August 31, 2007

Sunday, August 19, 2007

The Bourgeois-Caress-My-Superego Guide to Happiness: Reflections on the Experience Economy

...which happens to be Harvard endorsed [which guarantees future networking with other happily caressed superegos]:

Caffeine-free Diet Coke: Reflections on the Experience Economy

Today's ethics are the ethics of the superego*; no longer circumscribed by moderation. One is encouraged instead, to limitless consumption, because the product consumed is in itself deprived of its "dangerous" constituent. There is an injunction to enjoy, and one is guilty if enjoyment is not desired and subsequently attained.
Decaf. coffee.
Fat free ice-cream.
Caffeine free diet coke.....(chocolate laxative has also been mentioned occasionally, but since I have never encountered it, I shall leave it alone till the fateful day when I do have that pleasure).
and my personal favourite - mass customisation - a product being its own counter ethic. Instead of removing action, one "balances" it with counter-action. Is being good, finally, being less bad?
...I want to begin with Coca-cola. It’s no surprise that Coca-cola was first introduced as a medicine. Its strange taste seems to provide no particular satisfaction. It is not directly pleasing, however, it is as such, as transcending any use–value, like water, beer or wine, which definitely do quench our thirst, that Coke functions as the direct embodiment of "IT", the pure surplue of enjoyment over standard satisfactions. It is the mysterious and elusive X we are all after in our compulsive consumption. The unexpected result of this is not that, since Coke doesn’t satisfy any concrete need we drink it only as supplement, after some other drink has satisfied our substantial need — it is rather this very superfluous character that makes our thirst for Coke all the more insatiable. Coke has the paradoxical quality that the more you drink it, the more you get thirsty. So, when the slogan for Coke was "Coke is it!", we should see in it some ambuigity — it’s "it" precisely insofar as it’s never IT, precisely insofar as every consumption opens up the desire for more. The paradox is thus that Coke is not an ordinary commodity, but a commodity whose very peculiar use–value itself is already a direct embodiment of the auratic, ineffable surplus. This process is brought to its conclusion in the case of caffeine–free diet Coke. We drink a drink for two reasons: for its nutritional value and for its taste. In the case of caffeine–free diet Coke, its nutritional value is suspended and the caffeine as the key ingredient of its taste is also taken away. All that remains is pure semblance, an artificial promise of a substance which never materialized. Is it not that in the case of caffeine–free diet Coke that we almost literally drink nothing in the guise of something? What I am referring to, of course, is Nietzsche’s opposition between "wanting nothing", in the sense of "I do not want anything", and the nihilistic stance of actively wanting the Nothingness itself. Following Nietzsche, Lacan emphasized how, in anorexia, the subject doesn’t simply not eat anything, he rather actively wants to eat the Nothingness itself. The same goes for the famous patient who felt guilty of stealing, although he didn’t effectively steal anything — what he did steal was, again, Nothingness itself. Along the same lines, in the case of caffeine–free diet Coke, we drink Nothingness itself, the pure semblance of a property. S. Zizek in "The Superego and the Act", Aug 1999.
*Since the association between super-ego and an injunction to enjoy may seem counter-intuitive at first glance, one needs to keep in mind the radical separation between superego and the ethics of desire. For Lacan, superego is vehicle for such that what appears as a renunciation of pleasure for the sake of duty may be a way to get off, to enjoy.
**Superego is the revenge that capitalizes upon our guilt--that is to say, the price we pay for the guilt we contract by betraying our desire in the name of the Good. Slavoj Zizek in The Metastases of Enjoyment (London: Verso, 1994), 69.
ps: I should have made links to terms such as "the experience economy", but I shan't. It isn't worth it, enjoyment-wise.

Friday, August 17, 2007


"A man can't whistle through clenched teeth but sees clearly through eyes blurred by tears."

American sentences - paul nelson; and
Dylan Sisson's gallery;

mad about mad men

'Smoking, Drinking, Cheating and Selling' that's how The New York Times summated this tv flick. "There were seven deadly sins practiced at the dawn of the 1960s: smoking, drinking, adultery, sexism,
homophobia, anti-Semitism and racism."
Can't say the times have changed much. But there is something about the vintage 60's that draws me to it. The men are stoical, suave, politically incorrect, and downright sexist. The women are either 'conflicted' professionals or 'blissful' homemakers. And, its a cut-throat world of an advertising agency in the heart of 60's New York. Nothing really has changed much if one thinks about it. Then what is it?

I still can't justify my obsession with Godfather. And neither can I explain my obsession with (a Michael Corleone), or a Don Draper. I guess I will never know.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

60 years young...

Birthday reading for post-partitioners:

Sunday, August 05, 2007

2nd coming, 1st viewing

Every once in a while I go to watch live theatre. It has to be so because theatres are not as prolific as cinemas, and they have fewer plays per seasons. And also because it is fairly expensive...well, sort of. $30 per ticket. Of course, that is less than a haircut. Probably which is why one cuts hair occasionally as well. At a lesser frequency than one goes to the theatre.
Anyhow, this weekend was Curious's prelude show to its 10th season. A bit about Curious Theatre - it is housed in a chapel (that is, it used to be a chapel, but most of the curious weren't around for that) and stages plays that would I suppose be WAY-off-Broadway...about 1700miles off. The house is fairly small, in an intimate sort of way, a bit inconvinient with two columns supporting a balcony in the middle of the house, and a fantastic balcony. The plays are at best sharp and remarkably refined, at worst, err...erratic. But in the end, I sort of love this theatre.
Back to the prelude show - Robert Dubac's "Male Intellect: The Second Coming". Multi-talented is what he is, Dubac. Playright and actor in a one-man production; part magician and wholly super-technician. The play began as a familiar banter that goes on between the masculine, and the feminine set inside Robert's head. Through the comfortable chuckling, one could yet detect a purposeful set and precise lighting that allowed Dubac to slip effortlessly between the various shades of characters. He spoke, sang (I think), caricatured and... wrote on a blackboard...and erased from the blackboard, and wrote and erased...each time revealing and hiding the "truth" that he was trying to remember. It was a brilliant prop at so many levels. The second act, though a bit pedantic expanded the domestic into politics, culture and social hypocracy. The theme of the play was the same as so much of what today's political commentary is about - the polarised and the polite - only done differently. And thank goodness for that difference.

Robert Dubac's "Male Intellect: The Second Coming" plays at the Curious Theatre from Aug 4th to Aug 26th, 2007.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Saturday, July 21, 2007

the wet midlands

Chinka, somewhere, watching the river Leam gradually flooding.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

probably the only poetry i will ever put together....'til the next season.

Capoeira & Corbusier
Chinese Opera & Alfred Hitchcock
Walt Whitman & Whole Hog Cooking

Mixed Taste: After Taste
Tequila & Dark Energy in the Universe
Soul Food & Existentialism

Prairie Dogs & Gertrude Stein
Japanese Anime & Zora Neale Hurston
Marxism & ... Kittens, Kittens, Kittens!

Thursday, July 12, 2007

an alien in america series: entry 1: a crappy problem

...recently i have been intensely disheartened by the immigration process. however, i try to decompress whenever i can....

Sunday, July 01, 2007

on ruins

Watched Children of Men this evening, and the commentary by Zizek in the Bonus Features section of the DVD. One need not have to say much regarding the bleakness of the film, if this brief commentary seemed the most animated part of the viewing. Zizek gave his interpretation of the film. On infertility as a foreground (the plot) and background (the lack of historicity in a post capitalist-apocalyptic scenario) etc, etc. What struck me, in the film and his commentary, was the bit on the preserved art - that all art looses its meaning when deprived of a world. And by that, I am guessing both the film and Zizek mean a historical continuity. Without that continuity, the art has no meaning, and a certain "cutting off of the moorings and drifting as though in a boat" (film ending) is the only course/recourse. I wonder.
My father, on a recent trip to the US, was often amused by the stud construction going on all around him. It wasn't so much the honesty of materials that seemed to be the issue, really. He simply wondered if this form of building would ever produce ruins.
Coincidentally, I have encountered recently an intriguing form of treasure hunting, that has nothing to do with pirates or parties. It gives a whole new meaning to a walk in the park.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

further descent...

Chandramohan Srilamantula is a final year post-graduate student in Graphics at Fine Arts department at Maharaja Sayajirao University, Baroda, Gujarat. In 2006 he received the Lalit Kala National Akademi Award for his work. As part of his final examination, along with other students, he put up his graphic print installations in the Faculty building. His submissions were “Durga Slaying Krustacean” and “The Beautiful Vexation” — figuring ten-headed deities, resembling Ganesh, Vishnu and another featuring a Cross was “untitled”. These installations, closed to the public, brought a mob led by BJP goon Niraj Jain and police authorities who promptly arrested Chandramohan and roughed up the faculty and staff of the department. This video - on the left side - shows the installation being attacked by the goons.
Chandramohan is being charged under sections 153A, 114, and 295 of the Penal Code for “promoting enmity between different groups on grounds of religion, race etc, commiting acts prejudicial to the harmony of the public.”
He was denied bail and transferred to Central Jail. Emboldened by this, BJP is demanding that all
faculty and students in the department be suspended or expelled. The University has suspended Dean Shivji Panikker who publicly backed Chandramohan.
Please spread this news. Write a letter to Indian media. Publicize this across emails and blogs. Baroda has been the site,
recently, of communal violence led by the BJP. This guy, Niraj Jain, was also involved in that earlier incident of demolishing a Sufi dargah. Not to mention his involvement in the Gujarat massacre - “Muslims will have to live the way we want otherwise we will pull them out of their houses and kill them”.
It is time to work against the tyranny of hatred spread by the likes of Niraj Jain and Rev. Emmanuel Kant.
Below the fold is a letter to the Human Rights Commission written by the Faculty at MS University.

11th May, 2007
The ChairmanNational Human Rights’ Commission
New Delhi

We are hereby soliciting your immediate attention to a grave crisis and danger that we the faculty and students of the Faculty of Fine Arts, The M.S. University of Baroda, Baroda are faced with.
On 9th May, 2007, while the Faculty was in the final stages of its annual examination, a VHP/BJP leader, Mr. Niraj Jain, descended on the Faculty and pounced upon certain paintings that were on display as part of the examination work declaring them to be an insult to religion. We may underline the fact that the “display” of the works by the students was for the purpose of evaluation by the external jury and not for public exhibition and the entry to it was restricted.
Mr. Niraj Jain and the mob came accompanied by the police and the local media. While a student, S. Chandramohan, whose work it was, and a friend of his (who had come from Andhra Pradesh), were whisked away and put behind bars, Mr. Niraj Jain and his cohorts held the faculty and students to ransom for over 5 hours subjecting them to insults and humiliations in the presence of a contingent of policemen includingofficers. The In-charge Dean of the Faculty, Prof. Shivaji Panikkar, received the worst of these. The violent incident disrupted the examination process and brutally violated the autonomy of the University. The police had entered the University campus without seeking the Vice-Chancellor’s permission, and allowed a mob of known rabble rousers to take over. Although the friend of Chandramohan was released the same day, Chandra Mohan himself, arrested by the police without an arrest warrant, continues to remain behind bars or the third day. This is shocking and unprecedented in the history of the university.
Even more shocking has been the response of the University authorities. Far from standing up to the assault on the autonomy and jurisdiction of the University they have made common cause with the perpetrators of the assault. Instead of taking legal action against the mob and its leader, and file a FIR against them for disrupting examinations and infringing upon the autonomy of the University, they have put pressures on the faculty and the In-charge Dean, Prof Panikkar, to tender an apology for hurting public opinion.
With the Faculty having refused to comply with this unprincipled diktat, the University has today in the late afternoon sealed the Office of the Department of History to which Prof. Panikkar belongs and in the late evening issued an order suspending him from the University. In tandem with this outrageous act, Mr. Niraj Jain has filed an applicationwith the police seeking the inclusion of Prof. Panikkar as a co-accused in the FIR against Chandramohan. Both the students and the Faculty are now being threatened with direconsequences. There is now an acute danger to their safety and a drastic curtailment of their fundamental rights as citizens of a democratic country. Contrary to this anapplication filed by students of the Faculty against the offence committed by Mr. Niraj Jain to the police asking the latter to file an FIR against Mr. Jain for criminal trespass, intimidation, and unlawful disruption of the examination procedure of a reputed University has been ignored by the police. The result is that we have been left to the mercy of the mob. Day after day, hour after hour, we are being subjected to verbal attacks and threats of vengeance and destruction conveyed through the media. Giventhe stark and ignominious complicity of the University authorities, the Vice-Chancellor and the Pro-Vice Chancellor with the police and goons in this sordid drama we are leftwith no alternative but to appeal to you for intervention for the protection of our lives and security. We want you to intercede with the University administration, theChancellor of the University and the Governor of Gujarat who is the Visitor to the University to ensure the same. Over and above this the examination being of the final year Masters has been left incomplete and seriously jeopardizes the future of the students.
Yours sincerely

Faculty and students,
Faculty of Fine Arts
The M.S. University of Baroda

Monday, April 30, 2007

numbing numbers

partly ticked off at each of the following - not being able to watch the endless affair, not being able to watch India play to their listless best, and not being able to enjoy the Carribean beaches - I take solace in the numbing numbers:
  • 4,258.3 overs were needed to confirm that Australia are the best side in the world
  • 164.4 overs were not used by Australia in winning their 11 matches, either by reaching their target early or bowling the opposition out
  • 10 of the 51 matches went down to the last over, in only three of these was the result in any doubt in that last over
  • 45 games were decided by winning margins of more than 45 runs or five wickets - that is, comfortably
  • 47 days the 16-nation tournament lasted - 16 days more than last year's 32-nation football World Cup
  • £12.50 to £25 ticket prices hit attendances. In Guyana the price of seeing a game was equivalent to two weeks' wages
  • 7,000 fans had to make a day trip to St Lucia from Barbados for the Australia v South Africa semi-final. St Lucia hoteliers accepted only 14-night stays at $500 per night

Glorious game, what?

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

Highlight of the week

Long days at work, running against time to make the best of insane deadlines, ratcheting up the ciggies in the process: forgotten after back-to-back season finale episodes of BATTLESTAR GALLACTICA.

I was on board for this one from the start: I loved Lee Adama's heartfelt speech at Baltar's trial, particularly after he spent most of this season mooning and pouting and just generally acting like a petulant baby, loved the creepy music and the fact that Anders, Chief Tyrol, Tigh and Tory (Roslin's press secretary) were the only ones who could hear it, loved the growing suspicion that they were all Cylons (Who better to be a Cylon, than Tigh?), loved the power outages and the mounting suspense... Yes, this was a finale that anyone could get behind.

Maybe it was a stretch to make so many longstanding characters Cylons, but maybe they just think that they're Cylons. Who knows? Most importantly, it all felt momentous, big changes were clearly afoot, changes that didn't involve any temples or empty stand-offs with the Cylons or adulterous affairs. Last night's finale had me by the throat.

Oh yeah, and Starbuck's still alive. I almost forgot.

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

oh suck it up... sourpuss!

MTV sues YouTube. Whatever happened to that world where love was supposed to be free?

And, can we seek punitive damages for Viacom insinuating we are all free-loading penny pinchers?

Monday, March 12, 2007

weekly dosage of anti-PC advice

Another joins the club... the latest online 'Aunt Agony', the Colbertish/Gollumesque 'Unethicist'.
[Sméagol:] Gollum hates thieves!

Thursday, March 08, 2007

Go G. I. Joes!!

In a deeply disturbing news,
The biggest, most shiny, most chrome covered, most yellow, most 'wide and ugly' Hummer is "going green". And nothing says "I am less of a man" than going green and smelling like spring flowers. On a totally different note, here are some nice pictures from a hummer fan site.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Learning [of] more left me sore...

A recent trip to Las Vegas left me overwhelmed, exhausted and a tad bit irritated. What the hell did Venturi mean, legitimizing tackiness through clever tags (less is a bore)? Over 30 years ago, Robert Venturi, Denise Scott Brown, and the late Steven Izenour wrote Learning from Las Vegas, a case study that attempted to open the world's eyes to vernacular architecture and iconography-the "ugly and ordinary" structures and signage born to satisfy the needs of regular people, not architects. Having re-read it upon my return from the sensation overload, I realise that what the book was commenting upon was the irony that Americans hate signs; that they are enormously afraid of being vulgar because of their signs in their cities, and of being thereby materialistic, commercial, and all that. It is this commercial signage that the book sought to celebrate, within the framework of 'place' and the 'city'.

Today, the Las Vegas they wrote about no longer exists despite its ugliness. The buildings and the signs they studied have merged. The former Strip is now officially "the Boulevard." And the city is less iconographic, and more merely scenic -in a sense Las Vegas is now City as Scenography; it's a Disneyland. Most cities are to some extent scenographic, but few are as explicitly theatrical. It doesn't hit our funny bone, our crazy bone anymore - it has become sentimental. Everything reminds you of someplace one was lucky enough to travel to - only a cheaper version of it. If the ordinary itself succumbs to its insecurity at being ordinary, what is the point in glorifying it?

Incredibly, there is a return - somewhat. A moment where faux is legitimized. The Guggenheim Las Vegas begins where the opulence ends. The Venetian Resort's gilt moldings, faux marble columns and scroll patterned carpet come to a dead end at the unmistakable sign of contemporary art -- steel. An array of steel doors is surmounted by the name of the new museum spelled out in metal letters attached to the entrance ceiling. All very industrial, cool and utterly foreign to the average casino junkie, despite architect Rem Koolhaas' assurance that "it is all part of the same thing, including the casino." The Dutch architect is known to be interested in the urban context of his buildings and as one of many of his admirers I was curious to see what he would come up with for a museum cut out of the side of one of Las Vegas' most spectacular fantasies, a hotel that has recreated what it calls "San Marco Square," along with canals with live gondoliers offering rides under an ersatz Bridge of Sighs. The Guggenheim Hermitage Museum is what he calls the "jewelbox" (in contrast to the "big box") and appropriately enough, it opened with jewels from the collections of its namesake in St. Petersburg and from the Guggenheim collection in New York. From the outside, this is signage as architecture. A wall of brown Cor-ten steel cuts along the front of the Venetian's faux terracotta surface, giant letters proclaiming "Guggenheim Hermitage." Inside the lobby, within 7,660 square feet, Koolhaas designed a museum both luxurious and modern. The interior walls are also made of CorTen steel but appear to be as soft as sienna velvet. They are suspended several inches from the floor, so that light seeps in from below, lending a flavor of airy Japonisme to the space, enhanced by the angled ceiling of blond wood. Narrow slot windows allow a diffused light to enter. How skillful and restrained is Koolhaas' comprehension of space, proportion and surface! Speaking of surface, the masterpieces are attached to the walls with giant magnets, a fact as ingenious as it is quirky.

The museum was empty when I visited - lack of funds in a city which literally throws its moneys around. A mind-boggling 35 million tourists visit Las Vegas each year. If a fraction is willing to spend $15 for a ticket, the Gugg and the Hermitage may be able to pay rent to the casino for their spaces.

Tuesday, February 13, 2007

whatever it takes...

Recent trends to conserve IT [Indian Tradition]'s culture of love:
  • warning shop keepers not to sell cards and gifts in the name of Valentine Day.
  • [failing which] Encourage the burning of Valentine Day cards.
  • Taboo the word Valentine.
  • Present - um, insist on - the option of celebrating lover's day in the name of current heartthrobs actors, Abhishek-Aishwarya rather than resort to a foreign name of St. Valentine to express love [I did not make this up!]
  • Erect billboard advertisements asking young lovers not to hold hands
  • [my personal favourite] photograph couples caught expressing their love in cinemas, cafes and shopping malls and hand the pictures to their parents.

read all about the practices in resistence at

just a news

those kooky kids...

Tuesday, January 30, 2007

brain train

turns out that the path to smarts doesn't include gluttenous consumption of information, after all. au contraire, a fat brain and an old brain is a dumb brain. one and come the new-row-scientists.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

Annual Blindness

...I wonder how much of this was last year's article, with a few names changed? As the movie awards season commences, so do the speculations on that ever eluding boundary of foreignness. We are reminded annually of our blindness, while the world watches (or so we are told). I can't wait to see if ever a day will come when we are left to our blindness.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

Friday, January 19, 2007

logo a go go

Using Flickr as jurying process, Architecture for Humanity has opened up the selection of its logo to the public. In less than 12 days AFH received 812 entries from more than 60 countries, an incredible response from the design community. Hats off to ALL who entered. During December more than 65 jurors from four continents voted both online (via Flickr commenting) and offline. AFH are now in the process of selecting the winner from the list of finalists. This week AFH made the Flickr sets open to the public to make their own comments - already it has been viewed over 1500 times. So click on the Final Round link and decide on who you think should win!

Saturday, January 13, 2007

Friends, Romans, Countrymen, Lovers, Haters, Murderers, Barbarians ...

...lend me your eyes. Even though the HBO series never quite rose, and eventually fell with an inconsequential thud, I was happy to read about its revival recently. Indeed, every works of the imagination on Rome reveals more about the epochs that produced them than they do about the vanished civilization they depict - much like all representations, I suppose. This one, I remember as having enthralled me by its , ummm, earnestly accumulated squalor and grit, as if saying: We must say ta-ta to empires now and introduce ourselves to civilizations. I don't know if they quite did that, but that squalor was sure requisitely pretty.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

sold! to the devil.

to bite, or not to bite - that is the question....
Even for an ardent macFan, this latest gizmo begs the question: at what price did Steve Jobs sell himself to the devil? The signs are everywhere!
(to the left: the LG Chocolate, to the right: the new i-phone. ohhh, the suspense is killing me...will i or won't i be $499 poorer?)

you are toast...

I love the absurdity of this site and the fact that 100% of the proceeds (and they appear to be significant) will go to charity. Not sure where these crazy cats are from, but judging from their use of the word "brilliant", I am guessing the UK. It's too hard to explain, just click through and check it out for yourself. And... buy some toast...

Wednesday, January 03, 2007

oh, the burden of fun...

Hundreds of thousands of men, women and children then jumped into the water...

Initially I felt some cold, but one dip and the cold was gone.