Tuesday, January 31, 2006

Southall - A taste of South Asia

Interesting little piece in yesterday's New York Times travel section on the London desi neighborhood of Southall (NY Times requires registration for web access).

Sunday, January 29, 2006

The marvel that is the web

When a couple of years ago, John Doerr (a partner at the venture capital firm Kleiner Perkins) said that the web is underhyped I chalked it up to standard silicon valley hyperbole. However, the ever evolving ways in which the internet continues to transform how we consume information and entertainment and conduct business compels me to admit that he was right.

Just recently, I have discovered two wonderful sites that present and filter information from some of the best periodicals in the world. 3quarksdaily and the Chronicle of Higher Education's Arts & Letters Daily are a dream come true for anyone trying to find the best writings on Science, Literature, Philosophy, Art and any other topic that would pique a thinking person's interest. Some of 3quarksdaily's editors are of Pakistani origin which, rather quaintly, induce in me some feelings of pride. Good work Raza family and your fellow editors and contributors!!

One other precious resource that I have enjoyed immensely is SAWF's classical music site. Rajan Parrikar's scholarly articles on the various ragas are superb (even if like me you can only understand them in bits and pieces). The explanations come alive with all the light, semi-classical and classical music clips that provide examples of performances in those ragas. There are many rare gems of music in his archive. Ustad Abdul Karim Khan's sublime thumri in Jhinjhoti ("piya bin naahin aawat chain") is a personal favorite. Before discovering this treasure trove of music I had never had the opportunity to listen to many of the masters of the Hindustani classical tradition: Ustad Faiyyaz Khan, Bundu Khan, Amir Khan, Salamat Ali Khan, Omkarnath Thakur, Mallikarjun Mansur, Roshan Ara Begum, Zohrabai Agrawali, Vilayat Khan, Bismillah Khan, Bade Ghulam Ali Khan etc.

I will return to talk about my favorite writing on Hindustani classical music at some point: Lutfullah Khan's "Sur ki talash", Daud Rahbar's "Kuch batein sureeli see" and Sheila Dhar's "Here's someone I would like you to meet".

Saturday, January 21, 2006

International Cinema

Chatting with a friend at work over lunch recently, we somehow ended up on the subject of films. Despite my fondness for good cinema, the conversation with Ranjan reminded me of how few of the films by the iconic filmmakers of international cinema have I actually seen. I have not watched any of the movies by Goddard, Bergman, Bunuel, Kurosawa, Fellini or Malle and only one or two by Truffaut (400 Blows), Hitchcock (Rear Window), Welles (Citizen Kane) , Satyajit Ray (Pather Panchali) and Kubrick (Clockwork Orange).

I am hoping to take more time this year to watch some of the greatest films by the masters. The next few films on my list are The Bicycle Thief (Vittorio de Sica), North by Northwest (Hitchcock), A Bout de Souffle (Godard) and Kurosawa's Rashomon. I hope to be back with my thoughts on these films at some point.

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Roberts era begins

In Gonzalez vs. Oregon today, the Supreme Court upheld the Oregon physician assisted suicide law in a 6-3 decision with Roberts, Scalia and Thomas dissenting.

There were a few interesting features of today's decision that begin to sketch the contours of the court's Roberts era. If Alito was already on the bench the vote count would have been 5-4 making Kennedy the central swing vote in this decision. Dahlia Lithwick in Slate paints a convincing picture of Kennedy's critical position at the center of this court.

Despite Roberts' vote in this case (joining Scalia's dissent) his views on federalism remain unknown. Is he likely to follow Rehnquist's lead by more often seeming to set limits on congressional authority or will his commitment to federalism principles be more selective like Scalia? Ann Althouse makes some interesting points about the case on her blog.
"It's quite interesting that the majority is made up of everyone who voted in favor of congressional power in the medicial marijuana case, plus O'Connor and minus Scalia. That means only O'Connor took the strong federalism position in both cases. And only Scalia sided with the government in both cases"

Sunday, January 15, 2006

Why this blog?

I intend this blog to be a collecting point for my musings. Reading, listening to a piece of music or engaging in an all too rare stimulating conversation have often sparked these reveries in the past. I hope that this blog will be the catalyst for a more disciplined approach of capturing these thoughts for myself.

At a PARC forum event in Palo Alto that I attended last week, Dr. Marty Tenenbaum informed the audience that an astounding 12 million blogs already existed in the blogosphere by the summer of 2005 (when he stopped counting). Despite my late arrival to this already crowded party, the jotting down of these first few words still feels like the start of something personally significant.