Thursday, July 06, 2006

Garrison Keillor - The Man from Lake Wobegon

I have been a fan of Garrison Keillor's radio show, The Prairie Home Companion, for several years now but I have never been able to pinpoint the show's precise charm. Somehow a wonderful broadcast is created by the combination of Keillor's soothing, pitch perfect radio voice, the melodious, pastoral folk music and the show's general atmosphere which transports the audience to a time, place and rhythm of life that the frenzied modern soul yearns for. This magical atmosphere is given concrete shape by Keillor's unendingingly fascinating, everyday vignettes of his midwestern "hometown" of Lake Wobegon; the town where "all the women are strong, all the men are good looking and all the children are above-average".

Sam Anderson wrote a wonderfully insightful piece about Garrison Keillor not so long ago that is a must read for afficionados.

Tuesday, July 04, 2006

Imran Khan - Ever the Lone Ranger

Interesting interview with Imran Khan in the Sunday Observer. The piece captures Imran's essential persona; fiercely independent, consistently principled and completely committed but a little self-righteous and indeed somewhat politically naive.

It has to be said that, despite his muddle-headed 'spirituality' that sometimes brings him close to despicable elements like the Jamaat-e-Islami, his ideas for Pakistan's political system are fundamentally sound. He is most insistent on an independent judiciary, election commission and accountability bureau; all institutions whose strengthening is critical for Pakistan's democratic advancement. Despite his early support for Musharraf, he is now vehemently opposed to military's role in government. In Pakistan, there is almost no disagreement in thinking circles now that as long as military remains the dominant force on the Pakistani political scene, democracy has little chance of taking root.

Imran's instincts in the arena of foreign policy are reflexively anti-western and many times flawed. Of course, there is plenty wrong with Musharraf's self-preserving genuflection to the West and a harder Pakistani line toward the west if it is in its national interest (such as free trade agreements, opposition to the roughshod execution of the 'war on terror' etc.) is entirely appropriate. However, Imran's public utterances extolling local virtues and criticisms of 'kala sahibs' seem to me a raw reflection of his personal evolution from a playboy to a politician and not any well thought out views about the virtuous life or a hard-headed understanding of foreign policy goals and objectives.

Monday, July 03, 2006

Physics - The Wait for a Breakthrough

Interesting essay in the NY Times by Dennis Overbye. The essay expresses the angst that despite many steps forward over the centuries culminating in the Standard Model (that nailed the relationship between strong, weak and electromagnetic forces), physics is stuck since the 1970's. Physicists still cannot explain some of the most basic quandaries about the universe.


In words that still haunt me, Lee Smolin, a physicist at the Perimeter Institute for Theoretical Physics in Ontario, once wrote, "When a child asks, What is the world, we literally have nothing to tell her."

My own daughter, Mira, just turned 4 and she is not asking me what the world is made of, quite yet. I've managed to keep ahead of her so far, if only by reading a page ahead in the dinosaur books that occupy bedtime, but the time is coming when she will be calling me and the world's physicists to account.