Cleveland Cleavage

Cleveland Cleavage

Been There

Eights months in the City of Rock and Roll have come to an end. Living and working has been largely fun, thanks to all the time it left me to pursue my interests. Cleveland has earned the notorious distinction of being the 'most impoverished city' in the US and I lived in a largely working class black neighborhood. Coming from Ann Arbor, a university town, big city Cleveland had its share of culture shocks. I was initially quite wary of wandering late! It made my evening run much faster! Nothing happened, though. At the end I was sort of disappointed not to have witnessed a drug dealer, a mugging or hear gun shots.

Saw some of the sights last Sunday in the worst snow blizzard. Here I was in the freezing cold taking pictures as the car slipped and slid on the ice. Paid another visit to the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame and Museum and this time managed to sneak in with a camera. Was lucky to get away without getting arrested (Pics available on request). A great museum which would take more than a day to see. The stuff on display is simply amazing. A few sample exhibits: Joplin's psychedelic Porsche, Duane Allman's guitar with 'D-U-A-N-E' spelled out with old frets, Jimi Hendrix's stage costumes, Lennon's costume from the Sgt. Pepper cover, the original Sun studio equipment and piano, original sheet on which lyrics to Dream On were written.

Done That

The first few months, with my trusty AAA maps, I travelled every weekend. East, West & South till I got tired of being on the road.

I cooked extensively and finally figured out the ideal batter proportions for the perfectly crisp dosa. Sampled the restaurants, including an Indian-Chinese restaurant ( I know this is a rare treat!) The Italian and Greek festivals during the year were fun. The Italian one was much louder and crazier. Thanks to the umpteen farewell dinners, I managed to over drink and over eat so much that I have not even finished burping for all of them yet.

Went through the movie catalog of the excellent Cleveland Heights Public library like a locust. Saw most of their foreign and classic movies, got introduced to the magic of Kurosawa and caught the ones that I managed to miss. Never thought I would see the Apu Trilogy in Cleveland. It was amusing to explain to my roomates why I had read the subtitles to an 'Indian' movie.

Saw Eric 'God' Clapton in concert at the Gund Arena. Almost saw the Cavs play at the Gund had it been at a more convenient time.

It was great to catch up with the books, real books! As a grad student you are sometimes lucky to even get some decent hours of sleep! Read or rather heard quite a few books on audio. I think I have gotten over my initial aversion to reading (sic) books this way. It's a great way to make use of dead time while doing something boring and repetitive, like commuting. I am totally sold on the idea. It doesn't work too great with serious fiction but it works.

Picked up disc golf and Scrabble. The former will have to wait till Spring.

I also did 'some useful' work at Philips where I was employed. At least manged to impress the boss and others who thought I did a splendid job. Gave everything a nice ring to it.

All in all eight months well spent.

(Apologies to those who were seduced by the title of the post and did not find what they were looking for. In fact, I am surprised you got upto here!)

Blog Feed

Feed for Thought

There was a time (in blog prehistory) when there were not more than a dozen blogs that I read. Now almost every week I stumble to an interesting new blog or every other week some friend or the other decides to take the plunge. With the patronizing arrogance of an early adopter to them I say, 'Better late than never. Welcome aboard!'
It has however generated a new problem. The problem of 'Keeping Up'. Just to see if there were any new posts on my blog roll it takes a good thirty minutes. Barring a few most do not have updates. It seemed that I could no longer avoid getting a newsreader to check the stuff for me. Which one? I took a whirl with Feed Demon, News Gator and News Crawler. I found that Feed Demon had the best interface and functionality, though it has a price tag of about $29.99 to use it beyond 20 days. Bloglines seems to be a better idea even if it does match the others in terms of the interface or functionality. The major advantages are:
1. It's free and
2. It's web-based (so you can use it anywhere in the world)
So it wins on price and flexibility.
3. Supports atom and RSS feeds

I don't think that I am a part the problem. The problem being that not every one has RSS or atom feeds turned on.(Turn it on you Luddites!). Yet in the hope that it make things easier, in addition to the atom feed I turned on (for no other reason than being lured by the blogger's help)Feedburner as an alternative feed.
For the past one week 'Keeping Up' has been a breeze.. Though if you want to read a comment or leave one you have to navigate to that page. Won't be long before this becomes seamless.

Six Feet Under

Six Feet Under

Cleveland has been great so far, but the inevitable has to happen. The infamous Lake Effect caused what could be the worst snow day in my life. My car's wheels could have well been on roller skates.

My car got stuck in the snow.
Car slid around in the ice + snow + muck + salt mixture.
I slid into the opposite lane.
Thanks to snow all day, the car got buried in a foot of snow.
Seemed to have lost two digits on the left hand while scraping the ice and brushing the snow off.
The car refused to start. Realised that the AC does not work when the car is not running!
A friend tried to jumpstart the car, it didn't work.
I had actually run out of gas and had to be air-lifted (actually towed) to a gas station.
Almost hit the house wall when I got back, despite shoveling the snow last night.

To add to insult to injury, I got no sympathy for my woes at work, which in Cleveland terms was just a regular day. This is what happened on a 'regular' day.

Two Questions
On which accursed day did I pick to live in the mid-West?
California whither is thou?

Rolling Stone Top 500 Songs

Rolling Stone's Top 500 Songs of All Time
Of late, every few months or so the Rolling Stone magazine has been coming out with its Top XYZ of All Time lists - guitarists, top albums, etc. and now The Rolling Stone's Top 500 Songs of All Time. The newspapers seemed to full of which were the top 10 songs. Bob Dylan's 'Like a Rolling Stone' was nominated as the Best Song Ever and it immediately got the conspiracy theorists busy saying that this was no coincidence - 'Just like the Rolling Stone to come up with a stunt like this to boost its sales and popularity!'.
At the end of the last century we had a profusion of these lists and there seems to be no end of them even now. I find all lists of this sort quite idiotic if taken beyond a point. Lists are fine as long you use them lists, as things to do or see. To treat them as merit lists is to overemphasize some particular person/groups subjective thoughts. Compare any two lists of the same by two 'authorities' and see the amount of difference of opinion.
Rolling Stone has employed the 'safety in numbers' principle in making this list, by taking not the top 10 but top 500, so that no one is going to feel too bad about songs being left out. The panel they selected was quite distinguished and had an impressive range. Full credit for that. I found reading the personal favourites of people like Ray Manzrek of the Doors or James Hetfield more interesting. I agree with the reasons for choosing 'Like a Rolling Stone', the folk-rock transition and all that. Though personally, I would have chosen Jimi Hendrix's 'Along the Watchtower'. Why? For the sheer musical intensity and the sense of drama as Jimi rambles on crazy and then finally hits the correct key at the very end. Needless to say, that Dylan's lyrics are simply awesome. The best guitarist and the best lyricist ever combined.

After having slammed all lists in general, I must admit that they are fascinating. I have come up with a Rolling Stone Song Quotient or RSQ. I thought it was a fun exercise, even if a pointless one. This is my metric to gauge well you know your music. Since the list is heavily 60s and 70s (only 3 songs from this decade made it), a person who listens to the Top 20 or MTV will have a lower quotient. (Personally - Serves you right!)

Look at the list and check songs that you have heard before, originals only, and list the # of songs in the following blocks and calculate values of a, b, c, d, e, f.
a = [1-20]; b = [21-100]; c = [101-200]; d = [201-300]; e = [301-400]; f = [401-500];

RSQ = (a+b+d+e+f)/500* 0.8 + 0.2 *(a*0.1/20 + b*0.3/80 + c*0.3/100 + d*0.2/100+ e*0.1/100)

Why this formula?
I felt that simple average alone is not a good enough. So I grouped songs into blocks, making songs within a block to have equal importance. It modifies the simple average by giving more weight to blocks of higher-ranked songs. If you have heard every song you should have a perfect score of 1. More just weights can be obtained by using an non-linear curve for the modifier instead of the brutal quantization, but that's too much complication for what is an idiosyncractic metric anyway.

Listen to all the 500 songs, improve your RSQ and waste more time at work
@Rolling Stone Top 500 Radio

New England Journal of Travel, Vol. 4

New England Journal of Travel, Vol. 4 - Saturday

It seemed liked the same grandparents, parents and toddlers in tow frolicking in Boston Commons the day before, had climbed on the New Haven - New York train that morning. This time, I did not have the most original travel plans. New Haven, home of the famous Yale University, was nothing much to speak of, except for the fact that it was the first place in the US after Chicago, that I saw a train station with more than one platform. Soon after we left I was gently rocked to sleep. When I woke up, I was in Harlem. Soon after that we went underground and I felt I was in the opening scene of In America. We arrived at the Grand Central Station and walked upto the crowded (nothing like V.T. or Churchgate) Great Hall. The US flag hung down, looking out of place with the figures and stars painted in gold on the immense green dome. It wanted to assert 'America - the Land of the Free, the Home of Brave'. For me, it epitomized the psyche of New York and country as a whole; the fear has subsided but not quite gone. The WTC site which went later, was still a mass of rubble but is treated like some shrine. The Americans had quite a reverential attitude appearing as if they were walking in some church. Contrastingly, foreigners gawked and took photographs, the fence and the rubble beyond it a famous background. They treated it one more stop on a cliched itinerary of the Statue of Liberty, Wall Street and Times Square.

Yesterday Boston was mrely comparable to Pune in some respects, New York was not comparable to Bombay but IT WAS Bombay. Not because they are both on a bunch of islands, or financial centres, or their countries most preeminent cities, or founded by European colonizers (Dutch, Portuguese resp.), or the tall buildings. It had the same vitality, vibrancy and always people trying to make it. Just outside the Staten Island Ferry pier, a Hispanic was swiftly selling pirated DVDs, 5$ a piece all spread on cloth. Though he was dwarfed by the skyscraper a hundred feet away, you could sense that each time he made a sale and money changed hands, he climbed up one step. One step of an imaginary skyscraper. The city is full of them, full of climbers from Latin America, Asia, Eastern Europe and Africa. Almost every subway-station newspaper stand was being run by Gujarati Patels. In a few years, it might not feel like Bombay, it might just become Bombay!
To me it seemed quite poignant that right across the place where George Washington first took the oath stands the NYSE. In God we Trust and Mammon we believe. Everywhere they were tourists and more cameras. Where were the New Yorkers among all these migrants, vendors and tourists? Maybe they did not have time for all this. It reminds me of a joke,
How do you define a New Yorker?
- Someone who has not been up the Statue of Liberty.

Seeing the sights of New York is to see nothing. Being my first time in New York , I like everybody else was checking off the locations like it was a shopping list. It useless everyone has seen New York of the attractions. I realised that to see the real New York you have to step underground and take the subway. That's where New York lives. Hear the musicians strum guitars for a few bucks. Hear evangelists talk about Christ the savior. Read, sleep.
We walked into a compartment and it was stinking. There was man huddled up, asleep (or dead?) on a seat.'Let's move to the next one', a man told us. After we reached the next compartment he said, 'I feel bad for that guy, but ...', he shrugged and started reading. A little later, a man with a bandage on his arm stepped in and made a impassioned speech,
'Excuse me, I have just been released from hospital diagnosed with AIDS. I have no food and no money, if any of you kind people could spare some ... '. He twitched continued and then stopped, looked for some sympathetic listeners. 'Thank you and may God bless you!', with that benediction he moved to the next compartment. The train tumbled along and I took photographs. From Wall Street, we went to Times Square. As I walked out through the turnstile, a woman caught my arm and asked me swipe my subway day-pass, so that she could get a free ride. In a landing, I saw lots of people taking photographs of a statue. As we walked closer we realised that this was ballerina painted white all over standing motionless in a pose. After a few minutes she bowed, the crowd cheered and dropped money in the hat in front of her.

I walked around Times Square, bought T-shirts made in El Salvador with 'New York' and 'I love New York' written on them from a Bangladeshi salesman who was operating in the front of a souvenir shop owned by a Chinese couple. A few weeks later, my brother would be wearing one of them and travelling the local trains of Mumbai. What a wonderful world.


The next day was as boring as boring can be. It was all driving through an endless Pennsylvania. We hit more rain and worse traffic backups. My travelling companion, Sumedha who started the trip nervous of the high speeds, who had to be reminded to switch on the headlights and not forget to buckle up had transformed into a seasoned veteran of the Interstate. Why so? She drove half of an arduous journey back to Ann Arbor and was not afraid to honk. A honk which is like a friendly greeting to others in Pune, is an extreme step from an American driving etiquette perspective. When she honked the third time, I knew she had arrived.

Photographs from the Trip

New England Journal of Travel, Vol. 3

New England Journal of Travel, Vol. 3 - Friday

I love Boston. It has an old-world feel about it, some say a European one. Can't comment on that since I have not been to Europe. It sure is quite different from any other place in America. It also feels very close to my home-town Pune in some respects. It shares the narrow streets in the city-centre and has totally crazy drivers and nasty traffic jams. Traffic jams as opposed to traffic snarls elsewhere. Perhaps one of the few cities that can truly claim be 'historic'. In America, any town that is pre-World War is classified as 'historic'. Boston like Pune is a University Town. Also, like Mumbai and Pune separated by a few hours, Boston has its evil neighbour- New York. The 'Culture' of the smaller, older city versus the 'Financial Might' of the bigger, brasher city. The uppity Boston Brahmins though not in the league of our Sadashiv Peth Konkanasthas, do maintain a feeling of cultural superiority to the rest of America. The attitude has not been better put than this little ditty.

I come from good old Boston,
The home of the bean and the cod,
Where Cabots speak only to Lowells,
And the Lowells speak only to God.
- Samuel Clarke Bushnell

As we drove into the city through the now almost completed white elephant of all road projects the Big Dig, I asked my cousin, Vivek about the famous Cape Cod area.
'It's quite a boring place and nothing remarkable. It's the type of people that hang out there that have made it famous AND thus expensive.'
Cape Cod - An expensive-but not-so-scenic-as-you-would-expect vacation spot. Hah!

It has been a big year for Boston. The Boston Red Sox beat the Yankees and also ended the most famous curse of sport. If you want a display of sport fundamentalism then you need to come to Boston in October. It's Red everywhere and more people watched the games than the Democratic National Convention which was also held in Boston. 2004 will remembered more for that than the failed Kerry-Edwards campaign.
At the JFK Memorial library on the waterfront I had a feeling of deja vu. It took some time to realise that, the architect, I.M. Pei seems to have reprised the idea for the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame in Cleveland. The same imposing glass atrium on the waterfront supported by tall white pillars. Losing not the view and the light.
Light is everything, when it comes to taking good photographs and this time the elements cooperated and I managed to get some great shots of the Christian Science Centre, coincidentally another Pei structure but very different. A nasty wind kicked up later and threated to frost bite my fingers. Right before the Holocaust Memorial, my batteries decided to conk out which actually saved them. The Holocaust Memorial is simple but very powerful conceptually. A sequence of pillars made of glass panels with only numbers etched in white. Numbers that were once tatooed onto arms and smoke steaming up from the grate below. Powerful imagery.

Despite the cold weather, I was quite ironically buying a Red Sox baseball cap when I should have bought some ear-muffs. The whole city was out in the city's park - The Boston Commons (like most things in Boston much much smaller than you would expect), grandparents, parents and toddlers in tow. We survived a homicial taxi-driver overtaking which would give the best 6-seater rickshawalla in Pune a run for his money. An incident which strangely made me feel more at home.

View of the Big Dig bridge and the Christian Science Centre

New England Journal of Travel, Vol. 2

New England Journal of Travel, Vol. 2 - Thursday

After the crazy drive, I found myself pretty dead for the next day till about 11 am. Often, I have tried (especially on a Saturday) to try and stay in bed till noon. I have rarely succeeded. Somehow by 11 am I am up, regardless of how late I slept.
I got up and played with my 4-year old nephew. By 1 pm, I realised that there is something distinctly immoral about lounging about in my PJs so late in the day. I showered and changed into fresh clothes. Glancing into the mirror I saw, that I already had a stubble. Guys would share my irritation in having to shave AFTER having had a bath AND getting dressed! Humph! I have learned it the hard way - Never try to shave while wearing a shirt. As I castigated myself and applied generou amounts of foam to get ready for pogonotomy, my 4 year old nephew who I had abandoned a while ago walked in. He saw the foam told me that he wanted to shave too. I looked at him and laughed at his temerity. I brandished my Gilette MACH 3 razor at him in a effort to scare him off. It was in vain he reached over the sink and groped for what had looked to me like a can of cream with Disney characters. It was actually a can of shaving cream. Then he brought out a little shaving brush and a plastic toy razor (with no blade)! Toys seem to have come a long way in the past two decades!
Most part of the evening was spent in a vociferous debate over how the furniture should be arranged in the living room. Some wanted a cosier feel, others did not want to make the room look small. After two vigorous hours of debating and opinons being recorded on the camcorder an accord was reached. My vote for removing the chair was defeated.
The debate made everyone really hungry and everyone attacked the food. You can go to any restaurant you want, but no one can ever serve food that tastes like home(anybody's home). After having severely over eaten I settled to watch Choker Bali, but not before my nephew, Sohum had had his daily Diwali celebration of sparklers in the porch.

My Impressionistic view

New England Journal of Travel, Vol. 1

New England Journal of Travel, Vol. 1 - Wednesday

Yes, I was part of that mob, that throng, that mad melee bent on murder, on the Day Before Thanksgiving. I was one of the 38 million Americans that set out on foot, boat, plane and car to meet friends, family and partake some turkey and apple-pie. I attempted to drive in one evening from Cleveland to sleepy Glastonbury in CT across OH, PA and NY. Not a bad drive otherwise, but contending with a thousand others with the same opinion on the same day, did not turn out to be so much fun. It really became crowded when the elements - Relentless Pouring Rain, Roaring Thunder and the Nasty North Wind decided to take to the road to meet more of their own.

If you are smart you leave early, a whole day and a half early, like my boss. The next best alternative is to leave as early as you can. Smart as I am, I left early at 3pm and found a like-minded million others also on the road. We wanted to honk each other out of the interstate. Had it been 30 degrees warmer I could have set up a picnic table on the roof of my car and played cards. The traffic did not move. The usually ignored 'Minimum speed limit 40 mph' sign looked smugly at me. Boy! That really hurt! Finally we did move, not after taking an exit to a wrong highway. I am often gripped by the long distance driver's worst nightmare -
The right interstate, but the wrong direction. I turned to my travelling companion, Sumedha,
'Are we on the right road?'.
She studies the MapQuest directions and scans the AAA map of PA/NJ and answers nonchalantly,
'I am not sure, but at least we are somewhere in Pennsylvania.'
After 5 hours of driving in some direction, it wasn't a very helpful answer but it quite reassuring. At least, we had not misnavigated to Arizona given the circumstances. Driving circumstances that would lead to me to drink.
We stopped at a Subway which seemed to be held hostage taken by Indian folk. Without a doubt, it had been a very interesting night for Mr. Joe Schmoe in rural Penn. He might never ever again make so many Veggie Delights in one evening.
If it wasn't the traffic then it was the rain at the end of journey that I had to contend with. I felt I was in the belly of a huge washing machine that was in the 'rinse' part of the cycle. Finally at 2 am we made it, in one piece. Frazzled and comatose with bed sores, but we made it. At the end of this harrowing 9 hour after-work journey there would be 3 days of great Indian food ( sans the turkey or the apple pie). I was totally looking forward to the total laziness and lounging about. For that I was prepared to go great distances.
(to be continued)



For I must be travelling on, now,
There's too many places I haven't seen
And if I stayed here with you, now
Things just wouldn't be the same
Well I'm as free as a bird now,

Lynyrd Skynyrd

This is something you absolutely must try!
Keyhole was recently acquired by Google, which is mainly gobbling companies these days. Keyhole looks at satellite data and allows you to zoom down like an eagle to any place in the world. Though it does not do a great job of looking up places in India, it's great to zip around the whole world. Liked the neat interface and functionality of remembering places as you see them. Great buttons not only to get the aerial view but also the ground-level view. Right now the 7-day Trial is free !!(w/o having enter credit card info)
Looked at NYC, London and Chicago from the ground and top-down. Man it was awesome!
Will park my car outside tomorrow to see it on satellite. Hell! This is great! Shall get it while I can.

Could be addictive and might waste a lot of your time to no real purpose!

Pushing Technology

Use Technology That Makes Sense
(By P
ushing Down your Throat)

The easy part ..

A few clicks, a few weeks ago and I had FireFox and its various great extensions ( Adbock, Gmail Notifier, etc) making browsing a totally new experience. FireFox is catching up on IE. (Currently just 4% of the marketshare but growing!). I have already become a zealous Firefox proselytizer. I have added a not-so-subtle graphic on the top-left of this blog and have been imploring people to switch. Not that I particularly hate MS or anything of that sort, but FireFox just makes so much more browsing sense. (See Ramanand for a more passionate plea of a rather sensible idea). Gmail makes so much more email sense, especially the 'label' idea (instead of dumb 'folders'), the PINE-style keyboard shortcuts, the Google Search, etc. More space isn't the real USP of Gmail. (I still have a few GMAIL invites left. Anyone?)
A few weeks ago, I switched the key bindings on MATLAB to the EMACS style. It was a painful learning process, especially the new keyboard shortcuts and I often yearn for the familiar CTRL+ X,C,V bindings. Yet, learning the EMACS shortcuts is going to payoff on the long run. It will integrate all editing that I need for disparate tasks such as Perl, TEX, writing blogs, doing diffs. Also managed to find a LISP mode for MATLAB in EMACS.
For no particular reason, I had continued to use IE even after seeing FireFox in action months ago. After having made the switch, I am wondering why did I not do it earlier? Perhaps most of us are reluctant to change, even if it is for the better. Adopting anything new has too many teething troubles. Yet somethings make so much more sense and are well-worth the investment of time and effort in learning them.

The painful part ...

Easily the most painful of all of these has been changing my keyboard layout to Dvorak. Learning something is painful enough. Worse still is having to unlearn something and then learn again. Despite the painful process, the Dvorak layout makes so much more typewriting sense (Why?). Every quizzer worth his salt knows that the popular QWERTY layout was made to slow typists down and to avoid the jamming of the keys. Definitely not a scientific or ergonomic choice. I had been assuming that the insane QWERTY layout was,
One of those 'things' in life that make no sense, but that's just the way they are.
This May, I was introduced to the Dvorak keyboard. I tried it out and I managed to learn the keyboard in an hour. Not that I am gifted or anything, but because the keyboard makes so more sense.
For instance,
All vowels and the most frequently used consonants D,H,T,N,S are on the home (middle row).
(Remember Holmes' ETAOINSHRLDU?)This facilitates the use of alternating hands and fingers for most words. You can actually make sensible words using just the home row. This reduces the fatiguing travel all over the place. Have a look and see if it makes sense. Not surprising that the world's fastest typists are DVORAK typists.

Though I have yet to reach my QWERTY speeds in Dvorak, I am getting there and much faster than I thought I would. This is one of the things that you have to really try and find out(Unlike Amway!). The whole story of Dvorak and its failure to be adopted despite making more sense has become a management Case Study classic. I leave you to decide.

It does not take any time to switch in Windows using Control Panel > Date, Time & Language Settings > Language & Regional Settings > Languages Tab > Details ..> Default Input Language
No program or tutor is as good as this one:Mastermind Tutor

O,cyjd yr Ekrpat br, w x.urp. cy-o yr nay.!


I have updated my blog links to include some old friends and new.

Discussion on the Book of Month
Umberto Eco's Name of the Rose is up on the literary blog. Suggestions for the next book solicited.

< 2.50$

< 2.50$
More on the subject of Library fines and Me (link to old post)
I was informed by the librarian that the sum of my fines was now $12.50. To which I asked,
"What's the limit?"
"When it reaches 15$ you will have to pay them"

This leaves me with two options.
a) Pay up now and avoid the ignominy of not being able to check out a book cause I have exceeded the limit and find myself without any cash and bunch of plastic cards which they won't accept
b) Or treat this as a Last Warning and reform myself starting this moment.

Fearing the worst in myself, choosing option 'a' there is a high likelihood of a relapse and believing the best in myself, choosing option 'b' will cure this bad habit.
The target: Not to exceed the 2.49$ that remain a safety in the next two months of my sojourn in Cleveland.

S.O.B (Save our Blogs)

S.O.B.(Save Our Blogs)
Avoid sobs and don't allow the SOBs to steal your material!

I wrote a cheesy, little Perl program ( to save my archived blogs in case, this blog is taken hostage. I hope others will find it equally useful. Since this program was initially written for selfish, personal reasons, the current version only supports blogs that are archived monthly and which are on Shall try to make other improvements based on suggestions, hopefully by this weekend (when I have time to do this!)
If you use a Windows machine that has Perl installed, you are ready to rock 'n roll. Unix/Linux users need not bother since Perl is usually bundled in. This link might be useful for others who might have to download one.PERL for Windows

For usage and other notes please refer to SOB - The Complete Documentation Please alert me ASAP in case of any errors.

Hostages and Ransoms of Our Time

Hostages and Ransoms of Our Time or

What people do to make money these days

Owners of Scores
Currently there is a court battle on whether Major League scores are copyrightable. The major leagues are claiming that scores are the property of the leagues and belong to them. No newspaper, website, radio show or person can publish or broadcast them without their permission or licensing. This means that all the scores and updates that you receive in the future would have to be approved (err.. paid for). As if the leagues not not making enough money through exorbitant ticket prices and merchandised goods. Shame on you!

Hijacking Blogs
A few days a blogging service decided overnight that, it was too expensive to continue the free service and became a pay service. Without warning of any sort, when users logged on one fine day they were informed that not only had the service now become a paid one but also, if they wanted their archived blogs back they would have to pay 35$ to access them. This raises the question -
Who owns the blog material?
1. The author or the service? It's like the owner of a garage refusing to give your car back because overnight he faced some cash flow problems.
2. Or are we all just writers without a contract with e-publishers?
3. Suppose somebody decides to publish the blogs as a book, does the blogging service have any right on the profits?
4. Technically since this work is published would you need to get their permission to publish your work elsewhere?
5. How many have actually read the Terms of Service. I didn't it's time I did.

Old M-bloggers have formed the Coalition against E-terrorism. We have already seen the result of the few email service providers that decided to become pay services a few years ago. ( Is is still around, in the sense that is it still popular?) Hope does not go down this path. I asked this question to the team, still waiting for an official response from With the Google stock doing so well it does not seem likely, but there is no end to human greed.
In the meantime it seems like a good idea to have all your blogs archived in .txt format somewhere else. Perhaps to some these blogs are worthless scraps of yellowed e-paper, but they mean something to me.

Train of Thought

Clicking URLs in Real Life

If an idea comes to your head or if there is a fact that you want to verify, your first impulse is to boot up a comp, get to and start hunting for info. Thirty minutes later, you are still on the net, despite the original purpose long achieved. Or maybe, you were just reading this blog, you hit some link and traverse to somebody else's blog. Where are you thirty minutes later? In a few URL clicks you are completely elsewhere. I wonder if the Six Degrees of Separation should be reduced to Four? Last week I experienced something quite different, but nevertheless exciting in its own way. I called it- 'Clicking on URLs in real life'. You might call it Continuous Serendipity but it felt like I was surfing in real-life.

I was at the Cleveland Heights Public library trying to get some CDs issued and I saw Joseph Conrad's The Heart Of Darkness in the MP3 audio books section, lying on the side-desk. I wish they had better stuff than the usual Clancy and other soppy romance novelists. It was too good to ignore, so I picked it up (clicked the URL) and looked at the back cover and the details(browsed). Hmm.. about 4 hours long. Not bad for my drive to Ann Arbor this weekend. I always wanted to read this book. Had glimpsed part of the movie version on TNT, years ago.

Listening to John Grisham is perhaps not as demanding as Conrad, if you are trying to stay alive on the road at the same time too. Conrad requires your complete attention. I missed a few sentences at times, when the guy in front decided to change lanes abruptly or the mass of construction slowed traffic to a crawl and I had to watch the front bumper. A few days later, I was back the library looking for the Book of the Month on the lit blog, - Eco's The Name of the Rose. I proceeded to the Fiction section. I read,
'Section A - K'
'Adams ... B-Berg ... E- Elliot, no ... back ... Camus Conrad ...CONRAD!!'. A few flips and I found The Heart of Darkness and other stories. Good! Now I could read the last few pages of the book. I was at the part when Marlowe finally meets Kurtz. Of course, I did pick up the Eco which was still on the shelf. From the audio book I had jumped to the text version.

It's a short book, a few hundred pages and I was back at the library to return it. I move over to the DVD section, sifting through the trash on the shelves. I look around and I see the title - Apocalypse Now. Hmm.. interesting find and that too the day I return the Conrad. Coppola's movie is a masterpiece. The story does not deviate much from the original Conrad version if you are willing to subsitute colonization for the colonization of our times- Wars of liberation and specifically, US-lead wars of liberation. While seeing this 1979 movie, I thought this could well be about Iraq. Echoing Pete Seeger, When will they ever learn?. It's not hard to imagine a Lt. Col Bill Kilgore(Duvall) and the sound of the 'Ride of the Valkyries' in Abu Ghraib or the boat scene where the 17-year old American gunner shoots down an entire Vietnamese farmer's boat and its occupants, when all it concealed was a poor puppy. A more compelling argument than Fahrenheit 9/11.

I was back to return the DVD and just for a lark I moved to Opera section to see if I could actually find the 'Ride of the Valkyries'. For all the Mozart in their collection, I have not found Don Giovanni each time I have looked. It always seems to be out or unavailable. I flipped a few CDs and I found 'Die Walküre' by Richard Wagner staring at me. This really felt like surfing. Instaneous gratification. In one week I was able to follow all the threads that I would have wished to follow from the original book. Wow!

PS: It was not easy to find the exact section in the Opera where 'The Ride of the Valkyries' occurs. Found it after 5 searches too many. BTW it is at the start of Scene III. Time that the wikipedia entry is updated. I think that this piece is only famous for movie buffs and not for opera afficionados.

Last Word

Last Word on the Elections

In the past few weeks, quite a few posts have been devoted to the American elections. This will be the last one on that topic. I am totally jaded by the elections, which are about 10 days away. Here are some valid reasons;

1. I listen to NPR virtually all the time and clearly I've had an overdose of this stuff. I know all the controversies,side issues, main issues etc.
2. Debates 2 and 3 did not prove to a discussion of anything new and degenerated into slanging matches.
3. Kerry does not seem to be an alternative choice but the 'lesser of two evils' as a yet-undecided colleague mentioned. Almost everything that he has done in his career reeks of opportunism, which includes marrying two wealthy women. He won the primaries not because he had the best plan, but because he seemed more electable versus Bush. According to me, Howard Dean is still 'The Man', knowing that he may have lost bitterly.
4. Now the election is just 10 days away and I hear nothing but insinuations and counter insinuations. The extreme negativity of both campaigns has turned off many voters (who unlike me, do count).

There are quite a few ineligible voters who feel that there is nothing that they can do about this election, so why even bother. The fact of the matter is that the US elections matter to Americans, but also in a significant way impact the rest of the world. Everybody knows that! The Guardian had an interesting take on this issue. They decided to take matters in their own hands and started the Clarke county campaign. The aim of this was that they would provide the names and addresses of undecided voters in Clarke county, Ohio to its readers. Readers would then write to these people impressing upon them the importance of the election on the rest of the world and imploring voters to vote for Bush or Kerry (mostly Kerry). It drew quite a few funny, angry, thankful responses.
We have not heard the end of the story yet.

Many of the letters from Americans protested,' ..this is interference.' True! The campaign had a good reason yet it was self-defeating and was withdrawn. The sad truth still remains that Mr. Joe Smith in rural Ohio could well decide the fate of the rest of the world. In some sense at least.

Google Print

Google Update:Print

A few weeks ago, we saw the launch of by Amazon which threatened to eat into Google's share. Google seems to have decided that the best form of defense is attack, and has (or will have) launched the Google Print service which will enable you to browse into books from certain publishers. Not so curiously, Amazon is also a partner in this enterprise. This Google-Amazon marriage is perhaps one of the most intriguing partnerships in business history.

These searches will show up alongside normal searches. Though I expect to see a option on the Google main page to enable searching only into books, like it is for images and news. You will be able to see one page before and after your search term, if found in a book. Although they claim that you cannot read a complete book, if you have the patience you can make repeated searches on the last sentence of the next page and read an entire book. (Not that you cannot do this at Borders or Barnes and Noble, but you can do this in the easy comfort of your home). It won't take time to write a PERL script to do these repeated searches and download an entire book.

Apart from exploiting this loophole, it would just be great to be able to sample a book without getting out of bed at all on Saturdays. Life seems to be getting better and better! Book-loving sloths of the world rejoice!

Get your facts

Get your facts right!
One of the fallouts of yesterday's debate was Dick Cheney's plug for which sent people all over the world hitting the website. The real URL however is, factcheck.ORG. The false website is owned by some cybersquatters in the Carribean. And as the number of hits soared these guys, not particular admirers of Bush and Cheney redirected users to the Anti-Bush The conspiracy theorists are of the opinion that this idea was hatched by Soros himself once he realised this.

The original website is quite good and does vindicate to some extent Cheney's claim that he has not benefitted much from his Halliburton connection that has often been implied. Of course, both parties in their sit-down combat had a field day with making up their own statistics.

Cheney Versus Edwards

Cheney vs. Edwards
The String on the Puppet versus the Echo

Winner: Dick Cheney, hands down.

This debate was a really good and exciting one. After two debates, I realise that the issues are well-known and most people have already taken their positions. You know all the strokes they are going to make, you just want to see the order and the manner in which they make them. If you really wanted a lesson in what great debating is, today's 90+ minute Vice-Presidential Debate was it. This debate turned out to be a really good one for a couple of reasons. The first debate already set the stage for this 1-on-1 confrontation. The format followed allowed more back and forth discussion. This made it more confrontational and often kept the answers relevant to the questions. The moderator Gwen posed much better questions and did a better job at moderating than Jim Lehrer did on Thursday. She made sure that if both candidates decided to side-step the real question, it was posed again. One of her particular gems was, 'The word "flip-flop" has been used by both sides ... What is wrong with a little flip-flop, now and then?' Clearly, Cheney and Edwards ARE better debators than the Presidential nominees and this being their only shot, they gave it their all.

Edwards despite his hot-shot lawyer experience did nothing but echo the words of John Kerry all thoughout the debate and often used sentences and words from Kerry's speech on Thursday. The problem with the Democrats has been that despite facing a not-so-bright Bush, they have done quite poorly to define themselves and where they exactly stand. Today, Edwards did not define himself but chose to define himself in terms of another yet-to-be-clearly-defined 'John F Kerry'. As the debate went on, it was clear that he was losing it and he desperately wanted to remind the viewers about Thursday and somehow hope to capitalize on Kerry's win. Did not work. He did take jabs at the current administration in strong words and directly challenged Cheney to respond to the common criticisms of the Bush administration. Edwards also did talk about what Kerry and he were really going to do with regards to domestic issues. He tried to draw the public's attention to the Halliburton-Cheney, the Saudi-Iran connections, the colossal financial mismanagement of the adminstration and also its poor record of saying something and not implementing or under-achieving their targets. I think he did a good job to show the Bush Camp flip-flops on 9/11, homeland security and the intelligence agency. He summarised, 'Do you want four more years of the same, or a real change?'.
Cheney refused to give Edwards any quarter and despite the really good strikes by Edwards, he was very successful in defending himself and also launching very damaging counter-attacks. He cited the poor voting records of Kerry and Edwards and how they simply voted depending on political concerns. He remarked, ' They could not defend themselves against Howard Dean, what will they defend America from the Al Qaeda'. However the most scathing remark was, ' As a Vice-President, I preside over the Senate and the first time I am seeing you, is today!'. To the red-faced Edwards, he said,' In your home-state they call you "Senator Gone"'. What makes Cheney a great debator is that, he also knows when to stop, shut-up and let silence do the talking. When the issue about his lesbian daughter and same-sex marriage came up, Cheney on his 30 rebuttal to Edwards, simply said, ' I thank the Senator for his kind comments, ... that's all.' This was a beauty. This got him the sympathy, ended the topic and references back to it.
The whole problem with Edwards was that he looked too good and too rehearsed. At a debate you want to be well-prepared but not appear 'rehearsed'. Cheney in contrast appeared dead-serious, sincere and more composed than an excitable Edwards. Also contrasted was their varied amount of experience in government. The amount of hair on their heads had something to do with who appeared more capable as VP.

One of the NBC commentators remarked that, 'Cheney is like George Foreman, starts slowly but when he comes down, he comes down hard'. Which is what happened. The poor kid from Carolina did do a better job than his namesake, but was pounded real bad tonight.

Janet Leigh - Psycho

Janet Leigh Picture Janet Leigh was found dead this morning. She died peacefully in her bed at her home and not in a motel room in a shower. There were also no evidence of any chocolate sauce.

Lazy Sunday Afternoon

Lazy Sunday Afternoon
3:20 pm
I am ploughing through a book on Statistical Data Analysis and ? densities. Hear a voice, "Do you want some chai coffee?". Can't ignore the voice of True Reason.

3:45 pm
I am now making some coffee and not chai. I've had enough ? already! I add an additional dollop of sinful whipped cream in fond memory of Fisher and his F - density. The good book informs me that Fisher discovered it in 1924. I have strong reasons to suspect that the 'F' in the F-density was not in honour of Fisher.

4:05 pm
I think deserve a break and start messing around with theQuizclub website. I make some edits and then add Rita Hayworth as the Quizclub Redemption on the page. It serves quite a few purposes,
1. Makes the website looks infinitely more attractive.
2. Offers some consolation to people who wander there by mistake
3. .. and a few others

4:45 pm
My mind drifts to my edits on the page. I had changed 'each Sunday' to 'every Sunday'. I know something is definitely wrong with 'each' and can't tell what. Back to 'Statistical Analysis of Data', Chapter 13.

Sumedha calls. Ask her if she knows the difference between 'every' and 'each'. A lengthy discussion ensues and neither of us can put our finger on the exact definition and distinction. We agree upon the usage. I realise that there is some problem in conveying 'each and every' and 'each' and 'every','everyone' and 'every one', in a telephone conversation without the benefit of quotes.

Realise that each and every (a phrase which pundits recommend is wordy and should be avoided)time I start to read the Statistical Analysis of Data, I allow myself to get distracted. Also realise that the Statistical Analysis of Data has the acronym SAD. This strengthens my resolve to abandon it for the moment and find the answer to the burning question of the day. I find the correct explanation on a Chinese website (of all places!). The distinction between the two is quite clear and not slippery at all.
"'Each' indicates two or more objects or people and 'every' indicates three or more. 'Each' can also be used as a pronoun, but 'every' cannot be."
We often use words correctly, without really knowing the precise grammatical reason. Chuckle at the other topics on the site.

Decide that it's time to get back to SAD. Think to myself, "What kind of lazy Sunday afternoon is this anyway?". I quit. I make some more edits to the quizclub website. Start surfing the web. Now it feels more like it!!

Helicon Book Club

Book Club
Check out the The Helicon Book Club.

Presidential Debate

Debate - Round 1

George 'Why-Me' Bush vs John 'F' Kerry a.k.a. JFK

Time: 90 minutes
Refree: Jim Lehrer
Venue: Miami Square Garden
Verdict: Draw

The match-up (debate) turned out to be quite a let-down as both prize fighters stood in their respective corners and continued to shadow-box without really confronting the other speaker except for a few threatening gestures. Kerry proved to more aggressive taking a few jabs, but did it with such delicate footwork that average Joe Americano would not notice.

Bush constantly appeared to be forgetting his practiced attacks (umm: lines) and then said to himself, "What the heck!, I have this super-under cut' and mentioned over and over again that, Kerry was flip-flopper and was not fit to lead the country since he felt that 'Iraq was a wrong war, at a wrong place at the wrong time.' During rebuttals, for 80 seconds Bushie gave answers that were totally irrelevant and then always seemed to remember his rehearsed sound bites in last 10. 'I will make America safer and Saddam Hussein was a great danger'. No wonder the crowd still loves him, cause he is so human and cute. Today, Daddy did not have to help him.

Kerry looked very polished but sleepy. Did not effectively defend himself from the flip-flopper charge. All he said was, ' I have a plan and I can do it better and I can do it right'. Not making clear what he planned to do and how exactly he was going to do it, and if the plans were practical or not. The pseudo-JFK made frequent references to the original JFK's shorts he was wearing trying to get some mileage. Clinton does not seem to be the flavour of the month. He made strong opening statements and more sensible remarks than the opponent for 60 seconds, then faded off. He appeared contradictory without really doing so. That's vintage Kerry.

Swingers: Both candidates referred to North Carolina, Wisconsin, Missouri and Ohio, all prominent swing states and stories of the people in those states. They don't travel anywhere else, do they?

Super Punch:
Was delivered by none of the candidates but by the referee, Jim Lehrer when he knocked them both with the question, ' Why have none of you in any speech commented on the genocide in Darfur, Sudan?' Both were knocked out silly with this question, squirmed and then muttered something, which shows that during an election, 'If the voters don't think it's an issue, you don't too!'. Which shows what the campaigns have been one big mud-slinging match. Just about winning an election race and not about leadership or statemanship or genuineness.

My apologies for watching the debate on FOX. I had no option, since the reception of this Reagan-era TV was bad on all other channels.

Moral Sense

Of Moral Sense and its Sensibility

Got this from Vivek.
Harvard University'sMoral Sense Test Team is currently soliciting for people to take this test. The test is quite interesting. It asks only a few questions and takes less than 7 minutes to complete. The setup is interesting, as you will notice.

They are doing this online in addition to traditional methods, which has the potential to reach a lot more people. I always wonder on the validity of tests that generalise to the rest of humanity on basis of a small sample set. Hopefully, this data will be representative enough, thanks to the Internet.

From their site,
"When humans, from the hunter-gathers of the Rift Valley to the billionaire dot-com-ers of the Silicon Valley generate moral intuitions they are like reflexes, something that happens to us without our being aware of how or even why. We call this capacity our moral faculty."
This is something that I totally agree with. Innate human characteristics are independent of time, social status and even culture (to a certain extent). The question is how to exactly measure these? A test like this, however well-designed, cannot account for all sorts of cultural, religious and social customs. The project is quite ambitious. It is trying to come up with some sort of score for a sense that is not tangible, and an extremely abstract quantity. I felt that the questions were extremely well-designed, given the limitations. [To avoid spoilers, see comments sections, after taking test.] Will be interesting to see the data when the results are out. Till then I can speculate about moral sense and its sensibility.


Search Engine Wars

Amazon has unleashed a new search engine A9. Cannot, but applaud their ingenuity. Amazon knows that Google has the best search technology and they didn't want to reinvent the wheel, like some other big-wigs are currently trying to do. All they did was to incorporate the Google search and a couple of their own lame-ass searches to create a new web search. Extending this parasitic idea they simply consolidated some of the best websites- IMDB, their own for books and products. It was nice to avoid the few keystokes to get to and to look for references to movies and books. Then they have a reference tab that pulls results from Another advantage is that you can turn these tabs 'on' or 'off' and see all the different searches on the same screen. Their toolbar seems to be a cheap imitation of the real thing. The interface is a low-budget graphic design job resulting in a rather clunky looking interface. Prefer the sparse 'Less is More' less is more design of Google.

Their biggest USP is that A9 is customizable and you can save and store searches which can be accessed from any computer once you login. I think this a very useful change. I begin any info search for business or pleasure with a 'Google Search'. It has been exasperating to recall the exact search terms to retrieve an old search. Often I find an obscure, interesting website and then cannot get it back again, wishing bitterly that I had stored it. Also you don't want to clutter your Internet Favorites.

The biggest and most important tradeoff is-'speed'. A9 is quite slow. Instantaneous search gratification is what I want and even a millisecond delay would cause me to swear (the VSNL days of dial-up being happily excised from my memory).

So knowing all this would you switch? Not I, because all the power features that I like using such as the metric conversions, the define:[word], site:[sitename], etc. are not supported. There is no tab for Google News or Groups which I rely on. Seeing the feverish activity of projects at Google Labs, Google seems to be way ahead of the game in terms of advanced projects. Google however, cannot sit pretty. If it had decided to get in the game it has to get ready to play hard-ball with the biggies. MSN still is going to unleash its Mother of All Search Engines- MASE and I predict a few changes in Google. Expecting more cool features and tweaks.

Could not find out why they named it A9. The A is for Amazon. But 9?? Anyone?

From Helicon

Blog Updates

The literary blog Hail!Mount Helicon has seen frenetic activity with as many as 4 new posts in as many days.
On the Old Man and the Sea and Ayn Rand by Nikhil. A critical look at Pankaj Mishra's Butter Chicken in Ludhiana by Nakul and an introduction and an interesting invitation for more discussion on the Booker Prize by Ramanand.
My Plug:Also see recently updated post on the iconic - Kurt Vonnegut and his hilarious and sad Slaughterhouse Five.

My blog roll has been updated.

True Stories from the Road

America - Traveller's Tales
It's Labor Day and I am looking at America - True Stories from the Road, a book that took me 3 months to read. It's not one of those books that you simply gulp down. So I have sipped it in a few essays at a time, over the past few months. These essays are by men and women; Americans and non-Americans; white, brown, red and black. Each searching for the 'essence of America'. For all the time I have spent in the 'home of the brave, land of the free', I too have been trying to look for what America really is or what it should be. After the 50 essays or so, the book still gave no definite answer. It was a great read for anyone trying to peer into America, free the cliches. The book calm accepts the vices, and the history of injustice to the Natives and Blacks. It also lauds the virtues of its people, the pioneering enterprising folk who left everything behind to carve a space in the New World.

Here are a few:
Mark McIntyre dissatisfied with his job as a journalist, left the job and decided to trek across America - penniless. Excerpted from the book, is his story of a night spent in a closet at a police station with other bums, trying to escape from the rain.

Memphis is a City of Dead Kings, a window to the American Mind. Andrei Codrescu says, ' (here)..stretches the outlandish spectacle of the American mind, which swings like a yo-yo between frivolity and concern.' He compares the legacies of Presley's Graceland and Martin Luther King's Lorraine Motel, where King was shot dead. One of money, pathos, cruelty, and bad taste and the other of one, who just, ' .. wanted to leave a committed life behind. ', which remains a yet unfinished dream.

Fred Setterberg tries to understand Willa Cather's Nebraska and the joy of the great American Prairie, whose boundlessness made the first Western settlers crazy. Charles Kuralt on the good people of Minnesota. ' Minnesotans fasten their seatbelts. Minnesotans hold the door for you. Minnesotans do not blow their horn at you when the light turns green, they wait for you to notice. Minnesota men who don't leave the toilet seat up.' Janine Jones, 33 gets propositioned by a teenager 'man-child' on a LA bus and talks about surviving modern civilization in L.A.

I was deeply impressed by Phil Caputo capturing, what to me, is the essence of America. This essay was written as he spent 3 days in the wilderness of the Gila Forest in Arizona reflecting over the horror stories printed in a newspaper about gruesome murders and proposal to build a road through ancient Native American petroglyphs. In the one of most beautiful virgin forests he reflects, on the good earth of America and its good people and what America attempted to be and what it has now become.

"One thing that our society holds sacred is growth. Not intellectual or spiritual growth but economic growth, and not stable sustainable economic growth but let-'er rip, boomtown, pave-it-don't-save-it growth.

.... our national religion is a kind of evangelical consumerism. We consume things that aren't really things - we swallow the salt water of information by the gallon while our throats are parched for the spring of wisdom; we consume violence in the computer games and on tabloid TV while we gorge on a home-delivered pizza.

... what we have built in the last half-century is not civilization. It may be development but it's not civilization. It seems, that the more we despoil the land and divorce ourselves from the rhythms, cycles and beauty of the natural world, the less civilized we become."

He ends saying, 'I will hike the remaining four miles to the traihead, get in my truck and return to what is commonly called the real world. But I am not sure what it is.'

Apologies for my shameless blogxistence

Apologies for my shameless blog-xistence

It has been almost one and half years, since I started this blog. My part of the blog universe, the little voice(a completely falsely-modest title), has been read, heard and remarked upon by many. Some credit does go to my shameless publicity at the bottom of emails and other not-so-subtle hints to 'go check this link'. Most most of the credit however, goes to people who have quite generously linked me on their blogs.

I have often promised to add a blog roll and never done so, making the Little Voice a dead end, of sorts, for readers who wander here. The only reason being, I was too lazy to create one. Time to make amends.

I have gone a step further to create an entire blog devoted to blogs I read quite regularly. Some of the blame for creating a 'entire new blog' goes to for providing this hugely tempting button on the dashboard - 'Create blog' and the other being that, a great number of links seem too crowded on one page and encroach upon my current blog's Lebensraum.

My Blog Roll Page

The Return of the Games

The Return of the Games

The Summer Olympics have returned to the country where they first began. Albeit in much altered circumstances. Islamists have been asking Muslim athletes not to take part. An Iranian world champion refused to fight an Israeli and forfeited a chance for a medal. The ghost of the Munich games still haunts. Tainted athletes in the quest for personal fame risk bringing an entire country to shame. After weeks of speculation the Greek 200m winner Kenteris won't run. The rings representing the continents still have to bind the whole world together and the Baron Courbetin's Olympic goal is still as far as it was 108 years ago. Yet, the Olympic Spirit will be blazing strong in most athletes.

Nobody wants to know where you grew up, how much your sponsor gave you, what stuggles you faced to get on that lane. All that matters is the starting line, the sound of the gun and who gets to the finish line first. Everybody else can make excuses...later.

Whither India?

This could well be India's best year at the Olympics despite the excuses for non-performance of many of the 'outside chances'. For the first time we have a few athletes who are actually going there to compete and not just for sight-seeing.
The Indian women shooters and world records holders did not deliver but Major Rathore did getting India's first silver. So we have moved a little higher to the silver than the lone bronzes of the past two. Good to hear that he has swiftly been rewarded Rs. 80 lakh. Interestingly it's a Korean company Samsung that is offering rewards to Indian athletes winning medals.
The other medal contenders Paes and Bhupathi are one win away from a medal of some sort. To do that they have to win one of their next two matches. Today's match is big and will start a few minutes from now. They are a better pair than Kiefer and Shuttler. For now Paes and Bhupathy have left aside their money squabbles and ego hassles to rally behind Team India.
It seems that Pillay's Ultimate Dream will remain unfinished. Indian hockey looks to be complete shambles. Our neighbours in comparision have been demolishing teams and not making comebacks like ours against minnows like South Africa. Today's game with Australia is a a must-win. We will need a miracle or lots of luck to make it to the semi-finals. Last Olympics' lone Indian star Malleshwari exited with a back injury. She has never looked her best this year. Disheartening, that after winning one bronze Malleshwari thinks she is has more than contributed to Indian sport. Is their lack of enthusiasm a reflection on our lack of seriousness about our best athletes and sport in general, other than Cricket?
That finally leaves the best Indian athelete in Anju Bobby George. Hopefully by then we will have atleast two medals on the board. The flag bearer of the Indian team should not feel like Atlas carrying the hopes of 1 billion people and then be crushed by the weight their collective hopes. When she gets on the runway on the 24th we want her to fly.

My diatribe on Cricket coming up..

Frida Kahlo

Frida Kahlo
Just saw Salma Hayek in Frida. A few months ago, I was at the Detroit Museum of Art (Post)where I saw Diego Rivera's famous 'Ford Murals' and was really impressed with his statement. That's how Frida first saw Diego as a 14 year old, painting a mural in her school.
I always had this impression of Salma Hayek as a 'dumb brunette' prancing about in movies like Desperado, but this movie changed all those perceptions. Hayek as Frida is one of the best perfomance by any actress that I have seen. Julie Traynor, the movie's female director has done a great job directing Hayek and a host of other talented actors in portraying the intensely tragic story of Frida Kahlo and her complex personality. A biopic on someone like Kahlo is always difficult without being overly sympathetic or sensationalizing the spicy details.

Frida Kahlo lost the use of her legs as a polio victim, then learned to walk. Then she again became a cripple as teenager after surviving a terrible bus accident and learned to walk again. She would undergo more than 50 operations which did more to break things rather than mend them. While recovering she began to paint and then showed her work to Diego Rivera, Mexico's most famous artist. Diego Rivera (played by Alfred Molina), an unrepentant womaniser, was impressed by her work but attempted to seduce her. Frida resisted and wanted to be evaluated as an artist. She asked for Rivera's genuine criticism of her work. She insisted on 'equality' and principles of 'comradeship' which impressed Diego and he never thought of her again as just another girl on whom he could use his fame to serve his own purposes.

They got married within a few months much against Frida's mother's wishes. The fat Mexican and his frail, crippled wife had a rocky relationship. Despite Rivera's constant philandering and Frida's bisexuality, they could not do without each other. She fought a losing battle in trying to make Rivera completely her own. She was not without her own amours. Most famously with painter Georgia O' Keeffe and Leon Trotsky. Trotsky (played by Geoffrey Rush) was given asylum in Mexico on Rivera's insistence. Frida's brief affair with Trotsky hurt Rivera deeply and they were divorced for a few months, after which Rivera returned.

The picture above has her famous moustache and shows the duality of her personality and sexuality. Considering the amount of personal tragedy and endurance of pain her story is almost like Van Gogh's. It is remarkable how she did not go mad. The movie ends with Frida being carried, bedridden, to her first exhibition in Mexico. Frida's story is a remarkable story of endurance and overcoming personal tragedy through Art.

The film uses a lot of special effects which I thought was a great idea but poorly done. For a great example of how to use special effects without it getting in the way obviously, see Amelie.


My Memoirs of reading "Memoirs of a Geisha"

Just finished reading Arthur Golden's unputdownable book - Memoirs of a Geisha. (Also see: Sumedha's review.) An extremely well-written fictional autobiography of the life and times of geisha-Nitta Sayuri. It is an astounding achievement considering how an American can attempt to write about a alien culture and esoteric tradition, and as a male effortlessly get in the skin of a woman and write such a sensitive first-person account of a geisha. The book is so well-crafted that this fact, will be completely erased from your mind after the first few pages you are convinced that this is a truly transcribed from the interviews given by Nitta Sayuri to a Dutch-born Harvard professor. The scholarship of Golden with regards to geisha culture is beyond doubt, though I was most impressed with his style of writing such a book. Every word, sentence, idiom and metaphor has an authentic Japanese feel to it. He talks with metaphors using the 'waves, the moon, cherry blossoms, plums in rice cakes' that it often reads as a Japanese translation. It is extremely hard to be so authentic without sounding contrived. If anything, the plot seems contrived with a fairy-tale ending. It hardly matters in the enjoyment of this tale, as he transports you to Kyoto's Gion district in the geisha heyday of the 30s and 40s. Almost effortlessly, you watch the geisha require two people to help her dress in their kimono and apply makeup. You take a walk with them along the Shirakawa stream, observe their rivalries, jealousies. You watch, as these girls sold by their desperate families into slavery fight like cats to make a success of whatever life handed out to them. As Mameha says, " We do not become geisha because we want to, but because we have no choice", as their personal desires were often sacrificed to what made most business sense.
Geisha are not prostitutes, but still are available for money. A whole lot of time and money, cheekily put, 'a lot of buck for a bang.' The kotah is a close Indian equivalent of the Japanese okiya. Reading this reminded me of Hindi films like Pakeezah and Mughal-e-Azam. Okiyas preserve the Japanese traditions of music, dancing, poetry and theatre. It takes years of training and following strict protocols and a lot of hardwork before one becomes a geisha. Ironically, we learn that most men who can afford the services and company of geisha rarely know how to behave and mostly end up drunk. Their dance and craft is in the end always secondary to what men finally just want - SEX. When Sayuri finally learns for what she earns the highest price, she wryly comments, " was as if somene was scratching the inside of my thigh."
The sexism of the times and the whole concept is exemplified by the fact that daughters of geisha had no choice but to be geisha and sons could even become heirs.There are very few Geisha left in Japan, now replaced by the cheaper versions of escorts. Female exploitation still continues in some form or the other.

Geisha may soon be relics of an age past,
But parallel lives of mistresses and wives will remain.
Despite everything somethings just don't change.

News Update
This is going to now be made into a movie produced by Rob Marshall (Chicago)

I-Pod Post

What it takes to woo some students
The changing face of the American University. A great example of selling the Dream the American way?

Meeting God

Meeting God

I met God last Saturday, but delayed this post 'cause I was waiting for the pictures. I waited for the pictures, because like Alice I wonder,
'What good is a blog if it does not have any pictures in it'

In any case, I had waited longer for this particular moment. To hear him is one thing, to see him in person is quite another. God was unshaven, in blue, and wearing white sneakers. GOD -as in Eric Clapton.

Opening Act: Robert Randolph and the Family Band
Getting God's darshan is not always easy and at every 'Concert of a Lifetime', I have to always endure the first hour with some irritating, unworthy opening act. Robert Randolph and the Family Band were a huge surpise. I had never heard of the band before, though the reviews said that they would be quite good. They were quite wrong. They were phenomenal and a revelation to me. This was also the first time, that I heard a pedal-steel-guitar 'live'. That thing can wail, scream and screech like no other guitar. The band was dressed in what could be called,'contemporary attire of Black Americans' , ie. a baseball cap (backwards of course!),baggy shorts and basketball vests. It looked that someone had just transplanted them from some Cleveland street-game onto the stage.
Everytime black musicians start a music-style, after berating it at first, the 'whites' come along and then make it very own, forcing them to invent something new. Yesterday it was Elvis, today it's Eminem.
What made the Robert Randolph sound so unique was that it was firmly rooted in the blues but had additional layers of rock riffs, hip-hop beats and even some alternative-rock sounds colouring their music. Robert Randolph and the Family Band combine all that they probably grew up with, all their traditions of jazz, blues, rock and roll, soul, funk and hip-hop to come up with something that is fresh and unique. As if their music was not good enough, they had quite a few stunts up their sleeve. They played with so much energy,feeling and intensity that the crowd was on its feet after the first 15 minutes. During one piece, Robert kicked the chair he sat and started to kick his legs about and began to dance, while still making the pedal-steel-guitar wail and weep. Then for the penultimate song, the band decide to have fun and started swapping instruments to show their virtuosity. The drummer, Marcus Randolph who kicks big-time ass on the skins knew his chops on the pedal steer guitar too!
I have yet to see a concert where the opening act in its 4 piece set gets 2 standing ovations and a request for an encore. This band is going to make some great music and are really worth a separate concert to themselves. They won't remain opening acts for long.

The Clapton Set
If that was not excitement enough, the Clapton band walks in and then God himself, bathed in blue light walks onto the stage. Clad in blue jeans and white sneakers reaches out for his Fender Stratocaster and almost immediately starts playing, before the idea has even sunk in that you are seeing Clapton in person. He followed the opening song with the blues classic 'Hoochie Coochie Man', which was not his best rendition, but the guitaring was great. He is old, his voice is not what it was but hell he is still the best axe-man in town! After the first two songs, he took a chair and his acoustic guitar and said, " I shall now play a couple of songs from Me and Mr. Johnson." That and a few quickly muttered 'thank-you's would be all that we would hear. EC likes the guitar to talk. Thanks to the big screen and a sympathetic cameraman, most of the time the camera was focused on his fingers. The back-up band is great. . Doyle Bramhall, the second guitarist is pretty handy with the slide. If there was a show stealer in the band, then it had to be Billy Preston on the keyboards. What was he trying? To look like Ray Charles with those goggles? He played one of the most amazing solos, with a method to his madness. The drummer was not too impressive.

As noblesse oblige, any famous act has to play their most famous songs. The second half of the show were all Clapton standards. From 'Have you Really Loved a Woman' her burst into 'Badge'. For the past few weeks I had been listening to the 4 CD box Set of the 'Layla Sessions' where all sorts of jams and cuts that never made it were present. Today even after almost 30 years, he choose to play the song very much like on the original CD. For an artist as prolific as Clapton( he has issued an album almost every other year) there are just so many songs that you can play in one night. Which to choose? Yet, I wish he had played more. He never played one song from the Unplugged album, if you don't count Layla and not much of his Cream stuff other than the Badge. Wish he had done, the other Cream tracks. Wondered why he never did the raunchy and energetic 'Crossroad'. The most excruciating moment was when he played Badge. When everything seems to be going fine in the song, Mr. Clapton stops playing before music's most famous bridges. For a whole 10 seconds nothing, the crowd is now up on its feet, ' wondering is he going to play it?' or ' change it?' and then loud and clear he hear the Harrison-Clapton bridge, as it is. Great everytime you hear it.
He came on again to play 'Sunshine of your Love' as an encore, this time with Robert Randolph and company. It was a riot. The crowd waited and waited, but the great Clapton came out no more. Randolph bowed to Clapton, he hugged him and then Randolph placed his baseball cap on Eric's head.

End Note
Clapton said that 2002 was his farewell tour, but he came back again to tour this year. Its certain that Clapton is just wrapping the threads of a career as one of the most extraordinary guitarists of our time. Clapton has come a long way from his first burst into fame, whilst still a teenager and his apotheosis in the late 60s on subway stations. The cocaine-induced glory of the Cream years, to then dealing with his addiction problems and also coming to terms with personal loss. Clapton has given music a lot, but if you think about it music has given him escape throughout his life. It's not just Layla and Assorted Love songs that he has poured his troubles into to find relief. It's is most songs in some way or the other. Over the last few years he seems to be paying back his debt to music, his idols and also coming to terms with his own life. Reptile was tribute to his family, the Pilgrim album, an allusion to his life and a Father he never had. A few years ago, he teamed up with the legendary B.B. King for the great Riding with the King album. This time to Robert Johnson in Me and Mr.Johnson. With Robert Johnson, Slowhand has paid off all his debts and made his tributes and has come a full circle from the time he heard The King of Delta Blue Singers to the present. He is now back where he started from. I don't expect him or anyone to redo the Eric Clapton journey again. There might not be any exciting new work from him other than rehashed box sets or more years on the tour. Lucky to be here on what might be his last tour, still hope there he might churn out one more.

For complete set list and more pictures

Movie Reviews

Movie Reviews
I should be seeing the movies atleast, for all the fines I paid. Saw quite a few movies in the past two weeks. Apologies for possible spoilers.

My Shtick
In my experience, I always find that the vaunted and deemed 'classic', old movies are major disappointments. Either, the effects or the ideas that the movie then introduced have been mimicked so much, that when you see the movie,(eg: Citizen Kane), it fails to register, or you just expect too much (eg: Psycho). The special effects, baring really rare cases, are not a patch on even the worst flicks of today.
After the numerous disappointments, I have now begun to hold a position opposite, to what I call the Unecessary Reverence Handicap
which is - Despite what you really feeling that a classic sucked, you deceive yourself to believing that is was excellent and praise heaped on it is justified. Why? Because,the experts and everybody else says so.
My new Scant Reverence Attitude is not much of a help to have an unbiased view either.

Hiroshima Mon Amour(French,1950s)
Hiroshima Mon Amour from the New Age of French cinema of the 1950s was really good. At end, I wondered why I liked the movie so much, despite the insipid principal actors. Clearly this a movie that revolves strongly around an excellent story by Marguerite Duras and really clever and artful direction by Alain Resnais. The present, and the past are both intermingled, as are the present and past lovers of the French woman in Tokyo. She comes to Tokyo to come to terms with a personal tragedy, hoping that Hiroshima would help alleviate the pain. The actors are not very expressive but the dialogues are memorable. Throughout the movie you seem to be thinking their thoughts, trying to read between the lines. What makes the movie a compelling watch is how Alain Resnais slowly draws the curtains and slowly reveals the story. He makes us reflect on what tragedy holds more significance for and individual- the private or the public?

The Best Years of Our Life(1940s)
It's not hard to see why this movie swept the Oscars a few years after the war ended. It is one of few movies that deals with the problems of the veterans and not just the war. Three serviceman, an Army sergeant, a Bombardier Captain and a Naval Midshipman, return from their tours of duty. All of them return to different social circumstances and learn to cope with problems of marriage, disability and settling down to a normal civilian life. Also present is the composer, Hoagy Carmichael in a cameo role as the bar-owner, Butch. It effectively shows the tension between the civilians who want to 'get-on' with life, now that the war is over and veterans who feel that they need to be given special treatment for their wartime sacrifices. Without being overly sympathetic it shows how they all come to terms with the changed life.
Excellent performances by Myrna Loy, Fredric March, Dana Andrews and the lovely Teresa Wright.

An Affair to Remember(1950s)
At the risk of sounding chauvinistic, this is nothing but a classic chick flick. Cary Grant, a playboy and the fantastic red-head Deborah Kerr meet on ocean liner and fall hopelessly in love despite being attached to significant others. They agree to meet and marry in six months if they still feel the same about each other. The first half was really good with the comic scenes and the sizzling chemistry of what is a hopeless romance. The second half and the story after that was quite a drag with the movie just wandering. Yet to see a girl make such a senseless decision as Kerr. I thought only blondes were dumb. The movies throws in songs by children for no rhyme or reason. The last scene is quite good, in a losing effort to save a movie that falls apart after the half.

After the disappointment of the previous movie, I sought solace in Woody Allen and Mia Farrow, hoping that the neurotic, psychotic self-deprecating Allen would not fail to disappoint. I really did not know what to expect of this particular movie, which made it an all the more fun movie to watch. Woody Allen the actor does not talk much except for the interview scenes. The idea of making 'mockumentary' on a fictional Jazz Age figure Leonard Zelig is pure genius. All Zelig wants to do is ' ..blend in', which he does to the extreme of transforming himself to kind of people he is with. Zelig is the Human Chameleon. If it were not for Allen or Farrow in the main roles, anyone would believe this as a Discovery or the History Channel documentary without blinking an eye. Not seeing Allen in his element is more than made up for by the general whackiness of the theme the development of Zelig's fictional career. The serious narration are a trip and appearances by luminaries such as Susan Sontag, Saul Bellow and Dr. Bruno Bettelheim in colour between the shots make it an all the more believable nonsense. Gordon Willis, the cinematographer stomped on the film in the shower to give it the aged look. An outstanding job by Willis to create the shaky, scratchy, out-of-focus B/W shots.
These special effects placing Allen in scenes with Lou Gehrig, Al Capone Hitler and prominent members of the Jazz Age are 15 years ahead of Bob Zemeckis' Forrest Gump scenes.

Coffee and Cigarettes(2002)
This was black comedy in black and white. It has about 14 unrelated fictitious short stories/scenes, all taking place around coffee and cigarettes with a star list of actors. The opening scene with Benini was the worst of the lot, but it prepares you for the crazy stories that follow later. Alfred Molina and Steve Coogan provide the longest and most hilarious story of long-lost cousins. Steve Buscemi plays an Elvis Conspiracy theorist and Bill Murray a caffeine addict. Iggy Pop and Tom Waits try their hand at one upmanship. Cate Blanchett is fantastic in playing herself and her cousin who is clearly jealous about Cate's celebrity status.
By the end you are clutching your gut but also thinking about the fake social graces we adopt, out litte delusions (thinking coffee is champagne), attempts at buying love, friendships and failed efforts at making good impressions. Hilarious!

Killer Radio Waves II
I hope this is not some pattern, this Friday the killler radio waves struck again. This time to announce the death of Bill Randle, the Cleveland disc jockey who first introduced Elvis Presley to the nation and the world on TV in 1954.
Things to investigate/check before jumping to conclusions about the deadly Friday Killer Radio Waves
1. Does NPR make death announcements only on Fridays?
2. Do I listen to death announcements of celebrities on other days?
3. Will someone be struck by the Killer Radio Waves this Friday?

Hilarious- The Cheney-Edwards Debate

This was hilarious to read. Check it out.
The New York Times > Week in Review > Sneak Preview! The Cheney-Edwards Debate

Eight Books or Then and Now or You owe..
(A nostalgic look at books, libraries and ..)

It happened again. I now have fines at the Cleveland Public Library. Being an avid reader, over the years I have become a member of various libraries. All libraries whWhich has now when I think of it a hobby of its own. I somehow feel an itch when there is some library that I can but have not yet become a member. The thought being, that a different library has quite a different selection of books, which are hard to find in the libraries that I am already a member of.

Pune circa 1988
The United Services Library or the Poona Club library was where I hung out most evenings. My only grouse against the libary as kid whilst growing up, was that they had a limit of 8 books. I was like Kipling's elephant child full of 'satiable curtiosities' and here we had the librarian saying,
'You already have 7 books on issue, so now you can take only one book'
'One book?', I would say looking wistfully at my 'treasure trove' of the eight books, painstakingly unearthed and which were now piled upon his desk.
Then I would look at the librarian with the best 'lost-puppy' eyes I could manage. There would be a few moments of silence, as the librarian would look at register, then at me and then at the pile of books.
'Okay, take two more books and make sure you return the others by tomorrow.'
My heart would leap joy yet I never felt like hugging the librarian. He was the 'enemy'. This would pose the dilemma - which ones out of the eight would make the cut? One of the librarians was a really strict chap, who would not say much. Once in a while could be cajoled but to make his point about The Rule, he would write in big, bold letters in red ink on the top of the register. '8 BOOKS only'. Librarians have that power. That evening, I knew would be a familiar family fight over who was hogging the the quota. Then an agreement would be reached. My father would return his unread books so that his son's would not grow up deprived and also not create such a racket. That was all later, after I went home. There were more urgent things to do.
After the choices were made, naturally I had to return the other books back to the shelves. The children's section then, and even now, was never arranged. The books were all over the shelves. Now you can imagine, why I would not want to part with these treasures accumulated after about an hour of searching. What does a desperate man do in such circumstances? I hid them. This being a regular occurence, I had devised this foolproof method of hiding books. What I did was to take about 6-7 books out of the shelf and place one of 'my' books with it side flat against the back of the shelf. Then replace those 6-7 books as they are usually stacked. Now my book was hidden behind. Its quite a good trick. I would come back the next day and retrieve the books after having returned the other books. It was almost foolproof, cause I discovered that the books on the lower shelves were being 'lost'. It seems that the pesky brats about half my 4'2" then, would often rip the lower shelves, thus exposing my 'booty' to other predators.
As I got older and was able to cycle further out I became a member of more libraries. This helped me circumvent these artificial restrictions that were blocking my growth as an individual. Hah!

Ann Arbor, MI circa 2002
'You mean.. there is no limit on the number of books!!'
'Yes', said the librarian.
I promptly went downstairs and got nine books, for the obvious symbolic reasons. Of course, now I no longer had the time to plough through the books, as before. When I had when I was 4'2". That's the damn problem with life. When you need something the most either you can't afford it, are disallowed it or you are under-age. Later when you can afford it, are allowed it and are of the right age you don't have the time or worse, none of the former inclination.
Now I borrowed more and read less. Also the University of Michigan has a 6 month loan period for certain books. I read them eventually, slowly but surely. Perhaps 8 books are took much to read. A week has only seven days right? But some habits die hard. As if, the 14 libraries of the U of M, including the Inter-library loan system(ILL) were not enough I become member of the Ann Arbor Public Library (AADL). It's a hobby remember? But it's an expensive one as I have realised but not learning my lesson.

Despite changes in borrowing privileges, one thing has not changed - having to pay fines. Over all these years and after borrowing hundreds of books, we as a family (admission of collective guilt is always easier) lost only 4-5 books, but we paid a lot of fines. Even with the quota of 8 books then. Something inherently pathological, that me and my family were always late in returning books. Often after paying hefty fines, at the end of every year, we would all be on the mend. Then like drug addicts we would slowly be sucked back into our old habits. Some book would be read, left in some shelf or mixed with our own numerous books and would resurface after months. Mostly the effort of my mother to arrange our rooms. At Michigan, inspite of having the facility to renew online, even call and renew books, I have still have fines (let's be polite and not mention the amount).

I bike back to the Cleveland Public library to return some of the books after getting their missive with 'You have 3 books and 1 CD overdue. You owe $__ in fines'. In less than 8 weeks, I have managed to defray the costs of another library by paying fines.
I am at the counter trying to do some damage control and return the late materials 10 minutes before closing time.
'I have some fines that I would like to pay', I tell the librarian as she peeks through her bifocals.
'Okay let me see..what we have here.'
I wait there, as she checks the record. I know that once money had changed hands, my slate at this library atleast will be wiped clean. I firmly decide that I won't let this happen again.
'Okay, you're all set', she says.
'I took it all off. You owe nothing', so saying she smiles.
'Mmm..Thanks..Thanks a lot', I mumble shocked by this angel in bifocals wondering how I did not notice her halo before.
I walk back as if I just received a pardon from the death sentence. Of course, I won't let this won't happen again, ever.

Killer Radio Waves - Brando

The Killer Radio Waves
It's about 10 minutes past 5 and I have ducked out of work little early taking advantage of the long weekend. I eject the CD and then tune into NPR to get the usual dose of the news. Then I hear,

' .. you were beautiful. You coulda been another Billy Conn, and that skunk we got you for a manager, he brought you along too fast.'
'It wasn't him, Charley, it was you. ....'

'Hell!', I say to myself. What's up with Brando now? Is he dead? He died? Shit!'
My question gets answered after this famous dialogue from On The Waterfront ends.

'....You don't understand. I coulda had class. I coulda been a contender. I coulda been somebody, instead of a bum, which is what I am, let's face it. It was you, Charley.'

Then the voice of Rob Siegel takes over, 'Marlon Brando was 80...'
'So he did die today.', I think to myself.
Then almost immediately I am corrected, '...He died yesterday and being the private man that he was ...'
Whenever I turn on the radio to tune to NPR and I hear a really old song or a voice. Its the Killer Radio Waves. It's usually bad news. Nostalgia always seems to turn to algia if its on the radio. A few weeks ago,it was Ray Charles and somehow its always on a Friday. Some Black Friday!
You hear their best work but also have to hear about their earthly failings. Today they talk about how fat he later became, his three, but too numerous marriages and other amorous affairs that almost ruined him. His tragic last decade. They talk about his whimsical prices after the Godfather so that he could raise money for the definitive Native American film.
Luckily its radio and not TV and hence you can imagine whatever picture you wish to see. I always see this Brando from 'A Streetcar Named Desire' which so far is the most astounding piece of acting I have ever seen. The sheer intensity of the man. Every other actor who played Stanley Kowalski hence has played it in his shadow. He also defined the Mafia don when he played Don Vito, but then it was an old Brando, a Brando with a brace in his mouth, a rasping Brando. A Brando well past this one in the picture. For me the Brando who died today was this the man in the picture. A brooding, muscular beast of a man with the furrowed brow. Asking you the question - "Whaddya got?". One of the greatest.
Then the radio turns to other more mundane things. Hear about more deaths in Iraq..AIDS deaths in South Africa.. Is it the killer radio waves again?