Saturday, December 24, 2005

Looking Forward Through Reflections In The Rearview Mirror ...

Year end is always a time for stocktaking; to look back at bygone days reminiscing what happened; which is useful in determining where we stand today and where we ought to be in the ensuing future. So now is the time to look back to look forward ... So I catch reflections of the nearly-ended year through my mental rearview mirror and as memories are refreshed, events appear closer than they actually are ...

JANUS FACED: As the Roman mythology has it; the month of January gets its name from the two-faced God Janus; depicted by two faces in opposite direction … signifying a transition from past to future …
Winston Churchill said;
“The longer you look back, the farther you can look forward”
and I firmly believe in this philosophy. So here’s looking back ...

PANDORA’S BOX: This year we had some of the worst manmade n natural disasters with: hurricanes, earthquakes, wars and diseases … as if Pandora had opened the forbidden Box; unleashing the evil-curse of gargantuan suffering of mankind through death, destruction and devastation. But apropos to the Greek myth; "HOPE" remained; and in this peril imbued Armageddon there was massive outpouring of humanity. Countless “unsung heroes” performed magnanimous acts of kindness, beyond the call of their duty; reaffirming faith, that the rich tapestry of our society is woven with elastic fibers of charity, empathy, solidarity, community and the spirit of survival against all odds ...

THE MAVERICK: It’s an eponym and originates from the name of a Texan ranger “Samuel Maverick”; who became famous rebel for not branding his cattle. I have a strange affinity or attraction towards "iconoclasts"; who challenge and defy longstanding beliefs, institutions and taboos and blaze a new trail leading to a path of more liberal and amicable society …
Here’s remembering a few mavericks and their defining moments of glory this year:
• “Elton John”; who enters into civil union with his partner for 12 years David Furbish
• “Angelina Jolie”; who adopts an African [Ethiopian] AIDS orphan
• The “English Church”; which traditionally has been against marriage of divorcee; but shunning this long-standing custom; “blessed” the marriage of Prince Charles with his long standing mistress Camilla Parker Bowels ...
Each of these acts has been groundbreaking in its own way, and brings down the metaphorical bricks of the mental walls that we erect; standing in the way of a progressive society.

THE SAMARITANS: The word originates from residents of Samaria in Israel; who were famous for their generosity in times of distress. One of the much awaited events of year-end is the age-old tradition carried out by “The Time” magazine; [since 1927]; i.e., the announcement of “Persons of the Year” honor. This year three luminaries have been named “The Good Samaritans”: Bono, Bill Gates and Melinda Gates.
Bill and Melinda Gates – co-founder of world’s wealthiest charitable funds – donating generously to education, improving public libraries and providing for global health facilities.
Bono – An activist rock-legend and co-founder of DATA [Debt, AIDS, Trade, Africa] organization that spawned the ONE Campaign, to “Make poverty History”. One of the major events of this year was the Live 8 concerts held in 9 cities worldwide, to put pressure to G-8 nations to come to aid of improvised Africa. Results:
- $40 billions as debt of African nations has been cancelled
- The aid to African countries have been doubled to $50 billions.

For the PROLETARIAT “ME”, one in the HOI POLLOI ...
..this year has actually been GREAT ... yeah; despite the bouts of "winter blues"; which is nothing compared to the hardships many people suffer! I made some amazing new friends and got in touch with some long-lost ones ... and was able to actualize some of my dreams ... too personal to mention here ...

Now I think of my life as vintage wine
from fine old kegs
from the brim to the dregs
And it poured sweet and clear
It was a very good year
It was a mess of good years ...


So the reflections I catch in the rearview of mental mirror ...
are quite pleasant and hopefully the New Year is one of new challenges ...
And here’s wishing everyone Merry X-mas and A Very Prosperous New Year ...

Saturday, December 17, 2005

Red Red Wine and Men ...

"It`s up to you .. All I can do, i`ve done
But memories won`t go ... No, memories won`t go
I`d have thought ... That with time ... Thoughts of him ...Would leave my head
I was wrong ... And I find ... Just one thing makes me forget ... RED RED WINE "


“The unexamined life is not worth living” ...
as Socrates observed some 2,400 years ago. The same is true for our relationships with people … and the things we love. So today I’m examining my trials and tribulations with two of my virtues, or “so-called” vices: wine and men!

Wine is so much more than just grape juice, its “bottled poetry”; an opera, a waltz, an abstract piece of fine art: complex, sophisticated, delicate, gratifying and best of all, it's well within my reach. At least it gives me a glimpse into the elusive world of the rich n powerful, Kings, Queens n royalty. Many ancient cultures believed that wine was a gift from the God. To the Greeks, God Dionysus and to the Romans their God Bacchus promoted wine. The first miracle of Jesus occurred when in a marriage function he turned water to wine. So wine proudly bears the stamp of approval of the divines, the aristocrats and the immortals.

"Red red wine you make me feel so fine ...
You keep me rocking all of the time
Red red wine you make me feel so grand ...
I feel a million dollars when your just in my hand"


Of all the alcoholic beverages; French wine is THE BEST!!!
Irish whiskey, German beer, Russian vodka; all pale in comparison to this French gift to human civilization ... One of my *dreams* is to see the vineyards of France – Champagne, Burgundy, Bordeaux, Loire Valley; so that I learn about its history and culture and capture [click!!!] its countryside; dotted with hilly landscapes, tranquil villages, old châteaux, picturesque castles and not-to-forget dine the exquisite French food: cheese, croissants, brie, pastries ... I don’t think I have to worry much about putting on weight, as the explanation to the long-standing “French Paradox” [This disconnect between France’s rich cuisine and slender people with longer life-span] lies in their regular consumption of wine. So I may have the guiltless sips of red-wines like Cabaret Sauvignon, Merlot or Pinot Noir; as also relish the King of white wines Chardonnay and revel in its ‘oka’-y, flavor with a hint of cherry n berry, peach n plum ...

" Red red wine you give me whole heap of zing
Whole heap of zing mek me do me own thing "


Though taste is a good-enough excuse for enjoying this divine ambrosia; but its added pleasure to discover its salubrious health benefits – its “antioxidants” inhibit the formation of cancer cells and reduce the build up of fat cells in the arteries. Also; researches show that wine drinkers have fewer chances to succumb to Alzheimer’s disease or senile dementia.

But good wine makes for everlasting memories only when the company is equally good ...
"The lonely night discloses just a passing breeze filled with memories
Of the golden smile that introduced me to ... The days of wine and roses and you ... "

And this brings me to the topic of ... MEN

To begin with; there’s a small but very important “negative list”;
of some type of men that I’m wary of and avoid under all circumstances:
No whiny, wimpy, bully, manipulator or womanizer ...
My Policy: Stay clear of them!

Rest I've had different shades and styles [for lack of better words] of male friends:
braggadocio, black sheep, smokers, boozers, teetotalers, finicky, sober, gregarious, withdrawn, pro-social, non-social, fast-food junky, health-food freaks, meticulous, shoddy, debonair, bumpkins, geeks, nerds and "out"-standing types ... and they all have something interesting about them ... It’s good fun to observe how most men get so hyped-up on topics like: sports, politics and electronics and hate shopping! Men and motors seem to have a mysterious connection. BUT most men seem to fail miserably when it comes to understanding ‘What Women Wants’??? *SIGH*

But frankly, I think; that in many respects men and women are so radically different; that it’s God’s sense of humor; to make them constantly attracted to each other and depend on each-other for the very survival of their own species. But well, we all have but to accept nature’s mysterious ways ... so it’s best to understand what’s each one of us can claim as “my-type” ...

As for me; I’ve stated earlier ... I naturally gravitate towards people who are ...
... articulate, well-informed and sophisticated but with a hint of rusticity.
As any viticulturist knows some of the best wine comes from rocky soil and a fickle climate - the harder the fruit must struggle to survive the better the wine! So is the case with men; and those who go through the vagaries of life, take harsh blows of ill-fate; emerge confident, well-grounded, interesting, alluring and very very desirable!

But when men fail you, there’s always the reliable ... Red Red wine ...
Red, red wine ... Stay close to me
Don`t let me be alone ... It`s tearin` apart ... My BLUE BLUE HEART !!!

Friday, December 16, 2005

Birthday / Blues / Boxes

 
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As the golden sun lights the azure sky
The nightly darkness vanishes with a nimble spry ...

I've taken this snap "The Dawn" to capture the sunrise on Dec 16th 2005, A Very Special Day ... as it marks the birthday of a dear friend ... Who typifies glorification of this alter ego; neither he’s anyway close to being a “Handful of Hell” nor indulge in “Inane Intellections” ... hmmmmm though he’s showing great potentials for some nonsense gibberish; which is refreshing in this damned world ...

So here's wishing you a Very Happy Birthday ...
May you walk with the sunlight shining, An’ a blue bird in every tree.
May there be silver lining, Back of every cloud you see .....
[Perry Como: May God bless and keep you ]


What about my Mood Indigo?
Hmmm … well I hear Blues Music, cause I believe it makes me introspective, and helps me get in touch with my deeper self, develop empathy, tolerance, feel the nadir of depression … or maybe all this is bull**** …
BLUES is plain GOOD MUSIC!!! The guitar, the beats, the lyrics - all awesome !!!
So that’s my great excuse to drape a Blue cloak ...
What about Blue movies?
Now this is a different story altogether. I hate porn-movies, *NOT* because of some high moralistic standpoint I subscribe to; BUT because they're just simple boring!

CHILDHOOD: Toys and the Cardboard Boxes:
News Today: "The National Toy Hall of Fame” has a new inductee: A Cardboard Box !!!
This reminds me of childhood days … When gifts were freer flowing; I would play with any toy only for sometime and then it would be dumped in favor of the “BOX”; the toy came in. The box – would fuel my imagination and become anything: a bicycle, a castle, a blackboard …. Now I realize that it was also a rigorous exercise in motor skills; but as a kid it was just fun! Even kitchen utensils became play-things; especially items like; bowls, pans, plates, spoons … Actually I don’t quite remember those days, but parents keep reminding me. Now I myself observe some kids, discarding the expensive electronic gifts in favor of the box …

So it was no surprise, when I read that "Cardboard Box" joins the “The Toy Hall of Fame”; where it will share spotlight along with other luminaries - a very interesting list - checkers, jump rope, roller skaters, crayons, Legos, Frisbee, monopoly, Jigsaw Puzzle, Hula Hoop, Barbie dolls, G. I Joe, alphabet blocks ... Teddy bears.

Wednesday, December 14, 2005

Draped in Winter Blues ...

Winter months just don’t suit me ...
not because it’s cold, not that something has gone wrong; its a mysterious spell ...
the origin of which I cant pinpoint; but it throws me completely off gear.
So the Winter Blues strikes again ...

So my dear friends are warned of a withdrawn, erratic, nasty, stupid me;
trying to make sense of the inexplicable bouts of tears that engulf me every now n then ...

Its time to dig into art: music, paintings, poems ...
To find some consolation that there are scores like me, in the same quagmire ...

So ”talk to me … talk to me O l-o-n-e-l-y music ” ...
Us humans are weird creatures, there are people who actually rejoice in Bluesy Mood ...
and I’m proudly a member of this clan !!! We have an overcrowded “House of Blues” and even host the largest “Blues Festival” in the world. We’ll forever be thankful to African-American community for their contributions in the “Blues Music”. So and now it’s time for me to tune to: Muddy Waters, B.B.King, Buddy Guy, King Albert, Howlin’ Wolf, Otis Redding ... and two of my favorite blues-based white rockers: The Rolling Stones and Eric Clapton ...

I'm sittin' on the dock of the bay, Watching the tide roll away
Ooo, I'm just sittin' on the dock of the bay , W-A-S-T-I-N time ...
[Sittin on the dock of the bay – Otis Redding]


Well, as I’ve written earlier, one of my favorite painters is Pablo Picasso ...
He had his "Blues Period" and one of the paintings of this phase is “The Old Guitarist”; which is in the Art Museum, Chicago. “Draped in blue rags, an emaciated old guitarist sits cross-legged, strumming his guitar in a desolate setting.
He is WRAPPED in his music and grief."

 
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And the color, the overcast blue
Of the air, in which the blue guitar
Is a form, described but difficult,
And I am merely a shadow hunched
Above the arrow, still strings,
The maker of a thing yet to be made;
The color like a thought that grows
Out of a mood, the tragic robe …
[Wallace Stevens: "The Man with the Blue Guitar"]


What am I trying to convey???
ABSOLUTELY NOTHING ….
This post is just a reflection of my mood .. how I feel ...
An empty rambling ... hollow rhetoric ... aimless wandering ...
meaningless meandering ... symbolic of a lost self ...

As shown in Edward Hopper’s painting "NIGHTHAWKS" ...
There are lonely customers in a all-night diner, but, isolated from one another, reflecting on themselves ...


 
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So here I am, draped in Winter Blues ...

Tuesday, December 13, 2005

I-M-A-G-I-N-E: When Humans Play God ...

WARNING: AVOID READING !!!
Though the topic is extremely interesting; but my write-up is excruciatingly boring ...
Still I’m posting it ...
Because; I really wanted to write on this topic for a very long time ...
However, out of nowhere *Winter-Blues* has taken hold over me in its full might ...
As I somehow feel that if I don’t write on this topic *now*;
it would be indefinitely shelved or probably discarded forever ...
So in the spirit of ... “Get it done and Get over with it “ ... here it comes ...


I-M-A-G-I-N-E: When Humans Play God ...
Recent advances in the field of medical sciences have brought us to a stage; where in a not-so-distant-future *humans can play God*; extend life-expectancy; cure degenerative diseases even have designer babies ...

Two developments are worth mentioning:
1. Gene Mapping
2. Stem Cell Research

Two years ago, “Human Genome Project” was completed, and a directory of human genes formed. It makes possible the “identification” of genes that foster common, chronic diseases – like Alzheimer, high blood pressure ...

Along with this, advance in Genetic Engineering [GE] has made possible the creation of Cloned Stem Cells. GE is alteration in the structure of genes, by manipulating the DNA. Cloned embryo is created by inserting a human body cell into a denucleated egg which is then induced to divide until it reaches the embryonic stage. These cells are smaller than the pin of a needle or grain of sand; with no legs, no arms, no torso, no head, no body or No human form. They do not see, hear, feel, and think. They are at most a microscopic lump of a few hundred undifferentiated cells ...
But have huge potentials:
• Somatic GE : Stem cells can replicate itself and so it offers the potential to replace a defective part in the body. As the new part is a perfect genetic match; so it is compatible with the body’s Immune System. Somatic GE affects only the treated individual and is not heritable ...
• Germline GE: On the other hand, changes the genes either in a person's eggs or sperm, or an embryo. In this case, any change becomes a permanent part of the human genome and is hereditary ie, is passed to successive generations ...

These developments have opened various possibilities:

THERAPUTIC CLONING:
• Regenerating Medicine: Since stem cells can replace a diseased organ with a new one; so it makes possible development of pancreatic cells for curing diabetes; cardiac muscles for curing heart diseases; brain cells for curing Alzheimer’s, and even make a new organ for transplantation ...

• Genetic Testing: Allows us to know with certainty our disposition towards various genetic diseases instead of relying on imprecise guess work of family tree.

• Gene Therapy: Cure transmission of hereditary diseases by “substituting “or “switching off the function of bad genes. Helps couples at risk of passing on genetic diseases. It’s different from the procedures that already exists [adoption or embryo donation] as through this; couples will have a child who is fully genetically related to both the parents – but does not carry the genetic diseases.

REPRODUCTIVE CLONING:
• Cloned babies: A clone embryo is implanted in a woman’s womb, with the intent of creating a fully formed child. The cloned baby is an identical twin – delayed by a generation. However the child’s genes come from the body cell of a single individual; so the child would not have a genetic mother or father; but a single “nuclear donor”.

• Genetic Tailoring / Designer babies: Biotechnology has potential to manipulate the genetic makeup of children, like choose the type of eye-color, size of nose, height as also extend the life-expectancy by a decade and eventually maybe for centuries ...

Saturday, December 10, 2005

I-M-A-G-I-N-E: When Machines Rule The World …

Considering the exponential growth in computer technology; it’s not too difficult to imagine a day, in not-too-distant future; when robots with superhuman intelligence will rule our world!

Of all the scientific disciplines; computer science is one of the youngest. The first device that could be termed as computer came only in around 1940’s. In another 50 years, researchers at CERN came up with World Wide Web [in 1989] Browser technology was developed as late as in 1994 ... and soon like wild-untamed-jungle-fire; it spread all over the world. Now these advances took place within a period of 70 years; which is less than the life-span of a modern man. I-M-A-G-I-N-E what will happen in his great-grand-children’s age?
Some possibilities:

[1] “Service” robots may become indispensable. These maybe used to mow lawns, clean pools, wash windows, handle toxic materials and even work as sentinels to old and handicapped people.

[2] "Intelligent" robots will reprogram and rebuilt themselves and will dispense with the need humans for their functions. Rather, AI supercomputers will convert humans into a slave-race and use them as batteries to provide energy for their survival [As shown in the movie “Matrix”] Dont we need to prepare ourselves to counter this development?

[3] Humans may adapt themselves to the advances in technology and attach nano-computers to their brains and join the "super-intelligent" race. Humans may hard-wire their brain directly to their computers and become a cyborg. With this evolves a race of superhumans with capacity to sense the world of ultrasonic, ultraviolet, infrared, X-ray, gamma rays ... WHOA!!!

Now this is serious fantasy ... and without administering any psychedelic drugs ...
Celebrate the power of thoughts ... IMAGINE ...

*** Below is glossary of some terms ....

IMAGINE: When Machines Rule … Glossary of Some Terms:

ARTIFICIAL INTELLIGENCE: The capacity of a device to perform functions that are normally associated with human intelligence.

CYBERBNETICS: Comparative study of human and machine processes in order to understand their similarities and differences; like drawing analogy between human brain n nervous system and computer n other electronic systems.

ROBOT: A mechanical device, sometimes resembling humans; that operates automatically or by remote control.

ANDROID: Machines /robots that resemble humans.

CYBORG: A person who is partially flesh and bone, but has one or more robotic appendages, electronically linked to his/her nerves; i.e., half-human, half-machine.
The term is also loosely used for human beings whose bodily functions are aided or controlled by technological devises as oxygen tanks, artificial heart – vales; or for even those who rely on computers for their daily works.

Tuesday, December 06, 2005

I-M-A-G-I-N-E

Today flying has become an ordinary daily thing …
But it all began with human I-M-A-G-I-N-A-T-I-O-N ..!!!

Ever since our civilization began; man observed the birds and ‘fantasized’ flying high in the air; he stared the sky and ‘imagined’ walking on the moon. Way back in about 400 BC Chinese used kites with bird figures and in the 15th century, the visionary Leonardo Da Vinci drew figures of flying artifacts; like gliders and parachutes. Though it was not until the twentieth century that man could actualize this fantasy – but he finally did cross the boundaries of fiction to make his vision a reality! In 1903; Wright Brothers took the first powered controlled flight; though it lasted just 52 sec and reached an altitude of only 852 ft. But it opened doors for future improvements. Fast forward 60 years and the human race achieved yet another milestone – space travel – when in 1961, Yuri Gagarin became first man to travel in space. Soon, in 1969, man set foot on moon!!!
So what was once a fantasy is now a hardcore reality ...

Just few days back we all heard this sensational news ...
French doctors performed the first-ever partial face-transplant ...
Few years back in 1997, in the movie, “Face-Off”, this concept was used and it seemed just a ‘figment of imagination”; when hero John Travolta and villain Nicholas Cage exchanged faces ... Now this is a reality and who knows what will happen in a few more decades? The gadgets and gizmos that once were “imaginary” aren’t fictional anymore ... The sci-fi movies of the 50's had space-shuttles; and now we have satellites which we use to forecaste weather as also to observe the changes in the environmental patterns. Even the ultimate fantasy of cloning and gene-therapy are now harsh realities. Once too futuristic – cell phones and internets are now commonplace. We got “smart” bombs with pin-point accuracy; we got GPS to guide us in automobiles and Google - Earth imagery at our desktops ...

I-M-A-G-I-N-E ...
... A day when "Austin Powers" style travel in Time Machine is possible! "Star-Trek" style spaceships and "I-Robot" type robots become as commonplace as cell phones and laptops are today. There's interstellar travel; "The Hitchhiker's Guide To The Galaxy" way.... We have discovered cure for debilitating human ailments like AIDS, Alzheimers, cancer, diabetes, Parkinsons ...

Now we know that fantasy stories of a fictional world ... are quite possible.
The power of our thoughts is infinite ...
So let us take an unbridled flight of fantasy ... IMAGINE!!!


***I had long wanted to write on the virtues of fantasy ...
for dear friend ZOMBIE .. who loves sci-fi / fantasy novels and is slightly mad at me. Though I don’t think I’ve been able to organize my thoughts properly ... But still I’ll post whatever I’ve written today; cause there’s another event coming up, on which I wanna write ...


December 8, is the 25th death anniversary of John Lennon,
who had his own version of imagination:

I-M-A-G-I-N-E there's no countries,
It isnt hard to do,
Nothing to kill or die for,
No religion too,
Imagine all the people
living life in peace ...

I've added:
Imagine: John Lennon ... ["The Sound of Music" Blog]

AND:
Indian Cinema On The International Platform ... ["Shhh...Movie's On" Blog]