Harbs

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3/18/14 08:05 pm - India

I'm back from India, where I went to stay with my cousin and his family. He took us to Haveli in Jalandhar, a surreal 'vintage Punjab' themed restaurant (/museum? /theme park?). We also took the waters at Dera Baba Vadbhag Singh where people were preparing for the mela. Finally, we visited Agra where we squeezed in guided tours of the Taj, the Qila and a stop-off at Guru Ka Taal. Here are some of the pics I managed to take.







2/28/14 01:59 am

Early Spring by Guo Xi



Without leaving your room you may sit to your heart's content among streams and valleys

4/7/13 04:13 am

I came across this story about a young blind Punjabi man who lost his parents and a brother; all in heart-wrenching circumstances. Poverty, corruption, police brutality, domestic violence, drugs, debt and finally suicide are all mixed up to make a miserable tale of the region as a whole.

The Independent - Drug epidemic grips India's Punjab state
Drug use has long been a problem... But the spread of drugs in Punjab... is a recent development that does not bode well for the nation as a whole, especially if the sharp economic slowdown of the past two years continues and youth unemployment rises.

Time - India's deadly chemical addiction
People of all ages succumbing to cancer

IJMBS - Study of suicide victims of agriculture in Punjab
The suicides in Punjab are... most often caused by poverty and especially by indebtedness

Live Mint - Corruption in government hospitals
There is widespread corruption in hospitals

HEtV - Domestic violence
Violence against women is a serious problem in India

Asian Human Rights Commission - Dark clouds of state repression: Police excesses have broken Punjab
The people of Punjab still suffer the wrath of police brutality and the indifference of the state machinery towards the economic and political development of the state.

TOI - Disability assistance discontinued in Punjab in more than 12% cases
Assistance is grossly inadequate

Cato Institute - Why Punjab has suffered long, steady decline
The state needs to tackle its chronic fiscal deficit, something that holds back investment in education, health and infrastructure

I wonder what happened to Rajinder Surdas

1/2/13 07:20 pm - Winter photos

Muddy winter fields

Embankment

Church Street, Warwick

12/14/12 08:09 am - Great Expectations (2012)

Having been to see the latest Dickensian cinematic offering, I feel like I never want to see another Great Expectations again. The novel was already feeling over-exhausted before last year's Beeb-produced serial. With that still fresh in my mind, and the weight of countless viewings of David Lean's 1946 adaptation forever rooted in my memory (probably not a good thing), director Mike Newell's film needed to make a huge impact, which it does not. Jason Flemyng's performance as a more animated Joe Gargery is poignant and Ralph Fiennes plays a convincing Magwitch. But Helena Bonham Carter as Miss Havisham is a little dissappointing. Her performance is too similar to what we saw her do in The King's Speech (2010), and she gives the whole film a kooky Tim Burton-esque flavour. Jeremy Irvine as the lead character, Pip, is frankly not the best casting.

John Mathieson's cinematography is excellent. I love the way that the wide, bleak Kentish coast landscape of Pip's youth is contrasted with the claustrophobic images of London. But there is another sense in which the film feels cramped. The desire of Newell and screenwriter David Nicholls to pack in as much of the source as possible has resulted in a conveyor belt of scenes stacked side by side. The whole film seems like an extended trailer of itself. So much of the satire of the novel is lost. For an adaptation that was meant to be an action-packed thriller, I was left feeling underwhelmed by a blandly written and rushed 'halfway house' conclusion. It's interesting how The Hobbit, a quick children's read, is to be stretched out over a ghastly trilogy of films, yet the Dickens tome is crushed into 128 minutes. I now wonder what value this adaptation affords a Great Expectations fan.

10/31/12 12:47 am - Autumn


Bourton-on-the-Hill
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8/22/12 02:08 am

We went to see Taming of the Shrew. In interpretation, this Globe production focuses on the Electra complexes of the Minola sisters. Bianca, far from being an ingénue, is portrayed as a manipulative 'daddy's girl'. Although Lucentio conspires to win her, it's ultimately she who has caught him for her pleasure.

Meanwhile, suffering paternal neglect, Katherina is shown as having borderline personality disorder. It looks like Petruchio taps into her deeply buried need for a father figure. It's still difficult to know what to make of the "thy husband is thy lord" (5.2.155) speech, considering the torture that we watch her subjected to. Her capitulation here seems a bit like Stockholm syndrome. Samantha Spiro's manner keeps the character's motivation ambiguous - it could be fear, fatigue, genuine, satire, or a mixture. Meanwhile, Simon Paisley-Day's style of Petruchio suggests that the antagonist develops some genuine feelings for his wife.

A couple of quirks: 1. In a further metadramatical twist, a hooligan emerges from the audience, pisses on stage and turns out to be Sly of the Induction. Apparently, he hails from "Bermondsey" rather than "Burton Heath" (Barton-on-the-Heath). 2. Grumio has a northern accent and kicks a conveniently nearby bucket every time Petruchio mentions his father's death.

7/28/12 01:27 am - Walking in the Malvern Hills

You can see for miles around



6/14/12 12:11 am

I am a stranger here in Gloucestershire:
These high wild hills and rough uneven ways
Draws out our miles, and makes them wearisome


Richard II (2.3.3-5)

We cycled from Warwick to Gloucester and back over the weekend; 115 miles in total. Apart from perhaps a brief 'boarder crossing' when cycling near Ilmington, I don't think I'd ever been to Gloucestershire before. And, except a trip to Broadway village a long time ago, I hadn't seen much of Worcestershire either.

We took the usual route to Long Marston via the Fulbrook Lane and the Stratford Greenway. After leaving Warwickshire behind, the road to Evesham took us through the villages of Pebworth, Honeybourne, Bretforton and Badsey. Pebworth has some impeccably thatched Tudor cottages. Fearful sheep bleat at you while you speed past them. The lie of the land here is much the same as around home. It's endless fields; not flat, but with no large hills either. It seems a little less wooded. Bretforton was the first place that felt like we'd gone beyond our back yard, mainly because it has houses built of Cotswold stone. There's a NT-owned pub here called the Fleece Inn. Badsey is a rather run-down place that has a Spar, and a church dedicated to St. James. A wedding blocked the High Street.

To get to Evesham, you have to cross the A46. There are two ways to do this for non-motorists, and neither is particularly safe. The town itself sits on a bend of the Avon. It once had an abbey, of which only the bell tower remains. It now has a Lidl, around which there seems to live a lot of Polish people. A 'hot air balloon festival' was underway in the park, but there were no balloons on account of the wind. This is what caused our pace to slacken a bit, as we made our way south out of the Wychavon district.

On entering Gloucestershire, the terrain becomes more hilly. By the time you get to Winchcombe, there can be no doubt that you have arrived in the Cotswolds. Next, we had to ascend the northern face of Cleeve Hill. Doing this by pedal is punishing on the thighs but rewarding for the heart, literally and metaphorically. There are ancient structures in the area that we didn't have time to see. By the time we got to Gloucester, we were exhausted.

The city itself is a strange place. The gulls give it a coastal town feel. For a Saturday night, the town centre was rather quiet. There were a lot of stoned folk wandering around. We ate at a pub near the docks called The Tall Ship. After taking a look at the cathedral we a had a pint of ale each at New Inn, a very old pub/hotel with a nice courtyard. It was karaoke night, so we drank outside. Then we stopped for cider at Imperial Inn, because it's façade was delightfully Victorian. It was populated by a handful of very drunk and scary locals.

We stayed at the Edward Hotel. The landlady kindly gave us a safe spot to put our bikes. At breakfast, a couple made me laugh because they fulfilled the sterotype of American tourists so well. The bloke was hilariously rude, "hey lady! any sign of my tea?" Then his wife said, "we should go to Care-filly Khassel, it's the second largest khassel in England," and I struggled to hide my amusement.

Cycling back home was less difficult than I thought it'd be. The wind had died down but we did catch about half an hour of rain. We took a less challenging route to that went through the village of Elmstone Hardwicke. We pressed on to a series of boring cycle paths around the outskirts of Tewkesbury, returning to Evesham and then going home along the route we took before.

Overall, I was quite comfortable with the mileage and terrain, and it's made think that I might be able to attempt longer distances. Perhaps I might even be able to tackle LEJOG.

5/12/12 04:44 am

I went to Manchester to visit George on the last Saturday of April. We went to the city art gallery and the Whitworth, where there was an exhibition called 'Cotton: Global Threads.' Then George took us to these bars that were stuffed beyond capacity with people that looked like they had fallen out of TOWIE. As an aside, my sister actually went to Sugar Hut in Brentwood last week. Not in any sort of ironic way, it was more of a pilgrimage, I think. She's a huge fan of the show.

It was Greeny's birthday last week, I sent him a loosely themed mix cd; it's a long tradition. This year I went for a piano theme, mainly as an excuse to include Tigran Hamasyan and people signed to Erased Tapes. He sent me a book called The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks. It looks really interesting so I'm going to try to finish it without skimming. I'm a slow reader so I tend to skim stuff for the good bits. I'm still trying to get through On Liberty and Other Essays, and I've forgotten why I wanted to read it in the first place. Mill is a barmy old Victorian.

The rain finally seems to have eased off today, and the local area is no longer in drought. It shows, I went for a walk and some of the paths were best described as brooks. Still, I enjoyed getting outdoors. I'm working all weekend so I had to make the most of it. It seems like the sun only shines when I'm at work. That's the excuse I'm using for my neglect of the yard.



3/11/12 12:44 pm

I went to Punjab for two weeks to attend my cousin's wedding. It was a good trip.

My cousin's house
My cousin's house

My aunt
My aunt picking out mustard leaves


Souvenirs at Anandpur Sahib





Kiratpur Sahib
Kiratpur Sahib




Akāl Takht; a crowd gathers for the morning installation of the 'Bīr'

There are more pictures here

12/10/11 01:23 am - Cameron's veto at the EU summit

The only way I can view this is as a spectacular diplomatic failure. Europe has decided to find a way to press on with reforms without the UK, as was to be expected, given that its survival was at stake. The Tories speak of the national interest but what they are referring to is only the City's interest. Moreover, the move failed to secure any real gains even to that end. Bizzarely, UKIP leader Nigel Farage put it best,

We finish this summit with Cameron having gained absolutely nothing, with the prospect of us repatriating powers having disappeared completely and with the City of London, that he sought to protect, now more vulnerable than it has ever been.

So, even the most sceptical of eurosceptics has the common sense to see that Britain has suffered a pyrrhic victory. The Tories often accuse the Labour Party of being at the mercy of the unions; but hasn't this sorry affair has shown that the Conservative Party is at the mercy of morons?

9/10/11 10:52 pm

I watched Oranges and Sunshine (2010) and found it very moving. I was particularly disturbed by the idea of stolen, irretrievable childhoods. Being a skeptic of 'true stories,' I did a little digging to authenticate the extent of the film's claims. Listening to the full length of Brown's apology on behalf of the UK (02/2010), it seems that the film covers just the tip. I've read this to find out more, and now I'm buying Margaret Humphreys' book, Empty Cradles (1994), on which the film is based.

9/2/11 11:24 pm

It's been a pleasant couple of days with good weather and time off work. I can never seem to make time for reading though.





8/27/11 01:41 am - Escapism

Dunya is a word of Arabic origin that translates as 'the world' in many languages. Wherever there has been Islamic rule or influence in the past and present, the word has trickled down into the vocabulary of the local tongues of Muslims and non-Muslims alike. It's probably the most commonly used word by the human race to describe the planet on which we live.

When the weather gets dull, or when work starts to get monotonous, my mind starts to wander. I begin to wonder about the dunya, the places I've never been. I think about all the things that I'll probably never see nor do.

When I was a kid, I used to spend time quietly poring over atlases. This developed into something of a shared hobby with my dad. For some reason, he especially liked to look at the map of Switzerland. I used to love listening to my grandad's stories about his stint as a migrant worker in Singapore. Lately, I've been spending more time than I should be, browsing through pictures of Iran.

My email 'penpal' ('e-pal'?) from Jakarta tells me that it's "Ramadhan" at the moment. She says that at Eid (she calls it "Ied"), it's traditional for Indonesians to holiday in their ancestral villages.

I will be going to my father's home town in central Java called Solo (it's a very beautiful city and it's very recommended to visit if one day you come to Indonesia).

If I "one day" go to Indonesia. I wish I could take the invitation up. I told her about my visit to my dad's homeland.

Was it your first time to see your father's village? What does it look like? Every time I go to Solo, my father takes me to the village where he grew up. My grandparents were rice farmers and the village mostly consisted of rice paddies. When I was little, I always had so much fun playing in the rice paddies.

I asked her if Solo is far from where she lives.

Solo is still in the same island as Jakarta. While Jakarta is in the Western part of Java, Solo is in Central Java. It's not very far, but considering the great exodus before Ied, all of the interstate roads will be jammed and it will take much longer to get there than usual. Just imagine, millions of people are moving at the same time.

I will "imagine." It's not unrelated that, when I was reading this interview of Ray Davies today, the writer's analysis of Waterloo Sunset seemed to match own my interpretation of the song.

Even if you don't quite grasp the lyrics, you catch the narrator's condition. He is ... scared by ... the crowd "swarming like flies" ... So he contents himself with watching ... the beauty of the sunset from his window. "And I don't feel afraid," he sings, holding on to this view of "paradise".

8/1/11 03:04 am - Gwynedd

I went on a trip to Wales from Thursday to Saturday, mainly to do some cycling. But we also did quite a lot of sightseeing, my favourite spot was Tre'r Ceiri.



How much could the people who lived here during supposedly Romano-British times have known about Rome? How much could they remember about the people who originally began building on this hill top? What, or who, were those original builders defending themselves against in the first place? Where did they themselves come from?

How much do the people now living in the towns and villages below have in common with those who once lived all the way up here? What were their hopes, fears and dreams? Who did they love and who did they hate? What made them angry, and what just mildly irritated them? Did they all get along? What did their conversations sound like? How important was their culture to them? What did they really value in their lives, and in their deaths?

We walked up here out of curiosity for them, but mainly for its own sake. Could they ever have contemplated us? Would they ever have had time for leisure? Did they think that the views from their homes here are as amazing as I do?

4/11/11 01:27 am

I did a bit of wandering around Kenilworth today. I saw a couple lifting their bikes over a footpath stile, it slightly amused me.





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3/25/11 07:05 pm - Two unproductive days off work

In preparation for the warm season, I bought a bike and rode it home along the canal. I'm hoping to really get into cycling this year. Not for fitness or 'being green' ... just for its own sake. I saw a lady walking whilst managing to read a hefty book - multi-tasking. I'm scared of taking pictures of people because I'm usually unshaven and generally dodgy looking. That's also why I didn't ask her what she was reading, despite being a bit too curious. So here's a picture of a nice house by the canal, I wonder who lives there.

Grand Union Canal

The Sun was out this afternoon so I went for a short walk but it didn't seem satisfying, probably because the trees are still bare.

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3/15/11 05:45 pm

I treated myself to Nils Frahm & Anne Müller - 7Fingers today. A pleasing album.


Edit, 27th July 2011: An interview with Anne Müller has appeared on an Economist blog.

3/9/11 11:04 am

I went to see The Usual Auntijies at the Belgrade last night. Surprisingly, I liked it, but maybe because my ticket was free (being under-26). The play tries to give us a different perspective on the condition of the auntie-ji, and does so in some poignant and comic ways at times. But the amalgamation of such a spectrum of true-life elements results in unconvincing characters.

12/7/10 04:10 pm









See all of today's photos here.
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11/11/10 01:48 am

I went to see the Street Art showcase in Coventry. I'm not sure if it was worth it because Coventry city centre is still as rubbish as when I was last there... years ago. The Herbert is a nice building but, apart from the temporary exhibits, the museum itself is lacking in anything interesting. The idea of street art not being on the street didn't sit well in my mind, it turned out. But it did expose me to some styles, themes and names that I hadn't seen before. Plus it served as a reminder of art hat has unfortunately been erased from walls, particularly the brilliant work of AerosolArabic. I took a picture of Ben Slow's self-portrait, one of the specially commissioned works of the Street Art season's 'Fresh Paint' section.

Ben Slow

11/6/10 02:08 am

tea lights in coffee jars

ਦੀਵਾਲੀ ਦੀ ਰਾਤ ਦੀਵੇ ਬਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਤਾਰੇ ਜਾਤ ਸਨਾਤ ਅੰਬਰ ਭਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਫੁਲਾਂ ਦੀ ਬਾਗਾਤ ਚੁਣ ਚੁਣ ਚਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਤੀਰਥਿ ਜਾਤੀ ਜਾਤ ਨੈਣ ਨਿਹਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਹਰਿ ਚੰਦੁਰੀ ਝਾਤ ਵਸਾਇ ਉਚਾਲੀਅਨਿ॥
ਗੁਰਮੁਖ ਸੁਖਫਲ ਦਾਤ ਸ਼ਬਦ ਸਮ੍ਹਾਲੀਅਨਿ ॥6॥

- Bhai Gurdas; Var 19, Pauri 6

My interpretation of this scripture:

The lamps, lit for Diwali night only,
The stars, only visible before dawn,
The garden with its flowers being picked away,
The pilgrimage site emptying of its pilgrims,
Our imagination, existing and then vanishing,
The fruit of bliss
can only be found by savouring the word

---

Click here to read my thoughts on Diwali

11/5/10 03:36 am



I don't care if Pitchfork Media didn't rate Courage of Others. For me, it's a record that fits the dark and uncertain moods of present times. I went to see Midlake perform at the Roundhouse in Camden on Tuesday. I liked they way they brought out different facets of their new material by playing it in unexpected arrangements and including stunning extended electric guitar instrumentals. Their live work sounds so different to their recorded output; it's a shame that they haven't released live recordings. Plus, at the end of the show, it was a real treat to see John Grant and Midlake collaborate on a Czars cover.

9/6/10 11:36 pm - Jaswant Singh Kalrha (1952 - 1995)

After his abduction on 6th September 1995, Jaswant Singh Kalrha was killed on October 24th 1995 in revenge for daring to expose the illegal imprisonment & murder of youths at the hands of the Punjab state police. Five police officers were eventually given life sentences for his murder. But those responsible for the human rights abuses which he tried to bring world attention to, including Punjab Police Chief KP Gill, remain outside the reach of justice.

This subtitled video contains clips of his last international speech (Canada, April 1995)
.




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8/1/10 07:44 pm

Father Zosima quotes another man to Madame Khokhlakov in a long and preachy conversation about "active love" in Dostoyevsky's Brothers Karamazov:

As soon as someone is there, close to me, his personality oppresses my self-esteem and restricts my freedom. In twenty-four hours I can begin to hate even the best of men: one because he takes too long eating his dinner, another because he has a cold and keeps blowing his nose. I become the enemy of people the moment they touch me.


When I go back and read this bit, it's as if Fyodor was making an aperçu directly about me.

7/12/10 02:48 am

kahte haiñ jīte haiñ ummīd pah log
ham ko jīne kī bhī ummed nahīñ

They say people live on hope,
We have no hope even of living


One of Ghalib's many morbid truisms. It was on my mind while I sat in St. Mary's yard, a good spot to hide.

St. Mary's Church Yard
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5/23/10 02:06 am

After work, I took a walk. It was therapeutic.



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3/23/10 04:59 pm

Today marks the 79th anniversary of Bhagat Singh's execution. I think about the figure we now call Shahid-i-Azam with a strange sense of envy. He had a mission to live by and cause to die for. I'm nearly the same age, I don't seem to value any ideal, and I've never done anything with any real purpose. Does this mean I'm more dead today than Bhagat Singh will ever be? He lives on through the story of his deeds and follies and the rambling words he penned.

The aim of life is no more to control the mind, but to develop it harmoniously; not to achieve salvation hereafter, but to make the best use of it here below; and not to realise truth, beauty and good only in contemplation, but also in the actual experience of daily life; social progress depends not upon the ennoblement of the few but on the enrichment of democracy; universal brotherhood can be achieved only when there is an equality of opportunity —of opportunity in the social, political and individual life.

— From Bhagat Singh's prison diary (p. 124)
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3/11/10 01:03 am - Bonobo - 'Eyesdown' feat. Andreya Triana

I've become something of a fan of the singer who provided the vocals for this track and the previous Bonobo release. Triana's own brilliant single Lost Where I Belong is out on 5th April and she expects her full length album to be released in August. I wait in anticipation for that, but in the meantime, Bonobo's fourth album Black Sands is out on 29th March.

9/15/09 03:49 pm - A trip to Dorset

Herrington and I drove down to End of the Road Festival. It's set in a place called Larmer Tree Gardens in Cranborne Chase, a rural area that straddles the counties of Dorset, Wilts. and Hamps. There were so many acts we enjoyed, but the highlights of the festival were Fleet Foxes, Richmond Fontaine and The Hold Steady. The best 'discoveries' for me were The Acorn, Ohbijou, and The Travelling Band.





I took a few pictures of the weekend; see the rest of them here.

8/8/09 04:43 am - Ustad Ali Akbar Khan (1922 - 2009)

A great loss to music

Obituaries:
The Telegraph
LA Times
Sepia Mutiny

A video of Khansahib in 1981, performing raag Zila Kafi

6/1/09 08:40 pm

On Sunday I was shamefully touristy, aimlessly wandering around the V&A for a long while before going to Regent St. in search of free paella and sangría (there was some kind of Spanish festival). I took a few pics, all of them can be seen by clicking here.

Perseus

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5/18/09 02:30 am

State of Play (2009)

This is a good fast-paced political thriller. The opening murder scene is brilliant and the rest of the film has relatively good quality dialogue and pace. But there were moments where I couldn't continue suspending my disbelief. Crowe's performance was a bit sedate, but I think the lack of melodrama was endearing. It's a slight deviation of the film's source material but I kind-of liked the way the plot had been adapted into a 70s-style US corruption / media themed movie. State of Play could have had less references to the real-life scandal of Watergate; a work of fiction ought to be just that. Overall I'd rate this movie a healthy 3/5. The original 2003 BBC miniseries is well worth watching if you haven't already done so.

4/11/09 02:57 pm - Nationalism

The point I want to begin with here is the simple one of the unrealisable quality of the nationalist search for clarity and 'purity' in the midst of the blurring, mixing and uncertainty that is the actually existing condition of all nations and nationalisms

- Gyanendra Pandey, Remembering Partition, 2001

The 'enlightened’ image that Britain tries to cultivate on the world stage is a farce. I'm not just talking about the obvious culprits of bigotry amongst us (BNP / NF), but the more numerous individuals who veil it behind a respectable veneer of so-called 'healthy patriotism'. They cynically orchestrate pseudo-dilemmas concerning the personal freedom of what they call the 'average Briton'. When somebody dares to criticise this barely masked xenophobia, they're promptly informed, “if you don’t like it, you don’t have to be here”. An irony is lost on the people who have this attitude.

With apologies to the legacy of the likes of Gandhi and Mandela, I must say that no nationalism is good nationalism. I concede that it gave strength, unity or 'modernity' to people in the past. Without it, we might not have had decolonisation. But what came first, the nation? or nationalism? I would say that the latter definitely precluded the former, in most modern cases at least. The concept of a nation was not one that was based in reality until the nation was deliberately forged (and purged). Consider the quote above, written in a book that examines the historiography of the massacres of 1947. There is no such thing as a ‘pure’ nation. Yet we live at a point in time where nation-states have been long established globally. We can not remember the vast expanse of history that preceded the nation-state model.

Whether extreme or 'moderate', the British nationalist wallows in the delusion that since they happen to belong to the majority demographic on the island where they were born, this somehow means that the island is under their exclusive moral ownership. They seem to lose sight of the fact that the parentage and/or location of their birth is a matter of chance. Nationalists have an inability to think about people's identities and motivations in terms of where they have chosen to live, what they do, what they are really like. In the nationalist understanding of the world, it is the arbitrary concept of nation that defines the boundary between 'nationals' and 'outsiders'. To varying extents, this idea is still routinely accepted as common sense, even by the major political parties. Thus, in modern Britain, we are all reduced to being representatives of our supposed ‘communities' rather than being treated as a collection of individuals. 
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4/6/09 01:30 pm

An annual variety showcase of Subcontinental classical music known as the Darbar Festival was hosted by the Southbank Centre over the weekend. I could only afford to buy a ticket for the inaugural Friday morning session, so I missed out on the highlight of the event (Nina Virdee's band project, Urban Love). However, I enjoyed Harmeet S. Virdee's stunning sitar rendition of Ahir. Then, Rahul Sharma's slowly building Alhaiya Bilawal on the santoor was hypnotic. With Subhankar Banerjee on tabla, the concluding drut was so fast & exhiliarating that, when it was over, I automatically stood up in applause. The Purcell Room is quite a small venue, and I got a seat near the front. It was a great experience to see & hear these instruments being played up close, to be fully exposed to the subtlety of their timbres. 
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3/8/09 09:45 am

Recently I've become interested in the ideas of Jean Baudrillard (1929 - 2007). It's just a passing phase, but here is a quote from Baudrillard's book Simulacra and Simulation to ponder over:

Today one has the impression that history has retreated, leaving behind it an indifferent nebula, traversed by currents, but emptied of references. It is into this void that the phantasms of a past history recede, the panoply of events, ideologies, retro fashions—no longer so much because people believe in them or still place some hope in them, but simply to resurrect the period when at least there was history, at least there was violence (albeit fascist), when at least life and death were at stake.

From the chapter II. History: A Retro Scenario

I can't help thinking that this is a psychological driving force behind our sympathy for people in what is termed the 'developing word' where matters of life and death still exist, and history is still being made. Gaza, Zimbabwe, Sudan, Iraq, Afghanistan... these were places that people seemed to care about for a while before completely forgetting about them. 50 years too late, there was an outpouring of sympathy for human rights abuses in Tibet (a place that has fallen victim to being nothing more than an orientalist Hollywood construct). Ultimately, these places remain the cause célèbre only until some new distraction is discovered. This year, that distraction seems to be in the shape of Slumdog Millionaire, a huge exercise in hyper-reality itself. 
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1/24/09 11:24 am

Last night, my housemates and I went to see a performance of three symphonies by the BBCSO at Maida Vale studios. They were David Fennessy's Dead End, the premier of Gwyn Pritchard's The Firmament of Time and the premier of Matthew Taylor's Symphony No. 2. I hadn't heard of any of these composers. Dead End  was an awful noise. The Firmament sounded like the Star Trek theme on acid, funny because the composer kept talking about space and nebulae in his introduction. Taylor's second symphony was more interesting because it was commissioned by the gynaecologist Ian Craft, who was present in the audience. The composer talked about the piece as if it was somehow supposed to sound like the development of an embryo into a baby... the guy was so full of bullshit that Asyikin couldn't help giggle a little as he spoke, "Beethoven has been the driving force of my life as a human being." However, this symphony was a lot more enjoyable than the previous two. I particularly liked the way intricate violin interacted with the woodwind section in the third movement. The whole embryo theme lead to a conversation about the recent news that the FDA has approved stem cell trials, which offered some hope to somebody that my housemate knew who was recently paralysed in a road accident. Despite not having a problem with the ethics, I heavily doubt the potential therapeutic value of stem cells. Not only because the therapy will be unavailable to the less wealthy nations of the world, but also because the trials of stem cells that have already been carried out to date have yielded far from amazing results. Either way, I guess it is worth doing large scale trials to find out once and for all. By the time it was finished we were all feeling quite hungry. But instead of dining amongst the New Year lights of chinatown, we walked further into the dark, sleazy backstreets of Soho to eat authentic char kway teow at a Malaysian restaurant called Melati. The place used to be a strip club, apparently.
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7/4/08 03:51 am

Peep Show has got to be the best comedy serial to appear on television during this decade. An adequate synopsis can be found here. The first three seasons are freely available on 4oD. The latest season aired over May/June. I may have to invest in the DVDs just to satisfy my need to re-watch it. I particularly enjoyed the finale with its hilarious, although simultaneously disturbing, scene in which Jez cries I thought I knew what I was doing but I haven't got a fucking clue. 

7/3/08 02:15 am

Three of my friends are doing a charity bicycle ride from Land's End to John o' Groats in aid of Transplants In Mind. National Transplant Week is between 6th and 13th July. In the organisation's own words:

Transplants in Mind help save lives by promoting awareness of organ and tissue donation for transplantation, as well as funding valuable research in to all aspects of donation and transplantation.

The three guys' 1000 mile bicycle journey can be sponsored here. They would be thankful for any donation, be it large or small.

5/8/08 02:40 am

On Newsnight, Paxman asked David Miliband whether he thought that the UK had a moral obligation to provide asylum for people whose habitation and/or way of life has been destroyed by climate change, on the basis that climate change is the result of industrial activity. He asked this because Miliband was known to be in favour of 'green' policy. But the question seemed to catch Miliband off guard.

My answer would be to say that whilst those who contribute to climate change are accountable for the welfare of those whose lives are affected by it, it is only to a limted extent because it would be difficult to ascertain the degree to which industrial activity has affected the life of every individual who might claim asylum on this basis. It is impossible to prove blame for individual meteorological events on industry-induced climate change, since it is a concept based on global trends. The idea of climate change comes from observing the world at large. For example, the melting of polar icecaps caused by human-induced global warming could be cited as the cause for an increased global incidence of coastal flooding. However global warming cannot be blamed on for an individual flood in Bangladesh (for example).

The question has ignored the fact that half of the entire world's population lives in just seven countries which themselves are the top carbon dioxide emitters … specifically Canada, Germany, Japan, India, Russia, China and the USA. The USA alone is responsible for over 20% of global carbon dioxde emissions. This figure is soon to be overtaken by China. Therefore, even if an individual meteorological event could be proven to be linked directly to human-induced climate change, the UK would have a small fraction of the blame for it. This is especially true given that the UK is the only country in the world that has a significant 'eco-conscience' among its general public, which is finally being reflected in a political spectrum-wide espousal of ‘green’ policy. The UK still has a very long way to go in bringing down its 2.2% contribution to global carbon dioxide emissions but the lack of progress in this area is trivial compared to the massive industrial activity of the USA and the PRC, which is only going to grow further. Considering that there has been no serious implementation of any ‘green’ policy in these two top carbon dioxide emitters, the vast share of culpability for human-induced climate change rests with them.

4/10/08 06:20 pm - Det Gamla Landet

DGL (The Old Country in their native Swedish) are a folk band who use banjo, guitar, melodica, drums, organ and occasionally vocals. Their music is a satisfyingly rustic affair; delicately echoing with a subtle and understated melancholia. The band made their back catalogue available for free download a while ago. Saturnus has been the soundtrack of my week.

3/30/08 11:17 pm - Touristy pictures that I took in Russia 2005

... on an over-priced disposable camera bought from a souvenir stand.

Click the thumbnails to view the full images.













 
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3/26/08 02:42 am

Are you from India?
No.

...

[Says something in Hindustani]
Pardon?
You don't understand?
Sorry, not much.

...

[In Punjabi:] Can't you talk Punjabi with me?
I can try, but not fluently.

...

Are you not Portuguese?
No.

...

[Whispered:] What is he?
[Whispered:] I think he's an Arab.

...

He looks like a Turkish waiter.

...

Where do you come from?
Warwick, it's a small Midlands town.
But before?
Yes that's where I'm from.
But your parents?
Yeah same place.

...

Are you Pakistani?
No.

...

You there young man, where do you come from?
Warwick
No, originally.
Oh, I was born at Wolverhampton.
Erm OK.

11/6/06 02:36 am

On Saturday night I went with Herrington to see The Acute at Stay Beautiful Club, hosted at the Purple Turtle in Camden. It was their first 'official' gig in England. We were early, so we found ourselves in some other curious looking bar; the live performer was an amazing beat-boxer. When we arrived, the doors were still closed. There we were, a two man queue, freezing our arses off when out of nowhere Davina Silver appears like a weird fairy with her exaggerated eyeliner and sparkly things in her black hair. More people had arrived and she told them to “please wait behind these two wonderful guys.” She proceeded to rush inside whilst telling us we won’t have to wait long, as if there were loads of us. A minute later she popped out again with various items for an “outdoor disco while you wait!” This involved a cd player (she slammed it on the table and it began to play Morrissey), a bowl of sweets and glitter (which she threw over us) and sparklers, which she lit and handed to the few people who had turned up. And then we finally found ourselves inside, to find Moulin Rouge playing on a projector screen and SB regulars with feathers in their coloured hair and in all manner of fancy dress, and that was just the guys. Simon played a DJ set then it was time for the band to play. It was a tense, threatening, and echoing show, all the good things about rock.

3/15/06 02:03 am

I’ve never done one of those ‘how my day went’ sort of updates. The following is an attempt.

I was idle. I considered making something to eat, but realised that that needed effort. I thought about what it might be like to be a farmyard animal, and decided one of the major pros would be being fed. I thought about calling someone, but wasn't in the mood for human contact. I contemplated doing something else, but decided the neighbours were already scared of me being a lunatic and besides I could not be bothered to make a costume today*. And so it continued while until I forced myself into writing the draft History essay which was due last week. By the end of the day I made myself a self-proclaimed expert on the causes of the first Indo-Pak war.

Work was miserable as always. I don't like having to interrupt the lives of innocent people to ask them a bunch of pointless and embarrassing questions. I found it fun telling respondents it’s ok if they didn’t want to take part. I don’t care if I get fired. Having spent most of the day being alone, these scripted dialogues, which for this shift consistently instructed me to ask ladies across the country about their “underwear, nightwear and hosiery” preferences, was the most conversation I had all day.

On coming home, I saw Patricia Hewitt beaming on Newsnight because of the ban on smoking in pubs and clubs. Suddenly the image of a fanatical smoker shooting her face off comes to mind. I’m not usually pleased about the government intervening on the social/cultural habits of the nation; it’s not their place to say how we can and can’t enjoy ourselves. But passive smoking is detrimental to health. Smokers do not only kill themselves but contribute to the ill health of others. Most importantly though, other peoples’ smoke makes a perfectly good new shirt/jacket smell shit. I look mournfully now upon a jacket hanging up in my room in a futile attempt to ‘air’ it rather than pay to have it dry-cleaned.

*bad joke
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