Category Archives: Culture

the brave and the bold

A former factory worker from the British Midlands may be the last living master of the centuries-old Sikh battlefield art of shastar vidya. The father of four is now engaged in a full-time search for a successor.


The basis of shastar vidya, the “science of weapons” is a five-step movement: advance on the opponent, hit his flank, deflect incoming blows, take a commanding position and strike.

It was developed by Sikhs in the 17th Century as the young religion came under attack from hostile Muslim and Hindu neighbours, and has been known to a dwindling band since the British forced Sikhs to give up arms in the 19th Century.

Nidar Singh, a 44-year-old former food packer from Wolverhampton, is now thought to be the only remaining master. He has many students, but shastar vidya takes years to learn and a commitment in time and energy that doesn’t suit modern lifestyles.

“I’ve travelled all over India and I have spoken to many elders, this is basically a last-ditch attempt to flush someone out because if I die with it, it is all gone.”

earth’s greatest hits

One day, billions of miles from Cape Canaveral, aliens might find a gold record inside a peculiar-looking spacecraft. If these intergalactic beings haven’t discarded their old record players, they’ll hear a compilation of sounds and songs from a strange place called Earth.

Thirty years ago, with the Voyager program, we launched an elaborate greatest hits album into the universe. As The New York Times reported in 1977, “The Voyager message is carried by a phonograph record – a 12-inch gold-plated copper disk containing sounds and images selected to portray the diversity of life and culture on Earth. The contents of the record were selected for NASA by a committee chaired by Carl Sagan of Cornell University.” Here are some of the tracks included. For a complete list, visit the Voyager section of

  • Bach, Brandenburg Concerto No. 2 in F
  • Zaire, Pygmy girls’ initiation song, recorded by Colin Turnbull
  • “Johnny B. Goode,” written and performed by Chuck Berry
  • Japan, shakuhachi, “Tsuru No Sugomori” (“Crane’s Nest,”) performed by Goro Yamaguchi
  • Mozart, The Magic Flute, Queen of the Night aria, no. 14. Edda Moser, soprano. Bavarian State Opera, Munich
  • Georgian S.S.R., chorus, “Tchakrulo,” collected by Radio Moscow
  • Peru, panpipes and drum, collected by Casa de la Cultura, Lima
  • “Melancholy Blues,” performed by Louis Armstrong and his Hot Seven
  • Azerbaijan S.S.R., bagpipes
  • Stravinsky, Rite of Spring, Sacrificial Dance, Columbia Symphony Orchestra
  • Beethoven, Fifth Symphony, First Movement, the Philharmonia Orchestra
  • Navajo Indians, Night Chant, recorded by Willard Rhodes
  • India, raga, “Jaat Kahan Ho,” sung by Surshri Kesar Bai Kerkar
  • “Dark Was the Night,” written and performed by Blind Willie Johnson Monday!

to be, or not to be…

fascinating stuff…

A digest of last week’s prophetic and interpretive thought

“I was not commenting and I will not comment on the wisdom of making a decision to put a mosque there. I was commenting very specifically on the right that people have that dates back to our founding.” —Barack Obama

“We all know that they have the right to do it, but should they?” —Sarah Palin

“Where the ‘Ground Zero mosque’ is concerned, opposition is roughly proportional to distance, even in New York.” —Hendrik Hertzberg

“I believe that this is an important test of the separation of church and state—as important a test as we may see in our lifetimes—and it is critically important that we get it right.” —Michael Bloomberg

“Obviously my opinion is that I’m opposed to it.” —John McCain

“If you are a healer, you do not go forward with this project. If you’re a warrior, you do.” —Rudy Giuliani

“It’s a community center. They’re going to have a gym. They’re going to have point guards. Muslim point guards.” —Al Franken

“Nazis don’t have the right to put up a sign next to the Holocaust Museum in Washington. We would never accept the Japanese putting up a site next to Pearl Harbor. There’s no reason for us to accept a mosque next to the World Trade Center.” —Newt Gingrich

“There is no valid comparison there.” —Pat Buchanan

“This is like a metastasized anti-Semitism.” —Daisy Khan

“We strengthen America by distinguishing, clearly and unequivocally, between our al-Qaida enemy and our Muslim neighbors.” —Jeff Merkley

“How is this opposition to the mosque being funded? How is this being ginned up?” —Nancy Pelosi

“It is a real affront to people who lost their lives…. Another site would be a better idea.” —Howard Dean

“The longer we have this feud, the more the terrorists are laughing.” —David Paterson

comfortably numb

so a couple of years ago i wrote a post about how farcical hand sanitizers were as nobody could explain how the damn things work and what good they were?

seems like two years later, they’re more and more pervasive and they’re still full of absolutely  no benefit to us. slate has a fairly in-depth article on whether or not they help protect us from things like the flu and H1N1. seems like for the most part, soap and water works just as well.

scientists were for some reason surprised that giving free hand sanitizers (and, in one case, even clorox wipes) to families and schools failed to cut down on infections.

Our homes and workplaces, we’re told, are trying to kill us. Recently, a University of Arizona microbiologist named Charles Gerba, author of hundreds of scientific papers about household microbes, gave a terrifying lecture at the offices of the Food and Drug Administration. Gerba—who, incidentally, has a child with the middle name Escherichia—that’s what the “E” in E. coli stands for—explained that a kitchen sponge and sink are home to thousands of times more bacteria than a toilet seat. Plus, 10 percent of household dishrags contain salmonella. After playing with other children, toddlers have more fecal bacteria on their hands than does a person exiting a public toilet stall. Those toilets, by the way, aerosolize so many droplets with each flush that Gerba compares their dispersion to “the Fourth of July.” And every public swimming pool he’s ever tested has contained disease-causing viruses.

In response to these kinds of data, more than 700 products promise to help consumers kill bacteria, molds, and viruses in their homes and workplaces, from ultraviolet lights meant to kill toothbrush bacteria, to dishwashers that superheat silverware, to specially treated doormats. Three-quarters of all Americans use six or more antimicrobial products each day.

Keep reading.

beauty and the beast

apple (computers? devices?) these days reminds me more and more of fairy tales and other stories or rather the morals learnt (or lack thereof) from them. it’s funny how the company makes an announcement and the world of media just explodes all over the interwebs. anyway…so i suppose from my previous post you know what my stance on the new device is.

apple is a smart company. their UI’s are usually beautiful and they make sleek and elegant devices. usually in my experience, that’s all they are though, sleek and elegant, and not much else. also they’re flimsy, very, very flimsy. (if you’ve ever bought a first gen apple product, you know what i’m talking about). take the new tablet for example.

they’re aiming for a netbook alternative, but they’re not gonna be  getting much out of it to because to keep their price point low, they’ve had to skimp out on hardware. pretty much no usb ports or SD support. super cool idea for a device that’s being advertised as a media box, don’t you think? and in true apple fashion, they’ll just charge you an arm and two legs for getting those plastic pieces of apple USB and SD adapters. same thing with 3G support. you want 3g on that thing, you may hand over 60% more money for the same thing without, thank you very much. good stuff. oh another thing seriously lacking, a camera. my n900 has two! one for making video calls forward facing, and another for shooting video and taking photos.

now let’s see…what else, oh yeah, wanna see what the web looks like using the ipad. click here and find out. err…get used to the blue logos. you’ll be seeing it a lot if you’re on the ipad. and if you’re interested in reading why Mac OS doesn’t support flash altogether…not well anway…well you can read here more about it and why they won’t be supporting it anytime soon either.

the other reason apple can afford to keep down their hardware costs is by making up most of the money in software, especially since they make huge cuts in the app store, itunes and  ibook sales. so what it boils down to, with apple, no such thing as a free lunch. it will be interesting to see how apple reacts to it’s software content distribution systems and the percentage it takes off it, as it sees the apps move from the stores to the web itself (case in point, google voice).

now giving credit where it’s due. both the ipod and iphone reinvented the future and brought it to us and handed it to us on a silver platter. it changed the way we consumed the technology and  we loved every minute of it. the ipad just took a step back unfortunately. it was designed to consume media. a sort of re-invented television, yet it’s being marketed as a computer which it hardly isn’t. a computer is something that is customizable both in terms of hardware and software, the ipad is neither. a user of a computer has a very intimate relationship with the computer itself. the very design of apple devices these days deny you that privilege. the whole reason why computers are in the shape and form that they are in today is because thirty years ago there were hackers and geeks tinkering away and messing with parts to improve upon and adding on devices and other electronics and fun toys to make their computers better, faster and using them in ways that the original manufacturing neither intended nor imagined. with the whole lock down of software (and now hardware, especially with proprietary hardware), the future is fast looking like a bleak place where there can be no innovation as far as the end users are concerned.

unfortunately without the lack of multiple apps running simultaneously, all the ipad is is something similar to changing channels on tv, good luck trying to watch two things at the same time, or for that matter, even choosing what playing, because the app store really doesn’t give you that choice, Apple does, and they control what gets to play. so you’ve got hundreds of channels, and nothings on. they got away with this business on a phone, i’m not sure how successful it would be on something thats meant to overlap with a computer. yes you can writeup quick emails and browse the app store and text in real fancy manners to other ipad users, but thats not the same thing as reconfiguring an entire computer to do something entirely different.

have a good day ladies and gents.

something fishy goin on

Israel has asked an Indian geneticist to study the link between the Indian Pathans tribe and certain tribes of Israel, the Times of India reported this week.

Geneticist Shahnaz Ali has been asked to study the link between the Afridi Pathans, based in the Lucknow region of India, and certain tribes of Israel who migrated across Asia thousands of years ago.

Ali is based in Haifa where she is working in collaboration with Israel’s prestigious university the Technion – Israel Institute of Technology.

the Avatar blues

so Avatar was a great piece of filmmaking and everything with super awesome special effects and all that but it was possibly a mediocre storyline at best and the plot has been done before in sci-fi over and over. but apparently, the Americans need psychotherapy after watching a damn movie. it’s unreal how this has become a news story, so i’ll post it here and file it under, “those yankees are nuts”.

James Cameron’s completely immersive spectacle “Avatar” may have been a little too real for some fans who say they have experienced depression and suicidal thoughts after seeing the film because they long to enjoy the beauty of the alien world Pandora.

catching up to do

so i suppose i’ve been neglecting posting here. fair enough. let’s try and catch up. from the previous post, you can tell i’ve been playing with my new toy quite a bit and absolutely loving it and the more i use it, the more it rocks. and just a day or two after that, the google nexus one phone was announced so i’ll post more on that in a bit and try and explain why the n900 still rocks more than any other phone out there right now.

in the mean time, here’s a day in the internet.