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Posts Tagged ‘India

“Optimism is the madness of insisting that all is well when we are miserable”*…

 

By the end of last year, anyone who had been paying even passing attention to the news headlines was highly likely to conclude that everything was terrible, and that the only attitude that made sense was one of profound pessimism – tempered, perhaps, by cynical humour, on the principle that if the world is going to hell in a handbasket, one may as well try to enjoy the ride…  Yet one group of increasingly prominent commentators has seemed uniquely immune to the gloom…

The loose but growing collection of pundits, academics and thinktank operatives who endorse this stubbornly cheerful, handbasket-free account of our situation have occasionally been labelled “the New Optimists”, a name intended to evoke the rebellious scepticism of the New Atheists led by Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett and Sam Harris. And from their perspective, our prevailing mood of despair is irrational, and frankly a bit self-indulgent. They argue that it says more about us than it does about how things really are – illustrating a certain tendency toward collective self-flagellation, and an unwillingness to believe in the power of human ingenuity. And that it is best explained as the result of various psychological biases that served a purpose on the prehistoric savannah – but now, in a media-saturated era, constantly mislead us…

Don’t worry, be happy? “Is the world really better than ever?

* Voltaire

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As we cultivate our gardens, we might send well-watered birthday greeting to Monkombu Sambisivan Swaminathan; he was born on this date in 1925.  A geneticist and international administrator, he is known as the “Indian Father of Green Revolution” for his leadership and success in introducing and further developing high-yielding varieties of rice and wheat in India.  Swaminathan, based these days at he MS Swaminathan Research Foundation, is an advocate of moving India to sustainable development, especially using environmentally-sustainable agriculture, sustainable food security, and the preservation of biodiversity– which he calls an “evergreen revolution.”

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Written by LW

August 7, 2017 at 1:01 am

“The more advanced a society is, the greater will be its interest in ruined things, for it will see in them a redemptively sobering reminder of the fragility of its own achievements”*…

 

With its mathematical layout and earthworks longer than the Great Wall of China, Benin City was one of the best planned cities in the world when London was a place of “thievery and murder.” So why is nothing left?

This is the story of a lost medieval city you’ve probably never heard about. Benin City, originally known as Edo, was once the capital of a pre-colonial African empire located in what is now southern Nigeria. The Benin empire was one of the oldest and most highly developed states in west Africa, dating back to the 11th century.

The Guinness Book of Records (1974 edition) described the walls of Benin City and its surrounding kingdom as the world’s largest earthworks carried out prior to the mechanical era. According to estimates by the New Scientist’s Fred Pearce, Benin City’s walls were at one point “four times longer than the Great Wall of China, and consumed a hundred times more material than the Great Pyramid of Cheops”…

More on the fabulous city and its fate at “Benin City, the mighty medieval capital now lost without trace“– one of the Guardian’s excellent “Story of Cities” series.

* Alain de Botton, The Pleasures and Sorrows of Work

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As we “Look on my Works, ye Mighty, and despair!“, we might recall that it was on this date in 1498 that Vasco da Gama, landed at Kappad (or Kappakadavu locally), a famous beach near Kozhikode (Calicut), India. The first European explorer to make the journey, his expedition gave the Europeans a sea route to reach the wealth of the Malabar Coast, and resulted in European domination of India for about 450 years.

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Written by LW

May 20, 2016 at 1:01 am

“A paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on”*…

 

When states ran out of execution drugs, they started paying tens of thousands of dollars to Chris Harris, a salesman in India with no pharmaceutical background…

The sad tale in its entirety at: “This Is The Man In India Who Is Selling States Illegally Imported Execution Drugs.”

* William S. Burroughs

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As we plan our last meals, we might recall that it was on this date in 1659 that William Robinson and Marmaduke Stevenson, two Quakers who had come to the New World from England in 1656 to escape religious persecution, are hanged in the Massachusetts Bay Colony for their religious beliefs.  The two had violated a law passed by the Massachusetts General Court the year before, banning Quakers from the colony under penalty of death.  A third Quaker, Mary Dyer, was arrested with Robinson and Stevenson, and marched to the execution spot with them, but given a reprieve at the last moment– banished (again) from the Colony. She returned the following year, was apprehended, and hanged.  Together, the three are known as the “Boston martyrs.”

Stevenson, Dyer, and Robinson being led to their fates.

source

Written by LW

October 27, 2015 at 1:01 am

“I find it soothing, the thought of a movie theater”*…

 

 

Saubine Haubitz and Stefanie Zoche are intrepid photographers of thought-provoking things.  Here, they discuss their series on movie theaters in India…

In three journeys between 2010 and 2013 we have photographed movie theatres from the ‘Thirties to the ‘Seventies in South India. The photos of these buildings give eloquent testimony to the rich cinematic culture of those times. We are particularly interested in the culturally influenced reinterpretation of modern building style apparent in the architectural style, which displays an unusual mixture of Modernism, local architectural elements, a strong use of colour and, in the case of some older cinema halls, of Art Deco…

Many movie theatres in South India are left in their original state. Nonetheless, remodelling into multiplex cinemas is already underway, in particular in major cities, and will result in these buildings’ disappearance as witnesses to their times. The photographs document a part of cinema culture that has already largely vanished in Europe and the USA, and is increasingly being supplanted by commercial interests and technical developments in India, as well.

Take the tour at here.

* Theophilus London

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As we lounge in the loge, we might recall that it was on this date in 1915 that Vitagraph released Miss Jekyll and Madame Hyde, a retelling of Stevenson’s famous tale in which Helen Gardner played the lead role(s).  Ms Gardner, whose career consisted mostly of portrayals of strong women (Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair, Cleopatra, et al.) was herself a formidable player in the film industry, one of the first actors to form an independent production company (The Helen Gardner Players).

Helen Gardner, c. 1912 (the time of her break-out role, Becky Sharp in Vanity Fair)

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Written by LW

June 19, 2015 at 1:01 am

“In India we celebrate the commonality of major differences; we are a land of belonging rather than of blood”*…

 

As The Guardian reports…

One candidate is “hiding in the bunker of secularism”; another invokes God to preserve India from her opponent’s economic model. A politiciking yoga teacher with millions of followers is investigated for hate speech; the youngest adult member of the country’s foremost political dynasty calls the opposition “baffled rats”. And the Indian election moves into its fourth week.

The Hindu nationalist opposition Bharatiya Janata party, led by Narendra Modi, looks on course for a big victory, though quite how big is still unclear. The incumbent Congress party is facing a crushing defeat, with only around 100 of the 543 elected seats in the lower house of the national assembly…

But while the main event is Modi’s nationalistic challenge to the incumbents, the BBC reminds us the the election’s “color” is much more varied…

In April, India’s 814 million eligible voters are due at the polls. There are more than 1,600 registered political parties – some with very unexpected names.

B Kumar Sri Sri launched the Indian Lovers Party on Valentine’s Day 2008. His bubble-gum pink posters announce the party’s resolve to fight for star-crossed lovers from different castes and religious backgrounds, whose parents don’t approve of their relationship…

Read more about the Poor Man’s Party, The Yours-Mine Party, The Oceanic Party, The Pyramid Party, and the Stay Wake Party at “Indian political parties with strange names.”  And lest one think that India has a hammerlock on creative party names, consider the active parties in Australia (which include the Party! Party! Party! Party) and in the U.S.

 Shashi Tharoor

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As we exercise our franchise, we might send elegiac birthday greeting to Satyajit Ray; he was born on this date in 1921.  He was a writer, publisher, illustrator, calligrapher, graphic designer and film critic, but is best remembered a filmmaker.  Considered on the greatest auteurs in world cinema history, Ray directed 36 films, which earned scores of awards, including 32 National Film Awards by the Government of India.  He was one of only three filmmakers to win the Silver Bear for Best Director at the Berlin Film Festival more than once, and holds the record for the most number of Golden Bear nominations, with seven.  At the Venice Film Festival, where he had previously won a Golden Lion for Aparajito (1956), he was awarded the Golden Lion Honorary Award in 1982. That same year, he received an honorary “Hommage à Satyajit Ray” award at the 1982 Cannes Film Festival.  The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences awarded Ray an Honorary Oscar in 1992 for Lifetime Achievement.  He is the second film personality after Chaplin to have been awarded an honorary doctorate by Oxford University.

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Written by LW

May 2, 2014 at 1:01 am

Recapturing those golden days of youth…

Buenos Aires-based photographer Irina Werning offers her subjects an opportunity for which, at one time or another, almost everyone has hoped– a chance to step back in time…

Lucia, 1956 & 2010, Buenos Aires

Fer, 1970 & 2010, Buenos Aires

… many more at Werning’s wonderful “Back to the Future.”

As we wax nostalgic, we might recall that it was on this date in 1959 that the Dalai Lama fled Chinese suppression of a national uprising in Tibet, crossed the border into India, and took political asylum.  In 1950, China (which considers that it has a historic right to Tibet) had invaded the mountain nation (of which the Dalai Lama was both spiritual and political leader); a year later, a Tibetan-Chinese agreement was signed under which Tibet became a “national autonomous region” of China, supposedly under the traditional rule of the Dalai Lama… but in practice ruled by China with an increasingly heavy hand.  Protests arose with increasing frequency and severity over the next several years, until March of 1959, when full-scale rebellion erupted.

The 14th Dalai Lama, in exile (source)

Fahrenheit 451…

During the last week of September every year, hundreds of libraries and bookstores across the U.S. call attention to the problem of censorship by mounting displays of challenged books and hosting a variety of events.

Sponsored by the American Library Association, the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression, the Association of American Publishers, the American Society of Journalists and Authors, and the National Association of College Stores, and endorsed by the Center for the Book of the Library of Congress, the 2009 celebration of Banned Books Week is this week– September 26 through October 3.

Visit BannedBooksWeek.org for more info– and Just Say No to “No”…

As we remind ourselves that if we don’t use our freedoms we lose them, we might recall that this is a bad day to try to renew one’s visa for India; all government offices are closed in observance of the birthday of Mohandas Gandhi, Indian philosopher and civil rights activist, born on this date in 1869.

If we believe in ‘an eye for an eye and a tooth for a tooth,’ we will end up being a society of blind, toothless people.
–Gandhi

The Mahatma

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