Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Captain Awesome

I just read Surely You're Joking, Mr. Feynman last night, and more than anything, it made me reconsider my narrow minded and focused take on life. Some think it's great to obsess, but to just have one all-consuming obsession, I would consider narrowminded.

This guy was a scientist, samba drummer, artist, writer, teacher, father, tinkerer, ladies man, always sharpening his skills, learning new languages, jumping streams.. He tinkered with a lot of things, pulled a lot of pranks, and never sacrificed liberty for decorum. I think his vitality is commendable, perhaps, also the source of his genius.

Monday, September 25, 2006

Interesting Der Spiegel Section

I rate Der Spiegel's reporting quality on the same standards as BBC Radio and The Economist. Their crew puts an insane amount of analysis and insight, with zero fluff..

I spent a few hours digesting this section they call: The New Cold War: Global Battle for Natural Resources

Interesting factoids:

"Peak oil" consumption, or "Depletion mid-point" will be reached within the next 10 to 20 years, according to Gerling's most recent study. The depletion mid-point is the point at which half of the total quantity of petroleum has been used up.

India consumes 1/10'th of the oil that the United States does. (Source)

Motor vehicles consume half the world's oil. (Source)

Both India and China have a 30 year trade agreement for Gas, while India only gets 7.5 million tons of LNG, China gets 250 million tons.

The original Diesel engine was invented to run on vegetable oil (Source)

40% of Brazil's fuel comes organically from bioethanol, a form of alcohol. (Source)

Three corporations control about three-fourths of the world's supply of iron ore. (Source)

The energy content of the vegetation that is constantly reproducing itself on the Earth's surface exceeds humanity's current energy needs by a factor of between eight and 10. (Source)

China wants to build 25 to 30 new nuclear energy plants by 2020. (Source)

The Three Gorges Dam, which displaced a million people and took 16-years to construct will generate 85 billon kilowatt hours of electricity annually. It is 5 times the size of the Hoover Dam (Source) By current estimates, it will only supply 3% of annual power demand for China.

Per capita consumption by an average American is 33 times more than an average Indian (Source)

India consumes 3% of the world's energy (Source)

End of Article Analysis:
Despite the far-sightedness of its energy strategy -- and the ruthlessness with which it implements that strategy -- China is having serious difficulties securing the resources it needs. For this reason alone, it is far from certain that the much-quoted "Chinese century" will really happen. The same is true of China's aspiring rival India -- and of Japan, which has to import 80 percent of its resources. (Take that Friedman!!!)

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

Another Herzog Movie: Fitzcarraldo


Having been previously briefed on Herzog's brand of cynicism, I couldn't help being guardedly enthusiastic when I saw a 300 ton steamship being tugged across a hill, as Caruso wailed, sonorously and majestically on a high note that seemed to pull it with some kind of psychokinetic will. It's an unforgettable scene, one that has as much drama and passion off screen as much as on it.

Fitzcarraldo has some common threads with Aguirre: Wrath of God: The mighty Amazon river and Klaus Kinski are pitted against another, two forces of nature, indomitable in their own ways.
Brian Sweeney Fitzgerald, a.k.a Fitzcarraldo, as the Peruvian natives call him, is a fledgling Irish entrepreneur who sells ice in a town where all the other Spaniards sell rubber. His last big business idea was to start a rail road, earning him the reputation of the village idiot. Most natives have been colonised by the Spanish and put to work in rubber plantations that have made some obscenely rich. Success has eluded Fitzgerald, whose reputation for being a bungling businessman is only preceded by his love for the Opera, his highest ideal being to bring the Opera to Iquitos, Peru.

He tries to make the ends justify the means, and to achieve his ultimate goal, Fitzgerald takes on a daring mission. To ply an unnavigable river route that has never been charted, because the natives are wild untamed headshrinkers, and steep rapids have protected them from being tamed. To ply this route, Fitzgerald comes upon a bold plan.. to lift his entire boat across a steep hill that divides two rivers, so he can ferry the boat down the river path where the rubber trees havent exploited.

Colonising the headshrinkers with the awesome power of Caruso's music, he actually tames them into following his dastardly plan, but to their own ends.

Fitzcarraldo is quite gripping, you cannot help being moved by the awesome power of Caruso, as the Molly Aida (the steamship) tapers down the treacherous rivers of the Amazon. Kinski is all enigma, his manic zeal and crackpot posture makes a great portrait of madness. The film is slow, but compelling. The ending isn't as depressing as you'd expect, and the characters not as one-dimensional as in Aguirre:Wrath of God. The missionaries seem more geniuine, and the business tycoons have more sides to them than just greed. And then there's music, the irredeemable power of music, which wins over everyone else.

Saturday, September 16, 2006

India: The Middle Years

Much has been written by many a nostalgia afflicted NRI about the time when they were kids, from jingles, TV shows, movies and cricket. And it's tough to top writing like this.

I found a really cool link to archives of NewsTrack, a privately run news show that had no channel to back then. They used to sell these tapes on VHS, and were very Tehelka style for their time. I think this was the crew that went on to make The World This Week. I'm not entirely sure of this, but given the format of their programming, it seems so. See how it always ends with an entertainment related bit?
1989 November (90 minutes)
- Rajiv Gandhi: The last 5 years -- inside out.
- Opposition: Election heats -- Politicobatics for opposition leadership.
- N. Ram: Uncovering the cover-up.
- Raj Mohan Gandhi: The Asli-Naqli Gandhi.
- Raj Babbar: Political role-playing.
- Imran Khan: Player or Playboy?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Don't believe the hype!

I'd like to distance myself from conspiracy theory nuts who believe that JFK's assassination was an internal thing, that Bush blew up the WTC on 9/11, and the moon landings were a studio job. I guess there's a psychological need to believe such things, it's more of an emotional response than a rational one.
Seriously, the powers that be cannot cover up a blowjob, do you seriously think they'd cover up the assasination of a president, and none of the insiders, who planned it would come out and say it in an age where such a story could get you a million dollar book deal, soon to be a big budget hollywood movie? That too in a land where the voice of dissent isn't really repressed, where Colbert can openly diss the president.

But it doesn't stop from a lot of internet nerdlings from voicing such thoughts as facts. The internet is a vast memplex with webpage for every typo and erroneous thought, where information and disinformation is archived forever.

And now Loose Change, this so called documentary is being aired on TV.

Hopefully this will change your mind.

Or maybe this:

Dylan Avery admittedly started the Loose Change project as a work of fiction. It has remained so. A few minutes' fact-checking easily refutes every major claim in the video. How bad is it? We counted 426 errors in a video that runs for 1:19:32. It is an avalanche of ignorance.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Why environmentalists are mental

This has been an internal rant for a while, and I thought I'd let it all out right now, instead of having it locked up inside of me. Without being too wishy washy about it, let me say it straight:

Environmentalism is bullshit.

Life is not sacred. Life feeds on life, and all higher beings have to kill in order to live. There are degrees, but that's the golden rule. Vegetables are living things too. How come we don't care about them, but only for certain animals, especially those that possess huge quantities for fur, or those that we see our own likeness in?

Nature is brutal. I'm sure you've all seen (vicariously) proud tigers killing deers and antelopes on TV, poisonous frogs, snakes, sharks, crocodiles, and piranas. Such predatory games can be found in all walks of life. There's nothing new about it. We've changed. There's been a gradual disneyfication of our life, the brutalities far removed, sterilised, and televised.

We've all been given fantastic numbers by environmentalists on the rate at which species that are dying out, and yes, those pandas are cute, but you gotta ask yourself, when was dying not kosher to life? What the fuck happenned to the dinosaurs, or the links between the ape and the homosapien?

The concept of harmony or "balance" is bullshit. Nature puts forth a game of gene roulette, and these intergroup tournaments are being played out all the time, as we speak. There are winners and there are losers. Life improvises and cleanses itself, as it has over millions of years. Who the hell are we to play interventionists?

Even if you take selfishness into account, and argue that we need these beings in order to protect the ecosystem that we eventually rely on, guess what, no matter what we do at this point, we're just pussyfooting about. There needs to be a Pol Pot for every square mile on this planet for humanity to go back to a point where we're not a threat other species. There is no way out, and there is no turning back.

Guess what, all life is adaptive right down to bacteria and virii. Bacteria get a lot more chances to come up with cool stuff, cause well, they get a lot more chances. Now we have to contend with bacteria strains that escape the pincers of antibiotics. Chemists have to come up with new antibiotics to fight these resistant strains. In this game, bacteria will always come on top.

Then you've got the whole global warming argument. To those folks, I present global dimming. Apparently, there's been a force counteracting global warming, and emission controls will very soon remove the dust cover that we have protecting us from the actual effects of global warming. That means we should all continue polluting if we are to survive.

Environmentalism exploits the power of myth, it's in our instincts to dream of a garden of eden, or a utopian land, where we're all happy and without any conflict. That's one of the best selling points of heaven. Both heaven and eden are manmade constructs. We've had it so good in the last century that we think we're the masters of the universe. We're not. We're barely in control of the world we live in. And when we embellish ourselves into other living things, we get self righteous collectives of pricks like PETA and Greenpeace.