"Money was maliciously introduced in ancient times as a tool of enslavement" -
Michael Tellinger

"The present belongs to the future and future generations, and all old laws, religious and other, should be abrogated immediately. Free us!" - Vinay Gupta on Twitter

"You never change things by fighting the existing reality. To change something, build a new model that makes the existing model obsolete." - R. Buckminster Fuller

"You find the strangest ways to be positive!" - Diane Duane, Wizards Abroad

Sunday, February 28, 2010

Happy Holi, everyone!

Happy Holi - Hindu rite of spring, the festival of colors. Tweets from India remind me it's already Holi there! Time to indulge in some favorite Holi songs from Bollywood since there's nobody around here in Southern Oregon (as far as I know) throwing colors. Will enjoy podcasts from Curry Smugglers though. And will share a memory from my olden days.

It was 1967 and I was just returning from a long trip around India with a boyfriend, by second and third class train mostly, and because of a delay didn't make it back home before the day all well behaved girls were warned not to go outside. (Not that I was that well behaved anymore by then...) So I arrived back in Delhi on Holi instead of the day before. Hoping to make a dash for my father's house in Nizamuddin East from the train station without being caught by the ruffians I'd been warned against, I got off the train and was met immediately by something like the scene above. Well, you can imagine the glee with which the mob met the sight of a young gori like me getting off the train in pristine jeans and white kurta!

Oh, boy! Oh, joy! They lost no time in transforming my wardrobe - and face, hair, and any exposed skin - into something truly resplendent; pink and blue were the predominant colors. It was all in good spirited fun and I laughed my head off, even if I didn't have anything to throw back at them! Since those were the Sixties, and I returned some months later to a US deeply into psychedelic colors, my Holi jeans and shirt remained my most treasured outfit until, after many washings, they finally faded and wore out.
(pictures from Wikipedia; upper, street scene from Rajasthan; lower, students from Kerala)

Here are some of my favorite Bollywood Holi songs. Click on the links to view in YouTube:
 Holi Ke Din from Sholay ...

And this one from Darr, which shows a middle class family celebrating a relatively well-behaved Holi (but their party's infiltrated by a stalker, played by SRK, on drums).

And below, I just came upon some wonderful photos and captions from the Guardian. This is a priest celebrating the day.

Friday, February 26, 2010

The Human Voice (book review)

Here's another really good book that I fear, despite my best efforts to recommend it, nobody ever heard of. This one's for Harriet, too, who is teaching me to use my own again after not singing for forty years! Singing in the chorus and loving it. (Review for SLJ)

The Human Voice: How This Extraordinary Instrument Reveals Essential Clues about Who We Are (2006) by Anne Karpf
Adult/High School
Karpf, a sociologist and BBC journalist, argues that although much attention has been paid lately to speaking styles, surprisingly little focus has been on the voice itself. Here, in lively prose, she goes a long way toward filling that gap.

The author discusses the mechanics of the sounds people make; what distinguishes human sounds from those of other animals; the effects of emotions on voices; cultural and gender differences; and how technology has been changing the ways we express ourselves. Hot current topics such as voiceprinting and the importance of voice in the workplace are addressed, as are the social effects of cell phones and musical experimentation on the new "audio-aware generation."

Karpf shines a clear light on Hitler's speaking style and shows how crowds were manipulated by it. Through analyses of Tony Blair and the American politicians Reagan, Clinton, Gore, Kerry, and both Presidents Bush, she challenges readers to understand what they are really hearing in the voices of today's politicians-where, she asserts, the voice is no longer an instrument for argument, but for seduction.

This is fine popular-science writing, and it will leave readers with a fresh and useful perspective on an important aspect of life that might have been, until now, misunderstood or unquestioned.

Cool Cats, Top Dogs... (book review)

Just for fun... Continuing my quest for book recommendations I've made in the past, here's one I was reminded of this morning during a search for cat images (thanks, Harriet). It's actually quite a good book, well researched, and could be useful in language studies because it illustrates, through these examples, how language grows and develops in co-creation with various cultural forces. All that, despite the rather dorky cover. There are so many good books that don't get the readership they deserve, but thanks to the Internet, at least they don't become totally lost anymore once the intial publicity is done and the public moves on to the next bestseller. This was a fun review to write because it was a challenge not to indulge in animal puns, something all the other reviewers did. However, just at the end I did let loose a little... (review from SLJ)

Cool Cats, Top Dogs, and Other Beastly Expressions (1999) by Christine Ammer
Adult/High School: This book delves into the meanings and origins of some 1200 English expressions referring to animals. Most readers should find it impossible to resist a good browse through its nine sections covering words, phrases, and folklore related to cats, dogs, barnyard fowl, farm animals, wild animals, birds, reptiles, insects, and water creatures.

The literate and lively text both informs and entertains as it gives sources and offers examples of many common expressions that are widely used but, too often, are no longer thoroughly understood.

Whether the origins of the terms are found in other languages, in memorable literary phrases that caught on, in old beliefs about the nature of animals themselves, from the Bible ('scapegoat'), or from the barnyard ('ruminate'), readers will gain a new appreciation for the richness and playfulness of the English language. Those needing to ferret out the meaning of a particular expression can look it up in the index. Hot dog!

Monday, February 22, 2010

Back to Mars - with an all-Belgian crew! And - Can We Garden on Mars?

Photo, above, from "Can We Garden on Mars?" at

Further, can we terraform Mars? New National Geographic presents this as their "Big Idea."

BTW, even the New York Times can see the wisdom in making Mars our goal ("We believe the target should be Mars — the planet most like Earth and of greatest scientific interest.") Where's Obama, the champion of science and technology?

Now to the main story. This is why I love the Mars Society. Have you read Mars on Earth yet? It explains what this is about -  how Mars enthusiasts, stymied by the government's abandonment of human space exploration, took matters into their own hands with science of their own, on earth. Amazing accomplishment - and the creativity of these people just keeps going. Here's the latest mission report from the Mars Society. I can't help smiling at the enthusiasm here! And feeling a little encouraged. From: http://www.marssociety.org/portal/crew_90_summ

Freya Jackson of the Mars Society reports (last modified 2010-02-22 11:18):  
The first fully Belgian crew is en route home. Having participants from a country that has such a clear divide in language, either Flemish Dutch or Walloon French, brought its own hiccups in communication with mission support, but no more than to be expected. This crew had absolutely no failed communications with their home country as they had almost daily interviews and even two tv-crews following them around for a few days. By now it is unlikely that anyone in Belgium is unaware that MDRS exists. Read about their trials and tribulations.
(6-19 February 2010)

Pierre-Emmanuel Paulis, Executive Officer week 1, Journalist
It was a great honour for me to be part of the first MDRS 90 crew.
Like for my first mission, 7 years ago, it is a rich personal adventure.
The mission has been mixture of science, joy, bursts of laughter, discoveries, exploration, and also difficulties: but all that is what forms the richness of such an experiment, and renders it unforgettable, and also brings progress in life. And in this case the objective is very far away in the sky, in the form of a small red dot that so often makes me dream. Here we touch both the past and the future. They meet in the grand motivation that animates us: to raise our eyes towards the sky and to understand our origins. Thank you for that.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

What Dolls Do: Visit from a Friend

 If you've ever been fascinated by miniatures, here's a treat. How to describe this video... charming? sweet? seductive? delightful? Subversive? All that. There are layers here that an academic could have fun analyzing. But I challenge you to watch this one without simply smiling!

Tangren Alexander, the artist, used a program that's kind of like the Ken Burns Effect turbocharged, that makes it possible to direct the "camera" in a very sophisticated way. Or maybe (as I suspect is the real story) it's just magic.

I'm counting on this being just the beginning of a series of videos celebrating this artist's other "tiny worlds." I've been fortunate to see some of them and promise - you are going to be amazed and delighted.

blog address: http://whatdollsdo.blogspot.com/

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Some Valentine's Day treats

Herewith some odds and ends garnered from folks I follow on the Internet, for the delectation of persistently romantic souls... time to celebrate what Nina Paley calls "The evilest holiday ever devised."

Halleluja - k.d. lang highlights Olympics opening ceremonies

Did you see that? OMG I think I died and went to heaven! Imagine a country like that. Her appearance actually positioned on the program as the high point of the whole entertainment part of the show. Leonard Cohen the poet laureate. Link here to see a spectator's video - amateur camerawork, but very fine sound. And here's the official version from the NBC site.

The rest of the ceremony was beautiful too, gentle and poetic and proudly inclusive of sexes, ethnicities, walks of life. Enlightened, was the image they were going for. They nailed it. A perfect 10. (The announcers thought it was a glitch when the fourth leg of the cauldron failed to come up. Don't they know cauldrons only have three legs? Perfect! )

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Start your decade off right...

Oh, this is really good! Xena lives! Came across this blog, "Start your decade off right by rebranding feminism" - full of bon mots and wisdom from Feministe. http://www.feministe.us/blog/archives/2009/12/31/start-your-decade-off-right-by-rebranding-feminism/ Of course, by now it's hard to find the original posting in the welter of reaction - good! People are still passionate about this.

Nice to see the torch is still burning, even if some women still seem to feel they have to make their own feminism at the expense of older feminists. No matter. If rebelling against an imaginary "establishment" of older feminists helps anyone create a better future for themselves, then okay. However it gets done, is fine with me! It's other women's future, after all. Mine is already here, pretty much.

Reminds me of a book I reviewed quite a while back. But first a little background... here's how I remember feminism (or, the women's movement) from my generational perspective: in the Seventies, of course, was the heady Second Wave when all those wonderful books came out to re-search and liberate our history and open doors to our new personal and cultural identity as women. The First Sex! Flora Crater! Mary Daly! Judy Chicago! Olivia Records! Women's Land! We walked, danced, and sang the talk. One thing that was great about that time was that the generations came together; those who had been struggling largely unheard for decades were recognized and seen as heroes, and they in turn welcomed the youth who finally heard them, loud and clear.
Then a subversive little meme called "post-feminism" burrowed its way into the national consensual reality. I remember seeing that term in some news magazine, probably in the Eighties, and thinking to myself, "what? who says feminism is over?" I'm guessing it was borrowed from "post-modernism" which was a useful term in architecture, but really, it didn't apply to feminism or any other countercultural movement of the sixties and seventies. I mean, in those cases, the movements (civil rights, feminism, ecology, and all the rest of those interlocking causes) took on new permutations over time but they didn't die, they were mutable, remaining in the culture but transformed and transforming; the new forms they manifested were not usually in reaction and opposition to the old (as was post modern architecture), they built on their own earlier forms. Feminism couldn't be over except in science fiction because it hadn't achieved its goals. It still hasn't. Unless you believe Sarah Palin and her loathesome forerunners (all together now... BLEAGH!) fit into the feminist equation anywhere at all other than as real "post-feminists" in the original sense (i.e. oppositionists).

And besides, my friends and I weren't dead yet. But that nasty little meme (was it engineered by the right wing, or just an unfortunate accident when some journalist's invention was taken out of context and misapplied by others?) really pulled the wool over people's eyes. I even saw it recently in several blogs written by women when Mary Daly died (and commented on it in my own blog, here): they didn't say "post feminism" but it was in their heads; these women were assuming that Daly's work was now outdated and they kept going on about how much better things are now. "Ha!" is all I can say about that: "wait until you've spent the next forty years being discriminated against in the real world, look back and realize how much better off you'd have been all your life if the demands of feminism had been met, and then tell me you still think Mary Daly was quaint in 2010." (But then there will always be people who manage to remain unaware of certain realities in their lives. I'm sure they know things I don't as well, so there you are. This is me trying to be tolerant.)

I mean, we still don't even have an Equal Rights Amendment, for pity's sake. Men got an equal rights amendment almost a century ago. How is that better? All over the world women are disappearing under the cloak of growing religious fundamentalist movements. Tell me they think it's better.

Anyway, so then in the early Nineties this book came out, Feminist Fatale by Paula Kamen. It was very good for what it set out to do, and I recommended it to librarians for purchase and hope it might have encouraged some budding feminists because it was written by a young woman and dealt with how her generation saw all this. I didn't mind the one big flaw in the book from my personal point of view, an antagonistic way of viewing older feminists who had paved the way for her. At least this author didn't buy the "post feminist" story - but she did fall into the young person's tendency to see a generational conflict where there really wasn't one. Well, she was young. (She must be in her forties now; her turn to be declared outdated by twentysomethings, or is the new generation wiser?) Kamen was unfairly criticized at the time, in the way that critics so often unfairly criticize - for not having written a different book than the one she intended to write. Here's what I said at the time, in my review:
Adult/High School: For libraries still using tattered copies of books surviving from the 1970s to satisfy 1990s school assignments on women's issues, this title will provide a much-needed bridge. Kamen was surprised and hurt to be labelled ``feminist fatale'' by her classmates when she wrote what she felt were very moderate articles for her college newspaper on issues of concern to women. After graduation she set out on a cross-country pilgrimage to gauge the condition, and perhaps discern the future of, the women's movement. In the process, she spoke with many of her peers (and their mothers), and interviewed some of the finest theorists in the field.

The resulting book is lively, well written, and provocative. It was never intended to stand alone as a source on particular areas of feminist theory, but it does speak from a perspective with which young adult readers are likely to identify.The thorough bibliography, index, and appendices, ``Resources and Networks'' and ``Recommended Reading,'' should prove invaluable to patrons who want to delve further, and to library staff for ready reference and collection development. (review for SLJ, 2002)

UPDATE: And from 2010, here's the next generation of women "Reinventing Feminism":

Don't get me wrong. There's nothing I'd rather see than a post-feminist world - a real one. Meanwhile, we will continue to point out that...

"All hailing frequencies are open -
but they still aren't responding!"


Monday, February 8, 2010

Updated - The best vid of the Davis-White Bollywood-inspired ice dancing routine

UPDATE: at the Olympics, they did it perfectly. I loved this ice dancing routine - apparently, the first ice dancing inspired by Indian dance - or at least the best-received by Indians and others who can judge Indian dance... music from Devdas and other Bollywood films. This replaces the earlier video, from the Worlds. This is the Olympics performance (sorry you have to endure a commercial at the beginning, but it's worth it) - watch the hand positions!:

Godavari: beautiful river song

Update 7/11: This post included a beautiful song from the Telugu film Godavari, about a tourist excursion by boat on the Godavari River, visiting sites sacred to Sita and Rama - it was a romance, of course. I found the whole film magical because of the beautiful river and the wonderful characters. And the South Indian mise en scene. I do love films that bring back to me something of my brief time there.

image from song in film Godavari
The song is no longer viewable due to copyright conflicts. (Up on soapbox:) That's really too bad, because how else do they think people other than Telugu speakers in India are likely to come across the film? YouTube is the best advertising anyone can get, and it's free! Greedy lawyers and idiot coporation executives strike again... 

Anyway, do try to see the movie. It's worth it for this song alone, and the rest is very enjoyable too. Gorgeous scenery, nice performances, sweet story. At this writing, Netflix still offers it. And if you look it up on YouTube, it keeps reappearing there. Maybe they've even given permission by now.