Wednesday, April 29, 2009

Swine Flu Attack!

The combination of Umberto Eco's Foucault's Pendulum, recession's blow to my job and many other things that turn one into a roller coaster of contemplations and self reflections often gives rise to delusional ideas of everything being connected to everything. And somehow the sudden outbreak of a deadly H1N1 just around the time when people had started taking notice of failure of the state, financial institutions and environment comes across as a classic case of 'history repeating itself'. As if an integration of infinitesimally small measures of individual greeds give birth to a singular entity that forms the powers that be, the puppet master, the butcher to the Roosters coop controlling strings of debts and levers of information flow to create heterotopias, distractions and decoys that can be put to use through terrorism, climate change, disease and most importantly a real time media onslaught of these events as they unfold.
An old article by Paul Mickle in an American newspaper, ‘The Trentonian’ with the headlines 1976: Fear of a great plague, reported:
“On the cold afternoon of February 5, 1976, an Army recruit told his drill instructor at Fort Dix that he felt tired and weak but not sick enough to see military medics or skip a big training hike. Within 24 hours, 19-year-old Pvt. David Lewis of Ashley Falls, Mass., was dead, killed by an influenza not seen since the plague of 1918-19, which took 500,000 American lives and 20 million worldwide. Two weeks after the recruit's death, health officials disclosed to America that something called "swine flu" had killed Lewis and hospitalized four of his fellow soldiers at the Army base in Burlington County. The ominous name of the flu alone was enough to touch off civilian fear of an epidemic. And government doctors knew from tests hastily conducted at Dix after Lewis' death that 500 soldiers had caught swine flu without falling ill. Any flu able to reach that many people so fast was capable of becoming another worldwide plague, the doctors warned... Thus was born what would become known to some medical historians as a fiasco and to others as perhaps the finest hour of America's public health bureaucracy.... Among other critics are Arthur M. Silverstein, whose book, "Pure Politics and Impure Science," suggests President Gerald Ford's desire to win the office on his own, as well as the influence of America's big drug manufacturers, figured into the decision to immunize all 220 million Americans... The Great Plague, as it came to be called, rivalled the horrid Black Death of medieval times in its ability to strike suddenly and take lives swiftly. In addition to the half million in America, it killed 20 million people around the world. It got its name because it was a brand of flu usually found in domestic pigs and wild swine. It was long thought to have come, like so many flu, out of the Chinese farm country, where people and domestic pigs live closely together...”
Maybe it’s just Umberto Eco and my mind playing games or maybe it’s really a pandemic and we should be wearing masks, washing hands and sitting at home, whatever the case, but with the following swine flu advt. we shall certainly not need to spend any money on the campaign!

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

April 21
on the 21st of April, the 111th day of the year, a day before the Earth Day and 20 years after the Tiananmen Square protest, a group of scientists announced the Sun has gone dimmer and quieter than it has been for a century, the IMF declared a much deeper recession ahead, an important luminary fell on Avenue des Champs-Élysées and I was made redundant.
Back to square one, negotiating, adjusting, trying, craving for an idea of success.
Redoing, rephrasing and refusing.
A new exo-planet is discovered
and a new chapter begins.

Friday, April 17, 2009

Design Competitions

Years back when I was much younger than I am now, I had written about competitions as a tool that facilitates freedom from existing structure of our practise. This brief state of professional suspended animation that provides one flexibility to assume additions and subtractions to ways of the world, carries with it potential to discover, invent and conceptualise a new system of producing space (and by this I do not mean parametric modelling, but I do pray once in a while that someday if not an interesting form, all that scripting may atleast result in a virus capable of bringing down the system). Hoping that possibly within these heterotopias of the design practise (design competitions), professional deviants and hopeless design romantics might discover the Holy Grail of Design of Space I plan to take part in two upcoming International competitions. Lets see if we can have the Susan Boyle effect as well!

Tuesday, April 14, 2009


(source: Edinburgh tourist guide map)
If any city can claim to inspire magic, it is Edinburgh. Here History finds solace within crevices of tectonic plates, near lava mounds, between valleys, above dead volcanic mountains, along the river & shore and everything else sculpted and chiselled by Geography. This aventure amoureuse of the narrative and the terrain forms a compact jigsaw in the city centre making the entire city walkable and therefore encouraging exploration of every nook and corner to its fullest. The castle, the port, the galleries, the parliament and gardens and bridges were some of the many nooks and corners that my & Nora's feet trod along a span of three days. My well trained sense of misdirection and Nora's inbuilt GPS capacity to absorb city geography, maps and directions as a combination, facilitated us covering more ground but with style.

The first day was spent in visiting the Princess garden that sits within the valley dividing the new city and the old city in the centre. The lowest point in the valley accommodates the rail tracks that cut in between the green slopes that hide the city. The old city, sitting along a rising slope comes across as Les Triplettes de Bellevillian city shot with diverse elevations arranged one over the other.

The exploration of The Royal Mile with its sloping cobbled streets, incidental public squares and an occasional view of the castle, the sea and Arthur's Seat was an absolute pleasure. All these experiences were constantly punctuated by etchings on wooden benches, names on trees and a huge number of cemeteries with old tomb stones turning the city into a depository of memories of names, people, friends, families and loved ones all long gone and immortal at the same time.

The city was once a home to writer Robert Louis Stevenson and I could only imagine its influence in his classics like The strange case of Dr Jekyll & Mr Hyde and Treasure Island.

The second day began with the climb to the Edinburgh Castle which provides some great views of the city. The castle madly reminded me of Hayao Miyazaki's Laputa: Castle in the Sky illustrations further reinforced by the illustration on the tourist guide map. The visits to the National Gallery of Scotland proved extremely fruitful. This gallery has some really good paintings by El Greco, Rembrandt, Cezanne and Diego Velazquez.

The next on the itinerary was the Scottish Parliament designed by Enric Miralles, which is one of the few parliament buildings that seem to merge in scale with the surrounding landscape, sits in close proximity to the rest of the urban fabric and has an image made up of collage of various elements that are in complete contradiction to the State's image of power and authority, which makes this a building a good example of architectural interpretation of true democracy. We ended the day at the port which is an antithesis of the city centre, an eerie space confused by negation of history and planting of a multi complex shopping mall giant of a building along the water front.

The third day was invested in visiting the Scottish National Gallery of Modern Art flanked by a Landscape design done by architect Charles Jencks, which was discovered by us during the trip. But most surprising was an amazing collection of art works the gallery had put together for a temporary exhibition. This was the first time I got to see Damien Hirst’s art works, Away from the Flock, Grey Periodic Table, Pharmacology- Physiology- Pathology, Monument to the Living & Dead, Something & Nothing and the Wretched War to name a few. The works had a certain playful quality about them fantastically packaged with flushed details. Also got to see Man Ray’s Iron with Nails, which was an image I had seen numerous times before but had never seen the object. But it was Ellen Gallagher’s work that I loved the most, a set of images titled Deluxe and madly reminded me of Kaushik’s ‘Unbook’ collages. After this a quick visit to the Dean Gallery across the road and marinating ourselves in bit more of art, we were ready for some evening wine and oysters.
I don’t know if it was the spring weather, my own craving for a break from London or something else, but the city of Edinburgh was just beautiful, probably one of the most beautiful cities I have ever seen, no short of magic.

Sunday, April 05, 2009

Abulafia! & Foucault's Pendulum

I had been reading Eco Umberto's Foucault's Pendulum. Its a nice book and left me very inspired. Not so much by the plot, the linguistic manoeuvring or the humbling intellectual self index of his knowledge but by The Plan a product of a programmed Abulafia! Abulafia- a fantastic device capable of assimilating disparate texts from scriptures, pop culture, age of reason to insanity into strings of comprehensive and almost convincing conspiracy theories. Like Musikalisches Würfelspiel to create music!
Inspired by all this, I wordled (A "Wordle" enables you to see how frequently words appear in a given text, or see the relationship between a column of words and a column of numbers. You can tweak your word "clouds" with different fonts, layouts, and colour schemes) together some of the most influential speeches of the 20th century, which you may find here. The speeches are:
1) We shall Fight on the Beaches by Winston Churchill
This speech was delivered to House of Commons on June 4 1940

2) A Tryst with Destiny by Jawaharlal Nehru
This speech was delivered to the Constituent Assembly of India in New Delhi on August 14 1947

3) I have a dream by Martin Luther King
This speech was delivered on August 28 1963 at the Lincoln Memorial, Washington

4) Ask not what your country can do for you by John F Kennedy
This speech was delivered by John F Kennedy at his inauguration in Washington on January 20 1961

5) An ideal for which I am prepared to die for by Nelson Mandela
This statement was made from the dock at the opening of Mandela's trial on charges of sabotage, Supreme court of South Africa, Pretoria, April 20 1964.

On wordling all of the above speeches together one comes across a word cloud or more of a primordial soup for a very good speech.
Now all we require is a sentence maker to reveal the true capacity of these words to give rise to the right rhetoric or even left, but this is what I came across the sentence maker a tool to teach kids to make sentences. On adjusting the html source to serve our purpose, the sentence maker may be able to assimilate the words below based on programmed syntax of adjectives, adverbs,nouns and prepositions to give rise to a more comprehensive arrangement of words. Maybe cross connecting it with Babelfish we might be able to design the most powerful speech of words, sounds and grammar meaning different things in different languages. I wonder if such a thing like Abulafia is already sitting within one of Googles laboratories with its robotic mind plugged into Google Earth, Search engines, Blogger,Sketch up and numerous streams of data and applications, enabling control over media, money and power.