Tuesday, November 30, 2010

Versed by Rae Armantrout – a Book Review

 Versed by Rae Armantrout – a Book Review
By Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
November 30, 2010


Terry Eagleton provides a non-poetic definition of poem:  “A poem is a fictional, verbally inventive moral statement in which it is the author, rather than the printer or word processor, who decides where the lines should end.” 1 Some poems have end rhyming, some don’t, some use strict metres, and some are more dynamic.
Rae Armantrout’s magnificent collection of poems in Versed have varieties in line endings, internal rhymes and rhythms, forms and metaphors, while intense burst of imageries in simple words, constructed like frothing ocean waves, one after another, leaving the trails of dispersed pathos in poetic but delicate flare.
An example:
Equals
1.
As if, after all,

the thing that comes to mind
squared
times inertia

equalled the “real.”

2.
One lizard
Jammed headfirst

down the throat
of a second.
 Rae Armantrout explores the world of spirit and deity, with not “so foreclosed question” in poem New Genres:
A witness claims to have seen a spirit. From this premise,
a ragged band sets out,
trampling through an old house in the dark,
joking or bickering,
carrying equipment meant to measure “fluctuations.”
The existence of the spirit
should remain an open –
so foreclosed –
question.



2
Pockets of self-reference arise. As if I
could read the mind of the creator,
I already see the father
is the stalker
he pursues
and, eventually,
neutralizes

I don’t recollect reading much of Rae Armantrout’s poems before. If one recites her poem aloud, slowly reading each word with paying careful attention to spaces and breaks of the lines, it feels that more is unsaid but is almost tangible, as if mysterious reality about to be unravelled. Here is a ponderous poem “New” that talks “about the camera”:

If yellow
Is the new black,

the new you
is a cartoon

spokesman
who blows his lines

around bumptious 3-D
Hondas,

apologizes often,
and remains cheerful.

*

The new pop song
Is about getting real:

“You had a bad day.
The camera don’t lie.”

But they’re lying
to you
about the camera.

*

Since Fallujah
is the new Antigua,

sunlight nibbles
on pre-
charred

terrain
in the electric fireplace.

The voice in her poems, sometimes gulps the remaining air of sanity in overwhelming fluorescence of clarity, though tiptoeing the meaning of “change” by “insisting only on insistence”. The poem “Own” throws luminescence toward trajectory of sorrowing reality:

Woman in a room near mine moans, “I’m dying. I want
to be fine. It’s my body!
Don’t let me! Don’t touch me!”

*
By definition,
I’m the blip
Floating across my own
“field of vision…”

*

On closed eyes I see the spartan wall of the ICU
covered in a scrambled hodge-podge of sticky notes,
crossing one another at all angles,
illegibly written over, snippets of reference,
madly irrelevant.

*

Symbolism as the party face of paranoia.

Chorus of expert voices beyond my door, forever
Dissecting my case.

“But the part is sick
of representing the whole.”

*

“We will prevail,”
says the leader on multiple
screens. The words
are empty, but he’s there
inside the lie
everyone believes –
that nothing
will really change. He’s become pure
being, insisting
only on insistence.

*

A crowd (scene) of cells, growing wildly,
by random access to stock types,
(Play any role you like and go on
forever. Who is speaking?)
Able to draw blood vessels to itself
by emitting a mock distress call.

*

From deep time,
patterns
on my grandmother’s crockery
rise
to cover my closed eyelids,
lumpy fruits and flowers, brown
against a cream background.

*

Dream that Aaron is telling friends to be quiet because
he’s listening to a rumble, a white noise voice from his
own intestines which he believes is telling him how to
save me. “SHH!” he says to anyone who speaks.

From her own personal battle with cancer the poetess Rae Armantrout invokes solemnity, describing the patient perched in an examination table, and the doctor and the nurse duo, who are either “smug” or “snug” in their “relative safety” from the terrible gruesomeness of cancer, deftly delineating a scene in her poem “Together” that may be found in any hospital:

Now I am always perched on a metal examination table.
Two people, a doctor and a nurse, come at intervals
To tell me whether I will live or die. They do this with
practiced solemnity. They’re smug or snug in their
habits, their relative safety, of course, but that is to be
expected. And I wait expectantly, even eagerly, as if I
might be of some help. If the news is bad, I imagine,
they will direct our attention to an area of concern. For
a moment, we will lean together toward that place.

The book has two parts, containing 87 total poems. The first part is named Versed, and the second part is Dark Matter. The very first poem “Around” in the second part describes “The future is all around us”, reads like a reminder to human final destiny:
Time is pleased
to draw itself
                                out,
permit itself
pendulous loops,

to allow them
meaning,

this meaning,

as it goes
                along.

*

Chuck and I are pleased
to have found a spot
where my ashes can be scattered.
It looks like a construction site
now
but it’s adjacent
to a breathtaking, rocky coast.
Chuck sees places
where he might snorkel.
We’re being shown through
by a sort of realtor.
We’re interested but can’t get her
to fix the price.

*

“The future
is all around us.”

It’s a place,

anyplace
where we don’t exist.

“anyplace where we don’t exist”, true for us the mortal beings, but the time defying poetry can certainly outlast the virulence of cancerous cells and fabled and vacuous “insisting only on insistence” modern paradox.


References

1.       Eagleton, Terry. How to Read a Poem.  Blackwell Publishing, 2007, p. 25.
2.       Armantrout, Rae.  Versed, Wesleyan University Press, 2009
1

Friday, November 19, 2010

The Debtor

"The wildest urban legends are readily believed. There is said to be a two-month backlog at the abattoirs, as families abandon the expensive pets, including Thoroughbred racehorses, that they bought in the fat years and now can no longer afford to feed. One hears stories of the return of bartering: a yacht swapped for a mobile phone, a Harley-Davidson exchanged for a bicycle. There are moments of giddiness and breathless panic when it feels as it must have in the last days of the Weimar Republic. 

At first, when the poor beast began to sicken, we Tiger cubs set up a great roaring and ranting. Who is to blame for our sudden travails? we demanded — somebody must be to blame. The bankers? Them, certainly. The politicians? Well, the politicians are always to blame, so nothing new there. The markets, those shadowy entities that seem to operate by whim? Ourselves, perhaps? — now, there was a sobering possibility".
John Banville's sad comment in the above provides a stark glimpse of possible economic turmoil ahead, not only for Ireland, but for the overall global economy. A whole lot still depends how the American economy goes. Unemployment still is too high, and core inflation "is running at 0.6 percent, the lowest level ever recorded." In this economic downtrend, shouldn't the political parties, irrespective of their constricted ideologies, come to their senses, and take the necessary resuscitative steps? The Federal Reserve it seems is taking the prudent steps through their quantitative easing proposal, that is actually buying long term debt, because short-term debt has negligible interest rate.

Nobel Laureate Paul Krugman points to the axis of depression, the strange combination of China, Germany and US Republican Party, who are dead against the quantitative easing. China and Germany are against to protect their trade surpluses, but "for some countries to run trade surpluses, others must run trade deficits — and, for years, that has meant us. The Fed’s expansionary policies, however, have the side effect of somewhat weakening the dollar, making U.S. goods more competitive, and paving the way for a smaller U.S. deficit. And the Chinese and Germans don’t want to see that happen".

No surprise in China and Germany's opposition. They are trying to protect their respective nations' self interest, though one may argue whether it is good for their long term interest at all or not. But the most surprising part Paul Krugman presents is the reason for Republicans who are also dead against this policy, though this quantitative easing theory was once enthusiastically supported by prominent economist Milton Friedman, who is revered by the conservatives around the world. A budget expert Stan Collender provides a plausible reason for this surprising Republican somersault,"with Republican policy makers seeing economic hardship as the path to election glory,” they would be “opposed to any actions taken by the Federal Reserve that would make the economy better.” In short, their real fear is not that Fed actions will be harmful, it is that they might succeed."

That just sounds so bizarre to the least. There is an old proverb I used to know from my childhood, in Bangla it is: Khal Kete Kumir Ana. In English it is translated like this: The envious being cuts a canal on his own land to bring a crocodile to harm others. 

Paul Krugman surmises: "China and Germany want America to stay uncompetitive; Republicans want the economy to stay weak as long as there’s a Democrat in the White House."

Like Mr. Krugman, this twisted GOP colored logic is beyond my ordinary comprehension.


References:
  1.  The Debtor of the Western World by John Banville 
  2. Axis of Depression by Paul Krugman




Thursday, November 18, 2010

The Intelligent Design of Animal Welfare -- Really?

From the earliest memory that I can recollect, in the morning of the Eid festival, after returning home with my father from Eid prayer, I used to go to my room, and closed my ears with my both hands, while tears streaking down my face. The heart of a child could not take the unbearable scream and bleating of dying animals, whose throats were getting cut just around the corner of his home, a whole lot of them, where professional butchers, and their assistance, wearing lungi and Punjabi garment, or white shirt, tackling the sacrificed cows or goats, and the large sharp knife piercing the throat of poor animals, one after another, soaking the ground with warm blood. If the God is the most merciful and benevolent, and the most loving entity that man knows, why would the slaughter or sacrifice of enslaved animals be necessary?

This is not only an yearly or religious thing. My holier-than-thou moment ends right there. Like all the other happily living mortals, I go to the grocery store, buy the neatly packed chickens thighs, or bright red beef steak, slippery fish, in frozen but mint like condition, without giving a hoot where that meat or fish came from. Only in rare moments, reading an article like Johann Hari's The Religious Excuse for Barbarity, or thoughtful books by Barbara Kingsolver (Prodigal Summer) and Disgrace by J.M. Coatzee brings back those tearful memories from childhood. The way that we human beings have completely desensitized ourselves from the pain and sufferings of others, especially of living animals we eat so voraciously, maybe someday in a distant future will be looked upon with disgust and disbelief. In that world, we will be described as folks of dark, dark ages who ludicrously believed in the intelligent design of animal welfare amidst their dying scream.

Here is an excerpt from Johann Hari's article from The Independent:
"faith makes them prioritise pleasing an invisible supernatural being over the screaming of actual living creatures. Doesn't this suggest that faith itself – the choice to believe something in the total absence of evidence – is a danger that can lead you up needlessly nasty paths?"
Link to Johann Hari's article: http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/commentators/johann-hari/johann-hari-the-religious-excuse-for-barbarity-2137927.html

How to Raise Boys Who Read

Why is there growing disparity between boys and girls' reading skills? The trend is alarming. Here is an excerpt from Thomas Spence's article in The Wall Street Journal, that has plausible reason and solution:
"The appearance of the boy-girl literacy gap happens to coincide with the proliferation of video games and other electronic forms of entertainment over the last decade or two. Boys spend far more time "plugged in" than girls do. Could the reading gap have more to do with competition for boys' attention than with their supposed inability to focus on anything other than outhouse humor? 

Dr. Robert Weis, a psychology professor at Denison University, confirmed this suspicion in a randomized controlled trial of the effect of video games on academic ability. Boys with video games at home, he found, spend more time playing them than reading, and their academic performance suffers substantially. Hard to believe, isn't it, but Science has spoken.

The secret to raising boys who read, I submit, is pretty simple—keep electronic media, especially video games and recreational Internet, under control (that is to say, almost completely absent). Then fill your shelves with good books."
Link to article: http://online.wsj.com/article/SB10001424052748704271804575405511702112290.html

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Antimatter Captured in Major Scientific Breakthrough

"An international team of 42 scientists, which included 15 Canadians, have trapped 38 antihydrogen atoms – one by one – for a fraction of a second." Why it is important? "it could serve as the foundation for future experiments and discoveries" of Nobel Prize winning caliber. Read the full news from the following link: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/national/british-columbia/antimatter-captured-in-major-scientific-breakthrough/article1803302/

Guarding Secrets that Define Us

Excerpt from one of my favorite columnists James Carroll's article in The Boston Globe:
"...because power is ambiguous, statecraft sometimes requires the veiling of intention and action. At the micro-level, there can be no intimacy without confidentiality. That is true because personality resides in a hidden place, always unfolding and never fully known. We are mysteries to ourselves — or nothing. The protection of privacy is therefore essential to citizenship. So this assault on the secret, even in the name of democracy, can threaten democracy. Ironically, because the obliteration of privacy is being accomplished as much by our willing surrender to technology as by omni-intrusive governments and corporations, we are co-creators of our vulnerability."
 Article Link: http://www.boston.com/bostonglobe/editorial_opinion/oped/articles/2010/11/01/guarding_secrets_that_define_us/

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Like it or not, the book is dead

Don't believe the book is dead, but the current format made from paper, may indeed become nostalgic memories for many. Margaret Wente writes:
"My books were a statement of my identity. They said: “Here’s the kind of person who reads the poetry of William Blake.” The fact that I haven’t read the poetry of William Blake since grad school was irrelevant. You never know when you might want to.....Tipping points come faster now. Just three years after launching its Kindle e-book reader, Amazon sells more e-books than books in hardcover. The big-box stores are loading up on cheap e-readers, which they bet will be this season’s iPod. One expert, quoted in The New York Times, predicts that, within a decade, fewer than 25 per cent of all books sold will still be print on paper".
Link to article: http://www.theglobeandmail.com/news/opinions/margaret-wente/like-it-or-not-the-book-is-dead/article1800474/

Simple steps can cut deadly risk of heart disease

From The Los Angles Times, the following 7 factors, diet and exercises, can reduce the risk of death from heart disease:

  1. At least 150 minutes of moderate exercise, or 75 minutes of intense exercise, a week.
  2. Having a body mass index of less than 25.
  3. Being a nonsmoker for at least one year.
  4. Meeting four out of five of the association's key components for a healthy diet. Based on a 2,000-calories-a-day meal plan: 41/2 cups of fruits and vegetables a day; two or more 3.5-ounce servings of fish (preferably oily fish) a day; fewer than 450 calories a week of sugar-sweetened beverages; three or more 1-ounce servings a day of whole grains; and less than 1,500 mg of sodium a day.
  5. Keeping total cholesterol below 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood.
  6. Maintaining blood pressure below 120/80 millimeters of mercury.
  7. Having a fasting blood sugar level below 100 mg/dL of blood.
Link to full article: http://www.latimes.com/health/la-he-prevention-20101115,0,987463.story

Economic Policy - David Brooks' Article

This is probably one of the better articles written by the columnist David Brooks. He provides clear distinctions between two cultures of economic thoughts, one is conservative and one is liberal. In recent years, the liberal economists are emphasizing on more quantitative rigors, claiming, "The performance of the economic machine can be predicted with quantitative macroeconomic modelsT".  David Brooks provides a simple example: "These models can be used to make highly specific projections. If the government borrows $1 and then spends it, it will produce $1.50 worth of economic activity. If the government spends $800 billion on a stimulus package, that will produce 3.5 million in new jobs."

On the other hand the conservative economists are emphasizing on psychological concerns, like, "If the government borrows trillions of dollars, this will increase public anxiety and uncertainty", and also present moralistic arguments, like, "This country is already too profligate, they cry. It already shops too much and borrows too much. How can we solve our problems by borrowing and spending more?"

Liberal economists counter the conservative economists' psychological argument as mythological, and moralistic argument as an impossibility, because, "Economics is a rational activity detached from morality. Hardheaded policy makers have to have the courage to flout conventional morality — to borrow even when the country is sick of borrowing."

The problems perhaps lies in the very fundamental of economy. David Brooks explains, "When you look around the world at the countries that have come through the recession best, it’s not the countries with the brilliant and aggressive stimulus models. It’s the ones like Germany that had the best economic fundamentals beforehand."

And the old wisdom of the common sense perhaps still applies, "simple regulations, low debt, high savings, hard work, few distortions."

Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/16/opinion/16brooks.html

Monday, November 15, 2010

Mo Pair - a Soulful Singer, Musician, a Man of lot of Heart


http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ywLOCoHyAPQ

Mo and I had gone to the same university in Austin, now seems long time ago. He was one of the most remarkable human beings I'd honor to meet and hang out with, study with, and jam with our old guitar and keyboard, sometimes deep in the night of Texas winter, waking up all of my neighbors with our carefree tunes and vocals. A man of lot of heart, and full of compassion, whose music reveals only fragments of his loving soul.

Here is another of Mo's performance: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HEOO4MvC_No


Mo's site link is: http://mopair.com/

In youtube more of his music can be found from the following link: http://www.youtube.com/results?search_query=mo+pair&search_type=

Sunday, November 14, 2010

The truth about cigarettes

Cigarette kills. This fact is proven. My father was one of the victims. And there are many like him. When clever marketing can hook the teenagers in the smoking addiction, government regulation worldwide is essential to educate and re-educate the global populace. American new proposed warning labels for cigarette packs depicting graphic consequences of smoking, like "coffins, diseased lungs and rotting teeth to drive home the health effects of tobacco" is a good measure to take.

Here are some arguments of cigarette manufacturer that is well countered by The Washington Post editorial:
Some cigarette manufacturers are fighting the labels as infringing on free-speech rights. Other critics say that the effort is needless given that the dangers of smoking are well known. It seems to us that the government is within its rights to require truth in marketing - particularly when it comes to vital health issues - from cigarette makers.
Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/14/AR2010111403661.html

Can the Economy be Saved?

Joseph Stiglitz: "The only solution to our current economic doldrums is large government spending. And if the spending is focused on high-return investments (in education, technology and infrastructure), the nation's debt-to-GDP ratio will actually be lowered. The question isn't whether we can afford to make these investments; we can't afford not to.

Even then, robust recovery won't happen until we write down the debts of the 1 in 4 homes whose mortgages are underwater, in a homeowner's chapter 11 program. We have allowed overburdened corporations a fresh start; why not poor Americans?


Nor will a robust recovery return until we get our dysfunctional financial system doing what it should be doing: providing credit, managing risk, running an efficient electronic payments system. The deservedly hated "bailout" may have kept the financial system from collapsing, but it also extended the government's safety mainly to rich and powerful banks. Smaller banks, focused on actually providing credit to small businesses, the lifeblood of any economy, were allowed to die. The Dodd-Frank regulatory bill was a step in the right direction, but it was a small step, with neither carrots nor sticks to ensure that banks go back to doing "boring" banking. They still are likely to make more money from credit schemes and predatory lending, from writing derivatives and credit default swaps (which may be viewed as gambling or insurance products but aren't regulated as either and are underwritten by taxpayers), and by imposing a tax on every credit and debit card transaction at a rate determined not by competitive forces but the exertion of monopoly power.


When Presidents
George W. Bush and Obama went about pouring money into the banking system, they did it without a vision of what kind of financial system would best serve the country in the new century. Little of the stimulus money went to reshape the country, to make it more competitive, more dynamic, more respectful of the environment or less unequal. Had we had that vision, we could have structured what we did in the short run in a way that fostered a more robust recovery -- with more jobs and in a better position for long-term growth with a lower debt. It's still not too late, but we have wasted both valuable time and money."
 Link:  http://www.latimes.com/news/opinion/la-oe-economists-20101114-web,0,1269444.story

Should You Be Snuggling With Your Cellphone?

"WARNING: Holding a cellphone against your ear may be hazardous to your health. So may stuffing it in a pocket against your body....the legal departments of cellphone manufacturers slip a warning about holding the phone against your head or body into the fine print of the little slip that you toss aside when unpacking your phone. Apple, for example, doesn’t want iPhones to come closer than 5/8 of an inch; Research In Motion, BlackBerry’s manufacturer, is still more cautious: keep a distance of about an inch."
“Most cancers have multiple causes,” she says, but she points to laboratory research that suggests mechanisms by which low-energy radiation could damage cells in ways that could possibly lead to cancer.
Children are more vulnerable to radiation than adults, Ms. Davis and other scientists point out. Radiation that penetrates only two inches into the brain of an adult will reach much deeper into the brains of children because their skulls are thinner and their brains contain more absorptive fluid. No field studies have been completed to date on cellphone radiation and children, she says."

Article Link: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/14/business/14digi.html

Struggle

If you haven't seen this video of notorious angel of death Dr. Josef Mengele, please make some time and watch it fully:



The first time I heard of this man from bygone era, it was not a complete shock. From literature abound, and the news of endless violence, cruelties, and genocides, from earliest recorded time to our modern days, it has been evident for the very nature of human frailties that propels one human being against another, defiling others' the very existence and in doing so bringing bigger calamities, one after another.

In her seminal book The Clash Within, the respected author Martha C. Nussbaum touched this aspect of humanity's struggle so eloquently:  
"The real struggle that democracy must wage is a struggle within the individual self, between the urge to dominate and defile the other and a willingness to live respectfully on terms of compassion and equality."
The Notorious angel of death Dr. Josef Mengele and his cohorts in the time of second world war had other ideas, they wanted to see a world of their chosen, vilifying every other segments of our world that did not fit in the equation of final solution, portraying the vulnerable of their society as unwanted, and executing the heartless scheme in the gloom of gas chambers and barbed wired prison camps. Sometimes, the world needs the good forces to be united to battle the evil like Hitler and Mengele, and the world did unite and had eliminated that existential threat, though the cost was steep, paid in millions of life lost in all over the world. One good thing came out of that war was the strengthening of human rights movements and international laws to implement it. 


This is 21st century. We have other wars, other turmoils, disasters, economic meltdowns. Now the equation and calculation are not so linear, as the increasing variables have raised the complexity many folds. Human Rights are accepted by all the nations, though the implementation of the rights varies, and abrogated whenever is needed to serve jingoistic cause. One striking similarity that still exists between the time of angel of death and the modern era is the shrewd usage of fear among the gullible populace to further pre-selected agendas. Usage of fear can be termed as raw tool, that's been used thousands of years, perhaps from the beginning of human civilization. In fear, even the absurdest and the cruelest ideas can seem essential. In fear, we look other ways while Talibans or Mullahs stone women to death. In fear, we refrain from protesting draconian measures, like water boarding of prisoners, forceful confessions, hundreds of thousands of civilian life loss in the oily lands of faraway, or trampling of homes by bulldozers in the biblical lands. 


Still, all hopes are not lost. Human beings perhaps are gullible, but their abilities to decipher the historical patterns are underestimated. Even in the face of death, battling cancer, activist does not give up the struggle to find the truth, like Mark Richard, a senior US Justice Department lawyer, whose relentless pursuance from 1999 for the complete publication of Nazi hunting report has started bearing fruit. In The New York Times article, the following are a few excerpts from startling discovery, the contents of which were suppressed all these years:
"The full report disclosed that the Justice Department found “a smoking gun” in 1997 establishing with “definitive proof” that Switzerland had bought gold from the Nazis that had been taken from Jewish victims of the Holocaust. But these references are deleted, as are disputes between the Justice and State Departments over Switzerland’s culpability in the months leading up to a major report on the issue. 

Another section describes as “a hideous failure” a series of meetings in 2000 that United States officials held with Latvian officials to pressure them to pursue suspected Nazis. That passage is also deleted.
So too are references to macabre but little-known bits of history, including how a director of the O.S.I. kept a piece of scalp that was thought to belong to Dr. Mengele in his desk in hopes that it would help establish whether he was dead."
Humanity is not shaped by any particular creed or nation. This is part of natural evolution and universal. Pursuance of truth and justice for the countless victims and to ensure the stoppage of brutality and oppression, regardless of one's origin, should rise above the ploys of masquerading fear and unchecked egos.

If We Save the Tigers, We'll Save the Planet

Perhaps the Hollywood blockbuster hero Leonardo DiCaprio's star prowess would shift the urgent attention to the impending extinction of tigers, and overall ecological connection between the survival of this "burning bright eyes" species and human beings' own survival would get the necessary cinematic limelight it deserves. Why is the survival of tiger important? Here is the answer from DiCaprio and Carter S. Robert's article:
"Because saving tigers is a compelling and cost-effective means of preserving so much more that is essential to life on Earth. The tiger is what conservationists call an "umbrella" species. By rescuing them, we save everything beneath their ecological umbrella - everything connected to them - including the world's last great forests, whose carbon storage mitigates climate change. 

For example, Indonesia's 18 million-acre peat forests, home to the Sumatran tiger, contain 36 percent of the world's tropical carbon stores. So if we protect tigers by stopping deforestation, we also salvage the carbon storage these forests provide. A forest that can't support tigers isn't of much use to us, either."
It's not only the survival of tigers that is crucial. The fact is the world we live in, breathe everyday without much of a pondering thought,  is intricately woven by natural balance, where one species, from mammals, to invertebrates to botanical wonders, from single to multi cellular complex life forms are interdependent. Shifting this balance means the collapse of harmony on which our very existence is based upon.

Link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/11/AR2010111105607.html

Real News?

The following are a few excerpts from Ted Koppel's The Washington Post article:
"The commercial success of both Fox News and MSNBC is a source of nonpartisan sadness for me. While I can appreciate the financial logic of drowning television viewers in a flood of opinions designed to confirm their own biases, the trend is not good for the republic. It is, though, the natural outcome of a growing sense of national entitlement. Daniel Patrick Moynihan's oft-quoted observation that "everyone is entitled to his own opinion, but not his own facts," seems almost quaint in an environment that flaunts opinions as though they were facts. 
And so, among the many benefits we have come to believe the founding fathers intended for us, the latest is news we can choose. Beginning, perhaps, from the reasonable perspective that absolute objectivity is unattainable, Fox News and MSNBC no longer even attempt it. They show us the world not as it is, but as partisans (and loyal viewers) at either end of the political spectrum would like it to be. This is to journalism what Bernie Madoff was to investment: He told his customers what they wanted to hear, and by the time they learned the truth, their money was gone. 
We celebrate truth as a virtue, but only in the abstract. What we really need in our search for truth is a commodity that used to be at the heart of good journalism: facts - along with a willingness to present those facts without fear or favor. 

The transition of news from a public service to a profitable commodity is irreversible. Legions of new media present a vista of unrelenting competition. Advertisers crave young viewers, and these young viewers are deemed to be uninterested in hard news, especially hard news from abroad. This is felicitous, since covering overseas news is very expensive. On the other hand, the appetite for strongly held, if unsubstantiated, opinion is demonstrably high. And such talk, as they say, is cheap.  


The need for clear, objective reporting in a world of rising religious fundamentalism, economic interdependence and global ecological problems is probably greater than it has ever been. But we are no longer a national audience receiving news from a handful of trusted gatekeepers; we're now a million or more clusters of consumers, harvesting information from like-minded providers."
Read the full article from the following link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/12/AR2010111202857.html

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Physics Behind How Cats Drink Water Without Getting Wet

It may not get the prominent space in top notch science journal yet, but the possible applications derived from knowledge obtained how cats drink water without getting wet can be like reading a story from a science fiction. First of all, how does the cat do it? Here is an extract from an The Washington Post article:
"...the cat uses fluid dynamics and physics in a way to absolutely optimize tongue lapping and water collection. Nobody had ever studied it before, so nobody knew how the water went from the bowl into the cat's mouth. As with most basic scientific research, the usefulness of this knowledge is uncertain. But it is not, the researchers say, hard to imagine some downstream applications, perhaps in robotics....the water on the tongue, combined with the low pressure created by the slight-curled tongue moving back up, creates a momentary stream into the mouth. The cat then snaps its mouth shut and the water is captured before the countervailing force of gravity pulls it down. An average house cat, the team found, can make four of these ministreams per second....take advantage of the physics at play - that is, the balance between upward movement of the water set off by the cat's tongue (the inertia) and the gravity pulling the water down."
One possible application is: "creating robots that can walk on water, and this research could help."

The nature is abundant with all the mysteries, and unraveling it, century by century, has led human beings to create the modern marvels. Creating robots that can walk on water, hopefully, will bring positive impacts, like in rescue missions from flood or tsunami ravaged areas these water walking robots can become the modern saviors, not bringing the darker side, like another form of super destructive force. Good sense surely will prevail over the predatorial urge. That's the most one can wish for while looking at cats the maestro balancing play between inertia and gravity.

Article link: http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/content/article/2010/11/11/AR2010111104952.html

Watch a video: http://www.guardian.co.uk/science/video/2010/nov/11/cats-lapping-video


Tuesday, November 09, 2010

Discord - an Article of Roy

Why does a writer feel hesitant, his or her words and sentences do not flow like a flowing river stream as they used to so naturally before? Why is it that trepidation, that corky eminence emanating from the daily gore of triangulated hearsay stops the pen from moving an inch forward on an empty blank sheet of paper? Is it the ominous foretelling of a future portrayed by Margaret Atwood in her novels The Year of the Flood and Oryx and Crake? Or the very scarily plausible scenarios described by Justin Cronin in The Passage, or Stephen King’s everlasting The Stand or Under the Dome? Is it the aftermath of all the madness synched in Cormac McCarthy’s heartbreaking The Road or the vivid indifference depicted in Kazuo Ishiguro’s Never Let Me Go?

I haven’t read any stories or novels written by Arundhati Roy after her first glorious and famed book The God of Small Things more than a decade ago. However, from time to time I had seen her name appearing in newspaper news and articles. Her never tiring voice, steadfast in principle of humanity, daring words speaking the truth to collusion and modern hush monarchy, was not completely unnoticed. When the prevalent caustic orchestrated wind of the day blowing in one way dumbing down all the check on sanity and purporting flagrant oppression as jovial kindness in the lionized name of jingoistic adulation, Arundhati Roy’s words, in writing and speeches, never back down from unwrapping layers after layers of a tearful globe.

Like all the lively beings, a writer’s lifespan is relatively meagre. But the good words hope to inspire, to think beyond the very obnoxious theme or inhumane miasma. Read Arundhati Roy’s article in The New York Times and feel the strength of warm, boiled eggs over bullying and bias.
Link to article: http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/09/opinion/09roy.html

Sunday, November 07, 2010

I am Who I am - a Poem

I am Who I am
Mahbubul Karim (Sohel)
November 7, 2010


I am
Who I am
Glories and Frailties
Enwrapped enchantment
Disillusion, electric current
Molecular mitochondria
Splintered hope
On the wings of birds departed
Over the fading horizon

I am
Who I am
Pain and refrain
Tangled entrenchment
Ablution, chemistry apparent
Spectacular memorabilia
Bantered scope
On the fringe of herds berated
Over the freezing season


Monday, November 01, 2010

The Water Myth: Debunking the Dilution Solution

Deborah Ross can write funny article. Whether one agrees with her argument or not, the way she presents her contents with mockery and humor, her article "The Water Myth: Debunking the dilution solution" invokes thoughts of water, the neglected liquid, that is our world's diminishing resource.

Here is an extract from her funny but informative article:
"...you get a heck of a lot of water from food. Fruit and vegetables can contain up to 95 per cent water. Cucumber is water, more or less, but in the shape of a stick. A jacket potato contains 70 per cent water. An egg is 70 per cent. Chicken is 65 per cent. On average, we all consume a litre of water every day through food, plus our bodies produce water metabolically. So, is there any scientific research showing that above and beyond what we might eat and drink we also need to drink two litres of water a day? The answer, in short, is no."

Link to article: http://www.independent.co.uk/life-style/food-and-drink/features/the-water-myth-debunking-the-dilution-solution-2121712.html