Thursday, March 30, 2006

Happy Gudi Padva

According to the Hindu/ Marathi lunar calendar, today - March 30, 2006 - is the beginning of the new year. It's an auspicious day to start something new...

Happy New Year or as we say in Marathi, Happy Gudi Padva.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

The Arab Critique... and Defense of Islamic values

In my recent research on Somaliland, I've come across several articles that argue and critique various aspects about Arab and Islamic culture. Although the two articles suggested here contain some good ideas and some interesting points, they are also sometimes not convincing. Even so, I present them here to add to the highly polarising topic because the issues are very important too.

For a critical point of view of Arab society, here's Barry Rubin's piece excerpted from his book The Long War for Freedom: The Arab Struggle for Democracy in the Middle East - What's Wrong: The Arab Liberal Critique of Arab Society.

"Arab liberals have become vocal critics of their societies in recent years, making the question of democracy one of the most important issues facing the Middle East. But what do the reformers actually say about the problems facing their countries and the shortcomings in the current systems there? This article presents the key arguments of the liberals, and those opposing them, showing both their common analysis and the different viewpoints or strategies making up the reform movement."

"The Arab liberals' most impressive achievement has been to provide a thoroughgoing critique of what is wrong with Arab society. This is such a persuasive indictment that it is critical to remember it is also one relatively hardly heard in an Arab world flooded by a sea of official statements, self-congratulatory proclamations, calls to militancy, and claims of victimization by outside villains. As a result, many Arab liberals show a profound frustration about their inability to convince others of what to them seems so obvious."
[follow the link to read the rest]

For an opposing perspective, here's Dr. Ali A. Mazrui's article Islamic and Western Values.

"Democracy and The Humane Life
Westerners tend to think of Islamic societies as backward-looking, oppressed by religion, and inhumanely governed, comparing them to their own enlightened, secular democracies. But measurement of cultural distance between the West and Islam is a complex undertaking, and that distance is narrower than they assume. Islam is not just a religion, and certainly not just a fundamentalist political movement. It is a civilization, and a way of life that varies from one Muslim country to another but is animated by a common spirit far more humane than most Westerners realize. Nor do those in the West always recognize how their own societies have failed to live up to their liberal mythology. Moreover, aspects of Islamic culture that Westerners regard as medieval may have prevailed in their own culture until fairly recently; in many cases, Islamic societies may be only a few decades behind socially and technologically advanced Western ones. In the end, the question is what path leads to the highest quality of life of the average citizen, while avoiding the worst abuses. The pat of the West does not provide all the answers; Islamic values deserve serious consideration."
[follow the link to read the rest]

I encourage any thoughts and discussion on this post.

Saturday, March 25, 2006

Hokusai - the masterful artist -

I am in DC to get a glimpse of the much-written about cherry blossoms and since I am a couple of days too early for the divine sight, I ventured to the Sackler Gallery to check out the Hokusai exhibit which did not fail to awe and inspire.

Although the image shown here is arguably Hokusai's most easily recognised work titled "Thirty-six Views of Mt. Fuji: Beneath the Wave off the Coast of Kanagawa" from 1830-31, I loved his etching of spring flowers - cherry blossoms - some were pinkish, reddish, and white (I wasn't able to find an image of it). The white flowers were basically indicated only via the pressure of the etching with no paint/ color used at all. This print could only be appreciated in person since the images/ postcards etc of it were could not sufficiently capture the non-paint white flowers. Amazing!

The adjacent image is a work titled "Boy Viewing Mount Fuji" from 1839.

Here's an art review from the NY Times.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

OBIT: Pio Levya, Buena Vista Social Club

From the BBC story, Buena Vista singer Pio Leyva dies

"Cuban singer Pio Leyva, who gained global fame with the Buena Vista Social Club group, has died at the age of 88. Leyva, who collaborated on more than 25 albums, died of a heart attack on Wednesday evening, his family said.

"His work with the late guitarist Compay Segundo - perhaps the best known of the Buena Vista group - stretched back to the early 1950s. They joined forces again in the late 1990s when the Grammy award-winning Buena Vista group was formed. Leyva showed early promise as a child, winning a bongo competition at the age of six. He went on to sing with Cuban legends including the late Beny More and Bebo Valdes.

"The Buena Vista Social Club group found international fame after being promoted by the US guitarist Ry Cooder, and featuring in a film by Wim Wenders. Leyva is the fourth member of the band to die in the past three years. Segundo and pianist Ruben Gonzalez died in 2003, while singer Ibrahim Ferrer died in a Havana hospital in August 2005."

Monday, March 20, 2006

ART: two mediums - sand & chalk - in a new light

Check out Ilana Yahav's Sand Paintings, which are so simple yet fluid and enchanting and Julian Beever's Chalk Drawings, which are so 3D that they defy the senses

Sunday, March 19, 2006

ART: MoMA exhibit

Without Boundary: Seventeen Ways of Looking
February 26–May 22, 2006

"An ever-increasing number of artists, such as Mona Hatoum, Shirin Neshat, and Shahzia Sikander, have come from the Islamic world to live in Europe and the United States. Without Boundary brings together some of these major contemporary voices. The exhibition features the work of artists of diverse backgrounds—Algerian, Egyptian, Indian, Iranian, Iraqi, Lebanese, Pakistani, Palestinian, and Turkish—across a variety of mediums, including painting, sculpture, video, animation, photography, carpet and textile, and comic strips."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

The Twelve Word Project

Here's an interesting new project - The Twelve Word Project

"The world will be polled. Twelve words will be chosen to represent humanity. These words will come from the people of earth. Representing any and all walks of life from black to white, rich to homeless any social, political, cultural, sexual, background from any location on earth. All are welcome.

"These twelve words will be thought provoking, eliciting diverse interpretations. We will provide a window into human complexity, while highlighting its core commonality. Shielding the voices of the masses against the constant bombardment of subjective exploitation. Creating a platform to think and speak, for all willing to partake in this worldly discussion."

So, any thoughts about what those twelve words should be? Peace? Technology? AIDS? Hope? Community? Cancer? What will your list be?