Go Green Manifesto

It’s not a new campaign, more a reaffirmation. The cost – both economic and environmental – of unbridled consumerism and energy consumption is already too high. This can only lead to a complete breakdown and meltdown, unless we have the courage of conviction and the will to do something, both societally and globally, without being foiled by partisan politics and pseudo-scientific propaganda. This is posited by theoretical scientific studies backed by mostly valid and verified empirical evidence.

Yet the detraction continues. Neither the old Kyoto protocol nor last year’s Copenhagen accord has done much, except that there are now new players  like China, Brazil or India, who are flexing their economic muscles in order to  snooker any real attempt at curbing  pollution and ecocide.

Hence this manifesto, which is really a rehashing of a blog post from last year, before the Copenhagen accord. Nothing much has happened since then. We cannot do anything about the passivity and inertia of the politicians; but each one of us can still do something, however little, seemingly futile or  insignificant, to make a difference. The internet acts both as a convenient backdrop and a viral catalyst for positive change through understanding, knowledge, motivation and persuasion. We therefore have to constantly update and renew our efforts to achieve the almost axiomatic “3R” of Reduce waste, Reuse energy, Recycle resources.  (or is it 4R rule?)

With that in mind, all the sites and pages in the konarock domain have been revised, updated and republished. A new page  Go Green Environment has been added to the @agora sub-domain; this has many innovative, smart and money-saving ideas, plus new pointers and links.

Check these out.

Pop-under Ads vs Pop-up Blockers

A comparatively recent epidemic on the web, Popunder (the so-called  pop-under ads) must be a clever solution for circumventing the so-called pop-up blockers which most browsers can now deploy to block the pop-up windows with increasing sophistication.  But this is only a temporary point in the dynamics of the ongoing battle between the browser designers and the hackers;  and for now the verdict is: advantage popunder!

Right now, no major browser, on Windows or Mac, can satisfactorily stop these pop-under ads from sneaking under the active window. Only the latest version of Opera (both on Windows and Mac) can succeed somehow, but only to the extent of displaying a blank page at the beginning, instead of a popunder window tucked  underneath, which is similar to the solution offered by Google, and not really very useful. Most of the solutions so far have sought to block ads employing  JavaScript methods, so the advertisers simply switched to alternatives like Adobe Flash links etc.  Clever, huh?

Popunders are the latest buzz in the web design community. Apparently, these popunders are more effective because the user’s original browsing experience is not interrupted, and so the ads  are less likely to be dismissed outright. Also, there is a subtle campaign to convince the web users, that these ads are not really harmful, only a little annoying!

Do they think we are that gullible?

Mona Lisa and Cholesterol

What has Cholesterol got to do with that sphinx-like lady and her mysterious expression iconized in the famous Leonardo painting?  Quite a lot in fact, according to the findings of an  Italian medical expert who also delves into renaissance art, artists and their subjects.

A recent article in the New York Times reports that Professor Vito Franco of the pathology department at the University of Palermo thinks that the answer is obviously evident on close scrutiny : a case of high cholesterol. Citing specifics on the model’s face he refers to “a subcutaneous accumulation around her left eye.” Prof. Franco speculates that the model, believed to be Lisa Gheradini, the wife of a Florentine merchant, had very high cholesterol, and also the onset of “benign tumors composed of fatty tissue” on her hand!

I don’t know how you can deduce all these, but then I’m neither a researcher nor an expert. In fact, I haven’t even figured out if  that enigmatic smile is really a smile at all.

Wonder what the professor would study next? The voluptuous ladies in the Rubens paintings, perhaps?

Music without borders

This is NOT about the popular website and music outlet. Instead the focus is on a small niche devoted to all music : without any borders based on geography or culture, language, ethnic snobbery or prejudice. The niche is Music plus –  which is  really music minus all these artificial borders and contrived excuses for pandering to the popular demand for the same kind of music.
In many ways, this music without border page within the music plus niche can claim to be truly deserving of its appelation, more so than other similar sites.
To find out why check out that page. You’ll find here music of both esoteric and  wildly popular varieties; different languages; different genres, styles, rhythms, harmonic structures;  different geographical locations and cultures, in fact, it’s more like a United Nation of music! Here you’ll find music from Africa, South America or  the Jewish diaspora co-existing with Balinese temple music or the throat-singing classics from Tuva;  Indian meditational music next to the propulsive music from Cuba or the Balkans. Of course, this is hardly perfect and not all-inclusive yet. But I think it covers a wider range of the World Music spectrum than most other internet sites to be deserving of that much coveted but seldom deserving name : music without border!

Better late than never

And it’s about time too. After declining to meet the Dalai Lama during the holy man’s visit to this country last year, President Obama seems to have at last realized that it was perhaps a mistake  and that the official excuse was rather tenuous; this was  pointed out so eloquently then by the visiting Czech hero and ex-president Vaclav Havel, who was saddened by the apparent snub.  So this week’s volte-face, or as a BBC News article called “Flip-Flop Diplomacy with the Dalai Lama”  should be  welcome news to all.

Last year’s faux pas was elaborated here in an old blogpost appropriately titled : Faux Pah or Chutzpah?. Was it was really a faux pas then? Let’s hope so, and no more. Yet nothing much has changed since then; if anything, China seems to be flexing its economic muscle more and its political sphere of influence expanding. We know that Obama didn’t want to offend the Chinese on the eve of his official visit to China. We also know what kind of reception he got as a guest there.

Apart from general affirmation of human rights, freedom, democracy  no controversial topic was discussed at this week’s meeting; yet the Chinese government condemned this meeting with the “separatist” as a ‘violation of US policy in Tibet’, which everybody had prescience of anyway. Does this mean the  end of spineless kowtowing?

Hardly. The meeting was held at the White House Map Room instead of the official Oval Office – just to signal to the Chinese that it was a private, not a political meeting! Geddit?

Cool Classical Music Dude

No, it’s not an oxymoron; classical music need not be nerdy or boring or an ossified genre nor a high brow culture, but a vibrant scene with cool musicians, sold out gigs and really exciting music, in fact some with more dynamic energy than many of today’s pop, hip-hop or hard rock numbers.

The latest buzz is coming from Los Angeles, where the rather wild-looking Venezuelan wunderkind named Gustavo Dudamel has taken over the conducting post at the Philharmonic ochestra, with a big splash. Dudamel, only about 28, first became a hit a few years ago with audiences and critics alike as the then conductor of the Simon Bolivar Youth Orchestra of Venezuela, where he inspired and molded the young musicians, and the rest, as they say, is history. The group became the darling of music fans – and not just classical music – all over Europe and in this country. The Los Angeles Orchestra’s  telent scouts were eyeing this phenomenon, and managed to beat the competition and get Dudamel. If you follow the media reports, blogs and celebrity gossip columns from LA, you’ll soon realize why the Philharmonic concerts are selling out, and why people who have never been to a classical music concert before, are suddenly flocking  in.

Does that remind you of Susan Boyle? It was heart-warming to see a  rather un-impressive  ‘un-young’  artist become the runaway success and the unlikely media sensation through sheer talent and – this is something we often overlook – the un-prejudiced and open-minded fans.

I don’t want to sound patronizing or snobbish, but the Dudamel phenomenon is on a different dimension, involving less ephemera and more far-reaching implications. To find out more, refer to the Headliners and Heroes, or for a more general idea try the Musical offering e-store. There are some media links with sample music. You can give these a fair hearing and in fact listen to some  real classical music with an open mind and open ears. You might like it or even become a fan.

12 Days of Christmas – more or less…

There was a time when this used to conjure up visions of innocent celebration and festive spirits, only to be replaced over the years by more bizarre, even sad, consumerism. Remember the incident about the Walmart employee trampled to death by rampant shoppers? That was even much earlier in the season, I think, on ‘black Friday’ last year!

Whether or not we like today’s web culture, the Internet has at least put a more civilized veneer to this compulsiveness. Now you don’t have to run from store to store or rush to beat the end of that deadline, you could literally shop online almost up to the last minute, without losing any deals and gaining much – including your sanity.

So sit back and relax, avoid the mall and browse the web. There are thousands of web merchants including most of the retailers from the malls, and all web transactions are nowadays protected by encryption, SSL and similar measures, which make them as safe as, if not safer than, any mall transaction.
Whether you prefer Bergdorf Goodman and Bloomingdales, or K-mart and Kohls, you’ll always find huge inventories, sensible options and great service. I prefer a dedicated web-store like Amazon who really pioneered this. For my taste in books, music and gadgets I’ve found their service excellent, with no caveat or gripes that I can recall. It would be worth your while to get an idea about their shopping buzz. For more focused-on targets check out the @mazing @mazon bargains with links to special sections like ladies’ luxury leather goods on their Endless site, or their deal of the day.

It’s never too late – well, almost never!

Ask not what your country can do for you…

… ask what you can do for your country.” This memorable passage, part of President John F Kennedy’s inauguration address, is perhaps one of the best-known and most often-quoted of our presidential speeches.
We are all familiar with that, but where did this passage come from? Was it  a JFK original? Or, did he paraphrase something he read or heard about?  Or, was he simply quoting some external source? Scholars, historians and archivists have gone to great lengths to trace the derivation of this passage, and have come up with conjectures mostly based on patchwork excerpts  from the likes of  Jean Jacques Rousseau and Justice Wendell Holmes.

But, no one seems to have bothered to acknowledge the most obvious source :  Kahlil Gibran, the Lebanese-born  mystic poet and prophet. In  The Mirrors of the Soul, there is a passage under “The New Frontier” in which Gibran asks   – “are you a politician  asking what your country can do for you or a zealous one asking  what you can do for your country ” (The italics are by the translator Joseph Sheban who writes that the statement first appeared in an article by Gibran in Arabic, over 50 years ago, under a headline which could be translated as The new Deal or The New Frontier). The translation copyright was dated 1965, so the article date would be circa 1915; Gibran died in 1931.  JFK gave the speech during his inauguration in 1961.

What’s wrong with this picture? It would be more than a strange coincidence for two people to arrive  at almost identical passages in their speeches independent of each other unless, of course, they both were inspired by the same ideas and ideals of some great leader(s)  of the past, which is not impossible. Otherwise, did JFK know about Gibran’s writings in Arabic?  If so, did  he forget to cite, or simply ignore, his source?  Or, is it possible that the translator is making a false claim?
Yet, he is not alone. In the ‘Beirut Notes’ blogsite, there is a January 2006 post titled “Good Americans” in which the blogger  mentions “… Khalil Gebran who was quoted by President John F Kennedy …” The casual manner suggests that this is an accepted fact and common knowledge in some circles.

Am I missing something?

Apocalypse now? No, not quite yet…

…not until 21st December 2012, to be exact, according to the astronomically precise predictions by the ancient Mayan oracles, when time will cease to be!

This is not another ‘y2k scare’ or the warning of a  ‘black rainbow’ circling the earth(1999?) and sucking out all the oxygen, or a similar media inspired Doomsday scenario. This is not a fluke, nor a vague Nostradamus-like prophecy,  but is based on the Mayan Long Count calendar system which is said to run through more than five millennia and then comes to a screeching halt just 4 days before Christmas 2012. Experts have confirmed this to be in sync with the I-Ching prophesies or the Hopi Indians teachings; they even checked its creds with scientific theories like geo-magnetic pole shift possibly leading to pole reversal, massive black hole, a mysterious astral collision, an explosion of gravity – the speculations are endless and mind-boggling.

It’s easy to be a cynic and a skeptic, especially when faced with so much crass rubbish, so many crackpot ideas, wild theories and speculative rumors floating around that you’ll need a healthy dose of skepticism anyway. But to dismiss something, however incredible, without first giving it at least a cursory consideration would be prejudicial; besides, 2012 is not an invention of the internet age, but has been around for centuries, in one form or another, influencing many cultural and religious beliefs.                                                                                                                                         If you are interested in an honest evaluation, I can recommend  ‘2012 Official Countdown‘  as being the best well-balanced and informative guide around. Give it a try, even have a laugh, but at least you’ll laugh while you learn!

May be you’ll learn the hidden meanings and real truths underlying all human endeavors, and how the institutions of governments, religions, societies and businesses are controlling the masses with propaganda, cover-ups or lies. They don’t want you to take 2012 seriously. Can you imagine what will happen if people stop buying cars, furniture, electronics, if consumers just give up conspicuous consumption? Yet how absurd! If 2012 really happens as predicted, there won’t be anybody or anything left behind to make any difference any more. You  can only laugh at their foolish presumptions.

Right now, the people who are really laughing all the way to the bank are the Hollywood filmmakers whose latest blockbuster venture based on 2012 has just been shattering box office records here as well as globally. Disaster, what disaster? It’s a godsend!  Enjoy now while it – and everything else – lasts.

Of the several plausible 2012 scenarios, my favorite one is of an extreme flavor, not a minor earth-based  or even our galaxy-based cataclysm. Nobody can do anything about this sort of scenario anyway, this inexorable march to a complete obliteration, a space-time singularity, a nihilistic nirvana.  So just sit back, relax and savor the prospect.  Think of pure essence without existence, of the freedom from the yoke of time. Then you won’t have to worry about paying your taxes, your mortgage or your credit card dues, no late fees or interests, no missed appointments, no to-do lists, nothing, nada,  or paraphrasing Prospero… ‘Yea..all shall dissolve, and leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff as dreams are made on, and our little life rounded with a sleep.’

But suppose something goes wrong, nothing happens, and the dream turns into a nightmare? I end up with a massive hang-over and a backlog of unpaid bills? No disaster would then be a real disaster!

Better wait and see?

The Ultimate Gift for Life – and Beyond

Coming soon to a Walmart near you : Cradle-to-Grave bargains to die for!
The last word in customer service, rewarding customer loyalty even after death – a range of discount coffins.

Now you can have an easy plan, paying for the coffins, to accommodate a dearly departed –  or even yourself just in case! – for eternity, over 12 months interest free, so as to plan ahead for the inevitable. Oh, and by the way you can also shop online if in a hurry for delivery within 48 hours. In keeping with the famous ‘save money, live better’ dictum, the offerings include simple “Love Mom” or “forever Dad” steel coffins at less than nine hundred dollars to deluxe bronze caskets costing about three thousand.
You can also order a pink coffin called ‘Lovely in all Ways’ for that special female loved one. or an extra-wide extra-strong casket with reinforced handles for the more generously endowed super-sized deceased.

Yet, this is nothing new. A few years ago Costco had a similar offering, prompting a BusinessWeek headline ‘Coffins in Aisle 9’, but that didn’t generate much media buzz. Now that Walmart has stepped on the plate, it’s a different ball game.

We always assumed that the funeral services industry was the least likely to fall under a predatory takeover from Walmart; it appears we were wrong. What would they think of next?

Noticed one blogpost, ‘at least the coffins are  made in USA’.

I’m not so sure!