Thursday, September 28, 2006

Seattle South Asian Film Festival (ISAFF) - Opening Night

Life, Art: We had a good time last night at the south asian film festival's opening night. For anyone at all interested, I recommend checking out the festival this weekend. More information is available at: Ameen did a great job hanging our paintings. As you enter the festival, all of my work is off to the right, and Ameen's is off to the left. The work looked nice hanging in such a large open area. Its the first time I've shown this work from which is largely based on our last trip to India. Special thanks to Gogi and Monu for watching the kids!

Tuesday, September 26, 2006

Ah, We're Smiling Again

Life: While my car repair bill is racking up, the statistical joys of my daily bus ride continue to entertain me. Today I was prepared - I sat at the front of the bus and was determined to find more clues to explain the new Seattle malaise. I had no idea this little blog of mine was so influential -- thanks to all for ensuring that todays stats on my bus ride in were markedly better than yesterdays! Fully 17 out of 21 smiled back today and gave an appropriate equivalent of "I'm doing fine. Thank you." when asked how they were doing by our lovely bus driver.

This reminds me, Mark Twain once said "There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies and statistics."

Monday, September 25, 2006

Be Nice, Say Hi, and Smile

Life: I took the bus in today from my sunny little neighborhood in what I always thought of as "relatively polite" Seattle. My bus driver was this very happy jovial fellow, who always gave a hearty "Hello, how are you today?" welcome to each bus passenger. I decided to take statistics of how often people responded. Around Nickerson and 15th (about a mile since I started my count), only 2 people had responded pleasantly. Many people said absolutely nothing, some grunted something unitelligable, a few had a focused floor-stairing look with bulging headphones, and a mere 2 out of 14 responded pleasantly and politely with something akin to a "I'm doing fine. Thank you." I was totally shocked. That's a pathetically low number. Fortunately the next 4 people in a row were nice, to eventually leave the stat at a pathetic, but not horrific, 6 out of 19. What's wrong with people? Someone looks you in the eye, performs a service for you, says an unequivocally nice thing to you - smile back and say hello.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

InFact Book Search - Search, explore and download free ebooks online

Search, Tech - We just made public a demonstration book search site. You can have a look at: I'd love to get any feedback from you all. Here's a blurb from our FAQ:

InFact® Book Search is a publicly available demonstration of searchable, free ebooks powered by the InFact vertical search infrastructure. InFact Book Search includes an automatically generated book index, similar to that found in a standard physical book, which allows you to quickly navigate directly to everywhere a character, place, organization, or other term occurs in the book. In addition, InFact, offers tips for any term you search for. For example, if you search for Robin Hood, you will see tips which include other characters Robin Hood interacts with. If you click on Little John, you will be led to all the merry adventures Robin Hood and Little John shared together. In addition, InFact Book Search allows you to quickly find out about things you encounter in a book. For example, if you run across the Sherwood Forest, but are not sure where it is, you can follow the information link for an explanation.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Seattle South Asian Film Festival (ISAFF) - Opening Night

Life: There's an opening night celebration for the upcoming Seattle South Asian Film Festival. If its even half as good as the fundraiser we went to, it'll be a blast. More info including the ability to buy tickets is available at Ticket Window Online. Here's an excerpted blurb:

September 27, 2006
Wednesday at 7pm
at Broadway Performance Hall
1625 Broadway at Pine Street

ISAFF kicks off with an evening of film and performance art. Dynamic host and performer D’Lo makes her first appearance in Seattle.

Shorts including:

All Roads Lead to Here (Richie Mehta & Stuart A. McIntyre, Canada, 2005, 6min) In this visually and acoustically fascinating video, a tabla player and a beat-boxer face off.

Right Here, Right Now (Anand Gandhi, India, 2005, 29min)
In life everything is about PRESENT. What happens NOW is what matters. 17 locations, 7 languages, 25 characters covered in just 2 shots.

Lucky (Avie Luthra, South Africa, 2005, 20min, 35mm)
Veteran UK director Avie Luthra makes a sensitive short film about Lucky, a South African AIDS orphan who learns about life through an unlikely bond with a racist Indian woman. Award winning short film screened at over 50 international festivals.

Relax and socialize with hors d’oeuvres, wine, and music.

Monday, September 11, 2006

Review of Goddess for Hire by Sonia Singh

Book Review: One of the things that happens since I have no TV, is that I get desperate for reading material. I'll read anything, and unfortunately, I can be pretty lazy about seeking my reading material. Often this means chit lit from my wife's book club lingering on a night stand. Sometimes friends visit and leave books lying about. The latter is how I stumbled across this Beverly Hills 90210 like book called Goddess for Hire by Sonia Singh. Its kind of cute though, in an after school special sort of way (I wasn't always TV-less). On the whole, I'll say I was mildly entertained during my first exposure to the world of rich spoiled Indian girls in southern California. I think the plot's almost clever. Re: the book, here's a little factual blurb from the author's site:

"A hip chick from Newport Beach, California, who's just turned thirty, discovered she's the incarnation of the Hindu goddess Kali, and happens to be unemployed and still living with her parents. Saving the world, though, may prove to be a curry-scented breeze compared to dealing with her extended Indian family. In their eyes she isn't just the black sheep -- she's low-grade mutton.

To make matters worse, despite frequent and therapeutic bouts of shopping and Starbucks, and the mentoring of a Taco Bell-loving, Coca Cola-guzzling swami, Maya has trouble just surviving, thanks to the attentions of a Kali-hating fanatic and a matchmaking aunt hell-bent on finding her a nice Indian boy. Maya has no interest in boys. She wants a man and she may have found one.

On the whole, I'd give Goddess for Hire 2 1/2 stars out of 4. I grew tired of the formulaic writing, the contrived metaphors, and all the vacuous details, but alas, not enough to put it down. For those with alternate entertainment opportunities, perhaps you should drop a star, and read this much harsher critique. Here's a snippet:

Perhaps this is the stuff teens and 20-somethings love to read or maybe it’s the kind of book the Sex in the City crowd seeks out, full of ‘intelligent’ dialogue (usually taking place in the heroine’s head) and bed-hopping, alcohol-guzzling females who want it all (but only if the rich guy pays for it). For them, Singh has come up with a 300-page caricature of NRI and ABCD life - the sit-com version. The novel is even full of commercials for practically every commodity available on the market. This may have made sense if Goddess for Hire actually were a television show in which characters conspicuously work in sponsors’ products, a Coke here, a BMW there or a bag of Doritos lying on the table. But, why is this necessary in a book? Take the publisher’s blurb on the back cover - Starbucks, Taco Bell and Coca-Cola mentioned in just one sentence alone. Read the book and it’s hard to find a page that doesn’t sound like a commercial - Carl’s Jr., Budweiser, Tommy Bahama, IKEA, California Pizza Kitchen, Manolo, Pashmina, Dolce Gabbana, TiVo and Pepsi. To name just a few. It doesn’t stop with products- if an item has a earned a spot in the American popular culture hall of fame, it’s mentioned, from movie stars (of course, Julia Roberts) and famous LA streets to Hollywood blockbusters and syndicated TV shows. One can only guess at the purpose of this name-dropping or why it’s essential to the plot.

Review of Hey Nostradamus by Douglas Coupland

Book Review: I recently finished a fantastic novel by Douglas Coupland called Hey Nostradamus. On the whole, I give this 4 stars. Its extremely well written. The novel's structure, writing technique, tone, perspective, etc. are innovative, yet well done. I need to read more Coupland given the critic consensus indicates this is not one of his great books. For my Vancouver, BC readers, the setting on the North Shore reads familiar and adds an engaging intimacy to the reading experience.

I ran across an excellent review by Rick Kleffel that pretty much jives with my take. Here's a snippet:

Coupland displays some serious storytelling skill in this novel. It's told in four sections, reads for the most part like lightning, and covers a wide range of human emotions with genuine empathy and more than few laughs. Getting those laughs is a pretty big deal because the kind of horror Coupland uses as the inception of his novel is all-too-real and all-too-tragic. 'Hey Nostradamus!' begins in 1988 with a Columbine-style high-school massacre. That's the un-smooth stone dropped in the choppy lake of a typical suburban community.

Coupland follows four victims of the massacre, each at an increasing distance from the event itself. The horror is described first-hand by one of the deceased victims, Cheryl Anway. She's writing in the immediate aftermath from a very vague afterlife, addressing her thoughts to God. Coupland then jumps eleven years into the future to 1999, telling the story of Jason, who was secretly married to Cheryl shortly before the killings. Rootless, cast adrift, Jason has never really left Cheryl or the murders far behind. Coupland skips forward again, to 2002, to tell the story of Heather, who has tried to love Jason but is having a hard time of it. He finishes the story in 2003 with Reg, Jason's strictly religious father. Along the way faiths and lives are shattered and rebuilt, or simply dissolved into the next hesitant steps in a world that refuses to offer a helpful user's manual.

Keep that manual in mind. Coupland takes us on this tragic journey with perfectly pitched prose. He's funny when he wants to make the reader laugh and poignant when he wants to make the reader weep. Fortunately, he finds more room for laughter than for crying. For those who might find events of this nature too upsetting, his "post-crime" orientation is an excellent approach. While not playing down the horror, he doesn't focus on it. This is not the story of killers and cops. It's the story of victims and survivors, inherently positive though tinged with great tragedy. He manages the delicate and rather amazing feat of keeping the ugliness and tear-jerking aspects of the story off-screen rather handily. He's not quite dispassionate. It's more of a wry focus on the nitty-gritty of living ever after. Happiness is optional, but it's not an easy option to attain.

Thursday, September 07, 2006

Singing with the Birds

Life, Bike: We spent this lovely sunny weekend camped out in my friend Timothy's tree house up in Bellingham. The kids had a blast being up high in the cedar tree. We also had a hoot splashing around in Camp Cody's new pond. Our friend made a cool filter system by taking some Home Depot PVC tubing and routing water through some rain barrels filled with gradually increasing sizes of rock. The water stays amazingly clean with no chlorine or chemicals whatsoever. I also had a blast riding up at Galbraith. This used to be my regular ride when I was living up in Bellingham. Wow, has it ever been upgraded for the "new" mountain biking. The climb is burlier than I remember - perhaps my city slack ways are the culprit, but the top now has tons of tricks and free ride planked and jumpy fun. I was a bit bummed I didn't bring any armor and had to "settle" for some tight perfect single track.

Tuesday, September 05, 2006

The Amazing Efficiency of the Washington State DMV

Life: Many of you might assume, based on the title of this post, that I'm going to proceed sarcastically discussing the many pitfalls of the DMV. The truth is quite the opposite. Like many Americans, I'm at times swayed by the stereotype of an all pervasive beauracratic and bumbling government sluggishness. Today, I must say, is the first day in as long as I can remember, that I have been absolutely stunned by government efficiency.

I went this morning to renew my drivers license. I brought with me a good book, and left early so I could make it to work at a reasonable hour. I assumed I would be one of many trapped in a kafka-esque process, so I figured I'd entertain myself with some great reading. On entering the building, the hundred or so people I saw immediately re-enforced my fears.

I followed a very small line; I pressed a little button that said what I was there for. A piece of paper shot out with my number. I sat down, and proceeded to read. I was annoyed by the continuous announcement of the next number being called. What kind of bumbling beauracracy can rip through customers at the rate of 1 every 30 seconds or so? Within a couple minutes my number was called. Less then 2 minutes later I was told my name would be called for my picture. And a couple minutes later it was, my snapshot was taken, and I was shushed out the door, new license in hand.

So I've been told this is all due to Gary Locke and his obsession with things not so controversial. Apparently, he took it upon himself to make the DMV efficient. Wow! It truly is.
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