Switched on Desis

Thursday, 27 September 2007

Here’s something from the electronics trade rag, SmartHouseNews:

The Story Behind The New DECA Range

Mendelson Tiu – Tuesday, 18 September 2007
DECA (Digital Electronics Corporation Australia Pty Ltd) was founded in 2005 by Nihal Gupta, who saw a new direction in design and style emerging in the Australian market place during that year. Now, two years down the road, DECA is now offering a new line of electronic furniture that will blend into one’s home with ease.

According to DECA’s Managing Director, Nihal Gupta, the new range of products was both created and inspired by iconic designer Marcel Wanders. “I was very focused on the key principals of design and style. Using this as my benchmark, I traveled around the world seeking products that would fulfill that criteria and was thrilled to discover that an accomplished designer such as Marcel Wanders had designed a home electronics range. Technology and functionality were also important prerequisites of my inspiration. I am
pleased that this new range introduces technology and features ahead of their time, and being beautifully crafted with design and style, they are simply unparalleled in the marketplace.”Nihal also mentioned that Marcel Wanders was chosen to design the new DECA range as the products released in Europe was a huge success. “Marcel Wanders believes we should live with passion and style. It’s all about a combination of beauty and technology that harmonises with people’s lifestyles. Today’s consumers accept and expect technology but the new wave of consumer electronics will offer an aesthetic solution as well.

Our range answers all those ‘what if’ questions – ‘what if my iPod could communicate wirelessly with my speakers?’, ‘what if my side table was also a home theatre system?,” Nihal added.

As you might have gathered, all this high falutin’ language essentially means that you are going to have to part with serious bikkies to buy the stuff in the range.

Which brings me to another desi- one Raaj Menon who has quite a well established offering of wireless routers, ADSL modems and also a quite interesting Network DVD Media Player– which is a DVD player cum wireless audio/video streaming device. There are others like it, but these guys had one a few years ago when they were not so common.

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In the time honoured tradition of being one of those who talk about people who do things as opposed to those that actually DO things, I’m pleased to start posting information about desis I read about or hear or see in the media (in Australia and New Zealand). The definition of desi’s is very broad here- anyone who looks like one, has a name like one or even sounds like like one will be featured here. The first one that caught my eye is (drum roll, please) geophysicist Dr. Prame Chopra.

Dr. Prame Chopra

I read about him in the Sydney Morning Herald in a story about how he was forced to choose between his job in academia at the Australian National University and a role as a Director in Geodynamics Ltd, a company that seeks to tap geothermal energy from hot rocks deep below the earth’s surface to generate power. There was a nice photo too of a distinguished looking gentleman, but the online version of the story does not carry the photo. The photo above is from his profile at the company’s website.

Geothermal energy is getting a lot of attention as for its potential as a renewable, clean, quiet and substantial source of electricity without greenhouse gas emissions. How substantial? Dr. Doone Wyborn co-founder of Geodynamics Ltd, says

“If you had one cubic kilometre of rock at a temperature of say 250° and you drop the temperature of that cubic kilometre by 100° then the energy equivalent that you would obtain is the energy equivalent to about 40 million barrels of oil which is quite a large oil field by Australian standards.”

Story in Sydney Morning Herald Link

Profile for Dr. Chopra at Geodynamics Ltd Link

Story about the use of ‘hot rocks’ to generate electricity Link

Asha Bhosle comes downunder

Tuesday, 6 February 2007

Direct from performances in Mumbai, London & New York. To perform the music of her late husband, R.D. Burman. With Kronos quartet. You heard that right.

It is probably going to feature the music from their album .

You've Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman's Bollywood

You’ve Stolen My Heart: Songs from R.D. Burman’s Bollywood

I love RD’s songs purely for their masala content. They are lively, zany and infectiously catchy. But the westernised versions- some may think of this as fusion but to me it is a khichdi and a mixing of oil and water. RD’s songs are so full of syncopated rhythms, plagiarised western tunes and and suggestive gasps of abandon and lewdness . Then you have the formal, minimalistic approach of the Kronos quartet even though they have performed a really w-i-d-e variety of music.

In an interview with NPR, David Harrington of Kronos compares RD with Stravinksy, Ellington, Gershwin and the Beatles, among others. Also included are live performances of a Bengali song and another called Rishte bante hain and even a very restrained and sedate version of the rollicking Mehbooba Mehboobalisten and judge for yourself. And even Dum maro dum has been castrated and neutered- short sample here.

I had thought I might go for a listen given my eclectic tastes in music. But I’ve decided to give it a miss. Perhaps this fusion messes with music that is so familiar to me that I can’t but see it as being degraded rather than improved.

Update: lyrics for Dum maro dum (‘Take a tote’) have been transcribed and posted by the industrious- and always entertaining- Manish, here. Have a close look at his version of the album cover too.

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Fair Dinkum Manjit

Saturday, 27 January 2007

Yesterday, on Australia Day, we saw a documentary about Manjit Boparai, a Brisbane cabbie who is really grateful to this land of Oz and considers himself a fair dinkum Aussie, that is to say, he is a true blue Aussie.

He was inspired to ‘pen a song’- Song Australia– celebrating the country and all it offers and this got some airplay on a local FM radio station. He then sets to to make a video clip for it. The documentary follows Manjit in his cab as he goes around getting support from celebrities and politicians for his project and the actual filming of the video.

When I started seeing the programme I thought this was another cringe-inducing demonstration of a desi trying to ingratiate himself with the locals by living up to their stereotypes. However, it turned out not to be so. Mainly because Manjit’s enthusiasm and self-belief are so infectious that you can’t help but smile along with him and his funny accent.

And the song itself… well, you be the judge! Listen to a sample here.

Goodonya Manjit! Seems like you have certainly bought into the dream.

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Ideological thickness

Sunday, 21 January 2007

US conservative Dinesh D’Souza, in his new book, has reached back to the Jimmy Carter administration to lay blame for the 9/11 attacks on the liberals. In an interview with Salon (subscription required), he says that there are foreign-policy dimensions and cultural dimensions to the hatred in the Muslim world that led to 9/11 that have not been recognised. He says

Jimmy Carter came to power, [and] he said, ‘I believe in human rights,’ and the left basically got around Carter and said, if you believe in human rights, then you can’t support the shah, the shah of Iran is a dictator, he has a secret police, and so Jimmy Carter was encouraged and pressured to withdraw American support for the shah, which he did … In trying to get rid of the lesser evil, we got the greater evil. That’s one small way in which the left sowed the seeds of 9/11.

On the cultural side he says that when the Islamists say they feel under attack by American values as they are perceived overseas- atheism and homosexuality among them- these being the values that the liberal left pushes.

From a review of his book in The Washington Post, which calls it “dim, dishonorable” and “the worst nonfiction book about terrorism published by a major [publishing] house since 9/11”:

Here’s the main argument, such as it is. Why has al-Qaeda targeted America? “Not because of U.S. troops in Mecca,” D’Souza writes. “Not even because of Israel. . . . The suicide bombers of radical Islam are not blowing themselves up because they are distressed over the Gulf War of 1991 or because they are in solidarity with the Palestinians.” Rather, “what bin Laden objected to was America staying in the Middle East, importing with it the immoral ingredients of American values and culture.” That makes the left “responsible for 9/11” because it “has fostered a decadent American culture that angers and repulses traditional societies” and has waged “an aggressive global campaign to undermine the traditional patriarchal family and to promote secular values in non-Western cultures.” In sum, “the cultural left and its allies in Congress, the media, Hollywood, the nonprofit sector, and the universities are the primary cause of the volcano of anger toward America that is erupting from the Islamic world.”

Salon’s questions bring out several areas of ignorance and even dishonesty in D’Souza’s views as have others such as the Washington Post article quoted above.

In the culture wars that continue post-9/11 and post the Iraq invasion, it is clear that a refusal- or inability- to learn is still a hallmark of the ideologues of the right wing.

For a lighter take see Stephen Colbert’s interview with D’Souza.

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Indian Filmaker’s debut

Friday, 1 September 2006

In the news has been Murali Thalluri a 22 year old filmmaker from Adelaide. His film 2:37 has opened recently and has attracted some attention. Partly for good reasons as it has been critically acclaimed and been selected for the Cannes Film Festival. But also partly because tere seems to be some attempt at discreding the authenticily of his assertion that the film that tackles teen suicide, is inspired by his own attempt at suicide and that of a close friend. He’s had some harrowing experiences and an interesting time bringing the resources for this film together, if this account is accurate.