Thursday, August 30, 2007

Phronesis

An interesting new word.

In Aristotle's Nicomachean Ethics, he distinguishes between two intellectual virtues: sophia and phronesis. Sophia (usually translated "wisdom") is the ability to think well about the nature of the world. Phronesis ("practical wisdom") is the ability to think about how and why we should act in order to change things, and especially to change our lives for the better.

Some related insights from a presentation...

- six abilities that constitute Phronesis -

1. to make a judgment on goodness;
2. to share contexts with others to create ba / shared sense;
3. to grasp the essence of a particular situation / things;
4. to reconstruct the particulars into universals using language / concepts / narratives;
5. to use any necessary means well to realize concepts for common goodness;
6. to foster phronesis in others to build a resilient organisation;

Philosophy is more important than technologies. Such things as money and technologies are just means to serve people...There is no meaning to a technology if it does not consider people at the basis of it. What drives a firm's growth is philosophy...A true technology is a crystal of philosophy.
- Souichiro Honda

Joking is very difficult. You have to grasp the atmosphere of the ocassion and the opportunity. It exists only for that particular moment, and not anywhere else. The joke is in the timing and it doesn't work at any other moment...To joke is to understand human emotion."
- Suoichiro Honda

"Strategy is a creation of events. Quantify you objectives as much as you can. And develop a story to crystallise the numbers by specifying by specifying the beginning-middle-end story
structure."

Monday, August 27, 2007

AASTHO & Institution Building


MoSRTH is making a serious effort to improve highways in India. Having had some success with the GQ, it now aims at introducing expressways linking important cities. As of now there are hardly any in the country. One links Ahmedabad - Baroda and another is the Mumbai-Pune Expressway. There is one coming up between Delhi and Gurgaon but this one is just a disconnected set of seven flyovers; it lacks the most basic characteristic of an expressway: access control.

But hey, we're on the learning curve and one agency that the experts look up to is AASTHO. An odd sounding acronym for Indian ears but it stands for
the American Association of State Highway and Transportation Officials (AASHTO). It is a nonprofit, nonpartisan association whose primary goal is to foster development, operation, and maintenance of an integrated national transportation system.

Experts talk about AASTHO with a degree of reverence and awe; of how they have institutionalized continuous learning; of how they incorporate the latest developments in technology and accidents-data to create

Today I came across a sampler - – “Guide for Development of Rest Areas”.

Everything is measured and studied – safety, cost-benefit, motorist safety. First a Systems Analysis is used to determine existing and future needs of the overall system. This includes – traffic volume, annual usage survey data, spacing intervals.

Interesting tidbits:

  • On rural inter-state highways, absence of rest areas results in 52% increase in shoulder-related accidents
  • Reduction in drive fatigue accident rates due to the rest area is 3.7%
  • Well designed, well maintained rest areas create a positive image for state motorists; enhance quality of life for residents; promote tourism;
  • USC 111 prohibits commercial information at travel info centers or rest areas
  • Spacing between stopping opportunities – 100km (60mi) or one hour
  • Exterior lighting – affects physical safety, loitering / criminal activity, “inadquate lighting makes travelers feel unsafe when stopping. Characteristics of major options –
    • Mercury vapour – blue-green light; fair color; poor cost efficiency
    • Metal halide – white; good color; moderate efficienc
    • High-pressure sodium – yellow; poor color; good efficiency
    • Low-pressure sodium – yellow; very poor color; very cost efficient
When will IRC grow up to become an AASTHO?

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Sunglasses

Safilo, Marcolin, Marchon, and De Rigo, produce the vast majority of the world's sunglasses. These are all a cluster of family-controlled companies in the mountainous province of Belluno in Italy. The biggest of them, Luxottica, had sales of €4.7 billion ($5.9 billion) last year.

Brands owned by Luxxotica:
- LensCrafters, America's biggest optical retailer, in 1995
- Ray-Ban, acquired in 1999, (43% of wholesale sales)
- Oakley, a California-based maker of sunglasses
- ILORI - a new retail chain for ultra-fashionable (meaning very expensive)
- Lucrative contract-licences from Burberry(British fashion house), Polo Ralph Lauren (American), Tiffany (American jeweller)

Sunglasses are the third-fastest growing category in luxury goods after shoes and handbags. Newly rich Russians, among others, are buying such items at hitherto unthinkable prices. Herm├Ęs makes a $140,000 handbag and Montblanc sells a pen for $700,000. So, why not persuade folks to spend $10,000 on a pair of sunglasses?

Economist, August 2007


First Bridge Across the Niagra

Problem - How did they build the first suspension bridge across the Niagra Falls in 1848?

Constraints - The waters are too rough; the narrowest point is a gorge that is 800m (244m) across. You need to get the first cable across but a boat crossing is not feasible; the distance is beyond the bow-and-arrow range.

The solution? A kite-flying competition!

The engineer, Charles Ellet Jr. announced a prize of $5 for the first person to fly a kite across the gorge. A young boy named Homan Walsh won the prize. His kit string was used to pull a cord across, which was followed by an iron-wire cable and then steel cables, until a configuration strong enough was put together for building a suspension bridge!
Bridges over the Niagra

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Doodles for Sale

230807

Fine art puzzles me… What exactly differentiates juvenile doodles from the work of an accomplished artist? Why would anybody pay millions to buy a page pulled out of a scrapbook? What deep thought inspires an artist to create something? How on earth does a curator decide to choose one doodle over another?

Whatever be the inspiration behind a work of art, I was mighty impressed by the way Amitava’s work was presented at Gallery Espace, last week. You opened the glass entrance so see an array of square pillars in jet black, each mounted with a perfectly framed drawing. All the drawings were beautifully framed in black, red or a plain wooden finish.. Entire walls had been painted black or overlaid with handmade paper to give each section a different mood.

The drawlings themselves looked rather monotonous. My eyes could barely distinguish one piece from another – they all looked like careless doodles with a bit of space set aside at the bottom of the page for a signoff -- “Amitava…Bhimtal 2006”…”Amitava Paris 2003…Yangon 2005…Peru..”. Some of it was ripped out of a drawing book; others had just thick horizontal lines drawn on European newspapers or magazines and a few were carefully drawn on expensive handmade paper.

Perhaps these were simple tools to express complex thoughts; yet, it was the presentation that was completely extraordinary.

Friday, August 10, 2007

Movies 2007

  1. PYAR KE SIDE EFFECTS 190107
  2. THE ENGLISH PATIENT ..... 210107
  3. GURU (Mani Ratnam)........200107
  4. CHOKER BALI (Rituparno Ghosh) ...........270107
  5. WATER (Deepa Mehta).....290107
  6. RAINMAN..................................010207
  7. OPEN SEASON - animation............050207
  8. MONSTER'S BALL.........................070204
  9. REAR WINDOW (Hitchcock).......................110207
  10. CHILDREN OF A LESSER GOD ...............
  11. FIDDLER ON THE ROOF ...........................220707
  12. RAINCOAT............................................... 230207
  13. CARS - animation ............................260207
  14. EKALAVYA..................................... 030307
  15. BETWEEN STRANGERS .............. 130307
  16. KHOSLA KA GHOSLA ..................090307
  17. THE DEVIL WEARS PRADA ........310307
  18. TRAFFIC SIGNAL (Madhur Bhandarkar)......030407
  19. THE NAMESAKE (Mira Nair)................060407
  20. THE INCREDIBLES - animation..............160407
  21. KUNDUN (Martin Scorcese)....................240407
  22. BHEJA FRY...............................260407
  23. HONEYMOON TRAVELS
  24. BOYS DON'T CRY....................
  25. ROBOTS - animation ...............
  26. MARCH OF THE PENGUINS...................
  27. LAST KING OF SCOTLAND...............070807
  28. METRO (KK Menon, Konkana Sen)..............
  29. OVER THE HEDGE- animation .......................120807
  30. SHOOT-OUT AT LOKHANDWALA.......... 290807
  31. THE PURSUIT OF HAPPYNESS ................. 020907
  32. CHAK DE..........................................041007
  33. ORU ARABI KATHA (Mal.; another classic by Srinivasan... a firebrand communist ends up as a laborer in capitalist Dubai)......021007
  34. ORE KADAL (Mal. -- Mamooty the economist and a vulnerable housewife)....061007
  35. PATHER PACHALI..... (Bengali, S. Ray)..........101007
  36. BHOOL BHULLAIYA (Hindi; Priyadarsan's remake of Manichitrathaazu)...131007
  37. LAAGA CHUNARI ME DAAG (Hindi; Benaras babe becomes callgirl..)...081107
  38. OM SHANTI OM (Hindi; a case of mediocrity exceeding hype)...091107
  39. THE TAILOR OF PANAMA (Eng; A tailor spinning yarns..surprised to see 'Harry Potter')..111107
  40. TAXI No.9211 (Hin; slapstick by Nana Patekar & John Abraham)
  41. FIRST WIVES CLUB (Eng; yawn..)...011207
  42. 36 CHOWRINGHEE LANE (Eng; Loneliness and the elderly... dark, sad movie by the Shashi Kapoor family - Jennifer Kendal, Kunal, Sanjana..)..021207
  43. LAKSHYA (Hin; podgy teenager returns to boot-camp after being rejected by his girlfriend. Some good shots of highaltitude warfare...syrupy but good movie by Farhan Akhtar)...071207
  44. DHAMAAL (Hin; Hilarious movie - esp Javed Jaffrey's role as Manav)...081207
  45. JOHNNY GADDAR (Hin.; Damn good crime thriller by Sriram Raghavan)...091207

Yamagata

I have never seen Yoichi Yamagata so happy and ebullient. He had his son beside him and his first major exhibition was going to be inaugurated today evening. His son, an upcoming photographer specializing on African wildlife, had joined him yesterday at Delhi.

YY pulled out the latest copies of his portfolio from his Tumi-bag and passed them around. His son stood by, smiling awkwardly - he was obviously uncomfortable in an office setting, dressed in formals when he’d rather be tramping through the savannah. He had the built of a soldier - square shoulders, a trim tummy, and muscled arms that spoke of a thousand bruises and insect bites.

The exhibition at IIC is titled, "Sketches from Madhya Pradesh, India". It had been arranged almost an year ago after a chance meeting at Sanchi between YY and an artist named Kalicharan Gupta. Perhaps it is incorrect to say "chance meeting" because such meetings are quite routine for a person who never steps outdoors without his sketching-kit. He loves being on the streets with complete strangers, drawing them out of their shells with pencils and watercolors.

I admire him for his ability to fill every spare minute with what he loves doing. His son too has caught on to this wonderful attitude – he works as a ‘wedding photographer’ in Japan from Sep-Dec and uses the money to fund his passion for photography.

…………………....................................................................................


Exhibition at IIC Annexe, Delhi from 11-19 Aug.2007; 11:00-19:00hrs

Yamagata-junior’s website – www.goyamagata.com

Laya Gana Madhura Lehari

I can’t remember the last time I sat through a concert, listening to music that gave me goose bumps.

On Thursday, I got an invitation to “Malhaar” , an event organized by ICCR at Kamani Auditorium. It was the promise of a flute recital that drew me there but the programme started with a percussion ensemble by T R Dhandapany.

I had never heard of TRD, so I was grateful for the brief introduction on his concept of “Laya Gana Madhura Lehari". A golden-yellow curtain then floated up to reveal three podiums on the stage. Set against the dark curtains, each of 12 musicians looked like gems in a Jewellery showcase. At the centre were the Mridamgams played by the maestro with his son D. Karthiknarayan. On the flanks were the artists handling Tablas, Ghatam, Phakawaj, Dholak, Kanjira, Morsing, and the Violin. All were dressed in whites except for the vocalist who was in bright purple.

Drums always surprise me. Once the rhythm gets going I find it very difficult to believe that such music is coming from mere mortals. I close my eyes and see an angry ocean and waves crashing wildly on rocky cliffs, tossing ships around like matchsticks; armies rushing headlong into battle; a nuclear explosion in time-lapse…and I open my eyes to see people I would not recognize on the streets. Unremarkable, slouchy, portly folks with glum faces that reveal no trace of the talent they hide within.

This performance was slightly different. Whenever the artists played in single or in pairs, the others would mark the rhythm with hands and fingers that played out a dance of their own, marking the talas. Eyes would sparkle and big grins would welcome every innovation or difficult patch. Every now and then a pair of dancers would float in for some Bharatanatyam and Kathak. I found the plump Kathak dancer particularly unbearable for his silly grin and the way he tossed about his hands like a rag-doll.

Anyway, the music was great.