Wednesday, May 03, 2006


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Monday, May 01, 2006

The man who fought Suharto with a pen

'In recent years, the Indonesian writer Pramoedya Ananta Toer, who died yesterday at age 81, came to be known as a chain-smoking curmudgeon and consistent critic of the corrupt legacies of the Suharto regime and western-style consumerism. But if anyone ever deserved the right to be the grumpy contrarian — a south-east Asian Günter Grass, the German author known for his pointed social criticism — then Pramoedya was it...' More

Did she borrow or did she steal?

'Kaavya's this girl with awesome grades and parents who were obsessed about her getting into Harvard. They even hired a college admissions consultant, which lots of parents do these days. This consultant reads some of Kaavya's writing, which happened to be about a girl whose parents want her to get into Harvard so badly that she never has any fun. The consultant sends it to a big agent, who sells it to a book packager, who makes a deal with a big publisher. The book is called 'How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life'. And Kaavya, just 17 at the time, got close to US$500,000 for a two-book contract. She also got a movie deal with DreamWorks. Oh, and she got into Harvard, too...' More / Book pulled off shelves

Saturday, April 29, 2006

How pizza became the American pie

'Almost every American food—from egg foo yung to empanadas — is covered in the phone book under the generic heading "Restaurants". Only pizza stands alone. Pizza, a Johnny-come-lately compared with such long-standing national favourites as the hamburger and hot dog, has secured a special place on the American table. Everybody likes pizza. Even those who claim to be immune to its charms must deign to have the occasional slice; a staggering 93 percent of Americans eat pizza at least once a month. According to one study, each man, woman, and child consumes an average of 23 pounds of pie every year.'

And we thought politics was all bullshit!

'I have lived through and suffered the worst abuse imaginable. Not many other politicians have weathered the beating that I have taken in such a short period of time. I have been the subject of speculation, innuendo and plain lies on a scale unseen by most politicians in their entire careers. So, although I have no pearls to offer, my lack of wisdom is compensated by some pointers that I have earned the right to give to aspiring politicians. Politics is not about power, position or personal wealth. Politics is a process in which we can make a difference to others. Politics is that fire in your belly that makes you want to change the world...' More

Diabolus in Musica.: The Devil's music

'On the surface there might appear to be no link between Black Sabbath, Wagner's Gotterdammerung, West Side Story and the theme tune to the Simpsons. But all of them rely heavily on tritones, a musical interval that spans three whole tones, like the diminished fifth or augmented fourth. This interval, the gap between two notes played in succession or simultaneously, was branded Diabolus in Musica or the Devil's Interval by medieval musicians... More

Hammer & tickle: The comedy of communism

'Communism is the only political system to have created its own international brand of comedy. The standard interpretation is that communist jokes were a form of resistance. But they were also a safety valve for the regimes and jokes were told by the rulers as well as the ruled — even Stalin told some good ones...' More

Bruce Lee is a hero in Bosnia

'It may seem odd that a city trying to overcome its reputation for violence would choose as a symbol a man famous for artfully snapping vertebrae. But violence is relative, nowhere more so than Bosnia. Lee never used a weapon designed after the Han dynasty. His preference, famously, was the nunchaku, a weapon of wood and rope with origins in the tools of Asian subsistence agriculture. Nobody ever massacred a village with nunchucks...' More

Friday, April 28, 2006

The million-dollar news babe

'Katie Couric was appointed by CBS as the first solo female anchor of a network evening news show in the USA... Couric, who will earn in the region of £8.5m per year, is an astounding and, to the British, largely incomprehensible confection... (a) tough chick with the face of America’s sweetheart and a plausible, caring manner makes a lot of money in television... (But) Couric is not some breakfast-show bimbette, but the best television journalist in the world...' More

MGG Pillai RIP

Sledgehammer journalist MGG Pillai, one of the first freelancers to take to Cyberspace to rant on politics and other controversial issues, died this morning at Universiti Hospital due to heart complications. He was 67. A battle-hardened veteran (he covered the Vietnam War), Pillai wielded a highly provocative, fearless and entertaining loose-cannon style to attack the clowns running the Malaysian government, as well as their rapacious cronies and fatuous minions, on his Web site ( His sensational tales of machinations in the corridors of power will be sorely missed. More / Farewell, MGG / Tributes

Vivaldi: The Four Seasons

Thursday, April 27, 2006

'Banana-jawed' mammal linked to sound skill

'Paleontologists at the Duke Lemur Center have assembled a new picture of a 35-million-year-old fossil mammal — and they even have added a hint of sound. By painstakingly measuring hundreds of specimens of a fossil mammal called Thyrohyrax, recovered from the famous fossil beds of Egypt's Fayum Province, the researchers determined that males of this now-extinct species — and only males — had oversized, swollen lower jaws shaped much like a banana... More

MIT chemist cracks secret of Nature's cures

'MIT scientists have just learned another lesson from nature. After years of wondering how organisms managed to create self-medications, such as anti-fungal agents, chemists have discovered the simple secret. Scientists already knew that a particular enzyme was able to coax a reaction out of stubborn chemical concoctions to generate a large family of medically valuable compounds called halogenated natural products. The question was, how do they do it?...' More

Seagate's new 750G drive whirrs to the top

'Seagate's Barracuda 7200.10 750GB drive, the largest hard drive to date, sets new high-water marks for capacity, price, and performance. Its speed was especially notable on the PC World Test Center's write tests, where it came within a hair's breadth of matching Western Digital's swift 10,000-rpm Raptor X...' More / Expanding universe of drive capacity

Wednesday, April 26, 2006

Happy sweet sixteen, Hubble Space Telescope!

'To celebrate the NASA-ESA Hubble Space Telescope’s 16 years of success, the two space agencies are releasing a mosaic image of the magnificent starburst galaxy, Messier 82 (M82). It is the sharpest wide-angle view ever obtained of M82, a galaxy remarkable for its webs of shredded clouds and flame-like plumes of glowing hydrogen blasting out from its central regions...' More

Malaysia considers Islam in space

'Malaysia is due to send an astronaut into space with the Russians next year. The country's first spaceman is almost certain to be a Muslim, which raises a number of practical issues. For instance, Muslims wash before they pray but not only is water a precious commodity in space, but it is also impractical in weightlessness...' More

Tuesday, April 25, 2006

Why Mailer still matters

'"If the world is destroyed in the course of this century, I think it will be because of religious wars," says Norman Mailer... He goes on to sketch "the absolute waste of huge spiritual imbroglios between different nations..." More

The Harvard girl who stole for her novel

'A Harvard University sophomore with a highly publicized first novel acknowledged Monday that she had borrowed material, accidentally, from another author's work and promised to change her book for future editions. Kaavya Viswanathan's "How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life," published in March by Little, Brown and Company, was the first of a two-book deal reportedly worth six figures. But on Sunday, the Harvard Crimson cited seven passages in Viswanathan's book that closely resemble the style and language of the novels of Megan McCafferty...' More