Saturday, December 31, 2005

Skull & Bones


Monday, December 26, 2005

Old Jungle Saying

You cannot reason with an ignorant man.

Sunday, December 25, 2005


Saturday, December 24, 2005


Tuesday, December 20, 2005


Word Origins


When a Malay runs amok he seizes his kris and dashes forth to hack at anyone he encounters. It is said that to get in the mood he sometimes first binds his testicles with agonizing tightness.


From the Arabic amir-al-bahr, "lord (or king) of the sea." The d may have crept in by association with "admire."


Greek for "folded twice." A diplomat dealt in matters so secret that the documents required this special precaution.


From the Russian bweestra, "quickly!" It was a favorite command of Russian soldiers in Paris cafes after the fall of Napoleon.


Men's hair gathered at the back of the head was once said to be "clubbed," because its shape suggested a cudgel.

Habitual patrons of a coffeehouse sometimes banded together to buy the establishment when its old owner died, then installing a new manager and giving it his name: White's Club, Brooks's Club, or whatever. The term club was used for this arrangement by analogy to the many strands being brought together in a man's clubbed hair.


Nur in Semitic languages means "light." Hebrew menorah thus means a "holder of light" or "candelabrum," and Arabic manarah means "lighthouse." The Turks used that word for the slender tower next to a mosque, which they felt had features in common with a lighthouse.

The Birds


Q: What is bird flu?

Like humans and other species, birds are susceptible to flu. There are 15 types of bird, or avian, flu. The most contagious strains, which are usually fatal in birds, are H5 and H7. The type currently causing concern is the deadly strain H5N1. Even within the H5N1 type, variations are seen, and slightly different forms are being seen in the different countries affected in this outbreak. Migratory wildfowl, notably wild ducks, are natural carriers of the viruses, but are unlikely to actually develop an infection. Domestic birds are particularly susceptible in epidemics. This is why the confirmation of H5N1 in birds in Turkey and Romania is causing concern. Pakistan has seen cases of the H7 and H9 strains of bird flu in poultry, but no cases of these strains have been passed to humans.

Q: Is it possible to stop bird flu coming into a country?

The fear, after the Turkish and Romanian findings, is that H5N1 will spread across Europe. Because it is carried by birds, there is no way of preventing its spread. But that does not mean it will be passed to domestic flocks. Experts say proper poultry controls - such as preventing wild birds getting in to poultry houses - which are present in the UK, should prevent that happening. In addition, they say monitoring of the migratory patterns of wild birds should provide early alerts of the arrival of infected flocks - meaning they could be targeted on arrival.

Q: How do humans catch bird flu?

Bird flu was thought only to infect birds until the first human cases were seen in Hong Kong in 1997. Humans catch the disease through close contact with live infected birds. Birds excrete the virus in their faeces, which dry and become pulverised, and are then inhaled. Symptoms are similar to other types of flu - fever, malaise, sore throats and coughs. People can also develop conjunctivitis. Researchers are now concerned because scientists studying a case in Vietnam found the virus can affect all parts of the body, not just the lungs. This could mean that many illnesses, and even deaths, thought to have been caused by something else, may have been due to the bird flu virus.

Broadway Boogey Woogey

Me And Myself

Recommended Artist - Jay Sean

When a debut album has nearly a dozen and a half tracks, you know the folks behind it are feeling confident. In this case, Jay Sean and producer Rishi Rich are justified. Me Against Myself is of major league significance.

Sean grew up in a middle-class Sikh family and devoted his teens to punk rap. Disillusioned, he dropped out and went to med school but was eventually seduced back into making music. The single "Eyes On You" is a solid slice of R&B and its recent chart success is deserved. But, in the context of this album, it's a conservative release that one assumes is intended to build a broad fan base.

The title track "Me Against Myself" is the one to watch out for if EMI find the courage to release it. With honesty and self-awareness -­ more The Streets than Craig David - Sean's singer and rapper personae go into battle. Both bruising and amusing, it's a marker that tells you precisely where he's at. The next chapter in this odyssey is a tantalising prospect that is potentially way off the radar screen.

With influences that enter from all angles, any Asian tag totally misses the point. This is an album by gifted people with a vision beyond boundaries and a simple devotion to music. Sean, for sure, is still finding himself and enjoying all sides of the urban scene. The next step will take the courage of real convictions, but there's a glittering prize up for grabs.

Can, Sir?

Cancer Incidence Advisory

Monday, December 19, 2005


Film Review - "Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud"

Recommended Film - Nelly et Monsieur Arnaud
Director - Claude Sautet

Superficially a tale of unrequited love, Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud evolves into an altogether more satisfying treatise on emotional interdependencies. Nelly (Emmanuelle Béart) holds down a multitude of positions, ranging from serving in a bakery to temping at a reprographics firm, in order to keep her marriage with Jerôme (Charles Berling) together. For over a year he's been unemployed and disillusioned, most days barely managing to crawl from the bedroom to the lounge. Meeting her mother for lunch one afternoon, Nelly is introduced to Monsieur Arnaud (Michel Serrault). A charming, retired businessman Arnaud is an old friend of her mother and a fine confidant. Nelly finds herself unloading her worries and financial difficulties onto Monsieur Arnaud, at which point he makes the quite unexpected offer of negating her debts. Taken aback and reasonably suspicious, Nelly refuses and thanks him for his kindness. However, when Nelly later tells Jerôme that she accepted his proposal, her husband's muted reaction is enough to make her leave him.

The next day Nelly actually picks up on Monsieur Arnaud's gift (which is supposed to have no strings attached) and learns that he's looking for a conscientious secretary. Although he's a successful businessman Monsieur Arnaud is writing memoirs on his former life as a judge in the French colonies, but he's terrible with a word processor. Nelly soon finds her feet with a sub-let studio and takes on the task of pummelling Monsieur Arnaud's scrappy notes into presentable form. He's always extremely kind and attentive to Nelly's well-being, keen to offer money, advice and a shoulder to lean on. However, she's quite content with her new found freedom, happy to work with Monsieur Arnaud and chat pleasantly but concerned to keep her distance. In the course of typing up the manuscript Nelly visits the publishers, where she meets Vincent (Jean-Hughes Anglade). His infatuation is obvious when he immediately invites her to dinner.

Eventually Nelly gives in and allows herself to be wined and dined by the charming Vincent, although there's no chance of them spending the night together (she's still married after all). Interestingly Monsieur Arnaud receives word of their meetings and becomes jealous, based on nothing more substantial than his misplaced lust and fear of mortality. When he accuses her of sleeping with Vincent (which is none of his business) Nelly replies in the affirmative, then goes away and does so. She can be quite contrary when the mood takes her, such as when people make unwarranted assumptions. At about the same time her mother phones to relay the news that Jerôme is in hospital, after a possible drug overdose. When Nelly visits she finds that her departure was just what Jerôme needed, since he's now got a new job and girlfriend. Feeling somewhat redundant, Nelly departs to make sense of her own future.

Although Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud seems, at first glance, to be a story of two people it is, in fact, only that of Nelly. Monsieur Arnaud is an important figure because he provides the catalyst for change; without his intervention Nelly would probably still be looking after Jerôme. However, he is merely another person affected by Nelly in her unique manner (where each feels that there is something that she can give them, that they require). Jerôme needs her for existence, Monsieur Arnaud needs her to energise his life, Vincent needs her total commitment and so on. Somehow Nelly is above this, realising the situation and dealing with it in a way which suits her (never condescendingly though). Béart gives a fine performance, full of half-looks and subtle nuances; she really is an individual worth knowing (not just for her elegant looks). Serrault also finely modulates his character, drawing on a lifetime of experience, whilst the remainder of the cast acquit themselves adequately. A strangely hopeful experience, Nelly & Monsieur Arnaud remains an exquisite character study.

Tuesday, December 13, 2005


Reasonable Bling

Recommended Artist - Corneille
Genre - HipHop/R&B

Corneille’s career started in 1993. At the time he was part of a Rwandan R&B group and he got into writing lyrics and composing music. The group recorded a demo and went on to win the "Découverte 1993" talent-spotting contest on Rwandan television. The war and its internecine dramas took its toll on the group, his family and a good number of his friends. Finding himself alone in a crippled country, he sought asylum in Germany. In Europe, he had several opportunities to perform solo on the local scene. In July 97, he left Germany to carry on with his studies in communication at Concordia University in Montreal. A few months after his arrival, he met up with Gage Pierre and Gardy Martin who were to become co-members of the R&B group O.N.E. The group soon carved out a reputation for its telling harmonies and their on-stage charisma, especially Corneille, thanks to his leadership and his talent for lyrics and musical composition (as author of Zoukin, which topped the BDS French Canadian Airplay charts for several weeks). This airplay success led to their playing support group for Isabelle Boulay (Théâtre St-Denis in Montreal) and Kelis (Club Soda in Montreal).

In January 2001, Corneille left the group to concentrate on his solo career. He refocused his writing on his war experience but also on sincerely expressed romantic feelings. Corneille is a touching singer whose strength lies in the softness and depth of his lyrics, and the intensity of his compositions and voice. In 2002, he took part in several projects: the number Ce Soir (Tonight) for the compilation Cocktail (Ghetto R&B/Sony Music), he also wrote the track Si on s'aimait (How About Loving Each Other) featuring Passy, D.Mory, Kamel, Snipper, Nadya, Cheraz, EJM, Nathalie Loriot to name but a few, for the artists against violence movement "Hip Hop Folies" (Sony Music).

On stage, in July 2002, he grabbed attention as part of an unplugged formation at the FrancoFolies in La Rochelle as support for Burning Spear. He moved straight on to a brilliant showcase at the Réservoir in Paris, a venue that he came back to in October 2002, invited by Dave Stewart for the launch of his new label D.U.P, where he featured with living legend Jimmy Cliff.

Corneille’s first album is called Parce qu'on Vient de Loin (Because We Come From Afar). This album was written, arranged and co-produced by Corneille. Personal Favorites from this album: Parce qu'on Vient de Loin, Toi, Seul Au Monde, Sans Rancune. Needless to say, this is not music you'll hear on the radio if you're not in France or Quebec.


Affairs Of State

Chops Populi

Victor Biaka-Boda, who represented the Ivory Coast in the French Senate, set off on a tour of the hinterlands in January 1950 to let the people know where he stood on the issues, and to understand their concerns - one of which was apparently the food supply. His constituents ate him.

[His colleagues, according to an account in Time magazine in July 1951, remembered Biaka-Boda, a former witch doctor, as a "small, thin, worried-looking man."]


American Ambassador Joseph Hodges Choate was leaving an official reception in London, dressed in plain black, America having no diplomatic uniform. Another ambassador, mistaking him for a servant, briskly commanded, "Call me a cab!"

Choate gazed at him a moment, and then replied genially, "You're a cab, sir."

[Choate, according to his family, later told the enraged diplomat, "If you'd been better looking, I would have called you a hansom cab."]

A Diplomatic Reception

The first European ever seen in Sikkim was Deputy Commissioner Campbell of Darjeeling. He toiled his way up in the time of the great-grandfather of the present Chogyal.

Campbell's materialization in the audience room dismayed His Highness.

CHOGYAL [to his vizier, the only English-speaking courtier]: Who are these extraordinary creatures with red faces and hair growing out of their cheeks? They look like monkeys!

VIZIER [blandly, bowing to Deputy Commissioner Campbell]: His Highness bids you welcome. He expresses the hope that your journey was not unduly arduous.

Eating Democrats

Alferd Packer ate five prospectors whom he was guiding over a high Colorado plateau in 1874.

The judge who sentenced Packer to hang indignantly pointed out that "There was only six Democrats in all of Hinsdale County and you ate five of them."

[The Department of Agriculture startled the official community by dedicating the cafeteria in its Washington building to Alferd Packer in 1977. The General Services Administration then removed the dedicatory plaque, accusing the Department of Agriculture of "bad taste."]

Hot Seat

When the electric chair first became popular, shortly before the turn of the century, Emperor Menelik II of Ethiopia, hearing of this marvel, ordered it from America. Alas, it didn't work.

No one had told the emperor that for best results one needed electricity. Ethiopia had none.

The Abyssinian underworld relaxed. Menelik ordered the chair fitted up as a throne, which he put into regular service.

Monday, December 12, 2005



Oil Producers, Exporters, Consumers, Importers [millions of barrels/day]

1. S. Arabia10.37 1. S. Arabia8.73 1. USA
20.5 1. USA
2. Russia9.27 2. Russia6.67 2. China6.5 2. Japan5.3
3. USA
8.69 3. Norway2.91 3. Japan5.4 3. China2.9
4. Iran4.09 4. Iran2.55 4. Germany2.6 4. Germany2.5
5. Mexico3.83 5. Venezuela2.36 5. Russia2.6 5. S. Korea2.1
6. China3.62 6. UAE
2.33 6. India2.3 6. France2.0
7. Norway3.18 7. Kuwait2.20 7. Canada2.3 7. Italy1.7
8. Canada3.14 8. Nigeria2.19 8. Brazil2.2 8. Spain1.6
9. Venezuela2.86 9. Mexico1.80 9. S. Korea2.1 9. India1.5
10. UAE
2.7610. Algeria1.6810. France2.010. Taiwan1.0
11. Kuwait2.5111. Iraq1.4811. Mexico2.0

12. Nigeria2.5112. Libya1.34

13. UK
2.0813. Kazakh.1.06

14. Iraq2.0314. Qatar1.02

NOTE: OPEC members in italics.
Source: Energy Information Administration (EIA/USGOV)

“If we can’t sell our inventory, we are through.”
—Robert Gross, president, Lockheed Aircraft Corporation; December 31, 1946

Worlds Largest Defence Contractors

Lockheed Martin [USA]
Raytheon Systems [USA]
Boeing [USA]
Northrup Grumman [USA]
General Dynamics [USA]
British Aerospace Systems [USA/UK]
European Aerospace & Defence Corporation [Franco-German]
Thales [French]

Worlds Largest Corporations

Company Country Revs Net Inc Assets Mkt Val

1 Citigroup

2 General Electric
125,913 14,128 495,023 309,306
3 American Intl Group
62,402 5,499 492,982 174,986
4 ExxonMobil
Oil & Gas
187,510 15,105 143,174 270,805
5 Bank of America
53,116 6,792 621,764 117,090
6 BP
Oil & Gas
174,218 8,010 141,158 191,054
47,710 5,406 695,147 116,711
8 Fannie Mae
50,803 6,067 799,791 79,690
8 Royal Dutch/Shell
Oil & Gas
135,211 10,852 111,543 192,256*
10 Ing Group
82,983 4,096 620,120 52,609

Other Strategy Drivers:

1. Euro vs. Dollar
2. Caspian Oil

Saturday, December 10, 2005

Visual Beats

Music Review - Royksopp

Royksopp fits the Electronic/Trip-Hop genre best with their smooth, cool, richly layered, textured, scandinavian sounds. A recent gig review says......

"It's hard to contemplate getting blissed out on a dancefloor when that floor is a mire of gloopy mud so sticky you can barely lift your feet up... but if anyone can pull such a trick, Royksopp can. Even the skies cleared when they came on stage at 9pm, giving the mud-splattered crowd only their second glimpse of blue skies all day, before dusk fell.

The eccentric Norwegian duo had the crowd warmed up within minutes - with a set in which old favourites from Melody AM were interspersed with the more tune-based tracks from their latest album, The Understanding.

By mid set, their four-on-the-floor dancefloor hit Poor Leno had the ecstatic audience frenziedly bopping, and that was before one of the duo (Sven? Torbjorn? one or the other) announced they would 'take things up a notch'.

Royksopp's stage set was vaguely reminiscent of a kitsch West End show and what with the man carting his inflatable kangaroo through the crowd ('Make way for Skippy, make way for Skippy!') and somebody waving a plastic Father Christmas around on the end of a rod, the whole experience was pretty surreal.

You have to wonder what the boys who grew up in a small town inside the arctic circle made of the scene before them. But, surreal or not, what better an environment to experience one of the most sublime and groovy chill-out acts ever!"

Some personal favorites by Royksopp:

Only This Moment, Follow My Ruin, Remind Me, What Else Is There, Alpha Male, Poor Leno, So Easy, I Don't Know What I Can Save You From, Eple, Tristesse Globale, Clocks Remix, Someone Like Me, Dooh Dooh, Arctic Circle, She's So.........

Also, if you can get your hands on it, the music video for their "Remind Me" is excellent - a look at modern, spec'ed out, human experience.

Magical Feet

Friday, December 09, 2005