Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Freedom's Just Another Word

The right to freely opine on the web is becoming more difficult by the day. Whereas in America people may stir up controversy over some remaks they make, there is no specific law that can silence their sentiments. As long as the writer remains courteous and follows the basic rules of Net Etiquette, he/she may continue opining widely and freely.

Not so in the world's largest Democracy, which now seeks to rule on the issue of what and how much Indian Bloggers may say. There is now a growing fear that a 19-year-old Kerala blogger is in danger of not just losing in the criminal case filed against him, but also losing his life.

[q url=""]Petitioner Ajith D had started a community on Orkut against Shiv Sena. In this community, there were several posts and discussions by anonymous persons who alleged that Shiv Sena was trying to divide the country on region and caste basis. Reacting to these posts, the Shiv Sena youth wing's state secretary registered a criminal complaint at Thane police station in August 2008 based on which FIR was registered against Ajith under Sections 506 and 295A pertaining to hurting public sentiment. [/q]

The Shiv Sena at its very basic is a controversial Hindu Nationalist Group that claims to be in favor of the common man's rights to a better society....with them at the helm. Although they seem to have the support of the Mumbai slumdwellers and the Dalits (who have nowhere to turn to for the most part) the general consensus is that the Shiv Sena need to be disbanded for their antiquated, overly-moralistic views. Like this:
Look at our country. Our laws. Our rules. A whole long list of don'ts meant only for Hindus. And who are the ones who are empowered? The Mussalmans. How long are we to tolerate this? How long are we to stand by and watch these antics in the name of religion? How long will those in power fool us? How long can we pretend not to see what goes on in the name of concession to the so-called minorities?... Let us have a little laugh over our peculiar brand of secularism. The microphones blare at us spreading the word of Allah a good five times a day. But no Hindu can dare to play cymbals or beat the prayer drums while he passes the house of Allah.
~ from

Check out the Solution to the Christian and Muslim Problem

I do not claim to know any more about the Shiv Sena than I did 10 years ago and I do not wish to know any more about them after this case is settled. Just a day after I mentioned Francois Matthys who was robbed of his Freedom and his health and his sanity in a Mumbai jail on trumped-up charges, along comes the explosive Times of India article called 'Bloggers Can Be Nailed For Views'

Read the outraged Indian Bloggers' comments !

Sam : A Koala Love Story

Sometimes I have to shut up and let the pictures
do the talking

The White House Honors Stevie Wonder Tonight

A Special Honor Library of Congress Award event chockful of moments surrounding the living legend and his contributions to the NAACP, Human Rights Organizations and the Music world. Tomorrow, PBS will air the concert as the latest episode of its "Performance at the White House" series, says the AP.

Wonder performed for Obama at the Democratic National Convention and at a concert during inauguration week. The AP says Obama used Wonder's classics "Signed, Sealed, Delivered I'm Yours" and "Higher Ground" as theme songs on the campaign trail

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Mumbai Frees Gaëtan Vandelanotte

Updated June 3 '09 : Video added at bottom of this piece
Intolerance is itself a form of violence and an obstacle to the growth
of a true democratic spirit.

~ Mohandas Gandhi

Feb. 19th 2009 is a day that Gaëtan Vandelanotte a.k.a
Francois Matthys, will forever cherish. An internationally respected
Belgian photographer who has shot campaigns for Blackberry, Elle,
Cosmopolitan, Marie Claire and more, Gaëtan was exonerated
on that day after being held for 13 months in a Mumbai jail after charges
of being a Paedophile were dropped.

In December 2007, Gaetan was introduced to two aspiring
(male, adult)
models for a portfolio shoot:

“Let’s shoot something different they insisted. This is when I
thought let’s do some artistic nudes. I had enough friends in the
industry (or so I thought then, for this ‘friend circle’ certainly
shrunk considerably after I was arrested) who were very cool
about doing nudes. There is a whole school of nude art, a genre
in which nudity and pornography are two separate things.

I thought I was subscribing to the former," says Gaëtan.
Thanks to the overzealous Police officers making the arrest,
insurmountable Red Tape and the old-school moralistic attitudes
that have survived for centuries in India, Gaëtan had one of the
most unimaginable jail stays possible for a person awaiting
a fair trial in the world's largest Democracy.

"I was sharing a room of about 300 square metres, with 200 odd
Every man literally had only the floor area on which
he lay down. There are
only three holes for your ablutions and a
tiny tap to wash yourself.
Food is dumped inside the room which
attracted cockroaches and rats.
I developed some serious skin
and stomach infections and was in JJ Hospital
for almost a month..."

~ The Mumbai Mirror

I am bothered not only by the antiquated and awful prison standards
and conditions,
but also by the whole situation surrounding the arrest.
Something keeps telling me
that a person, possibly jealous of the two
aspiring models went to some crooked cops
and tried to get Gaetan
well-heeled socialite to put out some hush money
( common practice for the corrupt lawmen ) in order to squelch
Pedophile incident, which as it tuns out could never be proved, short
of the cops
grabbing a camera and forcing said accused into lewd

Although this all sounds rather
speculative on my part, straight out of
a Nancy Grace show, I have heard
and seen stranger things during
my 25 years in India. Like the time my schoolmate and
close friend,
an Afghan exile Prince, missed only a week of classes because his
was beheaded with an axe by an Afghani hitman. Or the annual
ritual bloodshed,
beatings and piercings that took place in my old
neighborhood, and still do.

As a Straight, single Male with an eye on the state of things in India, the
country of my birth,
I wanted to share this fascinating story from the
Mumbai Mirror
, written with great passion by Vishwas Kulkarni.

Gaëtan's world-acclaimed photography may be seen on Picasa web

and Model Mayhem


Francois is on Facebook !

Pune Film Student Makes It to Hollywood

The sweeps of the Oscars in eight categories has not
only India but the rest of the world abuzz as well.
Just like something out of a Bollywood flick, the ingredients
were a wild mashup of British-Indian elements, all
validated by the casting of inexperienced, real-life slumkids
from Mumbai's slums.

Personally, I was taken by the news of my hometown hero.
one-time resident-student, Resul Pookutty picked
up an Oscar for his part in the sound mixing success of "Slumdog."
This young Keralite has a real-life rags-to-riches story, having
grown up in a small village without electricity and studying
by the light of a Kerosene lamp.

"This is unbelievable. We can't believe this," said the graduate
of the (Pune) Film and Television Institute of India,
praising the work of his "magician" colleagues Ian Tapp and
Richard Pryke.

"They created the very ordinary sounds of Bombay, the
cacophony of Bombay, into a soul-stirring, artful resonance
called 'Slumdog Millionaire,'" he said. "I come from a country
and a civilization given the universal word. That word is
preceded by silence, followed by more silence. That word is 'Om.'
So I dedicate this award to my country. "Thank you, Academy,
this is not just a sound award, this is history being handed
over to me."

Read about Resul and his Dad's failed wishes for him to become
a Doctor on

Some other Oscar news from the 'net:
Sanjay Jha reports from Delhi for,
commenting on an article from ZeeTV

Kaushik from West Bengal has the Red Carpet news,
also at

Saturday, February 21, 2009

Mardi Gras 2009: A Big Bum Trip

From Goa, India to Thessaloniki, Greece, from Berlin, Germany to
New Orleans, Louisiana,....millions of folks the world over have been
waiting all year for this Mardi Gras weekend. This is the time anything
goes, and usually does . The lines of common decency are
aside to make way for the ultimate dance and float competition
in the ultimate
party town, Rio De Janeiro.

Yes, in spite of all
the stories of poverty in the shantytowns, the child
prostitution, drug trafficking and extreme street violence, the Rio scene
remains the funkiest on the planet.

Almost as a response to the problems mentioned above, here they
live these nights as if there's
no tomorrow. Which well might be,
given the non-stop crush of human bodies against
each other,
swaying and intoxicated, entranced by the hypnotic, incessant
throbbing of a thousand
drums. But it's not all magic that makes this
happen. Behind the wild party scenes
are many stories of hopes,
tears, frustration, dreams and manipulation by the promoters.

*From Yahoo News :
' Chosen for their looks, Samba skills and charisma, the
job of a
drum queen is to dance non-stop in front of
hundreds of drummers, wearing little more than a minuscule
costume, a feathered headdress and high heels.
Traditionally the most beautiful woman in a community,
hese days most queens are actresses or models chosen
by Samba schools to get maximum publicity in the run-up
to the three-day Carnival....'

Raissa de Oliveros, one Samba School Queen
who's been reigning since she was 17, which makes her
a five-year veteran now on the brink of elimination.

toughest competition is a funky Diva
nicknamed Valesca "Big Bum" Santos,

a vocalist, dancer, Playboy model and 2009's
Mardi Gras Bum to Watch. See the Flickr collection
of pics that are totally unlike any other !

Friday, February 20, 2009

Going Ape Over a Cartoon

A woman was mauled by a chimp in Stamford, Conn., and a Police officer shot the chimp dead.

How do you use that image to comment on the controversial Stimulus Bill passed by Obama ?

Well, if you're Sean Delonas of The New York Post simply caption the shooting of the chimp in this way:
"They'll have to find someone else to write the next stimulus bill"

Then you sit back and let others field the outrage of Civil Rights activist Al Sharpton, who called the cartoon "troubling at best given the historic racist attacks of African-Americans as being synonymous with monkeys." Over a thousand readers of The Huffington Post voiced their disapproval, to which columnist Sam Stein responded:

"At its most benign, the cartoon suggests that the stimulus bill was so bad, monkeys may as well have written it. Others believe it compares the president to a rabid chimp. Either way, the incorporation of violence and (on a darker level) race into politics is bound to be controversial. Perhaps that's what Delonas wanted. "

So what's all the huffing about ? Would you call this an offensive cartoon, or do you believe artist Delonas was merely exercising his rights to Free Speech ? His website has apparently been shut down due to overload as of this posting.

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Sunday, February 15, 2009

Australian Artist's Heartbreak After Bushfires

A brilliant South American-born sculptor Bruno Torfs
spent 25 years stocking Bruno's Art & Sculpture Garden
in Marysville, Victoria in SW Australia.
Well over 100 of his works were on display in the rain forest.

Flickr user Ben Roberts is an Australian by birth but now
lives in the USA, and has never lost touch with his Aussie roots.
His father was one of the volunteer firefighters in Marysville,
one of the devastated areas.

On February 7, 2009 a massive bushfire destroyed the town
of Marysville, Victoria, in which Bruno's Sculpture Garden is
located. It is highly likely that Bruno's gallery and the garden
itself have also been completely destroyed.

Here's a Flash slideshow if you have a robust Broadband
connection or visit Ben Roberts' Flickr set with thumbnails.

Many thanks to my friend Dan Cowan in Perth who led me
to this story via an email.

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Beneficial Bovine Beverage

If you live in India then Urine for a delicious new drink.
Or maybe not.

You may be alternately intrigued, amused and disgusted to
know that the historical and highly controversial organization
Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS)
, or National
Volunteer Corps
, known for its opposition to "corrupting "
Western food imports, is planning to launch a new soft drink
made from cow's Urine, often seen as sacred in parts of India.

The bovine beverage is undergoing laboratory tests for the
next 2 to 3 months but no specific date for its commercial
release has been announced.

Om Prakash
, the head of
India's RSS Cow Protection Dept.
recently told Reuters by phone, "Cow urine offers a cure for
around 70 to 80 incurable diseases like Diabetes. All are curable
by cow urine

The flavor is not yet known, but the RSS said the liquid produced
by Hinduism's revered holy cows is being mixed with products
such as aloe vera and gooseberry to fight diseases such as
Diabetes and Cancer.

Read the Full Story on

More coverage at The Herald Sun Australia

Urine luck F U want to see more like this, - go here !

Thursday, February 12, 2009

Are You Going to Finish Strong - Video

This is 2:40 mins. of totally inspirational, humorous and eye-opening performance.

It certainly moved me, and I'm as jaded as they come ;-)

'The first-born child in his devout Serbian Christian family, Nick Vujicic was born in Melbourne, Australia with the rare Tetra-amelia disorder: limbless, missing both arms at shoulder level, and having one small foot with two toes protruding from his left thigh. Initially, his parents were devastated. Vujicic was otherwise healthy.' -Wikipedia

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Trail of the Pink Panties

At least 200 attendees are participating at last count (India Time Zone) and that's at least 200 Pink Panties rounded up, packaged, handled and mailed out to Sri Ram Sena, the organization responsible for the recent attack on Bar Girls. This may sound like fun to many, but realize there are many young non-Sri Ram Sena who oppose the support being shown to the Bar Girls. These folks have joined the Facebook Consortium (registration mandatory) with the sole purpose of 'fighting back' via hateful and downright filthy comments. Valentine's Day promises to be a highly charged moment for the parties concerned and I'm hoping the authorities have the appropriate resources. Stay tuned and in the meantime here's a bit of coverage from MSNBC

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Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Flickr Group : Wildlife Victoria

Sadly, at least two wildlife shelters have been lost and attempts to save thousands of animals are
in progress by the already overwhelmed Wildlife Victoria organization.

The current fire situation has left its devestation on our wildlife including the loss of at least two wildlife shelters to the fires.  Wildlife Victoria are trying to assertain the safety of other shelters in the fire areas and to offer support and help with evacuation of animals already in their care if they need it.  Donations desperately needed to help save the animals, to donate to the bush fire appeal click here.

Please donate now to Wildlife Victoria's Urgent Bushfire Appeal 2009 - click here.

About Wildlife Victoria

Wildlife Victoria is a state-wide wildlife rescue service for native wildlife. Wildlife Victoria is completely voluntary based and also works towards supporting the people who rehabilitate sick, injured and orphaned wildlife.
The photos on this site are uploaded by members of Wildlife Victoria.

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Monday, February 09, 2009

Abducted engineer beheaded in Pakistan

It has been a few years since the beheading of CNN's Daniel Pearl
but I am always reminded of his tragedy since he spent some time
based in my home town of Pune, India with his pregnant wife Marianne.
Some of you may have seen 'The Journalist and the Jehadi'
the documentary narrated by Christiane Amanpour and the
Angelina Jolie film it spawned called 'A Mighty Heart'
(filmed in Pune, BTW)

Daniel Pearl, a dedicated investigative reporter willingly walked into
the face of death while trying to unravel the mystery of the 9/11 attacks.
Not so Polish engineer Piotr Stanczak who worked for the Geofizyka
oil and gas exploration company. He was apparently used as barter
for the release of Taliban militant hostages.

Story at

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Monday, February 02, 2009

King of the USA in the Works

March 20 2011 :two years later I am checking back for anything worth
remembering in this post......and I find it amusing that the 'King of the USA'
who wanted to be the 'King of Kings' is now a marked man.

"In principle, we said the ultimate is the United States
of Africa. How we proceed to that ultimate, there are
building blocks
- Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete, speaking to the
BBC regarding the proposed transformation of the
into the

Well, I have a piece full of uneasy feelings about this one....,

 The BBC website is reporting that
Moammar Gadaffi has been elected as the next
African Union leader:

"The chairmanship of the African Union is a rotating
position held by heads of state for one year.
The BBC's Elizabeth Blunt in Addis Ababa says it
was the turn of North Africa to lead the bloc, and
Col Gaddafi was seen as the obvious choice.
However, some African leaders believe the Libyan
leader is too erratic to be AU chairman. Before he
arrived at the summit, he circulated a letter saying
he was coming as the king of the traditional kings
of Africa and he wanted to be seated as the king
of kings,our correspondent says"

Full BBC article on the current AU summit here
Profile of Gaddafi from the BBC here