Jan 25, 2013


by tokumaru shūgo, stop-motion animation by kijek/adamski.

Jan 23, 2013

purna kumbh mela

with the powerlines and streetlike aspect, this looks like a desert village. in fact, it is a view of sector 8 of the purna kumbh mela site. located on a floodplain just outside the city of allahabad in uttar pradesh, until a few weeks ago the site lay under the waters of the ganga and yamuna rivers. kilometers of steelplate roadway, thousands of tents, hundreds of public toilets and utility poles, and many temporary bridges have been built since december to make the site habitable for the event's 55-day duration.

the mela continues through the end of february but we're headed back to cambridge, ma today, scoured clean of karmic debt by the chilly waters of the ganga. the mela site's floodplain infrastructure and population continues to grow as the main bathing days approach, something the many vendors and entrepreneurs are counting on. a temporary city accommodating between 2 and 10 million people at any given time is a place to learn (among other things) about how to design more adaptable cities and communities: a topic for deeper consideration.

nirmohi akhara

midday, on the triveni road, we met a sadhu who invited us to lunch at his akhara. under a tarpaulin stretched across branches, we were handed small leaf bowls filled with pieces of guava and papaya. a small group gradually assembled under the tarps to tell us that the international society for krishna consciousness is known to the nirmohi as the englishman's akhara, explain how a celibate sadhu can have a wife and children, and brandish ceremonial swords. it was bright outside the tent when we left with prasad in our hands.

Jan 21, 2013

universal need

the 37signals blog sometimes throws up real gems. this is a long promotional video for the polaroid SX-70 SLR folding camera, beautifully made by the eames office. in just 10 minutes, the video shows the range of use-cases (close-up to far-away, static and dynamic objects, tight and loose compositions), the immediacy of the photographic act, a detailed explanation of not only the camera mechanism (which includes a camera battery in every pack of film, essentially guaranteeing that the battery never runs out at a critical moment) but also the remarkable built-in 3-colour additive integral instant film system, and a crisp summary of the motivations behind designing the SX-70.

let's hope that it will become commonplace for much time and care to be spent conceiving and building things intended to be consumed slowly and with nuanced appreciation, things that, in use, help us make ourselves better people. this is true not only of the video but of the SX-70 itself, an object designed with the optimistic goal of bringing out the best in its user:

"the user is the final link: the device helps meet the universal need to do things well. it offers as a matter of course a tool for supplying a rich texture to memory. more than that, thoughtful use can help reveal meaning to the flood of images that makes up so much of human life. we hope the user will fully complete the chain, gaining as much fun, as much sense of self, and as clear participation in the stream of human creativity as did edwin land and the team who first made SX-70."

Jan 18, 2013

night lights

the kumbh mela is a recurring hindu pilgrimage featuring many lights, a complicated social ordering, and many tens of millions of people trying to bathe along the same few kilometres of riverbank. the mela forms in allahabad, in a giant temporary tent city built on the dry floodplain of the ganga and yamuna rivers at the triveni sangam, where the two rivers meet each other and the invisible saraswati river. a place to which many have ascribed mythic powers.

no trumpets

Jan 17, 2013


an early morning arrival on a heathrow-delhi flights offers serene vistas of the craggy, snow-covered peaks of the himalayas. indira gandhi international airport's international terminal has an arrival hall large enough to have its own weather system and, this morning, it was smoggy. a 45-minute drive through thick haze in a non-airconditioned taxi later, i fell into a deep and glutinous sleep to the sound of jackhammers in fort siri. waking with difficulty several hours later, i went out into the city hunting for food.

the day was cool and slightly humid and walking not a chore. at the end of the road, a sign in the gatepost of a stately stuccoed house read "NATURE MORTE."

many architectural features of south delhi remind me of singapore in the 1980s: packed sand yards with thinning crabgrass, balconies covered in many identical pots of mostly bougainvillea, unconvincing security guards dozing on stools under trees, the extensive use of crumbling, enamel-painted, coarse-sand cement.

i took a right turn into a gated and carefully tended colony, and stumbled onto, then into, the gulmohar clubhouse, where the smell of damp carpet and fry grease took me back many years. they let me have teacoffee even though i wasn't a member. i saw many great signs while the sun was still up:

i pursued a socket adaptor — a surprisingly elusive object — through a series of likely looking appliance and electronics shops, into the very depths of green park. except it turned out to be the rapidly gentrifying tourist trap of hauz khas. i realized my mistake when i walked by the fourth gourmet pizza shop and struck out again for green park market. by this time, the light had faded completely and the streets were illuminated only by the lamps of roadside stalls mounded with fresh fruit and vegetables. on the pavement in front of the green park main market strip, four vendors sold charcoal-roasted spicy sweet potatoes with raw starfruit. many friendly dogs that looked like horus got in the way of dabbawallas redistributing the last of their empty tiffins.

green park market ended abruptly and turned into a long stretch of pavement and no-pavement. then into the sudden noise and crumbliness of gautam nagar, where i saw more things i wanted to eat in a 30-meter stretch of sidewalk shopfront than i had in the last 6 kilometers: a narrow shopfront featuring one stool and a small table for guests but separate and dedicated tandoor and naan ovens, a chicken specialist (with butcher curled up smoking in the window), a coffeeshop with curry-to-order from a cook with a several thousand BTU burner far larger than his wok (a very good sign), a kebab stand with a large brazier of correctly glowing coals and a long line of waiting patrons, and a very large case of fly-free burfi.

in the dark, everyone wore scarves and hats. crossing the street was amusingly haphazard and best accomplished in a crowd. two men guided a battered bus full of india vocational college students back a hundred meters down a 3-lane highway so it could make the turn it had missed, then walked off separately. i felt anonymous and comfortably safe. sometimes, unpredictably, there was the penetrating and synthetic smell of saffron.

Jan 16, 2013


this quite remarkable performance by enra is certainly worth watching.

Jan 14, 2013


the same wine—a 2008 serine (thought to be a syrah relative) from nuclear physicist-turned-winemaker éric texier (brézème, domaine de pergaud vielle serine)—poured in the same quantity, from the same bottle, at the same time, into three different glasses. it did, in fact, have the best aroma in the syrah glass: tobacco, blackcurrant, warm red meat, clean and pure. damn you, claus riedel. the accompanying lamb shoulder didn't hurt.

Jan 6, 2013

cajun crawtator

this food item contains absolutely no shellfish.

Jan 2, 2013


on the way to DCA, we stopped at the hirshhorn (a pile of nested toruses inside a big cylinder, by the unfortunately named gordon bunshaft) to see a retrospective of ai weiwei's work. the collection was also rich in other nice things, including an unexpected abundance of sculptures by barbara hepworth and an easily (but unjustly) overlooked graphite wall drawing by sol lewitt. i always want kenneth snelson's pieces to be as beautiful as they are clever but so far no luck (a particularly large one is visible in the lower right corner of the second image).