Bach again…

Happy Birthday Johann Sebastian Bach (21 March 1685, O.S.31 March 1685, N.S. – 28 July 1750) – my favourite Baroque composer and whose music I’m particularly addicted to – especially the Goldberg variations and his Partita No. 2 in D Minor.

Here is a video of the timeless Aria from the Goldberg variations:

For more on the video click here.

The best renditions of Bach’s piano works are quite arguably those recorded by Glenn Gould. In this link, Glenn Gould plays the entire set of the Goldberg variations.

Bach’s Partita No.2  in D Minor for solo violin, widely named as ‘Bach’s chaconne’ was written by him possibly during 1717 – 1723, in memory of his wife Maria Barbara Bach. The second movement is considered a pinnacle of the solo violin repertoire as it covers every aspect of violin-playing known during Bach’s time and thus it is among the most difficult pieces to play for that instrument.

J.S. Bach’s chaconne for solo violin (click to enlarge)

My favourite modern-day rendition of this piece is of course by Hilary Hahn and the entire chaconne in two parts can be hear here:

But why is the chaconne considered one of the most beautiful and profound pieces ever composed? Is it because in a short span of 20 minutes it takes you through every possible human emotion, or because it is like the fine balance between Logic and Love, ecstasy and sorrow, fantasy and reality and combines all those extremes into a multidimensional paradox? I certainly am addicted to the piece. My father played the violin so I was exposed to it at an early age (not that he could play the chaconne), but even without this exposure, those who understand music will invariably feel the depth of the piece.

In October 2008 filmmaker Michael Lawrence released ‘The Bach Project’ featuring various distinguished musicians to discuss the effects and legacy of J.S. Bach’s music. In one scene of the documentary, musicians are scanned in an fMRI machine in an effort to study the neural basis of musical improvisation. The DVD is available here: (As usually happens in our world, people shell out $100-a-ticket to watch the antics of some vulgar “reality stars” (who have composed, invented, created and  explored absolutely nothing), but Michael Lawrence’s Bach Project has to ask for donations on its website because his documentary – which is about the works of a REAL genius artist, i.e. Mr. Bach, and features a group of jazz and classical musicians – has fewer takers in our world.) Here is a clip from the film explaining possible reasons for the Chaconne’s appeal:

And here is the link to one of my all time favourite books – Godel Escher Bach : An eternal golden braid. If you loved the movie ‘Inception’ you will like it, since this book was one of its inspirations.

Spring is just round the corner in New York city – nay – has officially begun today. A grey rainy morning has followed a gorgeous sunny weekend…..and through the dark clouds today, the routine and the prose of life, the uplifting music of Bach (especially the lovely short piano pieces) reminds one, once again, of the poetry, the peace, the joys of life’s simple little pleasures. more than 325 years since Bach was born, and his music still lives on, still inspires.

Now that’s what you call timeless.



Japan earthquake: The day the Earth’s rotation changed



As most of our planet knows by now, on 11 March, 2011, a massive 9.0 magnitude megahurst earthquake hit the Pacific coastline of Japan. The epicenter was 130 kilometers (81 mi) off the east coast of the Oshika Peninsula of Tōhoku near Sendai, with the hypocenter at a depth of 32 km (19.9 mi).

It is near-impossible to imagine the magnitude of a natural force SO destructive that a country like Japan, which has one of the finest infrastructures and engineering in the world, had parts of it demolished like a stack of cards or matchsticks against this unbelievable force. The tragedy was further followed by a massive tsunami and now radiation leakage due to the damaged nuclear power stations on the shorelines of the affected areas.

Anyone with a sense of human empathy can understand the indescribable tragedy that families affected by the quake must be suffering from, due to the loss of their loved ones and earthly possessions, and how frightened those who were caught in the devastation and could not escape must have felt in their final moments of life. Videos of the tsunami showed how people were literally running on foot and in vehicles to escape their deaths – scenes so horrific in their reality – that one thinks this is something they only see in disaster movies – and it seemed surreal that fellow humans were meeting their deaths under such tragic and horrific and REAL circumstances. (It is also alarming to realize that there are people in the world who even in the aftermath of such a massive catastrophe could not look beyond their own narcissistic little bubbles. This includes the mind-numbing idiotic youtube video poster against Asians by a certain UCLA girl, or those on sites like facebook who showed remarkable apathy and navel-gazing and continued to post about what they had eaten and drunk the very next days of the quake. Yes – for some people it seems even a change in the planet’s rotation cannot take them away from their self-centredness. Even more unbelievable is a certain Christian evangelist pastor who claimed, with some glee, that the quake was caused because the Japanese did not follow Jesus. I do not know whether such people are cretins or have some normal-empathy-connection missing in their brains.)

Anyway – to further understand the magnitude of this event – it is astounding to realize that the earth’s axis literally shifted on that day! My father was a geophysicist, before turning to management, and due to his talks since I was a little girl I’d developed an eager interest in geology and tectonic plates….but an earthquake so strong that even the earth’s rotation changed is hard to conceive! My heart goes out to what the people near Sendai must be going through right now. We, so far away, can only watch. Many architects who are members of Architecture for Humanity (an organization I’ve joined as well) are hoping to go out there and help rebuild whenever that starts. Architecture for Humanity (as well as Architects without Borders) have undertaken several projects in post-earthquake Haiti too, but the Japanese infrastructure and wealth of course is at much better shape than Haiti’s – though the devastation has caused a mind-boggling level of damage.

Geophysicist Kenneth Hudnut, who works for the U.S. Geological Survey, told CNN that the quake had moved part of Japan’s land mass by nearly 2.5 meters (roughly 8 feet). It also caused the earth’s axis to shift by 17 cm (6.5 inches), which will affect its rotation and shorten the days in the northern hemisphere, albeit minimally. As well, geophysicist Richard Gross at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Pasadena, California, reported that “By changing the distribution of the Earth’s mass, the Japanese earthquake should have caused the Earth to rotate a bit faster, shortening the length of the day by about 1.8 microseconds.” More refinements are possible as new information on the earthquake comes to light, he added.

This is not the first time that earthquakes have affected the earth’s rotation. The 8.8-magnitude earthquake in Chile in 2010 also sped up the planet’s rotation and shortened the day by 1.26 microseconds. The 9.1 Sumatra earthquake in 2004 shortened the day by 6.8 microseconds.

We only hope that though recovery is going to be an elephantine task, as time goes by, those affected in Japan are able to rebuild their lives in more ways than one.

For photographs of the quake-tsunami, a National Geographic collection here:

A Boston Globe photo collection here:

And evolution created Woman


On the 100th anniversary of International Women’s Day (March 8th) –  a list of all the past posts on this blog that featured women, womanly ways and/or womanhood as a theme. The good, the bad and the ugly of womanhood. Women who inspire your very soul, and women who irritate the heck out of you. The kind-hearted and the cold-hearted. And of course, what enchants me personally the most – the beauty (in and out) and the strength and serenity of those women who have real authentic goodness. (Click link to read post)

  1. Racqueting on a grass court
  2. Sex and the Starchitect
  3. And now for something completely different
  4. A heartfelt comment
  5. A ‘colorful’ message
  6. Anthem
  7. A whiff of IF
  8. Freedom at last ? (Aung San Suu Kyi)
  9. Sweatshops for your sex, and the city too
  10. There’s something about Clint
  11. Saltationism of Silliness
  12. Love in the time of February
  13. When words are unnecessary – 1 (Zaha Hadid)
  14. When words are unnecessary – 2 (Hilary Hahn)

“How wrong it is for a woman to expect the man to build the world she wants, rather than to create it herself.”. Anais Nin (1903 -1977)

“Beauty is how you feel inside, and it reflects in your eyes. It is not something physical.” – Sophia Loren. (You’re right madam Sophia…albeit those breathtaking curves of yours and Monica Bellucci help ;)

Random Acts of Planet Earth




(Earth Resources Observation and Science)


Best viewed full screen with the volume up 

Today, March 1st, is widely believed to be the birthday of Frederic Chopin. According to Wikipedia:

“Fryderyk Franciszek Chopin, in French Frédéric François Chopin[1] (22 February or 1 March 1810)[2] – 17 October 1849) was a Polish composer, virtuoso pianist, and music teacher, of French–Polish parentage. He was one of the great masters of Romantic music.

Chopin was born in Żelazowa Wola, a village in the Duchy of Warsaw. A renowned child-prodigy pianist and composer, he grew up in Warsaw and completed his musical education there. Following the Russian suppression of the Polish November 1830 Uprising, he settled in Paris as part of the Polish Great Emigration. He supported himself as a composer and piano teacher, giving few public performances. From 1837 to 1847 he carried on a relationship with the French woman writer George Sand. For most of his life, Chopin suffered from poor health; he died in Paris in 1849 at the age of 39.

All of Chopin’s works involve the piano. They are technically demanding but emphasize nuance and expressive depth. Chopin invented the musical form known as the instrumental ballade and made major innovations to the piano sonatamazurkawaltznocturnepolonaiseétudeimpromptu and prélude.”

The images in this little video I made are all from the NASA & USGS Project ‘Earth as Art.’ Click here to find out the locations of these stunning images and the various countries these landscapes belong to. The link is worth it and my main reason for using these images is so people can check their informative, amazing websites, but if you’re too lazy to click there – here is the image key:

1.Aleutian Clouds: These cloud formations were seen over the western Aleutian Islands. Their color variations are probably due to differences in temperature and in the size of water droplets that make up the clouds.

2. Volcanoes: Steep-sided volcanic cones along the Chilean-Argentinean border add texture to this “study in blues.” Of approximately 1,800 volcanoes scattered across this region, 28 are active.

3. Gineau-Bissau: Guinea-Bissau is a small country in West Africa. Complex patterns can be seen in the shallow waters along its coastline, where silt carried by the Geba and other rivers washes out into the Atlantic Ocean.

4. Campeche: Named after the ancient Mayan Province of Kimpech, the state of Campeche comprises much of the western half of Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. Rivers in southern Campeche drain into the immense Terminos Lagoon, the entrance to which is protected by a long barrier island, Isla Del Carmen.

5. Jordan: Meandering wadis combine to form dense, branching networks across the stark, arid landscape of southeastern Jordan. The Arabic word “wadi” means a gulley or streambed that typically remains dry except after drenching, seasonal rains.

6. Desolation Canyon: Utah’s Green River flows south across the Tavaputs Plateau (top) before entering Desolation Canyon (center). The Canyon slices through the Roan and Book Cliff–two long, staircase-like escarpments. Nearly as deep as the Grand Canyon, Desolation Canyon is one of the largest unprotected wilderness areas in the American West.

7. Bogda: The Turpan Depression, nestled at the foot of China’s Bogda Mountains, is a strange mix of salt lakes and sand dunes, and is one of the few places in the world that lies below sea level.

8. Akpatok:  Akpatok Island lies in Ungava Bay in northern Quebec, Canada. Accessible only by air, Akpatok Island rises out of the water as sheer cliffs that soar 500 to 800 feet (150 to 243m) above the sea surface. The island is an important sanctuary for cliff-nesting seabirds. Numerous ice floes around the island attract walrus and whales, making Akpatok a traditional hunting ground for native Inuit people.

9. Namib desert: Namib-Naukluft National Park is an ecological preserve in Namibia’s vast Namib Desert. Coastal winds create the tallest sand dunes in the world here, with some dunes reaching 980 feet (300 meters) in height.

10. Andes: Vivid colors belie the arid landscape of northern Chile where the Atacama Desert, one of the world’s driest, meets the foothills of the Andes. Here salt pans and gorges choked with mineral-streaked sediments give way to white-capped volcanoes.

11. Sahara: The mountainous outcrops of Jebel Auenat rise 6000 feet above the barren, uninhabited plains of the Libyan Desert. The frontiers of Libya, Egypt and Sudan meet amidst the rugged granite of Jebel Auenat. The mountains are remnants of an ancient granitic dome. Rivers of sand meander around them, swept across the desert pavement by northeasterly winds.

12. Alluvial fan: A vast alluvial fan blossoms across the desolate landscape between the Kunlun and Altun mountain ranges that form the southern border of the Taklimakan Desert in China’s XinJiang Province.

13. Kamchatka: The eastern side of Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula juts into the Pacific Ocean west of Alaska. In this winter image, a volcanic terrain is hidden under snow-covered peaks and valley glaciers feed blue ice into coastal waters.

For my post on satellite imagery and the process through which RGB composites are made from Landsat and Aster images, as well as my long-time love affair with the same, click here.

The composition of Chopin has been played here by the inimitable Arthur Rubinstein.

For the video ‘Random Acts of Sunshine’ click here