The Real Superheroes are still in Comic Books…

“His comic books have captured the imagination of so many young people with superheroes who embodies the tolerance and teachings of Islam.

… Superman and Batman have reached out to their Muslim counter parts…. And I hear they are making progress too.”

- President Barak Obama, 2010

Last summer I had an opportunity to spend part it at the Columbia Business School (CBS) in NYC where I was part of the Rothschild Fellowship. During this time, I had an opportunity to meet social entrepreneurs from the UK and France,  continued fostering a passion and had an opportunity to expand my cultural and religious beliefs.

On an early New York morning we hard a guest speaker to begin our day- Dr. Naif Al-Mutawa, a former CBS alumni. Here was Dr. Mutawa, dress shirt tucked into his jeans, a glowing aura of passion and only small patches of grey in his beard that would hint at his age.

Over the next couple hours Dr. Mutawa spent some time speaking to us about his creation of  the 99….. the world’s first superheroes based on Islamic culture and society.

At first I was a little hesitant. But that was quick to change. What would eventually be Dr. Mutawa’s TED Talk presentation at Oxford the following week, we were introduced to a group of superheroes that have brought a complete different identity to the Islamic world.

Dr. Mutawa’s TED Talk- must see talk on the history of the 99 and how it has evolved:

I was so thrilled to hear about this concept!

Just a few weeks ago DC comics released the first of six comics where the the Justice League of America (… Superman, Wonder Woman, Batman, Green Lantern, Aquaman…) began partnering with the 99 (…Dr. Ramzi Razem, Rughal, Widad the loving, Jami the assembler…).

It is not the first time that powerful superheroes put their egos to the side to over come evil. In fact, I remember as a kid when Marvel’s Spiderman teamed up with Strom and Beast from X-men and on a diferent occasion with the Fantastic Four.

Tonight I sat down and read the comic. Although I remember it taking me much longer to read a comic book, I was so excited that for the first time in my life, the superheroes I grew up admiring have refreshed my youth by continuing my admiration of the ability for these individuals to over come evil together.

Sounds chessy. But its not.

We may be too old to read comics, but every kid grew up on comics at some point in their life. Our childhood comic heroes are today’s Hollywood superstars. I can only hope that today’s real heroes can learn from those we look up to as kids and overcome their differences to truly appreciate the beauty that exists in all cultures and religions.

The truth is that one superhero can make a difference. A team of superheroes – with different abilities- can make an lasting impact.

To end, I wanted to show a couple quick snap photos of the first time where we see such a unique relationship between superheroes being created.

Justice League of America

Superman meets part of the 99


Introducing the 99


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What’s the Deal with International Textbooks…

It’s been a while since I had an opportunity to write some thoughts out as I have been adjusting back into school mode. Aside from learning how to take exams again and making new friends, the added stress of tuition seems to be the biggest impact on the pockets of many students, including mine. So do I really want to pay $150 for a text book when I can get it for $80 on Ebay? At the same time, I am not convinced yet that the Higher Education Opportunity Act (HEOA) will make textbooks for college/graduate students more affordable than what we can find through other sources…. i.e. ebay.

According to Student Public Interest Research Groups (PIRGs), the new law, which went into effect on July 1st, contains three main provisions:

1. Publishers must disclose textbook price and revision information to faculty during the marketing process. A study by the Student PIRGs found that such details were often left out; 77% of the professors surveyed said publishers rarely or never offered textbook prices unasked.

“Professors share students’ concern about cost and generally would prefer to assign less expensive books,” said Dr. D. Steven White, Professor of Marketing & International Business at the University of Massachusetts-Dartmouth. “The new law empowers professors to readily identify lower-cost options that suit their instructional needs.”

2. Publishers must offer unbundled versions of textbooks. “Bundling,” or the practice of packing textbooks with CDs, pass-codes and other ancillaries that often go unused, can increase costs 10-50% according to PIRG research.  From now on, students will have the option to purchase only the items they need.

3. Colleges must include the list of assigned textbooks during course registration. With advance notice, students can plan ahead for the full cost of their next term, and they have time to shop around for the best deals on their books.

But I am going to take this one step further…

A few weeks ago I posted via my Posterous an article in the NY Times that quite frankly caught my interest. The article goes on to write “To the despair of the textbook publishers who are still trying to block such sales, the reimporting of American texts from overseas has become far easier in recent years, thanks both to Internet sites that offer instant access to foreign book prices, and to a 1998 Supreme Court ruling that federal copyright law does not protect American manufacturers from having the products they arranged to sell overseas at a discount shipped back for sale in the United States.”

The  article goes further to cite some interesting numbers:

Lehninger Principles of Biochemistry AMAZON.COM: $146.15 AMAZON.CO.UK: $71.53 DIFFERENCE: $74.62

Physics, Volume 1 AMAZON.COM: $93.75 AMAZON.CO.UK: $63.37 DIFFERENCE: $30.38

Macroeconomics AMAZON.COM: $114.00 AMAZON.CO.UK: $71.78 DIFFERENCE: $42.22

Linear System Theory and Design AMAZON.COM: $110.00 AMAZON.CO.UK: $49.81 DIFFERENCE: $60.19

Now the million dollar question… is it illegal to buy international textbooks in the US?

According to the Monore Street Journal, the official newspaper of the Stephen M. Ross School of Business at the University of Michigan, the Association of American Publishers, Inc. sent a letter to follow up on an article that was published earlier on sales on international textbooks citing inaccuracies.

“The article maintains that the importation and distribution of restricted-territory, foreign manufactured textbook editions, without the publishers’ authorization, is legal under the U.S. copyright law, asserting that “in 1998 the US Supreme Court ruled that US copyright law does not protect US publishers from cheaper international editions of books being shipped into the US for sale into the US.” This is both an inaccurate statement of the applicable law, and a critical misstatement of the ruling in the decision of the referenced Supreme Court case, Quality King Distributors, Inc. v. L’anza Research International, 523 U.S. 135 (1998).”

“Publishers produce restricted-territory, foreign-manufactured editions to address the complexities surrounding issues such as the desire to make high-quality educational materials available to otherwise underserved students in developing markets, the potential for piracy within foreign markets where U.S. educational works are not otherwise meaningfully available, and the related requirements for establishing and maintaining local markets abroad. The publishers’ ability to sell books in foreign markets helps to spread the costs of creating these textbooks over a broader customer base, and thus helps to avoid having those costs borne entirely by purchasers in the
United States. This results in savings for students in the U.S. market.”

“Congress struck a balance in the Copyright Act that provides foreign markets meaningful access to U.S. educational publishing, but also ensures that such access does not either come at the expense of the quality of textbooks produced for the U.S. market or increase the costs of such textbooks for the students purchasing them in the United States. That balance is embodied in federal law and should be respected.”

The reality is you probably need a lawyer to help you unscamble the confusion that was set by the courts in 1998. As for buying an international version of a book… you can be the judge of this one.

[Read] Quality King Distributors Inc., v. L’anza Research International Inc., was the 1998 Supreme Court ruling the the NY Times article was referring to which the  Supreme Court found that the copyright holder could not prevent re-importation of materials it had authorized.

For a little more detailed reading you can check out US Code Title 17 Chapter 6 which discusses Manufacturing Requirements, Importation and Exportation.

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The Khan Academy…

UPDATE (Oct 2010): Congrats to the Khan Academy and winning Google’s Project 10 to the 100!

First place = $2m

http://www.project10tothe100.com/

Today you can almost get a free education (minus the degree) by podcasting or webcasting some of the best lectures from MIT, Berkeley and Harvard. However, without prior knowledge, it can be difficult to watch/listen to a lecture and understand what is going on at these high level academic institutions.

The Khan Academy is a true revolution in the way we understand academia. I can attest to it as all my younger cousins have used it as an excellent reference to supplement their classroom learning. Actually, it has been such an amazing resource that they claim that these lectures are even better than what their teachers teach them. The Khan Academy is a not-for-profit organization with the mission of providing a high quality education to anyone, anywhere.

Yet, what makes The Khan Academy any different from other online lectures? The fundamental level of communication- using Paint Brush.

With over 1000+ videos on YouTube, and some videos having up to 200,000 hits and lasting up to 10 minutes per lecture, Salman Khan (not the Indian actor)has been able to create a true “open education system.” Originally the videos were put up for Mr. Khan to tutor his younger cousin who lived across the country, but little by little the videos began to pick up.

Subjects range from the Math (Calculus, Arithmetic, Trigonometry, Linear Algebra, Differential Equations, etc) to Biology, Chemistry, Banking, Finance, and Economics. Everything is literally covered and subjects are growing everyday.

Here, for example, is an excellent lecture on one of my favorite subjects that I constantly help my cousins with: Trigonometric Identities.

I’ve definitely become a big fan of The Khan Academy. Along with excellent efforts by Teach for America and AmeriCorps, the Khan Academy is an invaluable asset to the academic environment. This project is exciting because it simply reaffirms my belief that human nature is naturally altruistic. Finally, I am a massive proponent on free education and it being held to the highest standard.  Investment into the education and health of this country need to be two of the most fundamental concepts supported by our legislators and leaders.

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London 2 Cape Town- A Road Trip…

What is the longest road trip you have ever taken? LA to SF? LA to Denver? Chicago? NYC?

How about London to Rome? Cairo? Darfur? Nairobi? Cape Town?

This is just a brief outline of an incredible road trip a friend of mine, Ryan Sanderson-Smith, a fellow classmate from Cambridge and South African native, is doing. He is on a mission to not only live his wildest dreams driving in a 1989 Toyota Landcruiser but also to add a cause to it.

Unlike many of our class mates who have decided to go forward in completing a PhD, MD or work in a consulting company/bank/startup, Ryan decided to take a road trip with to  raise money for SolarAid- a charity that fights global poverty and climate change with solar power. He and two others are currently traveling to various SolarAid projects. SolarAid was in fact one of the charities we were in discussion with during the summer of 2008 when we were involved with the Amex Member’s Project.

I recently had a chance to catch up with Ryan. Here is what he had to say (with his massively thick South African accent of course)-

“we’re having an absolute blast, hittin africa hard.driving around in a landcruiser with 2 rooftop tents on it, 2 spare wheels, a long range fuel tank (175 litres); and 4 solar panels on the roof that powers the engine cooling fan, power steering, stereo and charges our laptops, phones, any other electronics, and a kettle! which means we use less diesel.”

We drove through france and italy in 6 days. then a week in tunisia visiting desert oases full of dates and salt pans. then a week in Libya visiting lots of roman and greek ruins (but ironically it rained the whole time). Then just over a month in Egypt traveling down the nile and going to the sinai peninsula. and have now been in sudan for a month, mostly in the capital khartoum where the blue and white nile meet.

The best part has been the people. they have been so kind, friendly, hospitable and friendly. have quickly made friends, who are showing us around sudan in style. next we will go to ethiopia, kenya, uganda, rwanda, tanzania, zambia, zimbabwe, malawi, mozambique and back home to south africa.”

All I can say is next time book me a spot for the trip! It’s fascinating to know that almost everything that they are using- cooling fans, mobile, laptops, kettle, camera, stereo, etc- are all powered by solar.

To support the guys check out:

http://www.justgiving.com/overlandinthesun/

and check out their website where you can connect to their Twitter (@overlandsun) and Facebook:

http://www.overlandinthesun.com

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Confusion of Dubai (Part I)…

duabi1

It has been more than 72 hours since I have landed in what I have come to call this city as DubaiLand. Construction is non-stop and it can be seen clearly that Arab wealth, European design, and Indian hands have built this city. The city does not sleep and as of tonight I have accepted that it will be impossible for me to see everything in this city. There is no downtown. Originally everything was near the airport, then as things began to expand and the government came to understand the true value of this precious city tucked away in the Persian Gulf, the city began to develop in all directions.

Anything you want to do, you can do. It can be expensive or it can be cheap. It can be slow or it can be fast. Walking is unheard of, as today I saw my first and only lone bicyclist. Crime is not visible, well there just is little to no crime and I have only seen one police car here.

From the minute I stepped into the first cab, I began to understand more about this Emirate that I have always read so much about. As I left the airport, I began to chat with my taxi driver- a middle aged Pakistani man who is telling me the impact of the global economy on Dubai. He tells me that as a cab driver he is a government employee yet works on commission. Six months ago it would have taken 1-2 hours to get to the Jumeriah Beach Residence because of all the traffic. Today, it took only 30 minutes. He explains to me that buildings were being built faster than they could make room for new ones. Construction was 24/7. Work would begin and a single shift would be 8 hours, then a bus would pick up the Indian construction workers, to clear the way for a new shift to begin. All the tourist websites explained how difficult it is to get a cab at a mall because it is always packed, today cabs wait outside the mall for shoppers. Things have slowed down but I don’t think it will dramatically alter Dubai unless the global economy continues in this state for another half decade.

dubai5

(Jumeriah Beach Residence)

dubai3

Quick history- after the Sheikh realized the prosperity that was being gained from all the continued demand of construction and development two government companies were created but run independently as private businesses. (Apparently everything created here by the government comes in pairs in order to create competition).  One was Nakheel (Palm Jebel Ali, Palm Jumeriah, Ibn Battuta Mall, Dubai World) and the other was Emaar (Burj Dubai, the Lakes, the Greens). Now these two development companies are going around the world and flexing their skills. The UAE has become so influential that is holds major shares in almost anything and everything: Securing rice fields in Thailand, major share holder in Ferarri, 75% of the Chrysler Building in NYC, MGM, and even investing in UK Soccor.

dubai2

Dubai is the first Muslim country I have ever stayed in, I find it quite interesting and it  (from what I understand) is one of the most liberal of the Gulf countries. The amount of wealth that is in Dubai is beyond many places in this world. There is a unique ambiance in which class matters, what you drive is who you are and you should be prepared to spend your money. There is old money and there are the new kids on the block who work endless hours to break into a new social class. However, all of this is done in a very subtle and elegant way. There is a level of respect, Sir and Madaam are commonly used, and women are treated with respect. However this city is not as foreign as I felt it would have been. It possesses Newport Beach’s cars and lifestyle, Las Vegas’ money, and New York City’s business.

dubai4

There are however boundaries from what I have seen and read. No one criticizes the government or Islam, if women are showing too much skin in magazines they are blocked off and aside form the media, the Internet is also controlled. I cannot use Skype unless it is Skype to Skype.

Tonight I walked to the Marina Mall. With the amount of construction surrounding me, I was so surprised to not even find a coke can or piece of paper on the ground. When I walked into the massive mall, the first thing I thought to my self is how am I going to walk on these floors, there is no dirt on it for my shoes to stick to- the floors were polished clean and I couldn’t walk straight without slipping. As I walked the streets of Jumeriah Beach, I quickly realized how eclectic this city is and how I only have seen such a limited perspective of what Dubai really is.

dubai6

I hope to explore this city and further understand the hands that run the city to the hands that have built the city.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Valentine’s in Economics…

As Saturday comes, some will be celebrating old friendships over dinner, some may be celebrating a birthday or anniversary but many will be with their loved one. The beauty of relationships is its ability to be translated into any language, including economics.

I was introduced to Tim Harford by a professor here at Cambridge. Harford is an economics writer for the Financial Times and is known for his “Dear Economist” column. Aside from my superficial understanding of economics, below is a funny excerpt from one of his columns in the Financial Times.
Continue reading

The Politics of Fasting…

The Great Mosque of Paris was build in the early 1920’s and was known during WWII as one safe haven for Jews as they were safely hidden in the basement and women’s section of the mosque.

I thought I get deep this week.

For many people Ramadan, beginning September 1 or 2nd for some, marks the ninth month of the Islamic Calendar and a holy time of the year in Islam. Ramadan is believed to be the month in which the Quran was revealed and ends in three days of celebration known as Eid.

Why is this month so special for Muslims?

As many people know, during Ramadan, it is prescribed for many to fast from sun rise to sun set. Fasting is certainly not just practiced by Muslims, as it is a concept that translates through many religions. (click here for examples of different religions that fast) Fasting is one of the Five Pillars of Islam and means no drinking or eating, abstaining from everyday sins, and practicing Taqwa.

I believe Taqwa is really interesting because it is defined as a state of advanced consciousness, a state where you are aware of your actions, words and presence. What I find irresistible is how Taqwa translates over through so many diverse backgrounds. Imagine wearing a thin long sleeve white shirt and walking by a large tree with hanging  branches. Taqwa is the idea being aware of those branches and not having those branches catch and rip your shirt. (analogy by Sheikh Sadullah Khan)

I have experienced, like many, how difficult it is to wake up before the sun rises to eat. I once read in The Monk Who Sold His Ferrari-

“You will always feel a little discomfort when installing a new habit. It’s sort of like breaking in a new pair of shoes- at first it’s a little hard to wear them but soon they fit like a glove.”

The book goes on to explain that pain is often a precursor to personal growth, so we can’t dread it. Rather one should embrace it.

For me Ramadan is a time of self-reflection and appreciating where I am in life with respect to other individuals who are less privileged. Reminiscing on and being thankful for the things I have.

More than that, I believe Ramadan brings a sense of balance and Taqwa, awareness. Awareness of my environment, consciousness in what I am saying and doing, and realization in how I can improve.  For me, this first comes as an individual then as a contributor to the growth and progress of society.

The most gripping thing I have found during Ramadan is how to manage the ego in disciplining myself to wake up everyday before sunrise. I have failed at doing this many times and most likely will for times to come. However, realizing the weakness has been my first step. As I try to be a more understanding person, my goal is that through all the fasting and non-fasting, through all the times of being conscious and being unaware, I hope to be able to learn and carry my actions forward past Ramadan, through Eid and into the forth coming months.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

When Music Crosses Styles, Sounds, and Generations…

Alright, tonight I am going to do it a little different. Music. As long as I can remember, I have always been listening to music. My interest in music comes most likely from the fact that I can always remember my dad listening to great music.  Everything from flamenco guitar, to classical Indian music, to Enrico Macias (French), to old Afghan Music, to Sonny and Cheer’s Little Man. At the same time, I was still keeping up with the current pop culture. Everything makes my list, from Boys to Men, to 2Pac, to Audioslave and Michael Buble.

Growing up, I had the experience in high school to see my friends make bands and attempt to break into the music industry. Some of my closest classmates and friends have been able to do so, however, a majority are still trekking along. One of my past times is to find new music and be exposed to what is being produced in all different genres.

I was introduce to a Canadian rapper named K-os (it’s pronounced Chaos and stands for Knowledge of Self) by my friend Vishal (a great music connoisseur). K-os’ unique talents has taken him to the top of charts with multiple platinum records in Canada, did I mention he has 48,000 friends on MySpace. His award’s definitely don’t create a short list. K-os has been nominated and has won everything from Best Pop Video, to Best Songwriter, to Fan Choice Award. In 2004, Crabbuckit became one of Canada’s top singles. In this music video, K-os definitely not a stranger to celebrities, Nelly Furtado appears in K-os’ music video. So why has K-os yet to break into the United States, the single place where artists become legends?

I believe Malcolm Gladwell attempts to answer this question in his book Blink in the chapter titled: Kenna’s Dilemma: The Right- and Wrong- Way to Ask People What They Want. This was the point in my life when Gladwell introduced me to Kenna. An amazingly talented artist, Kenna has revolutionized my iTunes’ Top 25 Most Played list. Coolfer said it best, “His [Kenna] live shows, often performed to a crowd who had never even heard of him, instantly converted the crowd into fans”. But Gladwell explains to the readers how Kenna was recieved to the public, “The people who had a way to structure their first impressions, the vocabulary to capture them, and the experience to understand them, loved Kenna and in a perfect world, that would have counted for more than the questionable findings of market research.”

Gladwell writes, “The first impressions of experts are different. By that I don’t mean that experts like different things than the rest of us–although that is undeniable. When we become expert in something, our tastes grow more esoteric and complex. What I mean is that it is really only experts who are really able to account for their reactions.” (Blink is about how people need only a split second to make a decision about something, if you want an interesting counter to Gladwell’s Blink, take a look at Michael LeGault’s Think)

Now back to the original topic, why are two individuals who are amazingly talented artists (they even come up together on the same play list on my Pandora), have yet to break into mainstream America? When taking a look at the lyrics, both K-os and Kenna offer an alternative to Akon’s love, Brittney’s loneliness, and The Jonas Brothers’ singing about making the temperature hotter. K-os along with Kenna offer a unique talent of bringing together an upbeat sense of music, which doesn’t brain wash today’s society. And if it does, it is doing it in a positive way.

The problem is that sex sells, and anything related to sex: drugs and alcohol.  When unique artists, not limited to K-os and Kenna, bring their talent to the mainstream, people don’t appreciate the unique difference they present because they are different. The root of all problems, we are scared of what is different so we try to ignore what we fear or hide it away hoping it goes away. Rather, we should look at differences being a tool in creating awarness and knowledge.

Fortunately, Lupe Fiasco, one of the best rappers of the 21st century, released a remix to Say Goodbye to Love, which gives me hope that people still do listen to great music.

As K-os said, “It seems that we all fear the ending of our ‘selves,’ but in reality we fear losing all the things we ‘know,’ especially who we THINK we are.”

p.s. one of my favorites of Kenna – Kenna- Freetime on YouTube

p.p.s. one of my favorites of K-os – K-os- The Love Song

UPDATE: Kenna song makes PSP Commercial

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Orange County Great Park, A New Kind of Park…

I went to a park on Sunday that is still in developments and won’t be complete anytime soon. However, what has been done thus far is mind blowing and what is coming in the up coming years will define a 21st century park. On an old marine base on the boarder of Irvine and El Toro exists a huge orange helium balloon that goes as high as 400 ft (FAA regulations set balloon max height t 500 ft). As I pulled into the parking lot that was built from old high ways and I neared the entrance of the Great Park I felt not only like a child who finds an open swing, but also knew how it feels to live in the eco-conscious environment of the 21st century. The balloon flys Thursdays-Sundays mornings and evenings…FOR FREE!!! Yes, you read correctly, you get to not only enjoy one of the most non-natural sustainable parks in the world, but also hop into a helium air balloon!

The Great Park was designed by Ken Smith (designer of the Third Street Light Rail Project in San Francisco) after he won the design competition. The Great Park was created in an effort to provide the 21st century a self-sustaining park that would span from walking through canyons, lakes and a cultural terrace. Here also will exist Orange County’s largest Sports Complex, botanical gardens, and restoration and management of the habitat home to everything from the Kangaroo Rat, to Buckwheat, to the California Quail, to the Bobcat.

All this fun, but how is it paid for? Well aside from funding from the Lennar Corporation, there is also fees totaling no more than 1% of property value which is added to base of the property tax resulting in $201 million for infrastructure and park development in addition to funds for ongoing maintenance. I guess price comes with a cost, but we are talking about a place which brings the community together on so many different levels: Personal health, Regional Health, Global Health which encompases Energy, Nature, Materials, People and Water.

Okay, now you ask how does such a wonderful park get started? It began with a donation from Lennar Corporation who purchased a large sum (4,700 acres to be exact) of land from the Navy for $649 million in Feburary 2005. Then the Lennar Corporation donated 1,347 acres to the City of Irvine for the Orange County Great Park and agreed to pay an additional $200 million for future development and maintenance of the Park.

Some things are too good to be true. If you look at the land that surrounds the Great Park, it is all open. In less than 10 years from now homes will be built like legos, on all 3,700 acres of it. What has been done is a clever move from the Lennar Corporation which has been building homes since the 1950s. The thought here is build one of the worlds largest and sustainable parks of the 21st century, get people to come to it, ride the balloon for free, increase the value of the property and there you have it= beautiful over priced California homes.

Yet, I still cannot discredit what the Great Park stands for. Green. Sustainable. Renewable. This is one sphere where political constituencies did not  trump public open space. This is a place for our families. I certainly echo Los Angeles Times’ architecture critic Christopher Hawthorne when he named the Great Park as one of his best picks.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Return of Snowball…

In 1949 George Orwell presented to the world Nineteen Eighty-Four , a book that would impact the way we perceive our own government and the manipulation through different controlling processes over its citizenry. However, four years earlier his book Animal Farm would give us a preview of not only Nineteen Eighty-Four , but also a glimpse of the Russian Revolution and resulting in the creating of the Soviet Union- one of the most powerful totalitarian governments of the 20th century.

I was in Italy a few weeks ago on a train from Cinque Terra to Venice when I decided to reminisce my middle school readings. The first on the list was Orwell’s Animal Farm . This 112 page book was perfect- the book is short with big fonts, which I am a fan of! What made me more excited, however, was Orwell’s ability to capture what occurred in Russia with the rise of Stalin (this would be Napoleon the Berkshire boar) and the ousting of Trotsky (who was one of the original leaders of the Russian October Revolution and in the book portrayed by Snowball, another Berkshire boar).

Animal Farm

Upon my return to the US of A a few weeks ago, I decided to indulge myself into the meaning of what I had read in Animal Farm . So like any other person who is a product of the Web 2.0 revolution, I did a simple Google search where then I selected Wikipedia and came across John Reed (although some symbolism, but no not the 1900′s journalist who was known for his first hand account of the October Revolution in Ten Days that Shook the World ) who a few weeks after 9/11 wrote Snowball’s Chance . This was a revisionist retelling of Orwell’s Animal Farm .

As the title implies, this allegorical story describes what happens once all the Berkshire boars begin to die and Snowball returns to the Manor Farm (if you remeber after Napoleon in Animal Farm had the revolution, they changed the name of the farm from Manor Farm to Animal Farm then finally back to Manor Farm). Until then Snowball had only been a myth- Animal Hero, First Class, of the Battle of Cowshed. Interesting enough Snowball enters the farm walking straight on two hoofs along with Thomas, a goat who had conferred the degrees of Doctor, Lawyer, Architect, and Engineer (sounds like a Berkeley student).

Snowball's Chance

Snowball immediately assumes power, but he plays more of the back scene guy while Minimus (and eventually Pinkeye) play the head of the farm. Much similar to the way Dick Cheney is to Bush. In this satire, Snowball builds a corporate society that allows every animal to seek the highest standard of living by working hard. Instead of one windmill, two windmills (the Twin Mills) are built next to each other  to represent the new growth and success of Animal Farm. As cash began to be limited, credit was instituted and franchises such as Duncan Dognuts were established.

What Reed does well is describing the rise of terrorism as seen through Snowball’s relationship with the Diso and the beavers of the Woodland. Snowball begins to train the beavers how to defend themselves from traps that were set up the other farms. Since the beavers would build dams and prevent water flow from the farms, the beavers were beginning to die from the dams being blown up or from beaver traps.The beavers at the same time represented a more religious group of individuals, and they were told stories of how Animal Farm was this secular society that rejected the preachings of Moses, the Raven that would talk about Sugarcandy Mountain.

What makes the novel is how Reed was able to translate this book to make today’s society able to relate the issues faced on the Animal Farm. In the book the beavers represent the Muslims that were trained and supplied with American weapons during the Cold War. Eventually the Americans forgot about the situation in Afghanistan (instead of helping to rebuild) and what eventually resulted was a breeding ground for people like Osama Bin Laden (in the book portrayed as Diso, the head beaver who saw Snowball as weak with overextended pursuits). At one point Diso alludes to the 1600 virgin saplings which awaited believers- especially those who died for the right reasons. This concept is from the martydome of the terrorists who are told that they will be rewarded in the afterlife (even though suicide is forbidden in the Qur’an).

Okay… well I am not going through go through the entire book, because that is for you all to go read. However, John Reed is a clever writer and does a unique job in writing this satire of what would happen if Snowball returned to the farm in a post 9/11 society. What I enjoyed most was the ability for Reed to continue where Orwell left off and how much we sometimes we do act like "animals".

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

The Cost of Giving…

We have all been exposed to the cliche saying “it is better to give than to receive.” Well in today’s society we are seeing this giving done in very astute ways. Let me start with a couple examples.

The first classic example is the Fruit Stripe chewing gum, with lavish colorful stripes and temporary tattoos that many of us bought when we were kids. If we take the time to actually exam the wrappers, a portion of the proceeds were actually donated to the World Wildlife Fund. This was 1996 for many of us.

Now in 2008 we see new and unique ways that humanitarians are using their skills to contribute to greater causes. For you Cal Alums- Hope Winery, a local company started by a recent UC Berkeley Alumnus, Jacob Kloberdanz has a ties together selling wine and his support for a greater cause. Jake’s wines are unique in that each wine supports a different social cause, with a large portion of the profits from each bottle donated to support breast cancer, autism, or AIDS research.

Finally, two of my personal favorites are Shepard Fairey’s poster of Barack Obama and Tom’s shoes. Many of you know Fairey for his street art for Obey. However, Fairey is a contemporary artist who did an amazing piece of Obama and has 5000 copies that are for sale (sold out) and all proceeds go directly to the Obama campiagn.

Tom’s Shoes was introduced to me by my best friend Jason as “flats for guys” (although they do have shoes for the ladies too).

Tom's Shoes

The cause behind Tom’s shoes is giving one pair of shoes to children throughout the world for every shoe you buy. As my friend Kent had done in a generous gesture, he purchased one for himself and donated the other pair on behalf of our friend Randy. Now you can change up your style with a unique twist knowing that you can’t feel guilty for the next retail therapy session you go through.

So what is my point- my personal hobby has always been taking photos, and from times to time I feel like I can capture a nice photo. However, for now on as I do a series of prints from my expeditions or collections, I will be donating proceeds from each series to organizations that relate to the theme of my series. For example-

Vernal Falls

Any profit from this photo (hopefully some day) will be donated to STARO (Save The Amazon Rainforest Organisation) [I am sure many of you may wonder why not donate to Yosemite, the quick answer is that Yosemite trees are not being cut down at the rate at which the Amazon is]. However, I hope to open up suggestions also to great causes that I may not be familiar with.

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |

Laugh more…

Well, it has taken me a very long time to finally get a blog up. However, now that it is up I can express all my inner thoughts, perspectives, or just ramble.

I initially wanted to try to set this blog up a couple weeks ago when I spoke to a friend of mine on how to set up a blog. He recommended WordPress so I thought I could try to set it up. Well I failed. Then I spent a whole evening trying to recommit to sharing my thoughts with the world wide web, but again I failed. I believe my reason to keep going in this small battle was my own stubbornness in proving to myself that I have not fallen to old age (I am only 22), and that I can keep up with the everlasting changes in technology!

I generally try to keep up with as much as I can thus- I hope to share with you all- Science/Medicine, BioTech/Pharma, Technology, and a lot of Politics and Photos. I am really not sure what you would call this blog aside from a hodgepodge of thoughts.

I felt that as people begin to outline Web 3.0 (semantic web/AI), that I should catch up with Web 2.0 at least.

So what next- I would like to clean up the design of this blog upon my trip back from Europe. I would also like to start out by slowly formulating thoughts and ideas to keep this blog up.

The goal is now – how do I get readers?

As I close out my first blog, I would like to give a special thank you to Suchit & his friend Senthil for initial guidance and to Ryan P for the simple links that allowed me to finally create this blog (9.5 hrs later).

| if I knew all the words I would write myself out of here. |