Thursday, March 17, 2011

The (T)Ides of March, Falguni Poornima, and Conclave of India Today: The Bold, the Beautiful and the Ugly.

This March has been a tediously sad and overly long drawn month that has changed my world of the last seventy years very much. I have little hope to regain my confidence in the future or my faith in my past, not because I like to do so, but because the events of March ordain that I do so, because of the inevitability of it. It does not affect at all my joy of being alive and kicking in the present, even if it may be sometimes at the expense of those others.

I love the people of Japan very intuitively and for other reasons of affinity that I may describe in other blogs (if blogging survives twittering). I draw attention only to one video ( when the earthquake struck. The water coming out of the pavement must have been a surprise for them. This video draws attention to the attitudes of Japanese people on the street (mainly women doing their shopping) during the earthquake. Their demeanor is a reflection of their boldness and their inner strength and their sanguinity which all of us would do well to emulate.

This blog has a large section on the earthquake of a geological nature. This discussion is more to highlight some features that a reader may have been interested in and also to bring a connection with the full moon of the season that came a week after the event. This falguni full moon is thought to be the most beautiful moon (Supermoon is a typical americanism, I guess) and heralds many folk celebrations all over the world. The last part of this blog is un-necessary perhaps. I included it just as an ugly contrast of the money-maker's reality.

The Earthquake
If, as an amateur, one is looking for causes for the recent earth-quake in Japan one could be able to directly associate it with the plate tectonics that is usually discussed. I found an article of Earthquake Disaster Mitigation Policy for Japan written in 2007 by Ikeuchi and Isago. ( earthquake disaster mitigation policy). I have reproduced Figs 1 and 2 from their article below which shows the tectonic plates and troughs in Japan. The high earth-quake activity of Japan is usually associated with its complex crust structure where the Pacific Plate sinks under inland plate and Philippine Sea Plate at Chishima Trough, Japan Trough and Izu-Ogasawara Trough. In the Tokai and Nankai regions the last major earthquake took place more than 150 years ago.

Strong earthquakes due to build up of stress in the plates is expected from the year 2007 in the Tokai and in the Tonanaki Nankai regions pn the Nankai trough and is expected to hit Tokyo most. The Disaster Mitigation policy was mainly aimed towards Tokyo.A worst case scenario estimate for this disaster is estimated at approximately 18,000 deaths, of which about 8,600 may be attributable to tsunamis with a total damage of nearly 600 billion dollars with 360 thousand collapsed or burned houses. This same article (written in 2007) points out that major earthquakes in the Miyagi-ken area occurs nearly every forty year so that a major earthquake is anticipated in that area. They estimated an economic loss of nearly 150 billion dollars (by present rates) and gave measures for taking precautions against tsunami. The Japanese were prepared but the earth quaked much more than hey could have anticipated (since they were taught not to use their intuition?).

Among the major earthquake rehion involving plates is the one between plates. The earth 110311 earthquake would seem to be between the plates from the first impressions of the images below where the one on the right shows the number of earthquakes and after shocks (magnitude greater than 4) in the first week after 110311 as can be seen in the right below and the one on the left shows the boundary of the pacific plate. The size of the circles gives the magnitude, with those in pink being more than 6 in the Richter scale.

The number of earth quakes for the same seven days around the Pacific region for the same seven days are shown below.

The outline of the quakes around the pacific ocean coincides roughly with the edges of the continental plates as shown below.

There are also earthquakes in what are called back-arc basins (BAB) which are characteristic of sea-floor spreading and is different from that involving plates.

The BAB maps of earthquakes (see above) seems to me to be showing earthquakes close to that of the plates. BAB earthquakes may be associated with sea-floor spreading near the plate edges.

A closer look at the map of earthquakes after 110311 seem to suggest that the majority of the quakes was in the region between the pacific plate and the main plate so that part of the activity could be due to sea-floor spreading towards the continental plate. The main earthquake was about 130 km from Sendai which is about half way from the mainland to the edge of the continental plate.

The actual reason for the large magnitude is unknown and therefore unexpected. If the earthquake is due to the motion of the Pacific plate (~ 8 cm or 3.5" per year under the Hinshu plate) then over the last forty fifty years where there was no major earthquake in the region one would have expected the plate to have moved 3 to four metres. Coincidentally this is very close to the extent of increase of the width of the land mass of portions of Japan near Sendai towards north America. The pacific plate itself is said to have moved in the opposite direction, westwards towards the mainland of Japan, by nearly 40 metres which is not expected.

The break in the fault line as a result of the quake was only (according to experts) tens of kilometres long instead of the nearly 500 kilometres linear rupture length anticipated for a quake of 9.0 magnitude. Because of the curved plate boundary in this region the magnitude of earthquake is not expected to exceed 8.5 in these models and is therefore a surprise to seismologists; so I read. I do not know what is the requirement in the sea-floor-spreading BAB model for an earthquake magnitude of this size.

There have been other earthquakes, of course, near Sendai. The epicentre of a 7.4 magnitude Miyagiken-Oki earthquake in 1978 near (38.1N and 122.2E; 120 km away and 40 km deep) Sendai was very close to the 110311 Tohoku-Chiho Taiheiyo-Oki earthquake (38.3 N and 143.3E) near Sendai. There was no tsunami in 1978. The death toll was 27; 10,000 were injured and 60,000 houses damaged. One interesting finding was that the number of wooden houses that were totally damaged in the 1978 earthquake was four times more when built on artificial filling than those built on natural slopes.

An interest analysis from the Harvard Seismology Group (see figure below)has suggested that an independent event such as the 7.2 magnitude Sanriku-Oki earthquake on March 9, 2011 (not a foreshock, they say) triggered the main earthquake. Subsequently, the main 110311 Tohoku-Chiho Taiheiyo-Oki earthquake may have triggered (after shock) the Ibaraki-Oki earthquake of 6.8 magnitude. The group suggests that these events are not foreshocks or aftershocks that happened about half an hour after the main event may not be an aftershock since they occur in regions of energy dissipation not covered by the main earthquake. They rather think that it is a "cascading failure of different segments of the plate interface" which moves toward Alaska(?). The propagation of the rupture front is in the opposite direction to that from the foreshock to the aftershock. It could suggest that there was a sining of the seafloor and the rupture front moved in the direction of sinking.

One wonders what a subsidence or elevation of the sea-floor would do. There is the perfectly valid but neverthelss surprising argument that an increase in the earths circumference by six feet would mean a local change in height by nearly one foot. If there is a local increase in width of Japan by six metres, can one expect changes in local heights by a metre or so?
Is the amount of relative subsidence of the sea coast due to a continental-shelf spreading? Or vice versa, a sea-floor spreading, because I always get my calculations with signs opposite to the correct one.
Is the unusual Tsunami due to such unusual changes.
Since the earth's rotation period has decreased by a few microseconds after the earthquake, has the earth's diameter reduced, just as a ballerina increases her speed of rotation by bringing her hands down?

One of the natural approaches to theories of complex behavior that leads to natural disasters must be the catastrophe theory in which there is sudden shifts
in behavior arising from small changes in one parameter. Thus, a harmless critical comment on a partner's life style could lead to a divorce, a bifurcation from a married state to two separated states with memories that sustain the separation. Phil Anderson, my favourite Nobel laureate, would comment that the hierarchical structure of reality has at every step levels above and below, which determine the cascading of events which can be catastrophic at some stage. To interpret this, we may think of stocks of cans piled up in a stable pyramid in a supermarket until an unattended curious child takes a fancy to them and picks up one from the bottom; or, pieces of wood and stones piled up by fishermen or beavers in a river during the previous rains to dam water in a river to catch fish would dry to a loose pile that is not able to dam water as effectively and would result in a dam burst and a flash flood in the next season. A happy unsuspecting enthusiastic skier new to thrills of skiing would guide his ski to a fresh track of new snow and cause a huge avalanche. A boyhood memory of mine is a scene from the 1954 movie "Seven Brides for Seven Brothers" when the seven brothers stop the screaming of seven girls they have carried away as they go past a valley of snow-covered hill since they think it would cause an avalanche. After they have safely crossed the hill the brothers shoot off their guns to cause the avalanche ( the effect of which is quite disproportionate to the sound from the gun.

When small shifts make catastrophic changes who knows what the phase of a moon, or the launching of a rocket, or the flutter of a butterfly wings would do. There is a always a small change on going from one stable state to another. The change is usually imperceptibly small but when the bifurcation involves, say the child and the pile of cans the change can from a gravity-stabilized pile of cans to a gravity-driven heap of cans the change is dramatic.

When the Moon Hits Your Eyes

The month of March should not have been so.

March is a glorious month for many of us Indians who live our life the way we think we should live our lives as we think we have lived in our past lives in this part of the world, so proximate to Tibet.

It is usually the month of the Falguni full moon. The moon on this day is called the super-moon in recent times obsessed as we are with super-things in a genuinely superficial way. Like all good things seem to be, this full moon is associated with Buddha as the day when relatives are to meet. By all accounts the Buddhist influence was strong in Bengal and continued to be strong near Chittagong, the port which connected the Arab world to China for their silk trade. It is through Chittagong that the Islamic religion spread in Bengal before the Moghul invasion. It is also likely that the thoughts and practice of the people who gave Buddha must have spread to the western world through the contacts with the arabs. One did not need the Arabs, of course, to spread the enlightened Buddha thoughts in India and the eastern world, where it may have pre-existed Buddha, such as in the Shinto religion of Japan and elsewhere.

March is the month of many festivals all over the northern hemisphere of our earth, not only because it has the shortest day in the year nor because it is the month before spring. It is the month of falguna which, when it comes, cannot have vasant with its glorious moon. It is the season when love with lust is sown and spring is born later, as Shakespeare, among many others, must have known. It is this faith in offsprings that is symbolized right from early times in Bengal when red abir colours of passion and falguni were sprayed from bamboo syringes by the followers (the abhir s or yadavs or the cattle-herds) of their amorous local god whom they named as Krishna (who could also have been called Herakles or Hercules in some Greek connections).

I really dont know what falguni means. Falguna is a double (purva- and uttara-) pattern of stars that together represents (suggestively?) a fig tree or a bed? Falguni is one born in this month.

Since Buddhists were later accepted into the vaishnavite fold, it is likely that vishnu festivals are actually of Buddhist origin. It is also an interesting possibility that the buddhist originators of the holi spirit would have looked amusedly at the severe penances of shiva followers. Thus they must have found Shiva ignoring Parvati and paying more attention to his meditation a sheer waste of time. Kamadeva, the god of love must have been bathed in falguni spirits when he shot his arrow to disrupt Shiva's meditations and helped Parvati to become Shiva's wife. It is another story that Shiva turned Kamadeva to ashes and later turned his physical lusting intentions to probably less reproductive but more spiritual and tender loving thoughts.

As a bengali, Falguni is one of my favourite words because it evokes so many of my fondest memories. A Tagore song that evokes tender emotions has the lines "Ektuku chhoa lagey, ektuku kotha shuni, Tayi diye monay monay rochi momo Falguni" which has a delicate sensibility that could translate in English (the wrong language) to "with a tender touch, a few whispered words in my ear, I weave my mind's romances" which could be the right translation if the reader only knew what I had in my mind when I translated it; or what Tagore had in mind when he wrote it. The multimedia world have their own commercially profitable you-tube interpretation that must be the most suitable (see for instance) for probably those of the sans reproductive lust, sans committed tenderness, and spin(e)-less non-directional youth.

It must have been this spontaneous, primitive and primeval spirit of lust and love that made falguni poornima an auspicious occasion for all our gods and all the regions of this country and elsewhere. In the Tamil calendar, the last month is Panguni which coincides with the month of falguni. It is on the full-moon day of Panguni Uthiram that weddings between godly people take place. Shiva and Parvathi, Murugan and Deivanai, Ranganayaki and Ranganathar,were married on this day. It is the day of Mahalakshmi Jayanthi when Lakshmi was born after the churning of the seas. This is also the full moon day when Ayyappan was born. When Parvathi as Gowri marries Siva, it is Gowri Kalyanam (wedding). Without knowing it at the time I got a panel of this wedding for our living room (see below).

At the Murugan temples an important aspect is the kavadi which can be quite impresseive (see The kavadis containing materials (milk, rose water, curd, water, sandalwood paste, flower) used for abiskhekam to the temple.
An important festival on 15 February in early Roman periods is the Lupercalia festival in honour of Lupercus, a pastoral god (shades of Krishna?) of fertility, at the Lupercal cave on the Palatine Hill of Romulus-and-Remus and the wolf (Lupe) fame. Animals with strong sexual instincts such as the goat and the dog were sacrificed on that day. Naked young men wearing loincloths made from the skin of the sacrificed animals would run around town touching maidens with a stick. That was supposed to increase the fertility of the maidens that were suppressed in the winter months. It was this festival that Mark Antony, master of the Luperci college of priests, offered the crown to Julius Ceasar in 44 BC.

It turns out that many of the much-celebrated Christian festivals of Europe are what they term as pagan festivals. The term pagan is applied to religions which do not think that other religions require to be changed or other religious believers to be converted or proselytized since they depend only on their own living mythology which cannot be changed. The festivals of these living mythologies are therefore necessarily ancient. One of these pagan festivals that the church frowned down upon without any effect is the Carnavale of Venice. While researching the internet for this blog I learnt that carnavale is derived from the Latin term "carnem levare" which means to avoid meat, which is a very Buddhist or Jain approach. This abstention from meat follows the long celebrations of March and precedes the fasting and penances of the Lent period in April. The day of the gatari amavasya of Maharashtra (see my blog "Gnostic Embrace of Warkaris in the Monsoon Season around Pune: Part III Kanifnath, Kanoba, and Syncretism") is celebrated in an opposite way as the last day of indulgence when one is expected to drink and feast on meat till one drops into a gutter before one begins fasting in the month of shravan near August.

The Venice carnival followed up perhaps from the Lupercalia festival, which, like the holi festival, was a licentious festival and much anticipated because of that. Venetian masks were used to hide the identity of the participants, especially from the upper class. The month of falguna became the month of love magic and ancient Pagan sex rituals. The church did not like their flock to be pagan and secular. So they built or encouraged a story around a St. Valentine. The Shiv Sena, after all, may have been perfectly right in finding St. Valentine's day so alien to our culture. We have ours, not for roses, but for the abir of the bamboo syringes. They are much more fun!

Try as they might the Popes of that could not influence any change in the Venice carnival even if they licenced a shortened period of celebration (which could be six months or more in Venice) from the twelfth night (from Christmas) to Mardi Gras, the last Tuesday before lent which begins with Ash Wednesday.

Since I consider the Japanese people to be of the pre-Gautam-Buddha Nepali/Tibet origin it is satisfying to me that they have spread their influence throughout the world through the full moon of March. They, the Japanese, will only have their enlightened haiku poetry for the effects during the moon of March that draws world's attention to them.

The Bane of India Today
What prompted me to start this article today (18th March 2011) is that I happened to be with Bella, my pup, when she was ignoring as usual the television program on the screen usually preferring to sit on the bed and chewing the newspaper instead. On this particular day she thought that she would prefer to chew on one of my scientific publications I had left around. I sat down to educate her on the import of my paper when my attention was drawn to the programme on Headline Today TV Channel on India Today Conclave. What I saw reflected very sadly on the goings on in the minds of one set of Indian visible class who consider themselves to be intellectuals especially when they are taught that the style of glossy multimedia is sufficient for the exercise of their intellect. It was so much in contrast with the upsetting events set up by the tides of March! The TV part has to be got over with straightaway.

The seemingly politically naive Prime Minister Manmohan Singh had been fooled by the editor/proprietor Aroon Purie to accept being the keynote speaker. Manmohan spoke with his usual remarkably self effacing monotone did not speak on things on which he he should have spoken on because the Parliament session was on. Purie, as chairman of the session, had no such compunctions and he let loose obviously selected persons from his channels and his circles for making TRP ratings and political rain-checks with the opposition. After all, BJP gave him his padma bhushan. Purie allowed the office of the Prime Minister to be hit with as many below-the-belt punches that could be included until he the PM was allowed to leave.
Credit must be given to the Prime Minister to walk away politely but pointedly refusing to take the token of appreciation from the organizers even though Poorie was seen pleading with the PM behind the stage. Kudos, and plenty of Kudos, to the Prime Minister on this point.

Aroon Purie is no great journalist nor a statesman. He got caught for lifting a paragraĆ¼h on Rajnikanth and sloppily defended himself by shamelessly placing the blame for the goof-up to his juniors. This is normal among Indians even at highest academic levels. Thia ia normal for India Today, if one reads the blogger, NIranjana. Purie had started India Today to use up the facilities in his Thomson Press, modelling it on proven Time/Newsweek styles in both its language and its politics. He copied well like many other successful Indians in academics or business. He gave over the reins of his office to his son, like many other powerful Indians.

I personally think that the high point of India Today (1985-1996) was when Niranjan Das was its graphic editor. Niranjan Das left for better positions

The decline of India Today magazine coincided with the departure of Niranjan Das. The magazine soon targeted the young and upwardly mobile ans focused on lifestyle, travel, health and Bollywood. Since the upwardly mobile prefer not to read on these matters, the total readership of India today has shrunk by one third from nearly 30 million to nearly 20 million in the last three-four years itself. The present present managing director of India Today, Ankoor Poorie, son of Arun Poorie naturally, has more interest in DadA electronic music of Zurich with little interest in reading.

There is a money-crunch in the Purie family coffers and some public gaze is necessary for the fortunes of the poor family members. Aroon Purie's 31 year old daughter, Koel Purie, failed to make it as an actress and got an opening on India Today TV channel with the (obviously meant to be titillating) "On the Couch with Koel". She also got to interview Sarah Palin during which Koel managed the near impossible of coming second to the ex-Presidential candidate in a one-to-one interview.

The India Today Conclave thought it financially prudent to get Shah Rukh Khan ---the Bollywood Star second in frivolity to Salman Khan --- to be the second speaker after the Prime Minister and prop up the India Today coffers through advertisement opportunities from increased TRP. Its like getting Sylvester Stallone to speak after Jimmy Carter. Shah Rukh Khan is a self-confessed shameless mercenary artist doing things only for money, such as dancing for the guests at fat weddings. SRK was perhaps chosen (by Ankoor and Koel Purie?). Koel Purie got to chair the session.

My pup lost interest in the session and I had to amuse her for some time.

When I came back Koel Purie was telling the audience that she knew that the audience had other things in mind since their bladders were full (she actually said that!!!) but she was sure that SRK would be happy to answer any question. The last question was obviously a planted one. A lady asked SRK if he still has his six-pack muscles, much to the thrill of Koel Purie and without leaving SRK embarrassed. Without any hesitation SRK promptly obliged. He pulled out his shirt and showed off his bare stomach mumbling something like it a four-pack now. The audience was thrilled!. I could not get the video at that time, but because of its TRP power, they showed it several times during the day. One of these repeat broadcasts is given below:
What can one say!
Is this public display of stupidity in any way in sync with the aspirations of a common man or the intelligence of Indians who should be influential in thoughts that would shape a future.
It is bad enough to see our parliamentarians creating havoc in parliament by their very unparliamentary ways under the approving eyes of opposition leaders.
Did India Today have to put SRK as the person following the Prime Minister just to get the daughter of Aroon Poorie some prominence?

During deadly serious scenes of Tsunami, and nuclear disasters that inundated us did we have to come out to breathe the repelling India Today air?

Where have all the flowers gone... when will they ever learn. This is a song that I sang happily in my youth imagining all the girls I failed to attract as girls that had gone. The lady singer Mary Travers has passed away and the Peter Paul and Mary rendition ( of the song was a little sad to see, in a way. The falguni moon from their early days ( still remains as bright as the spirit of the Japanese people will remain.

The spirit of the ordinary Indian has remained bright and colourful as abir on holi.
When holi comes on 190311, and spring begins on 200311 rang-panchami comes with all its colours today 230311.
We learn from the tide that has come in our affairs.