Stellar Chariot

By Arun Neelakandan

Good Enough

I have an issue. I get stuck when working on personal projects because I think my work isn’t good enough. I try desperately to overcome this molehill but seldom do I succeed.

This very website drew its first breath years later than it should’ve – plainly because whatever design, whatever domain name I conceived, was simply not good enough. I must’ve gone through hundreds of domain name ideas and several design mockups, hundreds of thumbnail sketches until I finally decided to set aside my perfectionist tendencies and just fucking do it. In fact, when this website was launched, I picked an existing website design/theme and went with it. Yes, I know it’s not great even now, but it’s better than nothing. You know what else? I knew well during my dilly-dallying that the content mattered more than a shiny, bespoke design that virtually no one is going to bestow much attention to – yet I still delayed things, paralysed through overanalysis and outwardly ridiculous thresholds for quality.

Notably though, I’ll swallow the bittersweet pill of imperfection if there’s a deadline – but only if the deadline is set by a somewhat impersonal entity such an acquaintance, employer or university/school. Then not only do I get shit done and on time, but with a high calibre of output (or so I’m often told). What upsets me is my incongruence in applying this deadline strategy: If I’m doing work for a close friend or family member, then I’m often afflicted by the disease of oh, it’s okay if I can stretch the deadline get a better result or they’ll forgive me even if I take a long time and actually finish up procrastinating. Mo’ time, mo’ problems y’all.

So what prompted me to write this blog post? I was trying to compose a rap song and got stuck after a few bars (lines) and I couldn’t go past this sticking point. I wrote many other lines independently, but couldn’t stitch the other parts with the part I was flummoxed with. Nothing sounded right or good enough. After what felt like an age (I swear I felt my beard grow a few millimetres), I tapped out, mentally exhausted and frustrated about why I couldn’t break through.

Why am I writing this blog post? Because I haven’t written anything in a while.

P.S. This is all despite me having steadily shed my perfectionist inclinations since the mid-noughties.

P.P.S: I actually wrote this post on 28th December 2013 at approximately 6:15pm. I’m only publishing it now (7th May 2014) after months of neglect. Oh, the irony!

Guest Post - Hugs

Guest Post: By Adrian Boyd

Hugs, there’s nothing quite like them. They can be used to communicate hello/goodbye, acceptance into a group, a desire to establish a friendship or a romantic interest. Hugs can also have meaning on all sorts of other levels, depending on the precise way the hug is delivered and accepted. Within an established relationship, hugs are can be a very effective way of communicating support, comfort, or desire.

The level of intimacy/good feels/acceptance communicated by a hug is connected to the timing of the hug, the intensity of the hug, and how relaxed the participants are during the hug. However, there needs to be a least some trust before both parties will enjoy a successful hug. This is because the very action of hugging requires a certain amount of vulnerability. How comfortable you are with a person hugging you would seem to be directly related to your relationship with them. Are they a friend, a lover or part of your family/group? If so you’re probably open to some sort of hugging.

Kittens hugging

Personally, I love hugs. To me hugs say so much in an instant that thousands of words would never come close to. I can remember once on a field trip, one of my fellow companions came up to a group of us and gave the girl next to me a hug. It went on for a good 20 seconds or so. I remember being jealous both of them; I wanted to be the one hugging someone. It was such an overwhelming urge. Even now, if I haven’t been hugged for a while I miss it.

Hugs have been around for as long as physical contact has been used to communicate, probably as long as we’ve been wondering around in groups. Physical connection is important in all societies but hugging is not always the primary form. Humans as a general rule seem to do it instinctively. However, it wasn’t until the last fifty years or so that we’ve have discovered what actually happens when people embrace.

In 1958, after noticing the attachment of baby monkeys towards the cloth covering the floor of their cages, a experiment was set up to determine the importance of physical affection. The baby monkeys were separated from their mothers soon after birth and were looked after by two artificial mothers. One mother provided food and the other provide touch. The baby monkeys overwhelming attached themselves to the ‘mum’ that provided touch. This indicates just how important emotional connection is for health.

Subsequent, research has shown that hugging reduces blood pressure, decreases heart rate, reduces cortisol (stress hormone), and increase oxytocin. Oxytocin is sometimes called the ‘bonding hormone’ due to the important part it has to play in promoting a sense of intimacy (Light 2005). Physical touch including hugging has been shown to activate parts of the brain associated with increasing attentiveness, decreasing depression and enhancing immune function (Field 2010). Hugging has even been linked with pain alleviation!

Types of hugs

Pound Hug or Bro Hug

Strong, large on football field about to Hug

This type of hug is typically used to show a sense of pride between two males. Often seen after various sporting achievements or when two blokes want to share a victory while still maintaining their manliness. If the hug is perceived to be too caring, the participants usually try to kill something soon after in order to protect their image. It’s predominately seen in western culture, as the rest of the world has a different perspective generally when it comes to masculinity.

The Man Hug

Manhug

Following on from the pound hug is the man hug. The man hug is a normal hug, where genitals remain as far as possible away from each of the huggers, and the hug overall is pervaded by a sense of stiffness. This is because men, even friends, in Western culture do not relax around equals. If you are a straight white man, try it sometime; hug a bro and both of you consciously relax into it. Feels uncomfortable and weird right?!

The Standard Hug

Lion Hugs Man

The hugger and huggee embrace as enthusiastically as their comfort levels allow. May last for a good 20 or 30 seconds depending on level of intimacy and length of time the parties have gone without contact. Also, used to signal the beginnings of a friendship, acceptance into a group, or a greeting/goodbye.

The Side Hug

Promoted by religious groups in the 2009, a rap song performed by Ryan Pann talked all about this non-hug hug. A side hug is a hug where the hugger throws their arm around the shoulders of the huggee and pulls them into their side. A side hug happens when both parties are too awkward to risk anything below the waist getting entangled. Ryan Pann said later that his song was satire. Yeah. Right.

Part Time Gigs

I’m happy to announce a side project I’ve put together over a few rainy days. I give you Part Time Gigs: http://www.parttimegigs.org/

You can help by giving me feedback, posting a job ad and spreading the word :)

Addressing Scotophobia

My submission for the poetry competition “Don’t Be Afraid of the Dark” in 2014:

I am faster than light
But none give me credit
I am the black canvas
On which you see the crescent
Meant to be together
The dirt to your shovel
I seek space as treasure
Modest, and ever so humble
Let me be clear: I am your friend
I am not your chief nemesis
I am meant to crawl into all crevices
From epilogue to genesis

‘The Facilitator’ (M-Phazes / Dialectrix) - Rap Cover by Rotaris - Explicit

Amateur hour!

Thought I’d try my hand at recreating/covering/rapping this blazing track by M-Phazes and Dialectrix. Dialectrix really slaughters this track with his ripping delivery (in the original version). Me? Not so much. There are a fair few issues and missteps in this take (altogether made more difficult to deliver in one take without a hype man). But thought it was fair enough — plus I had a heap of fun making this video!

Instrumental by M-Phazes
Lyrics by Dialectrix

Note: I do not endorse the content of these lyrics.

Things I’d Forgotten About India

I travelled India for a few weeks in late 2012, after having grown up there in the 1990s. Here are some things I’d forgotten about India.

The hawks, eagles, buzzards, kites (and some other birds like storks)

The bird life in India is sweeping in its variety.

Changeable Hawk-Eagle or Crested Hawk-Eagle (Nisaetus cirrhatus)

Kite in Flight

Black Kite, Milvus migrans govinda

IMG_6632

IMG_6634

How readily people break into song

Singers of the villages

No, I don’t mean a Bollywood-style song-and-dance routine. I mean an audible song during times of quiet, such as in transit on a bus or auto.

People asking me for the time

Together Forever . . .

Not everyone has or can afford watches.

The commonality of spitting (even passengers in buses)

no parking no spitting

Spit

India : New Delhi : Connaught Place reloaded // भारत : नई दिल्ली : कनॉट प्लेस को पुनः लोड - Traditional Indian street art (this time also instalation with dogs in matching colors).

The lack of footpaths/sidewalks

Chennai - Mylapore - 21-02-2007 - 17h37

The monkeys

Scared BUT....

How bus conductors hold money notes between their fingers in that peculiar fashion

Young Conductor

Bus Conductor | Kolkata

Tickets are actually purchased from a person on a bus who sells tickets. Donning a khaki outfit, he or she constantly moves around in the bus selling tickets to new passengers and also whistles (or shouts) to instruct the bus driver to start and stop the vehicle.

Such conductors typically carry notes in a fan-like arrangement in between their fingers, such that it’s almost like Wolverine’s claws — except it’s with brown Rupees instead of adamantium projections.

The dirt and smog

294.365 || What are we doing to Mumbai?

Dust will be kicked up everytime a lorry passed by. There’ll be noxious smoke filtering through as a pile of rubbish is burnt (used as method of disposal).

Street dogs lying about

Mumbai Street Dog Victor Grigas Random Shots-2

cow & dog

puppy

Washing stones

India : Andhra Pradesh : Puttaparthy / Puttaparthi : October 2009

Laundry

Laundry in the Ganges

Another Laundry Day

You’ll witness clothes being bashed into cleanliness on stones especially designed for laundry.

Paying for the refrigeration of milk

Milk is commonly sold in packets, rather than cartons or bottles. You’ll often find that milk purchased later in the day is slightly more expensive than when purchased early in the day. The claim that shopkeepers make is that it costs money for the refridgeration.

The prevalence of shirts and formal trousers (slacks)

Arm Candy

In non-posh areas like buses and public spaces, men tend to wear full-sleeve or half-sleeve shirts. Only some younger men tend to wear t-shirts. Similarly, there is tendency to wear pressed, and possibly cuffed, pants.

Lack of shorts being worn (except by kids and occasionally for casual physical activity)

Teamwork

Even when ridiculously hot, virtually no one wears shorts.

Interestingly though, many wear open footwear like sandals rather than shoes. I’d guess it’s for the convenience and comfort (but that doesn’t quite explain the lack of shorts).

The disappearance of the ‘squish’ horn in auto-rickshaws

Untitled

Quintessential India - Auto Horn

hornin' traffic

Many of the squishy horns on autorickshaws that make noise by squishing air have been replaced of electronic equivalents. I kind of miss these guys and their cheerful ‘pom-poms’.

You can see the horn in action in this video:

The new Rupee symbol

Indian rupee sign

Prior to this new rupee symbol in 2010, the abbreviation ‘Rs.’ was used. Having grown up in India in the 1990s, it took some time to adjust to the alien sign.

The prevalance of ads and Western corporations (e.g. KFC)

KFC, Mumbai, India.JPG

JUST DO IT

You can be in the remotest village, but you’ll still see a ‘Coca-Cola’ advertisement handpainteed on a wall. You’ll know it’s handpainted because it’s not quite proportional and the finish is imperfect (but often still beautiful).

The brownouts

Bangalore Electrical Box

Light Festival - India

Every so often, someone or something decides to the cut the power. Lifts stop working, fans cease into a standstill, dinner is delayed, mosquitoes attack (seizing this opportunity presented as electricity powered mosquito repellants require…umm…electricity to operate) and candles are brought out. I’m certainly glad that my phone has a flashlight feature.

How old-fashioned tech like stone grinders and mortar-pestles are still around

Best Grinding Machine in the World ;)

Even in brownouts, these things can still be operated!

The lack of prams/strollers

India - Faces - rural women from a SHG

meenu india resized

Family

child and mother

Mother's Care

Babies and children have to be carried. You don’t realise how big of a task this is until you walk around bearing the weight of a baby for an hour (I’ve done this).

The amount of and attitude towards rubbish

New Delhi

Street rubbish in Kolkata

There is so much trash everywhere. People litter without much concern. Garbage disposal sometimes means just throwing it outside. Some burn their trash. Seeing stray dogs, pigs, chickens and even people wandering through trash piles is not an uncommon sight.

The hustle of disabled and impaired people

Fearless Kajal during mobility training

It’s incredible to witness how disabled/impaired have adapted to the Indian environment. I saw a visually impaired couple board a bus together and negotiate the unruly Indian urban environment. Truly humbling. I have enough difficulty navigating India even with my lack of impairment!

Buses don’t really stop sometimes…or arrive on time

India: 2006 - 2007

Life...rushing past you........

Ashok Leyland bus near Pondicherry

Beautiful Sedans

What follows is an incomplete and growing list of beautiful production sedans/saloons. I’ll be adding comments over time.

Note: I’ll only be considering exterior aesthetics.

Hyundai i45 (Sixth Generation, ~2009)

The sixth-generation released in 2009 is an astounding piece of work. The dramatic character/shoulder line that flanks the side profile and wraps around towards the taillights adds a feeling of movement and provides a three-dimensional quality to the vehicle. I’m usually not a fan of such tense lines (often it ‘pinches’ the flow of the car’s lines as your eye moves from the front-to-back and vice versa), but the i45 pulls it off with a sense of sophistication and elegance. The stretched back and extra third window gives it a sleeker, coupe-like character. Overall, the i45 possesses a solid road presence (especially when seen in the metal) combined with a design package that feels upmarket and stylish.

2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited -- 04-13-2011

2011 Hyundai Sonata Limited rear -- 02-13-2010

Lexus IS (2014)

The previous generation of IS, while being a wholesome design consisting of sharp edges and crisp motifs, were too plain. This generation accentuates the edges with more aggressive base line that follows onto the equally aggressive tail lights. The front fascia is also bolder and more divisive. The IS resembles origami folds and edges — which I think is a good thing, given its Japanese origins.

2014 Lexus IS250 F Sport Package 01

2014 Lexus IS250 F Sport Package 02

Holden VE Commodore 2006-2009 SS V

The gripes I had with VT, VX, VY and VZ series Commodores were the bulbousnousness, particularly with the rounded DayLight Opening (DLO) (i.e. windows), which made the design grotesque in appearance. This design nails the large, Commodore-esqueness from the previous generations, but with a defined crispness and cohesion. The DLO especially flows brilliantly with the car thanks to the curved shape with a flattened bottom that ties nicely with the beltline. Virtually every component gels really nicely with the other components. The side profile, tail lights and the subdued but notable wheel arches are especially well done. Interestingly, the wagon version is far more beautiful than the sedan (however, that’s for another blog post). The only criticism I could I provide is that the front bumper air intakes could’ve perhaps been more angular and aggressive. Altogether, a clean, well proportioned design.

2009-2010 Holden VE Commodore SS V sedan 01

2006-2009 Holden VE Commodore SS V sedan (2010-12-28)

Ford FG Falcon XR8

2008 Ford FG Falcon XR8

2008 Ford FG Falcon XR8 01

Alfa Romeo 159

Based on the widely acclaimed Alfa Romeo Brera, this is certainly a striking vehicle.

Alfa 159 grey

Alfa 159 - Flickr - David Villarreal Fernández (7)

Aston Martin Rapide S

Aston Martin Rapide S - White/Silver Front Aston Martin Rapide S - Side Profile - Magma Red Aston Martin Rapide S - Rear Three Quarters - Magma Red

Kia Optima (Circa 2012)

Like the Hyundai i45, this feels like an upmarket car. A solid example of the ‘Tiger Nose’ design approach Peter Schreyer (designer at Kia) has pushed forward.

Kia Optima circa 2012 - Rear Kia Optima circa 2012 - Front

Volvo S60 (Second Generation, Circa 2012)

Paris - Mondial de l'automobile 2010 - Volvo S60 - 003

Volvo S60 R-Design (II, Facelift) – Heckansicht, 26. Dezember 2013, Düsseldorf

Mitsubishi 380

2007-2008 Mitsubishi 380 (DB III) VR-X sedan 01

2006-2007 Mitsubishi 380 (DB II) SX sedan 03

Jaguar XF-R (Circa 2012)

Jaguar XF-R Front Jaguar XF-R Rear

Mercedes-Benz CLS Class (Circa 2008)

Initially I found the CLS to be malformed, but after seeing it in the metal, I quickly changed my mind. It is a gorgeous set of wheels.

Mercedes CLS Facelift front

Mercedes CLS Facelift rear

Mazda 6 (Third Generation; GJ series; Circa 2013)

Initially, I wasn’t hugely impressed. It was too large and the way the lines finished towards the rear was a bit unconvincing. However, having seen it many times in the flesh and on the screen, it has grown on me. This is is an outstanding design.

2012 Mazda 6 unveiled in Paris (8049081405)

2013 Mazda6 2.0 saloon in Cyberjaya, Malaysia (01)

2013 Mazda6 2.0 saloon in Cyberjaya, Malaysia (02)

2012 Mazda 6 unveiled in Paris (8049078307)

Tesla Model S (Circa 2013)

I’m not sure whether it’s a hatchback or sedan, but it certainly is sublime.

Tesla Model S Rear Black Tesla Model S Front Black Tesla Model S Side Profile Black Tesla Model S Side Profile Red

Tesla Model S Signature

Gibraltar G1 Tesla Motors Model S

Model S driving