About: This is a light-hearted commentary of what happened this week, in our World.
“I’m tough, ambitious and I know exactly what I want, If that makes me a b***h, Okay” – Madonna, Singer-Songwriter.
New Zealand’s Parliament
I just cannot stop talking about Jacinda Arden’s New Zealand. When Jacinda was re-elected as Prime Minister in a landslide last month, she brought-in to the law-making business people from diverse backgrounds, in what is considered as the most inclusive Parliament in the world. Almost half of New Zealand’s newly sworn-in Parliament are women and 11% are LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, and Queer/Questioning). Both New Zealand’s Indigenous Māori and people with Pacific Island heritage are represented at a slightly higher rate than in the general population.
“It looks like New Zealand looks. We’re not male, pale and stale anymore”, said a professor of Politics at the University of Auckland, of the country’s Government.
The coronavirus Vaccine Station is beginning to fill. Over the past weeks, we had Sputnik V, Pfizer, and Moderna come up with positive results of ensuring coronavirus negatives. On 23rd November, Oxford/AstraZeneca of the United Kingdom wriggled in to the Station with claims of about 70% efficacy levels going up to 90% if a lower dose is used. Smells like Homeopathy? The Oxford Vaccine is cheaper, easier to store and distribute.
In China, a company called Sinopharm claims its vaccine has been given on an experimental basis to nearly a million people and has no adverse reactions, as yet. However, it has not provided any clear clinical evidence of efficacy levels.
If the coronavirus is listening to all the Vaccine Noise it must be packing its bags to return home (China?) and lie-low until we again put up the ‘Welcome Home Board’ – lets not!
Vaccines take years to develop, but thanks to advancement in science & technology and great minds working awfully hard, we are getting quicker results and perhaps longer lives.
The United States (US) of America.
US President Donald Trump, a loser, is getting close to agreeing to hand-over to the winning Biden-Harris team in January 2021 and the Transition seems to be happening. But he is yet to concede. ‘Biding’ his time?
Meanwhile, with the pandemic hitting many highs in America, accelerated by the Thanksgiving movement, Trump is spending more time on his golf course.
Does it help? Could it be that he tried his best to ’go out’ famous but settled down to become infamous? That’s famous anyway!
Antonio Stradivari (1644 to 1737) hailing from Cremona, Italy is said to be the greatest hand-made violin maker in history and a Stradivarius Violin is considered the finest string instrument ever created. They are highly prized, valued, and used by professionals the world over.
Baluswamy Dikshitar – one of the trinity of carnatic music composers – is believed to be the first, in India, to introduce the violin into traditional carnatic music in the 17th century. With this background here’s a story.
The art and craft of indigenously making a hand-made violin did not reach India, until recently. Four craftsman: Renjith K P of Mallapuram, Kerala, a father-son duo of Murali E D & Vinay Murali from Ernakulam, Kerala, and Satyanarayana of Tamil Nadu achieved a historic milestone in completing hand-made copies of the famous Stradivarius Violin after attending rigorous training workshops, knowns as ‘Violin Wise’, organised by the Lalgudi Trust, founded by late Lalagudi Jayaram and now run by his violinist son G J R Krishnan.
Over many years, beginning in 2013, the four craftsman diligently attended the annual workshops making steady progress in learning the art, and every aspect of hand-making a violin. James Wimmer a renowned Luthier – someone who builds and repairs a string instruments – from Santa Barbara, USA who trained in Germany under Wolfang Uebel – a violin making specialist- has been engaged by the Trust to train the craftsmen, which has eventually brought hand-made violin making (and repair) to this finelytuned stage. It takes about two to three months to hand-craft a violin and costs about Rs 1.5 Lakh.
In India, teak and jackfruit tree are used for making violins while European woods, such as maple spruce, are the best to bring out the right tone. Other kinds of Violins are mostly made in Rampur, Uttar Pradesh and in Kolkatta, West Bengal.
Can you recall some Violin greats? I can, a few: Late Yehudi Menuhin is one, Joshua Bell, Nicole Benedetti… are others. India? Late Kunnakudi Vaidyananthan, Late Lalgudi G Jayaraman, L Subramanian…
Football: The ‘Hand of God’ goes back to God.
On 25th November, Diego Armando Maradona, of Argentina, one of the greatest, superstar, football players of all time passed the ball to God who was standing outside the Football arena, and ran to him, forever – never to return, falling to a ‘red card’ cardiac arrest. He was 60 years old, and we all wish he could have shown us more of his magic play, conquering our hearts with his divine talent of running and scoring magnificent goals with the ball. Who can forget the ‘Hand of God Goal’, but better still the second goal by Maradona – voted the ‘Goal of the Century’ four minutes after the Hand of Gold Goal, in the very same game. Let’s go back to that game.
It was a sunny 22nd June 1986, the FIFA World Cup Quarter-Final between Argentina and England in the Aztec Stadium in Mexico City. There was a shimmering tension in the air as the game was set to begin.
In the background was a humiliating defeat in the Falklands War over ‘territorial’ claims, ‘handed’ down by Iron-lady Margaret Thatcher’s England, to Lieutenant General Leopoldo Galtieri’s Argentina. On the football field, the then 25 year old Captain Maradona said, ‘Let’s get on with the Game’
The scores were tied 0-0 at half-time. Six minutes into the second half of the match, Maradona while trying to dribble past the English defenders passed the ball to team-mate Jorge Valdano. However, the ball was cleared towards the England goal by English defender Steve Hodge. Maradona pounced on the chance but struggled to get to the ball with England goalkeeper Peter Shilton heading up at almost the same time. But Maradona ‘grew a leg’ on his left arm to nudge the ball-in what looked like a header – and found the net, giving Argentina the much-needed goal lead. The English players complained to the Referee on the use of arms, but the goal stood up to the challenge – given that there was no video refereeing at that time and the Referee was obstructed (by God?) from having a clear view. The benefit of doubt went to Argentina. Later, Maradona said the goal was, “a bit with the head and a bit with the hand of God.”
Four minutes after the ‘Hand of God goal’, in the 55th minute, Maradona collected the ball in the Argentine half and in a magical, extraordinary solo run, weaved his way through the England defence as if it wasn’t there, before striking a low hard shot into the nets. It was voted one of the greatest goals of all time.
Said somebody from the England side, ‘The first goal was a disgrace, It was handball, and it was a dreadful mistake, but the second goal was a miracle. One of the most brilliant I had ever seen. He (Maradona) has such grace, such poise on the ball. I didn’t like the second goal, but I couldn’t help but admire it.”
Going on, Argentina beat Belgium, 2-0 (Maradona scored twice) in the Semi-Finals, to reach the Finals with Germany, which it won, 3-2. Argentina lifted the Football World Cup for the second time in 1986, the first being in 1978.
Diego Maradona was the son of a maid and a factory worker and grew up in a shack in Villa Fiorito, in the suburbs of Buenos Aires, Argentina. He stood five feet, five inches, but his stocky body and muscular legs gave him awesome explosive power.
Like the game of Football, Maradona’s life can be divided into two halves – God being a full-time Referee in the first.
In the first half, Maradona began his professional career at age 15, at Argentinos Juniors, a historic but modest club. Success there took him to Boca Juniors and then to Barcelona and Napoli. But he found fame and fortune hard to handle; and craved affection. Nightclubbing, with the wrong people, led to dribbling with cocaine addiction – a habit he struggled to tackle and overcome. There were many women in his life, and they say he had enough children to form a football team of his own.
The second half of Maradona’s life was tragic. Obese, looking worn-out, and often in pain he made pathetic attempts at comebacks. He failed as a Manager, especially of Argentina’s national team and was often in the headlines for all the wrong reasons.
In his sagacity, he predicted that compatriot Lionel Messi would become one of the World’s greatest players. Kind of handing over the ball? No 10.
Rest in Peace, Diego Maradona. We’ll miss the Hand of God. But those trademark surging solo runs with the ball as-if glued to the football boots, and the instinctive dashes of brilliant vision will forever stay glued to our memory. He is Legend. Never mind the second half!
There are about 40,000 known species of Spiders, and they have been around on Earth spinning their webs for over 300 million years. They can be found in every Continent except Antarctica. If the world’s population of spiders worked together, they could theoretically eat every human on Earth in one year. Planet of the Spiders? Not all spiders build webs, but every species produces silk.
Spider silk is stronger by weight than steel and as tough or even tougher than Kevlar – the toughest man-made polymer. It is finer than human hair and able to maintain its strength below – 40 Degrees Centigrade. Spider silk is also more elastic and waterproof than silkworm silk.
Spider Silk is primarily made up of proteins- chains of amino acids. There are about seven types of silk, for different uses, produced by seven separate silk glands. A single spider does not possess all seven glands and has about three or four of them in a life. The glands are located at the lower side of the abdomen and contains a watery fluid known as ‘dope’, which is the first stage of silk production. This fluid passes through a spinneret (a web spinner) and in fractions of a second, this goopy, liquid slurry of proteins is transformed. And it doesn’t just turn into a solid. On their way out of a spider’s bottom, the protein building blocks in silk, called spidroins, fold themselves and interlace, creating a highly organised structure – many fibres bound together like a cable – without a catalysing outside force. The diameter of a single fibre is controlled by the muscular action of a valve. The faster and tighter the silk is drawn, the stronger the silk. That’s how they generate different qualities of silk.
Scientists have spent years trying to mimic spider silk hoping that it will someday revolutionise the construction of ultra-strong, sustainable materials.
How about a spider silk sari with a matching spider silk blouse for an Indian Wedding? Lots of strength in there!
While spiders produce tough silk, the World is continuously spinning a web or hard news. There’s lots of turmoil in Africa: Ethiopia, Nigeria are hitting the brutal headlines. This Friday, a top Iranian Nuclear Scientist was assassinated in Iran: he died in Hospital after an attack on his car. Belarus President Alexander Lukashenko is showing signs that he may finally give up power after months of protests against his disputed re-election in August. Down under, Australia is seeing spectacular success in eliminating the coronavirus. Read that the Australian Open Tennis Tournament opening in a new January 2021 may be postponed by one or two weeks.
The World is a happening place. Enjoy every single day. Spin your story, with or without Spider Silk and leave the rest to the Hand of God.