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Newsletter. Issue 2009-01. January 03, 2009
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People Places and Things

Christmas and New Year Celebrations Around The World ? 2008

Kuwait: 'Twinkling Stars' win 'GULAB' Carol Singing Competition
From: http://mangalorean.com
The tradition of Christmas carols hails back as far as the thirteenth century, although carols were originally folk songs sung during celebrations like harvest, tide or Christmas. It was only later that carols begun to be sung in church, and to be specifically associated with Christmas. It is for the very first time in Kuwait that a Goan organization took up the challenge to present 'Carol singing competition' as part of the third and final event of the GULAB Konkani magazine's Silver Jubilee celebrations that commenced in June 2008..

Goan Overseas Association ? Bringing in the New Year

Photograph by Albert Fernandes

Governor General Announces New Appointments to the Order of Canada
December 30, 2008

OTTAWA ? Her Excellency the Right Honourable MichaŽlle Jean, Governor General of Canada, announced today 60 new appointments to the Order of Canada. The new appointees include 4 Companions (C.C.), 14 Officers (O.C.), and 42 Members (C.M.). These appointments were made on the recommendation of the Advisory Council on the Order of Canada.
Notable Persons:
Arvind Koshal, O.C.
Edmonton, Alberta
Officer of the Order of Canada
For his contributions to the field of cardiac surgery in Canada, notably in performing several innovative techniques, and for his leadership in developing one of the leading cardiac care programs in the country.

Lata Pada, C.M.
Mississauga, Ontario
Member of the Order of Canada
For her contributions to the development of South Asian dance as a choreographer, teacher, dancer and artistic director, as well as for her commitment and support of the Indian community in Canada.

M. Azhar Ali Khan, C.M.
Ottawa, Ontario
Member of the Order of Canada
For his contributions as a leader in the Muslim community and as a journalist and volunteer dedicated to strengthening ties between people of diverse backgrounds and faiths.

Angela Rebeiro, C.M.
Toronto, Ontario
Member of the Order of Canada
For her contributions to the promotion of Canadian writers through numerous leadership roles in the publishing and literary world, notably as head of Playwrights Canada Press, and as an active and influential volunteer for arts organizations.

The Doyen Of Goan Writing In English
(Interview With Victor Rangel-Ribeiro)

Sent: December 30, 2008

Victor Rangel-Ribeiro is a name closely connected with the resurgence that Goan writing in English has seen in recent years. An octogenarian, what's admirable about him is not just the high-energy levels with which he works on his craft, but also his generosity in sharing his skills and mentoring others keen to enter the world of writing books and more. Excerpts from an interview with Frederick 'FN' Noronha, as Rangel-Ribeiro returns to Goa for this annual sojourn. This time, to be based in Altinho (Panjim) while his ancestral home at Alto Porvorim gets a facelift.

FN: How do you judge the current trajectory of Goan writing in English? Growing in number, lacking in quality, offering a lot of potential, or what?

VRR: Growing in quantity, certainly; improving in quality, because selected writers are becoming more conscious of their craft and technique and are writing better. They in turn are influencing others.

I think the Goa Writers Group [http://goawriters.notlong.com] is playing a significant role here. They are like the yeast that causes dough to rise; with good yeast one can make good bread. I see a lot of potential in the writers I meet, a potential limited only by personal factors such as time, technique, and determination.

FN: How does expat writing compare to the work of writers back in Goa? What do you see as the main differences and contrasts? Are there similarities, too?

VRR: Expat writing is no different from the work of writers in Goa. We have our good writers and our sloppy writers. The main difference is that our sloppy writers overseas fall by the wayside much faster; in Goa, they rush to a local printer and become 'published' authors. The sloppy writers in Goa who self-publish their books then give self-publication a bad name, thus muddying the waters for the good writers in Goa who also decide to self-publish their books.

FN: From your interaction with young writers in Goa -- and you have many such -- what do you feel of their potential, their shortcomings, and the challenges they need to work on?

VRR: I feel they have great potential, but this potential is limited by an equally great ego. Somehow some of them have come to believe that whatever they write is perfect as soon as they have set it down on paper, and therefore needs no improvement. Revision is an alien concept.

"Rewrite? Why? This is already very clear!" is a protest I hear more often in Goa than I would from one of my writing students at Fairleigh Dickinson University in New Jersey.

So the greatest challenge young writers here have to work on is their own sense of self. They need to realize perfection is a goal they have to strive for, not something they have already achieved or were born with. I have gained some success as a writer, but not only do I regard each manuscript as a work in progress, but I also regard myself, the writer, as a 'work in progress'. I am continually trying to improve my writing skills, learning almost every day from writers who are better than I am.

FN: Could you mention three most crucial things that Goa needs to be doing, so as to give a push to writing and creative endeavours here?

VRR: Goa needs to develop the reading habit. Goa needs to establish a well-stocked, up-to-date, professionally staffed and inviting public library in every village. Goans need to buy books for their home bookshelves, to recommend books that they like to their friends, and to give books that they like as presents, giving them as birthday and Christmas gifts, and sometimes giving them for no reason at all.

FN: Whom do you rate as the three most promising young Goan fiction writers today?

VRR: Frederick, I'm 83 years old. To me, every other writer is a young writer, including Damodar Mauzo, who is a senior writer, and Margaret Mascarenhas, who will soon have a blockbuster on the international scene!

Recently, I read several ghost stories by Venita Coelho, and I found some of them to be really quite out of the ordinary. So I would regard Venita as a promising young Goan fiction writer. Because I live overseas for most of the year, I'm not aware of other young writers who are publishing short stories locally. Jose [Lourenco] writes an occasional story in English, but has now switched to Konkani. If you name some names, I'll be glad to look at their work.

FN: How do you compare writing in English, with writing in other languages (in Goa, or the diaspora)?

I'm not sure I understand the question fully, and even if I did, I'm not sure I'd be qualified to answer it. Writers writing in English, and those writing in Konkani, Marathi, and Portuguese, have different traditions and different models to follow. I am still familiarizing myself with the Devanagari script so I at the moment I can only read through Konkani stories with difficulty. I have also just begun to spell my way through a Marathi book on the
Ranes. So while I'm unqualified now, five years from now I may be able to give you a better answer!

FN: Would you go along with the view that writing in English throws up alien and unauthentic voices in a country like India, and particularly in the context of Goa?

Writing in English is now throwing up alien voices in countries around the world, because English is now the de-facto national language in many countries that do not recognize it as such.

Does it throw up the occasional unauthentic voice? Of course it does. In the past these voices belonged to people who had only a passing knowledge of Goa -- Anita Desai and Irving Stone come to mind. More recently, non-Goans settled in Goa have written about Goa. A non-Goan settled in the US has also been writing about Goa. Some of these works disparage or caricature Goa and annoy the heck out of some of us. They are unauthentic, not because of their subject matter, but because they do not really show any understanding of the Goan ethos. Can anything much be done about it? Re-education camps, perhaps? Nah!!!

FN: How do you perceive the outside world taking to your writing, which usually focuses on very Goa-related themes?

It is true that I focus generally on very Goa-related themes, but I also touch on universal human values.

Tivolem was a novel about a fictional Goan village, but it struck a chord with readers from around the
world. A Brazilian teacher told me it reminded her of home in Sao Paulo; an American poet who had
travelled widely said it reminded him of time he had spent in the Abruzzi in Italy; a Filippina said it reflected life in the Philippines, and of course every Goan thought Tivolem was his own native village.

It was because of this universal connection -- and inspite of its 'Goanness' -- that an American publisher not only brought out my book in hard cover but awarded it a fiction prize, and that a professional publication picked it as one of the 'twenty notable first novels' published in America in 1998. And a New York Times critic praised it precisely because it "resonates with events in a far-off place and time." [I am quoting from memory.]

I should tell you that in the United States the years from 1956 through 1989 were fallow years for me as a fiction writer. The breakthrough came when in 1990 I wrote a story about Lazarinho, the petty thief who figured later in Tivolem. This story got me a rave letter from a top literary magazine, the Iowa Review, which accepted it because they felt it projected a vivid and believable picture of village life. The same story, along with two others, won me a New York Foundation for the Arts fiction fellowship worth $7,500. It also got me readings all over New York.

I promptly enrolled in the Iowa Summer Writing Workshop, choosing a group that would be led by the editor of the North American Review. At the very first session, I read a story about life in the US, which he accepted that very evening. At a later session he accepted Angel Wings, a story about life
and death set again in a small village in Goa. Obviously, the fact that I wrote about Goa was not a handicap. Rather, I became known because my
stories about Goa intrigued American readers -- but to intrigue them they had to be well written!

FN: Tell us what were the three most difficult challenges you yourself had to face to make it as a writer?

VRR: Strangely enough, it was the fact that whatever I wrote while I lived in Bombay was published the very next day. This gave me the false sense that I was better than I really was. When I got to New York in 1956, the stories that I sent out were rejected routinely. I realized then that I really had to settle down and learn the craft of fiction writing. I also had to learn to critique my own work, and to revise it and rewrite it much as a jeweller works with a diamond.

Secondly, the constant rejections made me question my faith in myself as a writer. But at the same time I was covering concerts and opera for The New York Times, under my own byline, and that did help sustain my self-confidence. Because I was deeply involved in music, I began writing on that subject; my first major book on music was published in 1981 and the second one followed ten years later.

The third challenge was having to earn a living. I often had to work two jobs. For example, while copy
chief at an industrial Fifth Avenue ad agency, a 9-5 job, I would go home for dinner, then go back to Manhattan to type ads for the Daily News from 7 p.m. to midnight. Or I'd be teaching at a school while copy-editing for major publishers on the side. Bread had to be put on the table first; but giving up writing was never an option.

FN: Which of your books do you feel most proud about in hindsight, today? Why?

The first is a book nobody knows about. In January 1953 the Times of India had recruited me away from the National Standard and sent me off to Calcutta as Sunday Editor of its new Calcutta edition. In August they shut us down overnight and I was jobless. Back in Bombay, I had an irresistible urge to go to St. Xavier's College and see my old guru, [the prominent historian] Fr. Heras. He said, immediately, "Victor, an angel has sent you."

Apparently he was desperate to find someone to edit a stack of secret East India Company documents, 1796-1803, that Dr. Saletore of the National Archives had turned over to him on Independence. A professor Fr. Heras had assigned to do the job had done nothing, and now Dr. Saletore was threatening to cut off his grant. Fr. Heras showed me the stack and said, "I need an introduction, thorough editing, footnotes, maps, and a bibliography. You have three months. Can you do it?"

I was young, stupid, and out of a job. I said, "Of course I can." And I delivered. The volume has been published by the National Archives, with Fr. Heras's name as editor. But I have letters from him proving I did the work. The second book I am proud of is Baroque Music, A Practical Guide for the Performer, published by Schirmer Books in New York in 1981. It was praised by Yehudi Menuhin and other great musicians, and helped change the way music of that period was being performed and recorded.

It took me ten years to research and write it, and now anytime I read it I am surprised by the depth of scholarship that was involved. The book is found in music libraries across North America and Europe, and also in the Kala Academy library in Panaji. I am now preparing a second edition.

FN: Is it viable to live from writing in the 21st century?

If you write about sex. If you write a series of self-improvement books. If you write believable horror
stories and novels. If you write gripping mysteries. If you write fiction that includes lots of sex and/or violence.

FN: What advice would you give to young writers wanting to enter the field?

VRR: Believe in yourself, but shed any illusions you have of quick success. Prepare to work hard. Acquire technique. Read widely, but selectively. Write every day. Writing is a discipline as well as a profession.

Join a writers' group. You will learn to critique and to accept criticism. Learn to edit and to proofread -- these are essential skills, and you will need them when your work is accepted and you are given proofs to check.

Prepare yourself for rejection slips -- react positively, revise your work, send it out again. If you achieve success, remain modest. Success can be very short-lived. Share your knowledge with others, especially if they reach out to you.


VRR mentoring a writer's workshop

First published in the Herald, Panjim on Dec 28, 2008.

New snow blower for Christmas? Take care, it is not a toy
Provided by Anne-Marie Tobin,

TORONTO - If you find a snow blower under the Christmas tree, or a note from Santa to check for one in the garage, take care as you proceed to use this new piece of equipment, experts advise.

By mid-December, Dr. William Andrade, a plastic surgeon in Newmarket, Ont., had already seen four snow blower injuries to the hand at his hospital, compared to five last year for the whole winter.

"They're pretty severe injuries," said Andrade, division chief of plastic surgery at Southlake Regional Health Centre. "People come in and they often have a badly injured hand and that means months and months of therapy - surgery, and months of therapy afterward."

One of those unfortunate enough to require Andrade's attention was Dane Mutic, who ran into trouble in late November as he cleared the driveway in front of his double garage after a heavy snowfall. Mutic, 40, and his wife got the used snow blower through a family estate sale, but it came without an owner's manual. "I've had this snow blower for a number of years and I've always been careful with it, but for some reason it got blocked up," he said from his home in Newmarket, where he's still recuperating.

"It got iced up and it was very blocked, so nothing was shooting up the auger, the chute. And for some unknown reason - I don't know why, I can never answer that properly - I went to use my hand to unclog the snow." The engine was still running, but he thought the unit was off because it has a separate clutch system in which a lever is pressed down to actually start the augers, he said.

"So I don't know if I pressed it with my other hand or it was off or it was blocked off, and when I put my hand in, the snow gave way," he said.

"Sometimes it's under tension and it might have started up that way. But my hand got stuck in there." It was around 4 p.m., and he yelled for some teenagers down the street to come help, but they couldn't do much. A neighbour with a crowbar managed to extricate his hand. "And when I took my glove off there was a lot of soft-tissue damage," he said.

And so Mutic, who works as an MRI technician, was taken away by an ambulance, and ironically became a patient at the hospital where he works.

There was no tendon or nerve damage, he said, but he needed numerous stitches on three fingers of his left hand, and two pins were put into his index finger to realign the bones. He's right-handed, but even so, he'll be off work for weeks. "It's hard to imagine how much you use both hands until you don't have the use of one," he said, noting that he's doing finger exercises and requires occupational therapy.

He's not an isolated case, by any means.

The U.S. Consumer Products Safety Commission noted there were three times as many snow blower injuries last year as in 2006. And earlier this month, Colorado Avalanche captain Joe Sakic of the NHL had surgery to repair three broken fingers and tendon damage after a snow blower accident at his house.

A study published this month in the Annals of Plastic Surgery reviewed the questionnaires and treatment records of 22 people with snow blower injuries to the hand between 2002 and 2005. The majority of the patients, all treated at Hartford Hospital in Hartford, Conn., were aware of safety warnings and 82 per cent injured themselves with the machine running. Half held upper-level educational degrees. Four people had consumed alcoholic drinks before the injury. Averaged results showed operator experience of 15 years, and machine age of 21 years.

"Operator inexperience, low operator intelligence and excessive alcohol consumption do not seem to contribute to injury," said an abstract of the study. Instead, it said significant experience, older machines, short durations of use before injury and underlying misperceptions about snow blower design and function typically set the stage for injury. After the rash of accidents in the Newmarket area, Southlake issued an advisory to warn area residents to take care.

If an accident does occur, it said to call 911, place a clean sterile dressing on the wound, apply firm pressure to control bleeding and rest and elevate the wounded limb. In the event of an amputation, take the severed finger to the hospital, wrapped in moist gauze and placed in a clear plastic bag, which should then be placed on ice.

"Depending on how badly injured the part is, sometimes it can be reattached, but other times it can't," said Andrade. "So then it's just a matter of repairing the remaining injuries on the hand as best you can and trying to just restore whatever hand function that you can."

Valerie Powell, a spokesperson for the Canada Safety Council, said her No. 1 piece of advice for snow blower owners would be to read the owner's manual thoroughly. "If there is a jam, do not use your hand to unblock it," she said from Ottawa.

"Don't do what I did," said Mutic.

"The thing is I know better. I know I shouldn't do that, but for some unknown reason, why I felt compelled to put my hand in there, I can't answer that." Although a few experts suggest using a broom handle to dislodge the jam, Mutic said some firefighter friends told him that if the machine starts rotating again with a broom handle in it, it could kick back, and they've seen people with injuries to the face.

Despite his horrible experience, Mutic expects he will probably use the snow blower again, but he will obviously be more careful - and he'll want someone else around. "Make sure that there is always somebody nearby in case something does happen," said Mutic. "Because accidents can happen, and they will happen."

Here are some tips for using a snow blower from the Canada Safety Council:

  • Buy a machine approved by CSA International.

  • Never add fuel to the gas tank when the engine is running or hot.

  • Always push, never pull, a snow blower. If you stumble while pulling it, the machine could land on you.

  • Gravel can become a dangerous projectile when fired from a snow blower's exhaust chute. Leave a ground clearance of 2.5 centimetres when clearing snow from an area of gravel or crushed rock.

  • Shut off the snow blower when you are not using it. It only takes a few seconds for a child to be injured by an unattended machine.

  • Before servicing a gasoline-powered snow blower, you should disconnect the spark plug wire so you can be assured that the engine won't accidentally start.

  • Hearing protection is a good idea when using your snow blower.

  • A long scarf and other loose-fitting clothes can get caught in a snow blower's machinery and cause injury.

Notebook computers overtake desktop PCs: study
Wednesday, December 24, 2008
The Associated Press

Shipments of notebook computers edged past desktop sales in the third quarter for the first time, according to data from the research firm iSuppli. Preliminary figures for the quarter show notebook PC shipments shot up about 40 per cent from the same period a year ago to 38.6 million, iSuppli said Tuesday. Meanwhile desktop shipments fell about 1.3 per cent to 38.5 million.

The numbers underscore a broader shift toward portable computing as more functions like e-mail and web surfing migrate to mobile phones and the popularity of inexpensive "netbooks" used mainly for internet access grows.

"The trend has accelerated and will continue going forward," AmTech Research analyst Dinesh Moorjani said. He expects computer makers to ratchet down production of desktops by 20 per cent in the fourth quarter while notebook production should remain flat.

The research firm IDC also predicted this month that sales of laptops would fare better amid a deepening recession. IDC projects portable PC shipments will grow by 15.2 per cent in 2009, while expecting a 6.7 per cent decline for desktops and servers using PC microprocessors.

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