Archive | April 2014

Backpacking Through India (2008)

In 2008, I got the chance to travel back to India, the country of my birth, this time as a backpacker seeing the sights. The homecoming trip was among the most beautiful and profound experiences I have ever had, and I’m so glad I had my camera along with me to snap some pictures. An amateur travel photographer such as myself has to find that difficult balance between capturing moments behind a camera, and actually living moments without it. While I didn’t get as many photos as I perhaps would have liked, I’ll always be grateful for those ten days I spent reconnecting with my roots.

Some highlights:

Munching on mutton biryani in Hyderabad

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Hyderabad is famous for Nawabi cuisine, of which mutton biryani is the most popular dish (and my favorite!)

Visiting the Meenakshi Amman Temple

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A sacred symbol for the Tamil people, the temple contains 14 towers filled with over 33,000 sculptures. It was recently nominated for a list of seven “New Wonders of the World.”

Seeing the Harmandir Sahib

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The Golden Temple is a prominent Sikh house of worship which opens its four doors to people of all religions to come and practice their faith.

Witnessing the Wagah border ceremony in Amritsar

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The Beating Retreat Ceremony is a joint military ritual practiced between Indian and Pakistani soldiers.

Holy Cows on Goa Beach

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You have to be careful with these beasts–while they’re happy to pose for photos in the afternoon, they dislike being disturbed while sleeping at night.

Boating down the Kerala in Alleppey

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You can rent a houseboat for a whole day for not too much money ($75+) and take a tour of beautiful villages along a series of rivers. What’s more and all food and drink is included in the price!

The Taj Mahal in Agra

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I didn’t expect to be so moved by this iconic site, but I definitely was!


from Bhaskar Chanda


Transcendence Review

Transcendence (2014)

bhaskar chanda transcendenceI won’t be the first reviewer to express my disappointment in what could have been a glorious film but ended up a clunker. The directorial debut of the cinematographic genius behind Christopher Nolan’s best work, Transcendence combines an intricate and interesting premise with the proven talents of Johnny Depp, Cillian Murphy, Paul Bettany, Rebecca Hall, and Morgan Freeman and still comes up short. While vastly different tonally, Transcendence is destined to be compared to Spike Jonze’s 2013 film Her, a critical darling, Oscar-nominee, and similar meditation on AI. But where Her was an exercise in control and elegant storytelling, a small but well-made vehicle navigating gracefully through an ocean of big ideas and age-defining questions, Transcendence is a muddled mess, a Titanic of a movie that gets caught in the ice and drowns in its own ambitions. Depp plays Dr. Will Caster, the world-renowned expert on artificial intelligence who hopes to achieve singularity by creating an all-encompassing intelligence in touch with the broad spectrum of human emotion. When he is attacked by Luddite terrorists, his wife (Hall) and best friend (Bettany) attempt to save him by injecting his consciousness into his own experiment, where he becomes all-seeing, all-knowing, and all-powerful. The film is to be commended for attempting to conceive and create a world where these events are possible, but in the end so many opportunities are missed that it’s hard to appreciate the successes achieved. 2.5/5 stars.


from Bhaskar Chanda

Big News For Stem Cell Research

bhaskar chanda cloningIt turns out this was a big month for stem cell research, for medical biophysics, and for science and humanity in general. In two separate journals, two separate groups of scientists published that they had used cloning technology to create stem cells that genetically match specific adult patients, and can be used to produce any cell type in those patients.

In nature, an embryo forms after a sperm cell fertilizes an egg. In these studies, scientists placed the nucleus of an adult skin cell inside the ovum and watched as the artificially reconstructed egg went through all the primary stages of embryonic development. Stem cells are useful because they can potentially develop into any type of body tissue, meaning they could be used to treat numerous diseases, syndromes, and injuries.

The approach was first suggested about twenty years ago by John Gearhart, who serves as director of the University of Pennsylvania’s Institute for Regenerative Medicine. Just last year, Shoukhrat Mitalipov and his colleagues at Oregon Health & Science University published a groundbreaking report, announcing they had created coned embryos using skin cells from a fetus and a baby. The study was expanded upon this year by a group at the CHA Stem Cell Institute in South Korea led by Young Gie Chung, as well as a group at the New York Stem Cell Foundation Research Institute led by Dieter Egli. While the former used skin cells from a 35-year-old man and a 75-year-old man, the latter used skin cells from a 32-year-old woman with Type 1 diabetes.

Congratulations to both teams! It’s an honor to be working in a field where brilliant problem solvers are making new discoveries every day, discoveries that promise to save and change lives.

from Bhaskar Chanda

Ft. Lauderdale and the Bahamas (2007)

After the Alberta Rockies, I decided it was time to go some place warm–somewhere with beaches and lots of sun. But where? The answer–Ft Lauderdale, and then the Bahamas.

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First, Ft. Lauderdale. This city in Florida has twenty-three miles of beaches. With a year round average temperature is 77 degrees Fahrenheit and average 3,000 hours of sunlight, Ft. Lauderdale was just what I needed after skiing and ice climbing in one of the coldest countries in the world (also the one I call home). Highlights of the trip included fishing of the Deerfield Pier, golfing at Pompano Beach, and kayaking off Dania Beach.

Next stop, the Bahamas! A tropical paradise, Bahamas has never experienced a single frost or freeze, and there’s only a 12 degree Fahrenheit difference between its coolest and warmest month. I spent much of my time there exploring the sights like Preacher’s Cafe and scuba diving the Andros Barrier Reef.

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Stay tuned for my next post where I’ll talk a bit and share some photos of my 2008 trip to Miami!

from Bhaskar Chanda

Mistaken For Strangers Review

Mistaken For Strangers (2014)

Directed by Tom Berninger, featuring Matt Berninger, Tom Berninger, Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, Bryan Devendorf,  and Scott Devendorf.

bhaskar chanda mfsTom Berninger’s Mistaken For Strangers is so much more than your average, run-of-the-mill rock doc–it’s a generous and vulnerable contemplation on family, success, and happiness, and a bold statement about what music documentaries are for. The premise is simple: Matt Berninger, frontman of indie smash hit and critical darling The National, invites his brother Tom to come on the band’s largest tour yet as a roadie. An aspiring filmmaker (if he aspires to anything at all), Tom brings his camera along in hopes of making a documentary based on his impressions of a ten-year-old band as their popularity is soaring. What follows is a profoundly funny and touchingly sincere portrait of two brothers as different as different can be. Amongst beautifully captured clips of performances in exotic cities and cameos by celebrity fans, we get to go behind-the-scenes of behind-the-scenes and see Tom’s fumbling in both of his duties, as a roadie and as a filmmaker. He asks bemused band members inane questions, or instructs them to pose and recite goofy phrases he’s come up with. The result, while perhaps not being the performance-minded rock and roll saga many National fans might clamor for, in the end manages to capture the similarities between the two brothers and the art they create. In many ways, Mistaken For Strangers is a film equivalent of a National album–it’s shabby and unglamorous and as it turns inward, it doesn’t hide from the dark. 4/5 stars.

from Bhaskar Chanda