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Bird of the Day: Jamaican Blackbird (Portland Gap, Jamaica)

April 18, 2015

Stephan Brusche, Come To Kerala!

April 18, 2015
Stephan Brusche (@isteef)

Stephan Brusche (@isteef) From left to right: tiger, WBD, elephant

Hospitality is in our DNA, but we always want to go the extra mile for the those who tickle our creative fancy. In fact, World Banana Day touches us on multiple dimensions, and we thank our newest contributor, Rosanna Abrachan, for bringing it to our attention.

Stephen Brusche is someone who clearly enjoys playing with his food, and scrolling through his gallery it was close to impossible to choose favorites from over 200 fabulously creative examples, crafted with a wink and smile at both the sacred and the profane. We settled on 2 of our iconic Kerala fauna above, but be prepared to lose yourself in the images when you visit his site. Read more…

Bird of the Day: Bay-backed Shrike (Bangalore, Karnataka)

April 17, 2015

Bay-backed Shrike by Brinda Suresh - RAXA Collective

The Great Golden Swallow Gear Review: Part 3

April 17, 2015

Seth displaying his catch. Photo by Justin Proctor.

Thermarest Prolite Plus sleeping pad:

Seth: Comfortable and light, these pads kept us insulated and padded even on cement floors, but the compression sack that is supposed to store the pad is far too small. I don’t recommend sleeping on these on a hot, humid day at around noon.

Justin: This is the first thermarest I’ve used in my life. I’ll probably never have to buy another. I slept comfortably on this thermarest every night, whether it was lying on concrete, a tiled floor, or a more forgiving forest floor. I threw out the ludicrously small sack that came with this otherwise good product on the second day.

John: Don’t ask me, I just sleep on an old yoga mat. I should also point out that it took Seth and Justin a few minutes to deflate and roll these up every morning.


ExOfficio Men’s Boxer, Curfew, medium: (worn by Seth – see photo)

Seth: These highly expensive pairs of underwear are fast drying, don’t retain bad odors, and are quite breathable. Their only downside is that there’s a bit too much fabric in the seat, so they can be wedgie-prone.

Justin: I think Seth just wanted to beat me on the pricing of luxury undies.

John: What’s underwear?


Read more…

A One-Sentence Pitch For Vegetarianism

April 17, 2015
Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

Jeff J Mitchell/Getty Images

This pitch has nothing to do with ethical treatment of animals, which of course is a compelling case of its own; and is different from earlier vegetarian pitches we have shared, also compelling. It is suddenly meatless Friday. Thank you for this clear, simple pitch, vox:

California’s devastating drought is focusing attention on the water footprint of various foods — particularly delicious, delicious almonds, which require about a gallon of water each.

But as various analyses show, red meat is far worse than even almonds on this score. It takes almost twice as much water to produce a calorie of beef as it does to create a calorie of almonds. Any discussion of how to eat to best preserve water needs to begin with this sentence: Read more…

48 Hours Of Rainforest Fate

April 17, 2015
Nikki Burch

Nikki Burch

We have read this in both its original home, and here on vox, and commend it as much as we recommend it:

Glenn Hurowitz sat down for his Thanksgiving meal discouraged. He’d spent 2013 flying halfway around the world to cultivate a fragile relationship with Kuok Khoon Hong, CEO of the world’s largest palm oil corporation, Wilmar. Kuok was the linchpin, Hurowitz believed — a single person who might turn the entire palm oil industry around. Wilmar buys palm oil from 80 percent of the world’s suppliers. If Kuok committed to buying only from farmers who promised not to cut down the rainforest, it would set off a chain reaction that might save hundreds of species from extinction and squelch one of the world’s biggest sources of carbon emissions. But after months of progress, the signals he’d been getting from Kuok were not encouraging. Read more…

Bird of the Day: Brown-winged Kingfisher with crab kill (Bhitarkanika National Park, Orissa)

April 16, 2015

Brown-winged Kingfisher by Dr. Eash Hoskote - RAXA Collective

Tea’s Takeover

April 16, 2015
Photo: Milo Inman

Photo: Milo Inman

This is the longest article of its kind on our favored food blog, the salt, on National Public Radio (USA)’s website, but it is worth the read for those inclined to food history; and for those in Raxa Collective’s India operations it goes a long way to explaining those beautifully manicured tea estates in a new light:

Catherine of Braganza was an early celebrity endorser of tea. After she wed Charles II, the fad for tea took off among the British nobility. Kitty Shannon/Corbis/Lebrecht Music & Arts

Catherine of Braganza was an early celebrity endorser of tea. After she wed Charles II, the fad for tea took off among the British nobility. Kitty Shannon/Corbis/Lebrecht Music & Arts

…Tea was practically unknown in Europe until the mid-1600s. But in England, it got an early PR boost from Catherine of Braganza, a celebrity who became its ambassador: The Portuguese royal favored the infusion, and when she married England’s Charles II in 1662, tea became the “it” drink among the British upper classes. But it might have faded as a passing fad if not for another favorite nibble of the nobility: sugar.

In the 1500s and 1600s, sugar was the “object of a sustained vogue in northern Europe,” historian Woodruff Smith wrote in a 1992 paper.

Sugar was expensive

Read more…

Totem Lost & Found

April 16, 2015
John Barrymore, left, joked that “tribal gods” might “wreak vengeance on the thief.”

John Barrymore, left, joked that “tribal gods” might “wreak vengeance on the thief.” Courtesy Bill Nelson

Read it start to finish in one read:

The Tallest Trophy

A movie star made off with an Alaskan totem pole. Would it ever return home?

By Paige Williams

The predominant natives of southeastern Alaska are the Tlingit—the People of the Tides. They are believed to have settled the Panhandle and the Alexander Archipelago more than ten thousand years ago. The Tlingit (pronounced klink-kit) were hunter-gatherers and traders who typically lived on the coastline, moving between permanent winter villages and summer encampments, where they fished, foraged, and stockpiled food. Read more…

Bird of the Day: Black Drongo (Bangalore, Karnataka)

April 15, 2015

Black Drongo by Brinda Suresh - RAXA Collective

The Great Golden Swallow Gear Review: nākd edition

April 15, 2015

Given the photo above, perhaps this post would have been better suited to April Fools’ Day. However, since April 1st was the first day we had back in Ithaca, the precise editing required to keep the photo PG-rated would have been rushed and the result would have been, shall we say, sloppy. Although it may seem like a strange way of saying thanks, this post — and especially the header photo — are a token of our great appreciation for the folks at nākd (Nature Balance Foods), particularly for Traci in US operations, who coordinated everything with us! I should clarify that we created the photo above of our own volition and without any explicit sponsorship — it is not a nākd photo shoot, it’s just a naked photo shoot.

On the trail up to Blue Mountain Peak, the highest summit in Jamaica.

We had mentioned long ago that we were receiving lots of nākd bars to help us through our expeditions, and no amount of expressed gratitude can reflect the true value of these snacks to our diet during the past three months. The best part is that we could eat as many as we felt like it since they have no added sugar or artificial ingredients, and are basically just a combination of 1) dates and/or raisins, 2) almonds, cashews, or pecans, and 3) spices or natural flavoring like cocoa powder or coffee.

Read more…

Rosario Dawson, When You Come Back To Ghana, Come To Zaina Lodge!

April 15, 2015


t-logo-190We are still a few months away from opening the doors, but every day we see the progress. This post is to share with our Raxa Collective and Zaina Lodge colleagues a welcome love letter from a celebrity who manages to put Ghana in the glossiest pages of the New York Times:

13dawson-pang-slide-GTZL-thumbWide-v2Rosario Dawson’s Adventures in Ghana, Celebrating Women and Her First Clothing Collection

The actress shares with T the friendly faces behind Studio One Eighty Nine — and the many friends she encountered on a recent trip to Africa.

Bird of the Day: Black-crowned Night Heron – Juvenile (Nagarhole National Park, Karnataka)

April 14, 2015

Black-crowned night heron by Sudhir Shivaram - RAXA Collective

Revisiting a Year-old Thesis Experience

April 14, 2015

It’s been exactly — down to the same date, funnily enough — four months since I posted anything about Iceland in particular, seven months since I shared an excerpt from my honors thesis, and one year since I submitted that thesis to the history department at Cornell University. It’s interesting that as I write this I’m back in Ithaca, on campus, and during the last week have been involved in the proofreading process for two friends writing English theses to be turned in tomorrow. And then, coincidentally but not by chance, Hua Hsu writes a book review in the New Yorker that revolves around how to write a thesis.

Reading Hsu’s discussion of Eco’s book, as well as revisiting parts of my thesis to be able to give advice to my English-major friends, is a rewarding and somewhat nostalgic experience. There are several of Eco’s points that
particularly resonate with me, such as Read more…

Eyes on New Sights

April 14, 2015

Kanikonna blooms herald the coming of Vishu (Picture: Abrachan P)

If all of Kerala is to have a favorite color this season, it’d be yellow with touches of gold. For this is the time of Vishu, a festival of prosperity and gratitude. Embraced by all Malayalis and celebrated by other Indian states by the names of Ugadi or Baisakhi, the festival marks the beginning of the zodiac calendar and is determined by the position of the sun. It falls during the sowing season, with Onam being the state’s harvest extravaganza.

Nature begins celebrating first. Come summer and yellow flowers dot the green canopy. The flowering is related to the heat and the blooms first appear close to two months before the onset of monsoon. Known as konnapoo (Indian laburnum), they are the postcard of the festival. Earlier, the flowers bloomed in backyard gardens and plucking these made for conversations and laughter over fences of houses. With accelerating urbanization, the flowers are now picked off shelves at markets that come up a few days prior to the festival. Between growing the plant in one’s own garden and buying it off vendors, one thing has held its ground: the warmth a handful of tiny yellow flowers spread. Read more…

Umberto Eco, Come To Kerala!

April 14, 2015
In “How to Write a Thesis,” Umberto Eco walks students through the craft and rewards of sustained research. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY MARTINE FRANCK / MAGNUM

In “How to Write a Thesis,” Umberto Eco walks students through the craft and rewards of sustained research. CREDIT PHOTOGRAPH BY MARTINE FRANCK / MAGNUM

I have excerpted the first two paragraphs, and the last two, of a delightful and delightfully odd book review in order to finally extend an invitation to Umberto Eco that is long overdue. The review is odd only in the sense that the book was first published when I was a sophomore in high school, 20 years before I completed my doctoral dissertation (which I was working on 20 years ago), and is only now appearing in English for the first time, one year after my son completed his undergraduate honors thesis (the best advice we could send him back then was this).

The review is anything but odd, if you have been following our blog for the last four years.  It is about the effort required to understand sufficiently, and to communicate effectively, on a topic you care about–and provides some tricks of the trade that sound geared for university students but apply to members of our collective as well.  We are not in thesis mode at Raxa Collective. What we do is not theoretical, but grounded in the grind of hard work every day in our chosen profession. But we are in constant search mode for thesis-forged talent who know how to express themselves, to join us as interns or as employees (see Rosanna’s post for our latest talent acquisition in this spirit).

Umberto Eco is my favorite author, mainly because of one short book of his collected writings that I read when I was working on my doctoral dissertation. And mainly for that same book I extend to him an invitation to visit with us in Kerala, as our guest. Maybe I did not need the book reviewed below to complete my thesis, but I am sure I would have devoured it if given the opportunity at that time:

“How to Write a Thesis,” by Umberto Eco, first appeared on Italian bookshelves in 1977. For Eco, the playful philosopher and novelist best known for his work on semiotics, there was a practical reason for writing it. Up until 1999, a thesis of original research was required of every student pursuing the Italian equivalent of a bachelor’s degree. Collecting his thoughts on the thesis process would save him the trouble of reciting the same advice to students each year. Since its publication, “How to Write a Thesis” has gone through twenty-three editions in Italy and has been translated into at least seventeen languages. Its first English edition is only now available, in a translation by Caterina Mongiat Farina and Geoff Farina. Read more…

There Is No Effective Resistance To This Charm

April 14, 2015

We cannot resist sharing the snake stories of our own team members, and we also seem to favor this related topic of domesticated wild creatures gone amok; a story whose variations, it is now clear to us, we will never tire of as long as Amie keeps finding gems like this, as long as Phil continues to post about entrepreneurial solutions, and as long as the New York Times does not tire of sending its best reporters on the occasional odd wild something chase:

retro-python-wildpets-thumbWideRETRO REPORT

The Snake That’s Eating Florida

Burmese pythons appear to be in the Florida Everglades to stay, just one of a number of unwanted animals that have invaded America.

Bird of the Day: Blue-throated Barbet (Bhimtal, Uttarakhand)

April 13, 2015

Blue-throated Barbet by Dr. Eash Hoskote - RAXA Collective

The Mysteries Of Elena Ferrante

April 13, 2015

Path of Figs, 2012. Giulia Bianchi.

If you have not heard of Elena Ferrante before, you may want to start here, here, or here. But then come back here for this review. Thanks to the nplusone magazine website:

Those Like Us

On Elena Ferrante, by Dayna Tortorici,Issue 22: Conviction, Spring 2015

WHENEVER I HEAR someone speculate about the true identity of Elena Ferrante, the pseudonymous Italian novelist of international fame, a private joke unspools in my head. Who is she? the headlines ask. Don’t you know? I whisper. In my joke I’m sitting opposite someone important. The person promises not to tell, so I say:

She’s Lidia Neri.

She’s Pia Ciccione.

She’s Francesca Pelligrina. Domenica Augello.

Different names, every time, but the reaction is the same: a momentary light in the listener’s eyes that fades to bored disappointment. An Italian woman from Naples, whose name you wouldn’t know. Who did you expect?

Read more…

The Extreme Present

April 13, 2015


We play a modern game by a modern set of rules, and just found that there is a name for the game–the extreme present–by listening to a few men and women discuss it on a stage in London recently. It is not our main game, but the game we play to enable our main game to succeed. We upload, we post, we tweet, we text and we otherwise try to catch your attention in order to have the chance to convince you that our issues should be your issues, and that you should come to our places to support our issues in those places.

We call our main game entrepreneurial conservation and we use modern communications technology, and its social media tools, and the whole bundle of scary social implications that come with those, to play that game. The scary social implications are not only in the form of people constantly looking and pecking at their smart phones.

Listen to this discussion to get the big picture. It takes a bit of effort to find the podcast of those men and women on the London stage, because as of this moment it is only available on iTunes, but we believe it will be worth the two extra minutes, and then the hour of listening. In iTunes paste this link, and then find the title below as one of the most recent podcasts:


With Shumon Basar, Douglas Coupland and Hans Ulrich Obrist

In the space of just 20 years, the internet has transformed us completely. It has changed not just the structure of our brains, but the structure of the planet. Our attention spans have narrowed to the length of a Beatles song. Our lives used to feel like stories; now they’ve collapsed to a perpetually refreshing stream of tweets and posts. We outsource our memory to the ‘Cloud’, and remember nothing we don’t have to. All that exists is immediately in the now. The internet, like all technologies, is not being shaped to resemble humans. Humans are being shaped to resemble the internet. Welcome to the age of the Extreme Present.

Read more…


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