Sunday, 23 March 2008

Mousetrap - 141

Time out!
SI Vault
A magazine, a global icon, though perhaps some in this country know it best for its swimsuit issue: Sports Illustrated. The magazine is over 50 years old, and just this last week—Thursday to be exact—it opened up its archives online. And, in a sign of the times, where even the most closed-fisted media organisations are discovering the benefit of making their content freely accessible, this little treasure house is totally free. So go browse to your heart’s content. Yes, the magazine’s content is US-centric; only naturally, considering that that was where its audience was, so you’ll see lots on basketball, baseball and American football, and no cricket. But there’s lots of other stuff too, of interest beyond American shores. And yes, there are those swimsuit editions. and brotherhood
Fifty years ago, on the 20th March, several thousand British protestors set off on a 50-mile anti-nuke march organised by the Direct Action Committee Against Nuclear War and the Campaign for Nuclear Disarmament. And the symbol that they marched under was what we now know as the ‘peace sign,’ a circle with one vertical cross-bar and two others radiating from the centre in a sort of inverted V shape. Its designer, a chap called Holtom (who, one reads, designed it at Bertrand Russell’s request) explained that he has formed it from the semaphore (the language of flag signals) for ‘N’ and ‘D’ superimposed on each other, for ‘Nuclear Disarmament. This site isn’t much—we’ll confess that it was just an excuse to tell you about the peace symbol anniversary—a few image galleries, some photographs, no history or anything. So, well, um, just peace out, bro.

And while we were researching the site above (what, you thought we pulled it all out of a hat?) we found this fascinating site on pictorial images. While its stated focus is Western signs, we did find quite a few from cultures in the Eastern hemisphere. There’s oodles of information here (over 2500 symbols) about origins, cultures, meanings and so on. You can search through the database for particular words or themes, or, if you prefer, find data on a particular symbol by choosing its characteristics (shape, symmetry, open/closed, et cetera) and checking out the results. Random fun and enlightenment—always this column’s preferred method—can be obtained by just searching for arbit words and then checking out the symbols that show up.

Reader suggestions welcome, and will be acknowledged. Go to for past columns, and to comment, or mail The writer blogs at

Published in the Times of India, Mumbai edition, 23rd March, 2008.

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