A few days ago, one of the Indian daily newspapers got its cultural pride all sweaty and bothered over some party pictures that were leaked to its staff by some conflicted partygoer. Let us stop right here. There are already several things wrong with this incident. The party in question was private, or at least a publicized invite-only gathering. Anyone who went to this party should have known what to expect from it. If the person knew what to expect and still attended the event and later released the sneaky pictures of the party to the newspaper. There can only be so many reasons: He or she must've suffered either from a severe case of sour grapes of being overlooked in a smooch fest or battled the conflicting emotions within to indulge the self versus the demons of his/her upbringing where any interaction with the other gender was evil personified. However, the worse offender here is the newspaper that cashed in on ringing the morality bell and stoking the public's festering paranoia about eroding culture. A mature and decent alternative for the newspaper would have been to step aside of the issue and understand the party for what it was, a private gathering unimpeachable by public scrutiny. (Okay, the hotel should have come under fire for serving alcohol without a license, but do you honestly believe that the newspaper cared about that issue? Absolutely not, since serving liquour without a license is not as salacious a story line.)
I was following the John Roberts nomination and hearings, and most of the veiled attack seemed to center on his stance on Roe v. Wade. The left and the right seem to think that Roe v. Wade will dictate the judicial landscape and a woman's right to abort will be seriously affected if Roe v. Wade is overturned by a conservative Supreme Court. I was thinking how the health care climate has changed over the years and how it will change drastically as outsourcing health care goes prime-time.
Currently, the thinking on outsourcing is on the lines of cutting cost. i..e., going to India to have a surgery done at a cheaper rate than here in the U.S. But, outsourcing can also mean that outlawed practices like late-term abortion (or abortion if Roe v. Wade is overturned) can also be done overseas. As the rates fall and "medical tourism" takes off, it will be very affordable to have such procedures done elsewhere. What will the right do about it?
Since tax cuts are not popular with the president and since half of the suggestions by Tim Grieve’s article aren’t practical or likely to happen under the current administration, perhaps other means of fundraising or cost cutting need to be explored.
How about cutting a chunk of the budget in one over-indulgent area that might solve much of New Orleans woes? I know most people for or against this area’s budget get overly excited when discussing this, I’m only suggesting a 25% cut for one year; a whole 100 billion dollars of it. That’s right, 419 billion dollars is budgeted for defense. This is not an arbitrary number, I got it from the Budget for Fiscal Year 2006.
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The spotlight this week is on Sania Mirza, as she plays in the Sunfeast Open at Kolkotta. She has become the media darling, her every move is reported and scrutinized. She has everything going for her; the first Indian female to do so well at tennis; a reluctant fashion icon and sex symbol.
You would have also heard about the controversy over the Fatwa that some Sunni Muslim clerics have apparently declared on Sania regarding her dress. Apparently, some Muslim leaders have said that Sania's midriff bearing, tight and short dresses are inappropriate and she should clothe herself appropriately. This has generated a lot of opinions, security has been tightened for Sania and everyone from Shobha De to yours truly have something to say on the subject. From what I read, it appears that people are quick to condemn this, calling the leaders barbaric and fundamentalists and so on.
I have a different take on the subject.
H1Bees is a collaborative effort (by several Indians) that boasts big name stars and newcomers with burgeoning stardom. This privately released audio CD was helmed by the amply gifted musician, Srikanth Devarajan. H1Bees is a thematic CD; it itemizes the disastrous rites of passage for an H1B holder, hereafter known as an H1Bee.
As laughing at painful disillusioning experiences is the healthiest therapy and the surest path to wisdom, this collective experience of thousands of Indians is worth commemorating in the many phases it affects us. H1Bees, not only knows its territory well, but it addresses the subject with humor, nostalgia, romance, pride, and faith. Who can resist such genuine emotions? I invite you to the H1Bees experience and hope you indulge in it. Let’s briefly look at the seven tracks in the CD.
1. H1Bees (English) The title track of the album distills the travails of the Indian youth with H1B work visas. The song works well in telling a familiar tale in a humorous way. Genesis, the rock group, did a similar romp (no, there’s no similarity whatsoever between the two compositions) on the border crossers from Mexico in their song, “Illegal Alien”. This song does the same for our legal border-crossing Indians and their legal but unfair treatment.
The hard rocking guitar teases here and there in the song. I wish this was a more central presence in the song. The tune itself has an Island/reggae feel to it. Kartik, a newcomer, delivers the emotion with deprecating charm.
2. thEdith thEdi How would it feel if an unknown voice explodes in the usual scene with an upbeat melody that captures your fancy? That’s the kind of refreshing jolt listeners are in for if they’re hearing Alisha for the first time. Since I’m familiar with Alisha’s spellbinding voice, for me it was like returning repeatedly to gorge on a feast. The composition is light with a swift pace, aimed to let the young lark soar and soar she does, taking us with her.
Priya Karthick’s lyrics ascertain that there is plenty of beauty left in Thamizh for pop songs; if only we could send this message and Priya to Kollywood, hmm, throw some gold coins into that wishing well.
3. dolleril income/varavu ettanA This is hot on the trails of reinventing-the-oldies trend. But rather than taint the original with an unworthy remix (the recent abuse of “uththaravindRi ullE vA” comes to mind) and crass lyrics, this attempt springs off the old song’s premise and applies it to the situation of middle-class expatriates and the generational/cultural clash they experience with their Desi-American children. Ramesh and Mani Shastri wrote the hilarious Thamizh and Thelungu lyrics for the old tune, with vocal help from nearly everyone involved with the CD. I think Kannadhasan and MSV would approve this effort.
4. thikkuth theriyAtha kAttil Who best to articulate the lost in the woods feeling that overwhelms H1Bees, than the Mahakavi? This song is a semi-classical rendition of Barathiyar’s searching poem; only, in the H1Bee context this search could be for faith, redemption, companionship, or the higher self. Just when the CD seemed geared for a Generation-X feel, Swathi Raman anchors this song in Carnatic tradition while the searing lyrics probe the universe for meaning.
5. kannaale ambu vittu Though a departure in content and mood from the previous song, this song upholds the folk dance tradition that has regained prominence with the Dheenas, Devas, YSRs and Harris Jeyarajs of the TFM scene. Usha Krishnan and Ramesh (who also penned the song) pump attitude and energy into this number. Were it featured in a movie, I’m sure the Thamizh TV channels will assault the viewers often with this.
6. engineering marku This is a companion piece to the title track that accounts for the F1-route to becoming an H1Bee. Here the trials give way to renewed faith. Tippu (another headliner in Kollywood’s current playback singing scene) and G.V. Prakash lend more than the usual vocal dexterity for such fast-paced songs. The youthful composition races to an industrial strength beat.
7. H1Bees (Hindi) This is the Hindi version of the title track. While it contains all the pluses from the English version, Kartik’s voice and the melody suit the Hindi version even better.
The biggest spectacle in recent times finally ended today, with England regaining the Ashes trophy. I don't think there is any other series that will come close to this one in terms of the drama, the level of interest that it raised and the fighting qualities displayed by both teams. Hats off to England and Australia for playing a memorable series. Whoever said that Test Cricket was boring?
Here are a few random thoughts on the matches:
During disaster times, there are people who rise up to the occasion and contribute without grabbing a whole lot of attention to themselves. Then there are selfish suckers who look at the tragedy and think, "Hmm.. How do I capitalize on this one and make headlines?". These are folks who just have to sell their wares and obnoxiously pretend to be sympathetic to the victims. Hurricane Katrina too brought these worms out of the woodwork.
Overlooked films - I : Undertow (2004)
This series will look at films that I think didn't get noticed enough and are worth seeing. Check these out if you are a film buff.
Review: Undertow (2004)
Starring Jamie Bell, Dermot Mulroney, Josh Lucas. Directed by David Gordon Green.
***1/2 (out of 4)
One of my favorite bookstores in the Bay Area, Kepler's, closed down for good Wednesday. It is a sad moment, the fall of a popular independent bookstore, one that was not an ubiquitous Barnes & Noble. Situated in the heart of Menlo Park, it was a good experience going to the store and browsing the books there and getting out to Cafe Borrone next door. Somehow, the collection and arrangement of books in there was unique that would distinguish itself from a chain store. It had a distinct Bay Area focus and more often than not, featured authors who were popular locally than nationally. The book signings and meetings with authors used to have a full house. it was there that I saw KGO's Ronn Owens, "America's Doctor" Dr.Dean Edell among others when they came on their book tours. I was hoping to go to see Salman Rushdie (he was supposed to be there at Kepler's on 3rd October). Unfortunately, they could not afford to pay huge rents and had to shut shop.
Kepler's was also the place where I met fellow Predicate author Udhaya for the first time.
Hopefully, Books Inc would stay on and not be the next to go. Need to go to its store in Mountain View for old time's sake.
To find out where you can donate, see here. Apparently, there are a whole bunch of scam sites that look authentic but are not.
The Times-Picayune reports that looting has become such a big problem that officers are abandoning their search-and-rescue missions to handle this situation. Looting has also forced Nursing Home staff to learn to shoot the looters so that their invaluable scant resources are not taken away.
The wikipedia page on Katrina is probably the most comprehensive. Technorati's page on Katrina falls flat because half the blog posts there do not offer any information. Finding and processing information from the innumerable blogs is still a big challenge.
The other major catastrophe half way around the world - 1000 people dying in an ugly stampede on a Baghdad bridge. The images of thousands of shoes, slippers, clothes and other belongings in a huge pile all along the road.... what is there to say? I hope factions on either sides of the political spectrum when it comes to Iraq do not turn this tragedy to benefit their own agenda.
The hype machine is in overdrive with regards to the latest book by Salman Rushdie, "Shalimar the Clown". Wherever I turn to, I can see some reference to this book as it is touted. The book is going on sale next week and I will probably get one for myself as soon as it comes out. Wikipedia has this stub on the book:
Los Angeles, 1991. Maximilian Ophuls, one of the makers of the modern world, is knifed to death in broad daylight on the doorstep of his illegitimate daughter India, slaughtered by his Kashmiri driver, a mysterious figure who calls himself Shalimar the Clown. The dead man is a World War II Resistance hero, a man of formidable intellectual ability and much erotic appeal, a former United States ambassador to India, and subsequently America's counter-terrorism chief. The murder looks at first like a political assassination but turns out to be passionately personal. This is the story of Max, his killer, and his daughter - and of a fourth character, the woman who links them, whose story explains them all. The story of a deep love gone fatally wrong, destroyed by a shallow affair, it is an epic narrative that moves from California to France, England, and above all, Kashmir. At its heart is the tale of that earthly paradise of peach orchards and honey bees, of mountains and lakes, of green-eyed women and murderous men: a ruined paradise, not so much lost as smashed. Lives are uprooted, names keep changing - nothing is permanent, yet everything is connected. Spanning the globe and darting through history, Salman Rushdie's majestic narrative captures the heart of the reader and the spirit of a troubled age.
Sounds inviting enough. It sure looks like a hyper-fast narrative that Rushdie is a master at. For one, Rushdie comes back to Kashmir, where his journey began in "Midnight's Children" (which many consider to be his best book - for me, it comes after "The Moor's Last Sigh"). When writers come back and deal with the issues close to their heart, like Kashmir for Rushdie, the results are usually impressive. That is the reason that I think novels like "Ground Beneath Her Feet" didn't work like Midnight's children did. If early reviews are to be believed, the latest novel is Vintage Rushdie - comments like these before the book is released are to be taken with a pinch of salt, of course.
The first serious review that I just glanced at is that of John Updike in the latest issue of The New Yorker. As Updike correctly points out, "His novels pour by in a sparkling, voracious onrush, each wave topped with foam, each paragraph luxurious and delicious, but the net effect perilously close to stultification. His prose hops with dropped names, compulsive puns, learned allusions, winks at the reader, and repeated bows to popular culture." This kind of writing will put off some, and will make others like me suckers for such a rich texture. Rushdie, in that regard ranks somewhere close to the top, with Umberto Eco being the king of such writing.
I will probably post a review once I am done with the book.