Sunday, July 31, 2005
Monday, July 25, 2005
Who ever said getting back to nature meant roughing it? Now travelers can have their truffles and eat them under the stars, too.By Carla Power (with reporting by Jason Overdorf)
July 25-Aug. 1 issue - Travel used to be divided into two basic categories: luxury and no-frills. the former consisted of flying first class, dining at three-star restaurants and staying in decadent comfort; the latter involved backpacking and camping out in some of the world's most beautifully remote spots. Rich holidaymakers never had to go a day without a glass of fine Bordeaux, but they also rarely ventured beyond the confines of their posh resorts. Rugged travelers regularly communed with nature—but ate hot dogs cooked over an open fire. Now tourists can have their wine and see the wildlife, too: communing with nature and living the good life are no longer mutually exclusive.
Go to the Newsweek web site to read on, or pick up the July 25-August 1 issue to see pictues, including a shot of a treetop guesthouse in Kerala.
The City of Tiny Lights by Patrick Neate
Tommy Akhtar, a "Paki-immigrant-Ugandan-Indian-Englishman" and private detective in London, is hired by Melody, a black prostitute who wants him to find her missing Russian flatmate. Tommy's investigation leads him to a fiendish Saudi villain who has sinister plans for London. It's a multiculti homage to Raymond Chandler's 1930s detective Marlowe, without his stylized sophistication. In contrast to Neate's Whitbread Award-winning "Twelve Bar Blues," a bewitching tale spanning three continents, "City of Tiny Lights" is more of a shambling slog.
Saturday, July 23, 2005
Friday, July 22, 2005
The first trouble was the guy who came to install it didn't know the first thing about configuring the system. In the end, he left (after about 3 minutes of trying) and I used our old connection to get the user manual from the MTNL web site and installed it myself. This does not bode well for future service. Is it possible that the whole thing will be "plug and play" for the duration of our connection? Or will I have to get a PhD in telecommunications and computer networking in order to stay online? Stay tuned.
Sunday, July 17, 2005
Saturday, July 16, 2005
Haven't written much about my geeky scifi, comic books, fantasy obsessions. But here's two discoveries (OK, you all may know about this already). (1) You can get some pretty good graphic novels in India, including Neil Gaiman's Sandman series and Frank Miller's Sin City series, especially if you ask Sanjay at Bhari Sons to find them and stock them for you. (2) An interesting remake of 1970s cult hit Battlestar Galactica has been running for the better part of a year on the Scifi Channel in the US--a sometime programming feeder for AXN and even (gulp) Hallmark. All fellow Scifi freaks, read this week's New York Times Magazine article about the creation of the show, which some have called the best original series made by the channel (meaning it outstrips Dune and Farscape, successes at either end of the serious-camp continuum). Then, begin your letter campaign to AXN. Or just download Bittorrent and do a web search. You can find almost anything you want--US TV shows, cable or broadcast, current and old movies, anime, what have you--via this aggregator of BT links.
Of course, all that said, I would neither illegally download copyrighted material myself, nor advise anyone else to do so.
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
"They didn't get hangovers, but these characters are such infamous lushes, it very well could have been their high tolerance to alcohol that saved them," said Dr. Rajinder K. Mishra, one of the medical personnel who supervised the test.
Another concern was the well-known placebo effect. The study included a control group of drinkers who did not take PartySmart, as well as a "blind" group who received pills filled with chalk, soap and other innocuous but unpleasant tasting substances. Some members of each group reported hangover-like symptoms, but when asked whether the hangover was "not as bad as usual," "worse than usual" or "I feel like someone is stabbing me in the temples with icepicks frozen to absolute zero (Kelvin)," several respondents were not able to answer coherently. Many responspents ticked the blank marked "other" and failed to elaborate.
Subsequent interviews determined that many of those who marked "other" did not ingest the pills as instructed. "Those capsules freaked me out," a typical respondent said. "They look like horse tranquilizers."
"I am a sick man, I am an angry man, I am an unattractive man," said another. "I think there is something wrong with my liver."
Further tests are scheduled for Friday, July 15.
Monday, July 11, 2005
Sunday, July 10, 2005
Friday, July 08, 2005
Thursday, July 07, 2005
So here's a weird quirk of fate. Hillary Swank's character in MDB was a transparent analogue of real-life women's boxing star Christy Martin, a tough young kayo specialist from West Virginia, predictably nicknamed "the Coal Miner's Daughter." Martin rose to the top of women's boxing as a kind of female Mike Tyson, knocking out all her dubious opponents. (n.b. I almost wrote "through the ranks," but women's boxing is even more unstructured than the men's game, so you can hardly say that anybody battles their way to the top. It's more like they're promoted their way to the top, while many superior boxers, who've won national Golden Gloves competitions and world amateur titles, can't earn a living.) But--get this--she was always ducking Lucia Rijker. Yep, Lucia is the woman who played Swank's evil nemesis in MDB. The true story, if you care to consider it, is that Lucia had much better boxing credentials than Martin and never got her shot.
That may be about to change, thanks to the movie, believe it or not. As David Avila writes in Maxboxing , promoter Bob Arum (best known for building Oscar de la Hoya's career) has realized that MDB created something new in the boxing game: A million dollar payday for women boxers. After Laila Ali wiped out Martin in a mismatch (Ali is a much larger woman, so this was a little like her dad Muhammad facing a tough little brawler like Jake LaMotta), the money fight for Martin is now Rijker, who despite a dull back story has become as close to a "name" as you get in women's boxing by appearing in MDB. Weird serendipity.
This has somehow become errand week. I don't know how this shit builds up, but I also had to get a new axle boot put on the 800, the result of a stunningly deep pothole near PVR Saket. I can't say enough good things about the treatment I got at Maruti Service Masters in Okhla. It was the first time (ok, apart from the Music Shop in Defence Colony) where people actually acted with alacrity and sense to deal with customers. Best of all, nobody tried to begin dealing with all the customers at the same time, while finishing nobody's work, instead of proceeding through the workload one vehicle/customer at a time. Three cheers, guys. If this keeps up, I'm going to have to buy three or four more cars, or at least tear mine up once in awhile so it needs repairs, just for the moment of sanity it provides.
Tuesday, July 05, 2005
DOES THIS LOOK LIKE A MAN YOU SHOULD LISTEN TO?
Shekhar Gupta's shameful adulation of Friedman on Walk the Talk was the pinnacle of this clown's absurd rise to become India's favorite foreign hack (how seriously can you take someone who says things like "Those who get left behind will put the walls back and that’s why you cannot be a globaliser without being a social democrat"?) and that's coming from a guy who can sycophant with the best of them. ATTENTION WORLD: Thomas Friedman writes absolute drivel. Read any of his columns or books to confirm this for yourself. Then promptly begin ignoring him. That is the only defence against pundits of absolute worthlessness and unmerited fame, dieticians with improbably successful and intolerably unpleasant eating regimes, and scientologists, Jehovah's Witnesses, television evangelists and propagandists of all sorts.
Friedman's success reminds me, as the success of many bad writers does, of the Emperor's New Clothes. (In that fairy tale, a clever tailor tells the emperor that only people who are qualified for their station in life can perceive his beautiful new togs; all goes well until the emperor is strolling naked through the crowd and a child--who of course has no social position--laughs at his nakedness). Please, people, do not be fooled by ridiculous theories with even more ludicrous titles ringing of pseudo scholarship ("The Dell Theory of International Conflict"), do not be fooled by this buoyant, Tom-Cruise-and-I-don't-need-the-same-meds optimistic mania. If any emperor was ever butt-ass naked, this is the guy.
The funniest proof of this point -- self-evident as it is from the Gupta interview, not to mention the books & columns -- comes from Matt Taibbi writing in the New York Press. Folks, Friedman likes India. That means he's friendly. Taking it to mean he's a genius is not only stupid, but also pathetically needy. Do you really need affirmation from this goof?
Worse still, as Jack Schafer writes in Slate, the dude just can't stop talking about himself.
Monday, July 04, 2005
This is where Indian politicians--for the selfish reason that their main goal, like all politicians, is winning re-election--have gone wrong. The continued support of the Muslim, Hindu and Christian civil codes, all of which have provisions that deny essential equal rights to women, is predicated on the belief that each of India's three major cultures is static, unyielding, and uniformly committed to its core ideals. There's a very real reason that Muslims may fear the implementation of a Uniform Civil Code. That code is all too likely to read a lot like the Hindu personal law, erasing a valuable symbol of India's tolerance of differing belief systems. However, that doesn't mean there's nothing to be done. There must be limits to "tolerance." Taken to extremes, multiculturalism would accept the racism of the Ku Klux Klan as an intrinsic part of southern American culture, or even allow the Nazi theory of Aryan supremacy to go uncriticized as part of German culture. In both those cases, the force of law and of arms was needed to ensure that a poisonous subset of a culture's core beliefs did not dominate the others. Few reasonable people would deny that action, though extreme, was right.
In contrast, India's politicians and religious leaders need do little that is radical to turn society (at least as governed by the law) away from fundamentalism. First, the Hindu and Christian civil codes must be amended so that they are devoid of those elements of their foundation religions that violate the rights of women or other groups. (The critical point is that Hindus must show that they are willing to accept a legal code based on common assumptions about human rights, rather than ancient religious codes, but because Christians seem to perceive less threat in a uniform civil code than Muslim groups, I'm lumping Hindus and Christians together). Then, greater effort needs to be made to identify leaders who recognize the limitations of a rigid interpretation of rules codified for a society that existed a thousand years ago on a distant continent. Obviously, in democracy, the people must choose their own advocates, but I fear that too little introspection has gone into the ways in which India's current set of rules--along with resentment of the Congress Party's long dominance--actually contrives to make India more fundamentalist. Why do the clerics of the Muslim Law Board have so much say in the fate of India's Muslim women, and someone like Seema Mustafa so little? At the same time, the knickerwallas pay lip service to the idea of a uniform civil code with the intention that India's population should accept a Hindu cultural identity, whatever their religion. That's not what I'm advocating here. Hindu inheritance laws are as aberrant as Muslim divorce laws, as any visit to Varanasi will testify. And even judges in India's "secular" courts have been known to consider marriage a reasonable penance for rape.
Perhaps the problem is that we treat fundamentalists with too much gravity--for their hatred is terrifying--and thus too much respect. Groups like the RSS and VHP, if they cannot be banned (OK, I have to accept they cannot be banned), should be mocked, exposed to the ridicule they have so clearly earned with their ridiculous boy scout uniforms and foam-mouthed insanity. Where are India's great satirists? NDTV's puppet show, neither vicious enough nor funny enough, ain't cutting it.
In America, women burned bras to put an end to this kind of thing, and achieved a bit of success. Perhaps here we all--men included--need to jump into navel-exposing tube tops, dangerously low-rise jeans and dangerously short skirts and band together on Pragati Maidan to shout the slogan most-certain to terrify the country's most avowed opponents of secularism: I want my MTV!