55Friday: The “Why Does it Always Rain on Me?” edition

Oh my. Usually, at this moment, I’m sitting in bed dumbfounded because it’s 3am on what I still consider Thursday (midnight never felt like a commencement, to me). Where were we? Oh yes. I was imagining where I normally type this post from– my bed, in front of Degrassi vintage, with the sound off. I’d be staring off in to space, concomitantly shocked and agog because yes, it’s ALREADY time to write and read nanofiction where does the time go blah blah blah.

But TODAY. Today, I am not doing that. Today, I am in California, in my Mother’s new home, where there is no nimble cable modem. There is no DSL. There isn’t even a local phone line hooked up yet, for me to try…(gag) DIAL-UP. So what could I do? I grimly did what I had to: I went, in search of the interweb.

Kinko’s? Closed. What kind of a Kinko’s CLOSES? Seriously! This blows, because I was quite fond of using “Kinko’s” as a synonym for “24 hours”. Beyond that tiny language tragedy, everywhere else? Um, this is the suburbs, so there IS no everywhere else to try. So get this– I’m borrowing wireless from my fave indie coffee place, because lucky for me (AND YOU) they didn’t switch it off like they usually do when they CLOSE.

I’m in a rainy parking lot, typing like a freak, the iBook’s brightness turning my face a not very divine shade of blue. Why? Because I love you and I love this weekly thing we do. When I commit, I commit. After we had moved the last few boxes to the new house, my mother was aghast when I told her during a dinner we were both to tired to eat, that I’d need to have a nocturnal adventure, in search of the net.

“But internet is coming tomorrow. Noon, I made an appointment with the phone company. Can’t it wait? Your friends will understand?”

“My FRIENDS (read: co-bloggers) will. My readers will be disappointed. Besides, I started this, so I have no excuse. Phone lines or not, the mutiny must go on.”

She nodded somberly at me and told me to try not to get lost. If you were previously unaware, I have the coolest Mother EVER. That doesn’t mean she isn’t strict– if I had said that I felt like going out for a martini, HA. If I had said that I felt like a movie, no dice. But stating that I needed…to…blog? Moms has her priorities straight, yo. ;) Continue reading

Is there a glass ceiling for Asians in the sciences?

For today’s Science Friday I wanted to talk about science policy (mostly because I don’t have time today to dissect a hard science article) .  This week’s edition of the journal Science features an article (paid subscription required) that debates the suggestion by some that there exists a glass ceiling for Asians in science leadership positions, here in the U.S.:

Virologist Kuan-Teh Jeang always thought it strange that his employer, the National Institutes of Health (NIH), would celebrate Asian Heritage Week each year with a cultural fair. “We’re not known for being great cooks or dancers. We’re known for being great scientists,” says Jeang about an ethnic group that, according to 2000 census data, comprises 14.7% of U.S. life scientists despite being only 4.1% of the nation’s overall workforce. So last year, he and the NIH/Food and Drug Administration Chinese American Association launched a new tradition: inviting a distinguished Asian researcher to give a scientific talk.

This May, as Asian Heritage Week approached, Jeang and his colleagues had another idea: Why not use the occasion to examine the status of Asian scientists within NIH’s intramural program? Jeang had already collected some disturbing numbers about opportunities for career advancement at NIH, and he was eager to see whether his numbers squared with an official tally by NIH officials.

To his chagrin, they did. Whereas 21.5% of NIH’s 280 tenure-track investigators (the equivalent of assistant professors) are Asian, they comprise only 9.2% of the 950 senior investigators (tenured researchers) at NIH. And only 4.7% of the roughly 200 lab or branch chiefs are Asian. (For this story, the term “Asian” includes all scientists with Asian surnames, regardless of their citizenship or immigration status. The group is dominated by scientists of Chinese, Korean, Indian, Pakistani, or Japanese origin.) Within particular institutes, the numbers were even more sobering. As of this spring, just one of 55 lab chiefs at the National Cancer Institute, NIH’s largest, was Asian. At the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, where Jeang works, none of the 22 lab chiefs was Asian.

To Jeang and others, the numbers point to a glass ceiling for Asian life scientists seeking to move up the career ladder.

I know this may be a contentious issue.  Some people automatically think that any suggestion of inequality is “whining.”  Maybe part of the lack of Asians in leadership positions may be due to the stigma associated with a language barrier (or a perceived barrier).  This should become much less of an issue as a generation of American-born Asians reaches “the proper age of leadership.” Continue reading

One Woman. Two Men. One Bed

SM tipster “Sirc” sent us the Village Voice review of a documentary that has been around for over a year, but seems to finally be opening to a larger audience (Oct 19, 2005 NYC, Nov 11, 2005 LA).  The film is titled ‘Three of Hearts: A Postmodern Family.’  From the review:

This well-told doc follows nine years in the lives of a gay couple and the woman they invited to share their relationship. When we meet this happy threesome–Sam, Steven, and Samantha–they’re trying to get pregnant. In winning interviews spliced between suspenseful EPT tests, the assertively bourgeois strivers chat about their setup, their decision to marry, their spa business, their mix-and-match sex (“There’s never a feeling of being left out!”). Actress hopeful Samantha explains how her traditional Indian family absorbed the news.

Ummm.  Wow.  Trinogamy.  I just imagined the sound of several desi parents dropping dead of heart attacks.  Hell, I almost suffered a heart attack when I saw the trailer.  That “horror-movie feeling” descended upon me.  You know, it’s like when you watch a character on-screen with your eyes half covered saying, “Don’t do it.  Don’t go in there.  You are going to get knifed.  Ooooh, they went there.”  The “monkey wrench” in this case is the birth of a baby.  How will it change the dynamic given that only one man is the biological father? In a perfect world without human insecurities a relationship like this could probably work.  There is unfortunately no such perfect world.  I don’t know how it turns out but I am pretty curious.

The filmmaker gives her quick take on the film and its coincidental political overtones:

We began filming “Three of Hearts” in August 1996, the night of Samantha’s 30th birthday party. When I got home from the first night of filming my boyfriend at the time, and later husband David Friedson told me that the senate had passed the Defense of Marriage Act that day, defining marriage for purposes of federal law as the legal union between one man and one woman as husband and wife. David pointed out that the love story I had elected to tell was highly political. And as we premiered in Toronto, the whole issue was exploding in San Francisco, Massachusetts and around the country. So even though our film is not overtly political, we take pride in the fact that it does have political overtones.

We thank Sam Cagnina, Samantha Singh and Steven Margolin for their courage in sharing with us eight years of their journey.

The reviews of this film are glowing.  Here is screening info.

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The Mutiny and James Bond

Gulshan “Le Chiffre” Grover
Sometimes the cold over here in our North Dakota headquarters makes us really lazy. It isn’t that we don’t want to follow up on all our tips, but sometimes laziness aside, we have to wait until things are confirmed. This isn’t a gossip blog afterall , and god knows you can’t always trust the press. We also didn’t want to contribute to a rumor that ended up being off the mark.

That being said, I think it is safe to report that the upcoming James Bond Film Casino Royale, starring Daniel Craig as 007, is keeping it mutinous with its inclusion of at least one brown actor in the film, no not Aishwarya Rai, but Bollywood-villain Gulshan Grover. Grover, true to form, will be playing Le Chiffre, the villain, in Casino Royale, which is based on Ian Fleming’s first James Bond book by the same name.

Shooting for the Bond film is due to begin in Prague in February 2006. Grover will be the first Indian to act in a Bond film since tennis star Vijay Amritraj and Kabir Bedi played important roles in Octopussy (1983). [link]
If I recall correctly Octopussy had many scenes filmed at the lovely Lake Palace, located on Lake Pichola in Udaipur (now a Taj-palace hotel).

Upon doing some research I was pretty amazed to find out that Grover has done (and is in the process of doing) several non Bollywood films, including Beeper, a thriller starring Harvey Keitel, Kaizad Gustad’s really bad film Boom which had a really attractive cast including Padma Lakshmi, member of Salman Rushdie’s posse, the forthcoming My Bollywood Bride, the Salman Khan starrer Marigold, and Tarsem Singh’s The Fall.

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‘Looking for Comedy’ trailer

Abhi posted earlier about a new Albert Brooks comedy, Looking for Comedy in the Muslim World. The trailer is now out (thanks, Kiran). Sheetal Sheth apparently gets jiggy with the actor, who was born during Partition and was last unseen as the voice of the paterfish in Finding Nemo. From the trailer, the movie seems to have a reasonably light touch for the genre.

Congrats, Sheetal — it’s her biggest film yet. Her Indian accent isn’t too bad either, considering the competition. Some second-gen actors make such a hash of it, they’re crying out for an accent coach. (Imagine that dinnertime conversation: ‘You did vat? You paid someone so you could talk like me?’)

Watch the trailer. The movie comes out on January 20th.

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Rollin’ down the street

A faux remnant of the British Raj…

Bombay Sapphire is a brand of gin distributed by Bacardi. The name hints at the origins of gin’s popularity in the British Raj. During their administration, the British took quinine in order to protect against malaria in the form of tonic water. This was mixed with gin in order to make a more pleasing and sociable drink of this medical necessity. [Link]

… put out a moody, animated, Simba-esque ad some time ago. It updates the look of old Chinese scrolls (cherry blossoms, carp) with dandelions, butterflies and… a bug zapper? It starts off in silhouette like a film studio intro, but gets more innovative from there. Watch the clip.

Turns out that not only tonic water, but also vermouth, contain the antimalarial drug quinine. Keep that druggy mixture in mind the next time you watch 007 toss off a martini:

Tonic water was never intended as a cure or preventive for malaria, but malaria is the reason the quinine is in there. Quinine has a bitter taste. To make the stuff palatable when used as an antidote for fevers, legend has it, British colonials in India mixed quinine with gin and lemon or lime. Over time they learned to love the godawful stuff. (You can see this principle at work in a lot of British cuisine…) Quinine is also used, along with other herbs, to flavor vermouth…[Link]

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You Can Help Quake Victims by Eating Well

Did you miss Blog Quake Day? Don’t feel bad– the fiercely righteous Samia Khan has come to your rescue, with an EASY way to give. She lovingly spammed ;) my GMail with the following invite, which I was initially thrilled, then jealous to get:

Please join us for an evening of Dining and Giving
Tuesday, November 8, 2005 at dinner time
Heritage India
1337 Connecticut Ave., NW
Washington, DC 20009
202-331-1414

You see, I am taking the red-eye on Tuesday, which means I will arrive in D.C. about 12 hours after this starts. I know I’m a rusted cynic, but I think dinner will be over by then. So yes, I’m envious of all of you who have the opportunity to eat at the BEST Indian restaurant in the city, for a cause that is dear to my heart.

MimiÂ’s American Bistro and Heritage India have graciously agreed to donate 15 % of your tab towards the South Asia Earthquake Relief Effort. The money will go to the Association of Pakistani Physicians of North America (APPNA). While APPNA has already contributed to ground efforts, the need for financial contribution continues to grow as winter approaches and logistics become more difficult. Thousands of Pakistanis are still without shelter and the threat of disease is on the rise. Show your generosity and compassion for the survivors of this devastating natural disaster by dining at one of these charitable Dupont Circle restaurants.
When you dine, please mention the cause when you make the reservation or at the very beginning of your meal.

Sheesh, I’ll eat at Heritage India with no reason or excuse, but to think that my blissing out over their legendary, just-like-Bukhara-at-the-Maurya-in-Delhi’s Ma ki Dal might benefit a human who suffered a quake in the very area most of the menu was inspired by? It’s like my passionate heart and delighted stomach would be picking out Linens ‘N Things. ;)

Seriously, if you are in town, go. Eat yummy food. It counts as giving (what an easy way to do so!). And then thank the Mutiny for being your social planner. :D

p.s. I know I only posted info about Heritage India, even though Mimi’s American Bistro at 21st and P st is generous enough to also participate, but Heritage India just felt more apposite. Of course, I’m not biased. :D Continue reading

Monsoon ad-ing

Henna hands on subway stops, brought to you by the bankers of Hong Kong and Shanghai. Oh look, it’s just like South Asian fiction covers

Trite but cute. The first ad actually sets up an artificial duality. I’ve got female friends who’ve flirted with a Delhi wedding while living among the Japanese hipsters of that ‘hood. The punks of St. Marks Place are more taken with piercings — mehndi is no longer mutinous.

Related post: The subway series: The Bombay Dreams ads don’t feature the leads

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Leaving it all on the field

I have a rampant addiction that even my co-bloggers don’t know about.  Any time they come up behind me at SM headquarters I quickly switch my computer desktop to make it look like I am writing a post for our blog.  In reality however, I am dedicating obscene amounts of time to managing my Fantasy Football team (The Pocket Rockets).  Yes.  During the regular NFL season I am a Fantasy Football fanatic:

Fantasy Football is a game in which the participants (called “owners”) each assemble a team of real life NFL players and then score points based on those players’ statistical performance on the field. Leagues can be arranged in which the winner is the team with the most total points at the end of the season or in a head-to-head format (which mirrors the actual NFL) in which each team plays against a single opponent each week, and at the end of the year the team with the best win-loss record wins the league. Some leagues even set aside the last weeks of the NFL regular season for their own playoffs. [Link]

I take great pride in my team and in my improvement as a coach.  I hate losing at anything.  My first year playing I was ridiculed by the other coaches in my league (my supposed friends) for not even knowing the names of some famous players.  This year (my third) I am dominating most of the teams in my league and talking smack at every opportunity.  Most of the fun of Fantasy Football comes from emasculating your friends and telling them how pathetic they are.  Yeah, yeah.  If you don’t play fantasy football then you won’t understand the appeal, but I am sure those of you who do, know what I’m talking about.  This isn’t just a passive sport.  Every week you have to research all the different football match-ups and note the teams and defenses your players are going up against, as well as injuries.  It takes A LOT of research.  If you aren’t up to speed and able to make the proper adjustments, then your team will lose.  Thankfully there are bloggers like Vinnie Iyer that make the jobs of coaches like me easier.  It is their full-time job to put in the research hours that will help the rest of  us (hat-tip to Sandeep from my league):

This NFL and fantasy football columnist grew up in St. Louis and is a 1998 alumnus of Northwestern University in Evanston, Ill., where he won a decent year’s salary with his appearance on a popular “answer and question” quiz show. Shortly after graduating as a journalism major, he joined TSN in 1999 and has been covering the NFL full time since 2001. He remains loyal to his roots as a fan of the Cardinals (baseball, of course) and Northwestern’s athletic programs (inexplicably). With TiVo, iPod and HD already in his vocabulary, Iyer is ready to “blog” away on pro football and hot topics of the day.

Look.  Let’s get real folks.  There is only one desi player in the NFL.  That shouldn’t mean that all desis should be shut out of football.  I participate by coaching a fantasy team since I am not built like a linebacker.  Vinnie (who may have once had the potential to be an offensive lineman) is doing his part by being one of the best at what he does.  In Fantasy Football circles Vinnie is a celebrity.

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Happy Birrrthday Dear Patriot Act…

Patriotactsigning.jpg

Oh joy, oh giddy delight. I love anniversaries, don’t you? Wikipedia’s always interesting and informative main page reminds us that it’s already been four years since we helped America by Providing Appropriate Tools Required to Intercept and Obstruct Terrorism:

Passed by the U.S. Congress after the September 11, 2001 Terrorist Attacks, the (Patriot) Act enhances the authority of U.S. law enforcement for the stated purpose of fighting terrorist acts in the United States and around the world. This enhanced legal authority is also used to detect and prosecute other alleged potential crimes. Among other laws, the USA PATRIOT Act amends the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA).
Among the laws the PATRIOT Act amended are immigration laws, banking and money laundering laws, and foreign intelligence laws…
Critics claim that some portions of the Act are unnecessary and allow U.S. law enforcement to infringe upon free-speech, freedom of the press, human rights, and right to privacy. Much controversy has arisen over section 215, which allows judges to grant government investigators ex parte orders to look into personal phone and internet records on the basis of being “relevant for an on going investigation concerning international terrorism or clandestine intelligence activities”, rather than probable cause as outlined in the fourth amendment.

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