DhamaalSF touring…. India

Any self-respecting, well-connected desi in SF has found himself at a DhamaalSF party or 2 over the years. Dhamaal’s recent Halloween party, for example, was a world-beater – at least when it came to mutinous content. Alas, the denizens of the city by the bay will have to go a while longer before the next one. Our boyz are back in da homeland

Dhamaal Soundsystem, one of America’s most vibrant South Asian club performers and music bands, is currently touring India, and plans to set dance floors on fire in Mumbai, Goa and New Delhi.

San Francisco’s native sons are taking on the world with their unique twist on South Asian soundz -

The San Francisco-based group, which is a rage among alternative and South Asian music lovers in the US, consists of 20-odd members, including technicians, who trace their roots to different parts of the Indian subcontinent and Sri Lanka.

“Our goal is to showcase South Asian or sub-continental music, including sufi, Hindustani and Carnatic classical with a Western perspective,” Maneesh Kenia, who set up Dhamaal in 1999 with DJ and producer Janaka Selekta, told IANS.

…”Please do not perceive us as another group which just hitchhikes on Bollywood remixes and Bhangra-hip hop,” said Maneesh, an Indian American who quit his career in music software to follow his passion.

DNA India gives us a few blurbs about the origins of this veritable SF institution –

Dhamaal was born when a few friends got together and hosted a house party seven years ago. “We’re a 20 strong group and we do the whole live experience with the DJs, video, artistry, etc,” says Dhruv.

Their parties are renowned for the eclectic mix of desi’s, non-desi’s, artistes, techies (we’re in SF, afterall), and alterna-culture fans across the Bay Area. Dhamaal’s website, gallery, and, most importantly, music clips can be found on their website – http://www.dhamaalsf.com/.

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Long overdue

A great many tipsters are informing us that People Magazine has included an Indian American as one of its Sexiest Men Alive. Yeah, he’s half Indian and he is “sexy.” So what, I say? That doesn’t really seem that blog-worthy to me. However, what eventually convinced me as to the importance of getting this story out to the people isn’t the fact that he is representing Indian Americans, but rather that he is a proxy for the previously unacknowledged sexiness of all geologists in the Earth and Space Sciences Departments of schools in the University of California system. Meet Michael Manga:

People magazine has featured a geophysicist of Indian origin alongside the likes of U2 frontman Bono in the ‘Smart Guys’ section of its ‘Sexiest Man Alive’ issue.

Michael Manga, a 37-year-old geology professor of UC Berkeley, who won the $500,000 MacArthur ‘genius’ grant earlier in 2005, shares pages with stars like Matthew McConaughey, Matt Damon, Jake Gyllenhaal and Orlando Bloom among others.

“My first inclination, of course, was to say no, because that’s not how I perceive myself,” Manga, father of two boys, said. “But it is a way to let people know about science and that it is OK to be a scientist.” [link]

I think it is a particularly sad commentary on the decadence of our culture that it has taken THIS long to point out that there are in fact “sexy” Indian geologists that deserve to share the same page as Bono.

Manga was one of only two men in academia admitted to the ranks of America’s dreamiest dudes. “That’s why I agreed to do this,” he explains.

I wanted to get information out to people who wouldn’t normally hear or see anything about science.”

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Justice Syriana Style

Amnesty International has issued an urgent action report to save a Mallu dude from getting an eye gouged out by the famed prison surgeons of Saudi Arabia

Puthen Veetil Abdul Latheef Noushad has reportedly been sentenced to have an eye removed. The sentence is said to have been passed to a higher court and if upheld, could be inflicted at any time.

According to press reports, the sentence is punishment for partially blinding another man during a fight in April 2003. He was apparently working at a petrol station in the city of Dammam, in the eastern region when he had an argument with a customer over payment. A fight broke out which left the other man with partial loss of sight. Puthen Veetil Abdul Latheef Noushad said that he was acting in self defence. He is detained in al-Dammam prison, Dammam.

The government of Kerala & India have entered the fray –

The Keralaites Association, a government agency looking after the welfare of migrants working in the Gulf, has asked the Indian foreign ministry to intervene. [link]

The Indian government has asked Riyadh to pardon an Indian worker whose eye is set to be gouged out as punishment by a Saudi Arabian court, a minister told parliament on Thursday.

“India has sent a mercy petition to Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz Al Saud and to the governor of Dammam, where worker Puthen Veetil Abdul Latheef Noushad is imprisoned,” junior foreign minister E Ahamed told parliament. [link]

Noushad’s last remaining hope is an official pardon from the Saudi Royal’s –

The only option for the Noushad family now is to appeal to the Saudi king for royal clemency, which is granted during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Saudi Arabia acceded to the Convention against Torture in 1997. However, Noushads case is the third known instance over the past year in which a Saudi court has issued a sentence of eye-gouging, Human Rights Watch said.

Sepia Mutiny’s been following the issue with many posts on the subject (indexed on Manish’s Syriana post). In recent years, the crap these workers endure has been slowly making its way into the spotlight and with luck, Noushad’s fate is hopefully more promising than it might have been not too long ago.

(FWIW – I suppose it will matter to some that I came across this story first via Little Green Footballs…. To them, I paraphrase Fareed Zakaria who was addressing another object of unblinking vilification by the LeftSomethings are true even if LGF reports it.)

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WaPo’s Front Page: “Redskins Heat Up in December”

PH2005122401011.jpg

My roommate just brought in the paper and exclaimed, “LOOK!”. I thought I was going to see a picture of an adorable little angel in some DC-area Christmas pageant, a put-upon dog wearing antlers or Santa water-skiing on the Potomac…what landed in my lap was a lot cooler (and way unexpected). I knew Redskins mania had been taking over my city, and NFL fans are a devoted lot, but I think it’s extra cute to sport Redskins Red this way. :)

After posting this a few minutes ago, I thought, “I’ll bet someone sent this in as a tip”. Ah, but you readers never disappoint. A full hour ago, AM wrote:

The print edition of the post features a big photo from the redskins game yesterday showing Santana Moss after leaping into the stands – nearly in the center of the picture is a man in a sporty burgundy dastar. I was at the game as well and was impressed by the variety of fans – no longer the homogeneous crowd of the early years of the NFL.

I’m impressed, too. But I’m still a Niners girl, now and always. ;) Continue reading

Honor Killing Watch

(via Little Green Footballs) Now you can devote an entire blog to the depressing topic of modern day honor killings in the Pakistani hinterlands. In fact, LGF sorta fills this role. But this killing was particularly gruesome and makes me damn thankful on this Christmas eve for the society we’ve been blessed to have been born within –

MULTAN, Pakistan – A father angry that his eldest daughter married for love slit her throat as she slept, then killed three other daughters in a remote village in eastern Pakistan, police said Saturday. Nazir Ahmad, a laborer in his 40s, feared the younger girls, aged 4 to 12, would follow in their 25-year-old sister’s footsteps, police officer Shahzad Gul said.

There’s a sort of North Korean / Nazi / Stalinist sense of justice here – you don’t just bring down the perp but his / her family too. Not only to stomp out the meme but also to ensure that any future individuals are thoroughly disincentivized. Fascism comes in forms big and small.

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Float like a butterfly, sting like a blog

Eleven Indian politicians were thrown out of Parliament yesterday over the Questiongate scandal, only the second time that any parliamentarian has been stripped of his or her post for being corrupt.

Whatcha gonna do
when they come for you?

Ten Lok Sabha members and one from the Rajya Sabha were expelled at the end of a long debate on the five-member probe committee’s report recommending expulsion. [Link]

It is the first time since 1951 that any MP has been expelled for corruption and the biggest single expulsion ever. [Link]

The prime minister also weighed in:

“At no cost should we allow Parliament’s image to be tarnished,” Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said while speaking in the upper house. [Link]

Cobra Post and Aaj Tak carry on Tehelka’s fine muckraking tradition. Predictably, the BJP, which took the brunt of the demotions, focused its fire on the messengers:

Lal Krishna Advani, the leader of the Opposition, summed up the BJP’s mood. “It was stupidity more than corruption that is the issue. The MPs fell for the lure of money…” During today’s debate, many of them targeted the media and called for legislation to rein in the electronic media. [Link]

To the corrupt politicans I say:

You fell victim to one of the classic blunders, the most famous of which is, “Never get involved in a land war in Asia.” But only slightly less well-known is this: “Never go in against Sepia Mutiny of Britain when page rank is on the line.” [Link]

Related posts: The cultural implications of Questiongate (updated), The Mutiny claims its first victims

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Not even a mouse

‘Twas the night before Christmas,
And all through the house
Not a creature was stirring
Not even a mouse…

All along, I thought desis were good at forming cliques. Actually, it turns out they’re good at click farming — hiring people to click ads on your own Web site to earn pay-per-click payments fraudulently.

The Jan. 2006 issue of Wired mentions this widely-disseminated ToI scare story from last year:

With her baby on her lap, Maya Sharma (name changed) gets down to work every evening from her eighth-floor flat at Vasant Vihar [in New Delhi]. Maya’s job is to click on online advertisements. She doesn’t care about the ads, but diligently keeps count — it’s $0.18 to $0.25 per click.

A growing number of housewives, college graduates, and even working professionals across metropolitan cities are rushing to click paid Internet ads to make $100 to $200 (up to Rs 9,000) per month… “It’s boring, but it is extra money for a couple of hours of clicking weblinks every day…” [Link]

Because search engines make their money whether the clicks are from legitimate customers or from scammers, they are only weakly incentivized to prevent the fraud. Those being ripped off: the small businesses who advertise.

Clicks are bought to boost number of hits for web ads or online advertisers who are not tracking user location. [Link]

Users are careful to avoid triggering anti-fraud algorithms by not clicking too often:

“I have no interest in what appears when clicking an ad. I care only whether to pause 60 seconds or 90 seconds, as money is credited if you stay online for a fixed time,” says another user. [Link]

Similarly, spammers are using image captcha farms in India — hiring people to enter the anti-spam picture codes which Web sites require to prove that you’re not a spammer.

Against this backdrop of outright theft, gold farming starts looking legitimate.

Related posts: Why isn’t gold farming big in India?, With a little help from my friends

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The story of a fisherman

This morning, NPR’s weekly segment on the StoryCorps Project, featured a Sri Lankan couple speaking about the tsunami. I woke up to it and got a little misty eyed by the chemistry between the two (and the fact that their names rhyme).

As we approach the tsunami’s one-year anniversary, we bring you an interview between husband and wife Prianga and Eranga Pieris.

The couple, who currently live in New York, are originally from Sri Lanka, where more than 35,000 people died in the disaster.

They sing a song that Prianga wrote in honor of the sea and their beloved homeland. It tells the story of a fisherman — and the woman who loves him.

I don’t have much to say about it. I just thought some of you may appreciate it as much as I did. Listen. Continue reading

Is that a Geiger Counter in your pocket or…

The parade continues. The U.S. News and World Report details the latest warrant-less activity by the U.S. government [via The Huffington Post]:

In search of a terrorist nuclear bomb, the federal government since 9/11 has run a far-reaching, top secret program to monitor radiation levels at over a hundred Muslim sites in the Washington, D.C., area, including mosques, homes, businesses, and warehouses, plus similar sites in at least five other cities, U.S. News has learned. In numerous cases, the monitoring required investigators to go on to the property under surveillance, although no search warrants or court orders were ever obtained, according to those with knowledge of the program. Some participants were threatened with loss of their jobs when they questioned the legality of the operation, according to these accounts…

Federal officials familiar with the program maintain that warrants are unneeded for the kind of radiation sampling the operation entails, but some legal scholars disagree. News of the program comes in the wake of revelations last week that, after 9/11, the Bush White House approved electronic surveillance of U.S. targets by the National Security Agency without court orders. These and other developments suggest that the federal government’s domestic spying programs since 9/11 have been far broader than previously thought. [Link]

I am glad that the Feds are protecting against a nuclear threat in the D.C. area where my family lives. BUT, why can’t they just get a warrant so that it’s all legit?

At its peak, they say, the effort involved three vehicles in Washington, D.C., monitoring 120 sites per day, nearly all of them Muslim targets drawn up by the FBI. For some ten months, officials conducted daily monitoring, and they have resumed daily checks during periods of high threat. The program has also operated in at least five other cities when threat levels there have risen: Chicago, Detroit, Las Vegas, New York, and Seattle.

Does the Bush Administration have any legal precedent on their side to conduct this type of activity?

[Georgetown University Professor David] Cole points to a 2001 Supreme Court decision, U.S. vs. Kyllo, which looked at police use — without a search warrant — of thermal imaging technology to search for marijuana-growing lamps in a home. The court, in a ruling written by Justice Antonin Scalia, ruled that authorities did in fact need a warrant — that the heat sensors violated the Fourth Amendment’s clause against unreasonable search and seizure.

When it comes to a nuclear threat I am all for aggressive policing. In light of this weeks revelations though, this seems to be just another power grab by the Executive Branch.

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About last night

A Sikh, a Sri Lankan and a regular Joginder walk into a Whole Foods café. Cicatrix has her hair blown straight and at this very moment can pass for brown Japanese. I’m sometimes confused with Latino. But Ennis the turbaned Sikh? People recognize. There’s no mistaking where he’s from.

Ennis makes a food run downstairs. Here’s what he hears in the sushi line: ‘Sat sri akal, sardarji!’ It’s coming from the chefs rolling seaweed serpents behind a chic bar. They’re actually Tibetan, not Japanese. They say they get hired to work the sushi counter because ‘assi chinki lagde ne’ (we look East Asian).

So Punjabi-speaking Tibetans pass for Japanese by resembling the Chinese because it fools Americans. It’s like Sepia-ites inventing black ancestry to win street cred in North Dakota

The conversation turns to accused shooter Biswanath Halder, a longtime ranter on Usenet (one prescient 1993 reply was titled ‘Mr. Biswanath Halder, please calm down‘). There’s disbelief over the mechanics of the rampage. I explain that a thousand rounds don’t take much space at all. Ten small boxes, neatly packed as chocolates. The turbaned man looks worried and says, ‘Keep your voice down.’ It’s just a Sri Lankan, a turbaned guy and a pajamahedeen shootin’ the shit, saying things now off-limits to brown people in public.

Related posts: Indian enough, The talented Mr. Rupinder, Shazia Deen / Dancing Queen

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