Some "Straight Talk" about Muslims and Mormons

That straight-talking maverick from Arizona is living up to the hype once again. John McCain, in an interview with the outstanding website Beliefnet.com, said the following about Muslims who might one day seek to be President of the United States. From the NYTimes:

Senator John McCain said in an interview posted on the Internet on Saturday that the Constitution established the United States as a Christian nation and that his faith is probably of better spiritual guidance than that of a Muslim candidate for president…

“I just have to say in all candor that since this nation was founded primarily on Christian principles, that’s a decision the American people would have to make, but personally, I prefer someone who I know who has a solid grounding in my faith,” Mr. McCain said in response to a question about the possibility of a Muslim’s running for president. [Link]

Mr. McCain, what are your views of the Constitution exactly?

Q: A recent poll found that 55 percent of Americans believe the U.S. Constitution establishes a Christian nation. What do you think?
A: I would probably have to say yes, that the Constitution established the United States of America as a Christian nation. But I say that in the broadest sense. The lady that holds her lamp beside the golden door doesn’t say, “I only welcome Christians.” We welcome the poor, the tired, the huddled masses. But when they come here they know that they are in a nation founded on Christian principles.[Link]
Well I guess it is better to agree with 55% of people than with 45% of them. Now what about Mormonism? Surely a Christian nation shouldn’t follow a Mormon right? Continue reading

Radio Bigotry (but not in America this time)

I saw the headline yesterday on Drudge and I couldn’t believe it: “60 Injured in ‘INDIAN IDOL’ Protests…” At first I rolled my eyes thinking that maybe a fan favorite got booted off and the viewers decided to riot in their displeasure. “Only in India” I thought. Opening the link however, I discovered there was more to this story:

More than 60 people were injured and dozens of vehicles set ablaze in eastern India when an angry mob demonstrated after a radio host made derogatory comments about the winner of the popular television show “Indian Idol,” officials said Saturday.

The violence broke out Friday when supporters of Prashant Tamang, the recent winner of the TV singing competition, took to the streets of Siliguri, a town in the eastern state of West Bengal, to protest what they perceived as a radio show host’s ethnic slur against Tamang, said state police official R.J.S. Nalwa. Tamang is an Indian citizen of Nepalese origin.

The protesters apparently blocked a road and refused to let an ambulance carrying a patient pass, which led to clashes between Tamang’s supporters and a group accompanying the ambulance, said Nalwa. [Link]

Naturally, I wanted to know the contents and context of the ethnic slur uttered by the DJ. Last night I checked about a half dozen news stories and not one of them bothered to report on this crucial fact. Is the Indian media really that inept or do they think that reporting the text of the actual slur would cause more violence? I had to go to a blog entry linked to our News Tab to get to the bottom of this mystery [via BPO Tiger]:

Verbatim from Red FM Radio Jockey (RJ) [named Nitin] on Indian Idol Prashant Tamang Radio-Jockey-Nitin-Prashant-Tamang

“Aaaj Prashant Tamang ‘Nepali ladka from Darjeeling’ [Today Prashant Tamang, Nepali boy from Darjeeling] has become Indian Idol [laughs sarcastically] and we have a [cricket] match tonight so we need to guard our house / malls / restaurants by ourselves as there will be no Nepali people to guard these place and whole night we need to say Jagtay Raho [stay awake].” The RJ also added that all the Footpath Momo shops will remain closed as Nepali guy has become Indian Idol. [Link]

I’m not going to even pretend I have a clue about all the ethnic stereotypes in India. I know us gujus are supposed to be cheap and my mom always tells me South Indians are smart because they eat fish :) That is basically where my knowledge of Indian stereotypes ends. Now that I have a Nepali sister-in-law though, this particular stereotype is something I wanted to understand better.

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Himalayan Project’s Broken World

The Himalayan Project, consisting of the duo Chee Malabar and Raymond “Rainman” Lie (see some previous posts here, here, here, and here) recently released their third album, titled Broken World.

Himalayan Project’s third studio album, Broken World, is finally available for audible consumption!… The crew would like to thank everyone who’s waited patiently for this labor of love to get done, you won’t be disappointed. For those of you who would prefer do legally download your copy, hang tight, it should be a couple weeks tops before it gets to your favorite digital distributor.

One last note/favor, if you like what you hear, don’t be shy… hit up the comments page of the store you bought it from (CDbaby, itune, Rhapsody, etc.) and write a review. Hell, if you didn’t like it, write one too and let us know what you didn’t like (if you really don’t have a life and like stomping out the dreams of independent artists just trying to do their thing ;) . [Link]

Here are the lyrics of the track Manchild (which can be heard on their MySpace page):

I read brown’s the new black, thanks to henna and bhangra,
Shit, I’m thinking lock-up in a Guantanamo slammer,
Geronimo Pratt style, panther type stances,
To keep raisin’ questions till they can’t suppress the answers,
Camphor based prose, C10-H16-0 flow,
I brandish the stress my pops’ handsome face shows,
Homes I don’t dance for dough or pamper hoes, case closed
No rest haven, I’m Wes Craven when they bring the breaks in,
Murderous Raven, staving off your blocks’ onslaught,
Playa, break down lines like Ray Lewis and make music,
That’s makes Buddhists embrace Uzi’s,
And let the spark from their shot light the darkest region in your
heart. [Link]
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Shah Jahan Kingsley

Following upon the stunning artistic and commercial success of “The Last Legion” (1, 2, UB40), co-stars Sir Ben and Aishwarya Rai Bachchan have agreed to team up again, this time as Shah Jahan and Mumtaz Mahal. Colin Firth is rumored to be considering the role of Aurangzeb .

My fans will watch me in anything because I am TMBWITW

The casting of Sir Ben is, in my mind, absolutely perfect. Shah Jahan’s marriage to Mumtaz at 19 has become a symbol of eternal love. Sir Ben also is a man who never stopped believing in love, having married his fourth wife at age 63, after the following:

“three failed marriages, four children by two different wives, a long-term live-in lover who was replaced by wife No 3 (also nearly half his age), whom he then jettisoned after discovering her embracing her lover in a photograph on the internet in 2005.” [Link]

Shah Jahan built a giant marble tomb to house his wife’s remains, as if she was a figure from ancient Egypt. Sir Ben feels the same way about wife #4:

“Daniela is like an ancient mythological princess. She has great deep dignity. She moves like an ocean liner…” [Link]

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“…given up hiding and started to fight”

October 31, 1984

“Mummy, Daddy can I dress up for Halloween this year?”

“No.  You are not allowed to participate in this ritual begging for candy.”

“Daddy, I meant for school…we’re supposed to…”

He eyed me suspiciously.  “I thought fifth grade would mean the end of such nonsense, but if you are supposed to…what do you need to wear”

I had thought about this.  Based on what the popular girls were last year, I decided…“I want to be a cheerleader!”

“Absolutely not.  Those skirts are indecent.”

“Caroline Auntie was a cheerleader!”

“In college.  When you’re in college, I’ll forbid you then, too.”

Nine-year old me promptly burst in to tears.  Later, my mother came to my room and helped me match a v-neck sweater from my old Catholic school uniform with a pleated skirt I usually wore to church—i.e. one which went to the middle of my knee.  She unpacked a box in my closet and wordlessly handed me my toy pom-poms.  My six-year old sister glared at her indignantly, so Mom rolled her eyes and did the same for her.  I was so excited.  Finally, a “cool” costume, one which didn’t involve an uncomfortable, weird-looking plastic mask to secure with an elastic band, from a pre-packaged ensemble.  I went to sleep feeling giddy.

The next morning, for the first time ever, I was tardy for school.  I don’t remember why, but I was.  When I walked in to class just before recess, everyone froze and stared at me.  The hopeful smile on my face dissolved; this year, the popular girls were all babies in cutesy pajamas with pacifiers around their necks.  I thought the weirdness in the air was due to my lame costume, but within a few minutes I discovered it was caused by something else entirely. 

The moment the bell rang, my desk was surrounded.  This couldn’t be good.  Was I going to get locked in a closet or a bathroom again? 

“Why are you here?”
“Yeah, we thought you weren’t coming.”
“Shouldn’t you be at home crying?”
“Mrs.  Doyle said you wouldn’t come in today.”

The questions assaulted me one after the other.  I was baffled. 

"Why…would…Mrs. Doyle say that?” I stammered.

“DUH, because Gandhi’s daughter got killed.”
“Isn’t she like your queen or something?  Or a Hindu God?”
“No you buttheads, she’s like the president of her country.”

At the end of the last sentence, the boy speaking gestured towards me.  When did they get so enlightened?  Last week, they asked if I was Cherokee and said “How” whenever I walked by, or pantomimed yowling war cries with their hands and mouth.

“She’s not the president of my country.  I’m…I’m from this country.  My president is Ronald Reagan.”

They got impatient and vaguely hostile.

“No, you’re Indian.  Mrs. Doyle said you were in mourning.”
“Did you not like her or something, is that why you don’t care?”
“I heard they dip her in milk before they burn her up.”
“Duh…that’s because they worship cows.”

I put my head down on my desk, as if we were playing “heads up, seven up”.   

“See?  She’s crying now…she is Indian.”

And with that they walked off, to do whatever it was that popular fifth-graders did.

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Wes Anderson Goes to India; I Stay Home

The following two paragraphs from A.O. Scott encapsulate pretty well why I’m not rushing out to see The Darjeeling Limited:

“The Darjeeling Limited” amounts finally to a high-end, high-toned tourist adventure. I don’t mean this dismissively; it would be hypocritical of me to deny the delights of luxury travel to faraway lands. And Mr. Anderson’s eye for local color — the red-orange-yellow end of the spectrum in particular — is meticulous and admiring.

But humanism lies either beyond his grasp or outside the range of his interests. His stated debt to “The River,” Jean Renoir’s film about Indian village life, and his use of music from the films of Satyajit Ray represent both an earnest tribute to those filmmakers and an admission of his own limitations. They were great directors because they extended the capacity of the art form to comprehend the world that exists. He is an intriguing and amusing director because he tirelessly elaborates on a world of his own making. (link)

Are people planning to stand in line for this one? I’m not; after four quirky films (and one amusing AmEx commercial), I’m bored of Wes Anderson’s whole approach to filmmaking, which I call “quirky for quirky’s sake.” It’s not that quirky is always bad; I found Noah Baumbach’s The Squid and the Whale, for instance, pretty compelling — and that was a damn quirky film. But I often feel like Wes Anderson’s approach to filmmaking is to simply think, “wouldn’t it be funny if the old Indian manservant stabbed Bill Murray with a pen-knife at this point?” And then do it, just for the excitement that comes with absurdity.

And as much as I was intrigued by Anderson’s use of Waris Ahluwalia in The Life Aquatic (he’s credited in Darjeeling Limited as well), the non-speaking part in that film made the striking Ahluwalia into a sort of exotic turbaned curiosity. Ahluwalia’s role in Spike Lee’s Inside Man, though brief, was much more provocative and engaging. Even if audiences didn’t sympathize with Ahluwalia’s character as much as one would have liked, at least that role led to a meaningful reaction.

Incidentally, there is another travel film with India as a destination coming out. Though from the review, Outsourced does seem to flirt a bit with cliches, I’m much more interested in it than I am in Darjeeling at present. Continue reading

Pizza Pizza

We subscribe to two ‘general interest’ magazines in my house — one is The New Yorker (my choice), and the other is Fortune (my wife’s choice). For awhile I used to boycott Fortune and stick to 10,000 word articles by Louis Menand, Adam Gopnik, and co. But over time I’ve started to flirt more with the other side — especially when I only have a few minutes to read. Over cereal this morning, I came across an article in the ‘other’ magazine about American Pizza chains competing in India, which contained the following paragraphs:

It’s not all that surprising that pizza is big business in India. The product itself is similar to India’s native cuisine. Unlike Chinese and Japanese, Indians eat leavened bread (naan), and a popular traditional version slathers it in butter and garlic – not unlike garlic bread, the most often ordered side dish at both Domino’s and Pizza Hut franchises in India.

Cheese (paneer) is ubiquitous in India’s northern cuisine. Tomatoes and all kinds of sauces are prevalent everywhere. Combine these ingredients into one gooey, oily, tasty dish that you can eat with your hands – as Indians traditionally do – and you have a hit.

It’s estimated that 80% of Indians are vegetarians, so pizza suits that Indian cultural aspect too. Both chains are scrupulous about keeping “veg” from “non-veg” in their kitchens and invite people in to see the separate prep areas. There are even pizza options for India’s 5.2 million Jains, followers of a religion that prohibits eating onions or garlic. And stores in heavily Muslim areas don’t offer pepperoni. (link)

First of all, I don’t think 80% of Indians are vegetarians in the absolute sense (i.e., no fish), probably not even close. (I remember seeing someone pose 50-60% and falling in a comment thread some time ago).

Secondly, mozzarella cheese is like paneer? And: “A gooey, oily, tasty dish” that Indians like, because they eat with their hands? The author is on thin ice with some of this stuff. Instead of coming up with these questionable sociological stereotypes, she could just as easily speculate that pizza is popular in India because it’s new, and different from what people are used to/bored with.

(Anyone hungry for pizza now? I am. I think I might get a slice, and eat it while reading The New Yorker.) Continue reading

Nehru: TNG 4 PM?

On Monday Rahul Gandhi became Congress General Secretary and consequently a likely future candidate for Prime Minister. At 37 he is the same age as his Rajiv Gandhi was when Rajiv first started his political career. If Rahul succeeds in becoming Prime Minister, that would make him the fourth generation from his family to have held the top leadership post, something I believe would be a record for any democracy.

India’s obviously not the only country with a political dynasty. The United States has two examples where a father and son held the Presidency in over 200 years: John Adams (2) and John Quincy Adams (6); George H.W. Bush (41) and George W. Bush (43).

There are other dynasties in the American Congress or in various governors’ offices. Just off the top of my head I know there were two generations of Gores, two generations of Dodds, and three generations of Kennedys in Congress (although more than three Kennedys in those generations).

Outside the US, Pakistan has two generations of Bhuttos, Bangladesh had Rahman and Sheikh Hasina, and Indonesia has had Sukarno and Sukarnoputri. I’m sure there are others.

Still, we’re talking about 3 generations of Gandhis as PM in a mere 40 years, and the possibility of a fourth generation being raised within 60 years. It reflects quite poorly on the quality of India’s institutions. What does it say that Congress thinks Rahul will give it an advantage in the next elections, despite his poor political showing in UP where he got schooled by the BSP?

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Bharat backs Burma, bad!

Burma is in the midst of its largest protests against the military junta since 1988, when the government crushed the pro-democracy movement by killing at least 3,000 people.

The current wave of protests reached its peak on Monday, when red-clad monks led a demonstration of over 50,000 people in the capital, with protests happening in 24 other towns around the country as well. In response, the junta imposed a curfew and has shot at least two protestors who defied the orders.

The only countries with real influence over Burma are its neighbors: China, India and Thailand. Neither China nor Thailand are democratic, so I hadn’t expected much from them, but I have been really disappointed in India’s response.

“It is too early to say anything,” said an Indian Foreign Ministry official, who did not want to be named. [Link]

India is not just staying quiet, it’s supporting the Burmese government economically and militarily:

India’s biggest company, the state-owned Oil and Natural Gas Corporation, is to invest £75m in exploring for gas off the coast of Burma, despite the swell of pro-democracy protests against the country’s military regime. The deal signed on Monday highlighted how Burma has exploited the energy needs of its two biggest neighbours, India and China, to weaken western sanctions. [Link]

That’s right, the state run oil and gas corporation signed a deal with the Burmese government on the very same day when 50,000 demonstrators were in the streets of the capital. That sends a very clear message about which side they’re on. Here’s an in-your face interpretation of India’s actions in a political cartoon (also below the fold).

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Mini-Meetup London; Thur 9/27

Despite the relatively short notice, it looks like we’ve got enough interest to do a small meetup in London. The Hoxton Bar & Grill is new to me but got good reviews from commentors and it appears to be conveniently located near a zone 1 tube stop (Old Street), so we’ll give it a shot…

Thursday, September 27 London, England

Hoxton Bar & Grill

7:30 pm

London, N1 6NU
2-4 Hoxton Square

one review + details here

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p>Enough pix of me have graced the pages of the mutiny that y’all should be able to find me — but just in case, I’ll be the dopey, always-smiling American, sitting in one corner, having trouble finishing off his pints

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