Friend requests and other dilemmas

Writing over at Slate.com today, Reihan Salam breaks down a family of dilemmas that many of us are facing in this increasingly, “I need a cool profile” world:

Last week, I launched the Great Facebook Purge of 2007. In one fell swoop, I whittled down a list of 274 “friends” to a more manageable … um, 258. Even weeding out this tiny amount of people was difficult and unpleasant. Almost every subtraction made me wince. While my intention had been to de-friend every hanger-on and casual acquaintance, I just couldn’t do it. All I could stomach is eliminating everyone I’ve literally never met in my life. I still have three “friends” I know only via e-mail, though given that we’re firmly in the Digital Age, I figure this is acceptable. [Link]

Anna wrote a bit about taking the plunge into Facebook a few weeks back and also mentioned that Sepia Mutiny now has its own group. Like everyone else, SM started with Friendster and then briefly flirted with the idea of that idiotic, EvErYoNe HeRe SpElLs LiKe ThIs, Myspace site. Now it seems Facebook is the place to be. For South Asian Americans, who still number only a few million strong in the United States, a profile of you is that much easier to dig out by anyone looking specifically for you, and therefore more relevant I would argue.

How do you decide whether it’s OK to friend someone?

After all, it’s always better to be the rejecter rather than the rejectee. I will now contradict myself: Friending strangers is permissible. If you are going to approach a stranger, don’t do it out of the blue. Never, ever send a random friend request without undergoing some preliminaries, such as trading a few wry observations. The beauty of this “Facebook foreplay,” to use an unfortunate analogy, is that you can always refuse to respond. [Link]

At this point I face a Hobbesian choice: either evolve or perish. After gathering just over 175 friends on Friendster, I woke up one recent morning to realize that I would have to start from scratch again, this time in a younger man/woman’s world. The pit that left in my stomach was unbearable. In this brave new world the men are funnier with their descriptions of themselves, and the women list themselves as Class of ’07…just beyond my considerable reach. Then there are all the customized “plugins.” I have to list all my favorite bands and tell people all the countries in the world I’ve been to, etc. It’s hard enough picking up chicks at a bar. Now I have to worry whether my world map plugin is sufficiently full (which is why I already counted Guatemala even though I’m not going for another two months ;)

The problem is it doesn’t just stop at Facebook. There is also a social network for book lovers, one for business folks, and even one for your portly cat. When you come home you have to check them all to see if you are still relevant. Sartre would be able to write a masterpiece about this were he still alive. Ask yourselves this simple question: If you don’t have a profile, do you really exist? If I have a profile does it mean I’m just another one of the baying sheep? If I don’t have a profile that sufficiently distinguishes me, how will people know that I’m not a sheep?

But please, don’t let any of this useless pontificating dissuade you from befriending Sepia Mutiny, or me. Even baying sheep need friends.

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DC Meetup: Noon, Saturday the 29th, Nirvana [Updated]

With hazaar apologies to Information Society, Spock and everyone else who remembers 1988 (which is when I graduated from Junior High– I throw that in because one of you recently lamented that you were like, the oldest person? On, like, Sepia Mutiny? So put that in your Bengali and smoke it). Behold, an unforgivably mangled version of that unforgettable dance classic with the Star Trek sample (you know you had the 12″…don’t lie): What’s on Your Mind (Pure Energy) yummy chana bathura.jpg

Here I am in silence, Looking round without a clue. I find myself alone again without input from you. I see 89 comments but there are things that I don’t know. If you hide your thoughts from me, How can our meetups grow?

I want to know What you’re thinking. There are some things we can’t hide. I want to know What you’re feeling. Tell me what’s on your mind.

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The Battle of Kohima

I saw the first installment of Ken Burns’ eagerly anticipated “The War” last night and was not disappointed in the least.

The Kohima Memorial: “When you go home, tell them of us and say; For their tomorrow, we gave our today

Episode 1 rocked. On that theme, and given my trip to the UK, I thought mutineers might be interested in an important, but lesser known (on this side of the pond) episode in WWII- the Battles of Kohima and Imphal.

These battles are important primarily because they marked the furthest advance of Imperial Japanese forces onto the Indian mainland. By holding back the Japanese in the highlands of Nagaland, combined British and Indian forces handed the imperial war machine its largest defeat thus far in the war and, perhaps more importantly, probably saved India from the savagery that had fallen upon China and Burma earlier.

In British war annals, the battle has a place in the history of WWII akin to America’s recollection of Guadalcanal. Earl Mountbatten referred to it as:

“probably one of the greatest battles in history… in effect the Battle of Burma… [was] the British/Indian Thermopylae”.

For desi’s, the historical record is somewhat controversial as the battles held the dubious honor of being the highpoint of activity by Subhash Bose‘s Indian National Army in their alliance with the Axis powers.

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The Caption Game: “Chak de India”-Edition

Harbhajan Singh.jpg If it’s Monday, you must be as hung-over…err… depressed…tired as I am– but wait! It’s a brand new week and surely there will be much fighting/gnashing of teeth/troll-feeding to do in the days ahead. Isn’t that daunting? Well, fret not, my pets.

The best thing about Mondays at the Mutiny is being able to play The Caption Game, a nice, easy warm-up for the week. You may not be able to touch your toes, but you can injure your funny bone trying to outwit Dravidian Lurker, MoorNam, PingPong et al. (Rahul…I’m pouring out some Old Monk for you, son. You are the missed.)

This picture, which was thoughtfully submitted by Jeet a few days ago (thanks!), is just pleading for a different label– look at what it’s been saddled with:

Harbhajan Singh’s joy is apparent as he catches Kevin Pietersen, England v India, Group E, ICC World Twenty20, Durban, September 19, 2007. [link]

Oh, come now. You mutineers can do better than that! Especially since the boys in blue have made some of you verrrry happy, right? :)

Confused?

Irritated?

Think this silliness is something new for the mutiny? How wrong you are, my sleepy friends. Lo, previous editions of the captioning game will prove that this isn’t a one-time timesuck: Ikk, Dhoe, Tinn, Char, Panj, Chhay, Suth, UttContinue reading

Mutineers in London?

Hey folks – my notorious volume of biz travel continues & I’m going to be across the pond this week for a conference + some meetings in Central London.

Because one of the oft-repeated requests has been more meetups in more cities, I thought I’d post a shoutout and see if we had any readers over there to try and schedule a pub night or something.

Anyone up for drinks on Thursday night? Suggestions for locations?

I’m staying at a hotel off of Oxford street but know London pretty well and can travel just about anywhere.

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We wuz robbed!

In response to Abhi’s appeal from last year, there was a desi entrant in this year’s World Beard & Moustache Championships. Meet 30 year old Rundeep Singh, from the UK.

Can you believe Rundeep lost to Jack Passion (on the right) who took first place in the “natural beard” category? C’mon now – which is the better beard? What an outrageous call!

Heck, Rundeep Singh didn’t even place – this guy got second (for what is admittedly a very impressive beard) but this guy got third place. I dunno – neither the first nor third place winners seem as impressive to me as brother Rundeep.

What gives? Next time I want to see a desi who wins by more than a whisker .

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Going for broke(rs)

As loathe as I am to admit it, jobs in finance look very sexy on paper. Managing a small business involves running to OfficeMax, the post office, or the bank – nothing that will grab one’s attention. There are no million dollar deals, or headlines in the newspaper announcing the bonus levels of other office managers. During a lunch break, I’ll come across a story about some new merger, or read those stories about the year-end bonuses that will exceed my salary by several degrees. Being a good capitalist, I understand the role that a vibrant financial sector plays in a modern market – allocating capital efficiently, allowing entrepreneurs a new source of investment funds, and rewarding investors who are taking risks with their money.

What I’ve always wondered though, is how prominent should finance be in a nation’s economic profile? You can even go down to the city level – how much role should Wall Street play in New York’s local economy? What role do the futures exchanges play in Chicago today, and what role will they play 20 years from now? For a developing nation like India, how prominent a role can financial firms play? Should the rules governing their behavior be different than in a developed country? Continue reading

Talk Radio Twit Thinks Turbans = Diapers

Not a turban actually.jpg I think someone owes Sikh people an apology [via India West].

When Los Angeles right-wing talk radio host Al Rantel referred to a turbaned Sikh as wearing a “diaper” on his head last week, one local Indian American man decided that he’d had enough.
“If he does not correct himself, on the air, we’re going to put pressure on him,” Navraj Singh told India-West by phone Sept. 17. “I’m getting calls from around the country, and Sikh temples are collecting signatures,” said Singh, adding that he was ready to lead a protest outside the radio station
Rantel is a conservative host whose show airs on KABC 790AM every weekday in Los Angeles. During his Sept. 10 show, Rantel was discussing airport security, and said that if his own 80-year-old mother had to take off her shoes during a security screening, “… then why shouldn’t a Sikh be required to take off the hat that looks like a diaper they wear on their heads?” recalled Singh. [IndiaVest]

When contacted, Rantel’s accomplice producer eloquently stated that this @$$#o!#’$ words were “taken out of context”. Awww. Of course they were! Because there obviously exists a context wherein diapers and turbans nestle innocently in the same sentence. Maybe Rantel was saying, “I saw a nice Sikh man changing his baby’s diaper…it’s great to see Fathers taking such an active role!” Yeah, no…as my little cousin would say.

See? They DO exist:

Singh describes himself as a semi-regular listener to the show, and says he himself is a conservative Republican.
In a strongly worded letter he sent to KABC Sept. 12, Singh challenged Rantel to an on-air debate. Rantel’s team has not yet responded to him. [IndiaVest]

coughCHICKENcough. Gosh, I really need some Ricola. Must be the weather. Seasons change, feelings change, (and now I have Expose in my head, as I fume over this latest example of disrespect).

This Uncle has weathered b.s. in the past:

After a successful career as a decorated officer in the Indian Army, Singh immigrated to New York in 1974, and says he has faced discrimination as a turbaned Sikh in the United States. He says he was laughed at when he started a job as a door-to-door vacuum salesman that year (he later became the company’s top seller, he said), and maintains that he was forced out of another successful sales job in 1979 because his boss was afraid of anti-Iran sentiment during the Iranian hostage crisis.

For those of you in the L.A. area, Singh is the man behind India’s Oven/Tantra. One of his restaurants (the original “oven”) was destroyed during the ’92 riots. But I digress. Continue reading

Life imitates bolly (updated w/ film)

Gabbar Singh: You have a lot of strength left in your arms, don’t you? Remember what you said to me that day? ‘These aren’t arms, they’re your noose’. Look at you now, the noose has opened! You still have alot of strength in your arms, don’t you? Give me your arms, Thakur.

Gabbar Singh: How do you plan to fight me Thakur? I’ve long cut off, and discarded, your arms.
Thakur Baldev Singh: One uses their feet to crush a snake Gabbar, not the hands. [imdb]

The highest grossing Bollywood film ever, and still one of the best, is the 1975 film Sholay. [Film synopsis.]

As a boy, my favorite part of the film was the (original) ending, where Thakur Baldev Singh confronts his nemesis, the dacoit Gabbar Singh. The Thakur has no arms, Gabbar Singh having cut them earlier, but he still manages to fight and kill Gabbar Singh using just his feet.

It’s perfect bolly. The scene rings true emotionally, but makes little sense as a fight. I mean, who could believe a man with no arms could defeat somebody who was built like Amjad Khan? Clearly I was overly skeptical:

Snelville, Georgia police are investigating whether William Russell Redfern, who has no arms, may have caused the death of his neighbor after head-butting and kicking him in a fight.

… Elliot said the armless man attacked her brother. “They got into a big confrontation, a verbal confrontation and a fist fight and he came after my brother, he came with full force, and head butted him as hard as he could,” said Elliot. [Link, via 3V]

OK, head butting somebody until they have a heart attack lacks the potent symbolism of killing them by “trampling him with spike-soled shoes” but it seems that the movie was more “realistic” than I had thought.

Film clips of the fight on the other side of the fold.

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What price authenticity?

As brown people we constantly urge greater authenticity in fiction films about brownistan. But authenticity comes at a price, as the producers of The Kite Runner movie have found out as some people are alleging that it may endanger the life of one of the main actors in the film. [SPOILER ALERT]

The novel The Kite Runner was written by an Afghani-American from Fremont about two boys growing up in Kabul: a wealthier child (the protagonist) and his servant who is also his best friend.

The producers of the movie went out of their way to try to make the movie as authentic as possible. They filmed in nearby Kashgar (in China, for security reasons), filmed in the vernacular, and they tried to use mainly local kids.

The problem comes because a critical scene in the novel involves a rape, in particular the rape of the protagonist’s best friend. This made the father of the actor playing the best friend uneasy:

“When I told them I would not let Ahmad Khan take part in this film, they said: ‘We won’t film that scene’,” … [the father] says. [Link]

However, what the producers did was to shoot the scene without showing very much:

Because this key scene was filmed in a non-explicit way, it seems that at the time Ahmad’s father did not even realise it had happened. I called up one of The Kite Runner’s producers, Rebecca Yeldham, in Los Angeles… “The scene contains no nudity. It’s rendered in a very sort of impressionistic way. But it’s also important in being faithful to that story – that there’s no confusions that the attack in the alley that took place on that child was a sexual violation…” [Link]
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