Bachchan’s Blog

Periodically, we’ve heard about Bollywood actors starting blogs, usually in conjunction with the promotion of their latest film. I seem to remember Aamir Khan briefly blogging around the time of the release of the Mangal Pandey movie (he’s at it again). Bipasha Basu, too, briefly blogged, to promote Apaharan.

But now it seems like blogging superstar phenomenon is taking off, as Amitabh Bachchan has been blogging with relish for more than a month (via the BBC). There does seem to be some promotional element here, as the image you see when you enter the blog, of Big B, is from Ram Gopal Varma’s upcoming sequel to Sarkar, Sarkar Raj (I reviewed the original Sarkar here). But Amitabh Bachchan isn’t just doing it as a stunt; he seems to really relish the act of communicating directly with his fans, even if it sometimes leads to controversy.

In an early post, Amitabh Bachchan apparently referred to Shah Rukh Khan’s new TV game-show, Kya Aap Paachvi Pass Se Tez Hain? (“Are you smarter/faster than a fifth grader?”), as a “flop.” The comment caused a major uproar, leading to the following rather overwrought apology: Continue reading

Inhale to visit a “Garden After the Monsoon”

Is it really possible to bottle the scent of a place? The House of Hermès is trying to do just that — capture the scents of the southern Indian state of Kerala with its new fragrance “Un Jardin Après la Mousson” (A Garden After the Monsoon). hermes.jpg The result, after 300 drafts, according to “Liquid Assets” by Phoebe Eaton in the current NYT Travel Summer 2008 magazine is a perfume that is “confected with vetiver and kahili ginger, which isn’t a ginger at all but a white flower that gusts like a rogue hybrid of jasmine, tuberose and gardenia.”

I really enjoyed reading about the process of developing this perfume — the trials and experiments that Jean-Claude Ellen has undergone as he has struggled to “bottle the fantasy” of … well, let’s just scream it, EXOTIC KERALA! India is hot in the House of Hermès, apparently. Its the theme for 2008 and and “silk scarves are vivid with raw pinks and fleshy mangoes, elephants harnessed to carriages and tigers rampant.” Continue reading

SM Pledge Drive Time: Help us keep blogging!

Dear SM Readers,

It is time once again for us bloggers at Sepia Mutiny to extend our empty cups and ask for donations to keep this website running. Remember, every time you visit our site it costs us money. We don’t bother you guys with any money-making ads on this site, nor do we sell out to the man and write what he asks us to write for cold cash (I drive a Honda Accord with 120,000 miles on it). We blog only the truth from our bunker headquarters in North Dakota, shunning the high life.

Much like NPR and PBS hold an annual pledge drive, we are asking you to donate whatever you can via our Paypal link. Keep in mind that we haven’t asked for any donations in 2 years! If you don’t want to use Paypal but would rather mail in a check, then contact us for a mailing address. Donations will keep our website ad-free and crap-free. Our administrator extraordinaire Chaitan, will soon put up a thermometer on the sidebar showing our progress in raising funds. It will disappear once we have met our goal for continuing service. If enough of you give just a few dollars we might be able to meet our goal in under a week like we have in the past. As an added measure (since it is only a trickle in terms of revenue) you can also take Amardeep’s recommendation from earlier today and help us out by buying South Asian literature (or electronics or DVDs, etc.) via our Amazon Affiliate link (we’ll soon put up a permanent widget). It will give us a nominal commission.

Whether you love this site (all you wonderful commenters and lurkers who use us as a time sink) or hate us (you fundamentalists who send us unintentionally humorous death threats) I’m sure you’d like to see us blog on!

Thanks in advance!

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Republicans can’t seem to recruit minorities

This morning Politico.con ran a story highlighting a problem that many of us suspect will keep getting worse before it can hope to get better: There aren’t any minorities running as Republicans in ’08.

Just a few years after the Republican Party launched a highly publicized diversity effort, the GOP is heading into the 2008 election without a single minority candidate with a plausible chance of winning a campaign for the House, the Senate or governor.

At a time when Democrats are poised to knock down a historic racial barrier with their presidential nominee, the GOP is fielding only a handful of minority candidates for Congress or statehouses — none of whom seem to have a prayer of victory. [Link]

Ouch. Amit Singh isn’t going to like hearing that he “doesn’t have a prayer,” but in my personal opinion (which I believe to be objective in this case) his resume is pretty thin for a candidate vying for a seat that the Democrats have held since 1991. The problem is that Republicans don’t attempt to recruit minorities in any visible way. In fact, when you can hold up Rush Limbaugh as an example of a Republican who sings the praises of a minority Republican as President (he’s a huge Jindal fan), you know you are in trouble.

Jack Kemp, the former Republican congressman and vice presidential nominee, says the culprit is clear: a “pitiful” recruitment effort by his party. “I don’t see much of an outreach,” he said. “I don’t see much of a reason to run.”

A former black GOP candidate who declined to be identified by name offered a slightly more charitable explanation. He said the party is so broke and distracted that wooing strong minority candidates is a luxury it simply cannot afford right now. [Link]

And then there are the “defections.” Ashwin Madia, who is running in Minnesota, used to be a Republican in college, but now has a real good shot at being elected to Congress as a Democrat. Another problem is that among Asian American minorities, the majority of Republican inroads are among the first generation immigrant population. Vietnamese Americans for example, usually vote Republican in high percentages because of post-Vietnam War politics. It is doubtful that this trend will hold with their children. Limited exit polling data has shown that young South Asians overwhelmingly vote Democrat, and thus will be more likely to run as a Democrat if they enter politics. No doubt that eight years of Bush probably has something to do with the recruitment efforts in ’08 as well. Arnold and Newt may be right. Before the Republicans can recruit minorities they may need to change their brand.

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Support Sepia Mutiny — Without It Costing You a Dime

Chuck D once described Hip Hop as the “black CNN,” and he was briefly right. (Nowadays, sadly, it is closer to QVC — i.e., all product placement, all the time.)

Sepia Mutiny was, I think, conceived of by its original members along similar lines: a “desi CNN,” if you will. Over time, of course, it’s evolved, and while nowadays it might occasionally seem more like “Desi NPR” than “Black Steel in the Hour of Chaos,” we do try and throw in The Great Khali and some ritualized baby-throwing to keep things lively. (Yeah, boyeeee.)

Abhi, who’s planning to formally kick off a fundraising drive in a couple of days in a separate post, tells me that a site with Sepia Mutiny’s level of traffic costs $1200 a year to maintain. Since we don’t use ads (on purpose — being ad-free lets us be more honest & independent), we try and rely on support from readers to help defray that cost.

One way you can help us, if you like, is to use our Amazon Associates account number if/when you shop at Amazon. It doesn’t need to be attached to a particular purchase; as long as you enter the site through a click from a Sepia Mutiny link, like this one, we can potentially get a small commission off of any purchase you make on Amazon following that click-through. And it won’t cost you anything.

(Using Amazon Associates is, admittedly, a form of advertising, but it’s really advertising for Amazon.com, not for a particular product.)

We probably won’t be able to raise enough money to cover all our costs this way, and a direct “PayPal” appeal will probably happen all the same, but we did want to make sure readers were aware of this option. Here, for instance, are some of the books we’ve talked about recently (all the links below are keyed into Sepia Mutiny’s Amazon Associates account): Fareed Zakaria, The Post-American World, Manil Suri, Age of Shiva, Thomas Sowell, Conquests and Cultures, V.V. Ganeshananthan, Love Marriage, Jhumpa Lahiri, Unaccustomed Earth, Chetan Bhagat, One Night @ the Call Center (which, admittedly, I hated), and Tahmima Anam, A Golden Age.

We do this site for fun. While there is the occasional small perk, the truth is, when we review desi-themed books, movies, plays, the performing arts, and so on, we’re doing it because we’re passionate about it. When we start up discussions about issues relating to politics, identity, economics, science & health, and Washington Redskins Cheerleaders, we’re doing it because we love the conversation with you readers (the cheerleaders, not so much… ok, a little).

And finally, when we talk about life and death matters — such as Bone Marrow drives that could potentially save lives — we do it of course because we care (indeed, this issue hits closer to home for some of us bloggers than most of you know). But it’s also important to talk about those things because the mainstream media would likely never bother to cover something so “particular” to one ethnic group: the South Asian community.

Thanks in advance, guys. Continue reading

SM Toronto Meet-up Saturday! North of the border love

You say you are pissed because there hasn’t been a north-of-the-border SM meet-up in 3 YEARS in 2 YEARS, eh? Well we are going to have to do something about that now aren’t we, eh? My passport is ready and Neha (a.k.a.Currylingus) is coming out of hiding to co-host (I know, I am excited about that too). There will be a Sepia Mutiny meet-up this Sat at 5p.m. in Toronto!

When: Saturday May 24th at 5p.m.

Where: The Epicure Café. Neha says, “It ain’t desi but the head chef is Sri Lankan so that counts for something ;-)

Who: Abhi, Neha, and SM readers from Toronto or elsewhere in Canada. Readers, lurkers, commenters, and their friends/family welcome

What: Food, drinks, mutinous socializing, torrid affairs. Don’t be nervous, none of us are intelligent in person.

Why: We can’t tell you until we see you.

How: Hell, ride with a Mountie if you need to. I don’t care, just find a way.

RSVP to abhi at sepiamutiny dot com

179,470 visitors in the past year (20,093 from Toronto alone). We know you are out there. Come for Canada.

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Slowly, Slowly, Rafta, Rafta Grows On You

Rafta Rafta The New Group Through June 21, 2008 Tickets $55 ($41.25 with promo code)

When I was in London last year, there was one West End production that I was determined to see—Ayub Khan-Din’s “Rafta, Rafta” at the National Theatre. Of course, as my luck would have it, the one parents rafta.jpgweekend I was there was when the play was on a hiatus, so I returned stateside without having watched the stage event which was described by the Daily Telegraph as “’an irresistible mixture of bonhomie, bumptiousness and egomania…irresistibly comic.” It goes without saying that when “Rafta, Rafta” made its off-Broadway debut at the Acorn Theatre in NYC earlier this month, I was eager to see how it had survived its journey across the Atlantic.

“Rafta, Rafta” is brought to us by Ayub Khan-Din, he who is best known for the brilliant “East is East,” which shone a spotlight on middle class British-Indian family in the 70s. While “East is East” also addressed themes of race and cultural adjustment—i.e. political issues outside the home, “Rafta Rafta” is much more of a comedy and drama about domestic politics.

Based on Bill Naughton’s 1963 play “All in Good Time,” “Rafta, Rafta” (directed by Scott Elliot who also directed the 1999 production of “East is East” and the original “Avenue Q” production at The New Group) is a comic yet poignant look at the challenges of extended family living in contemporary UK. [read the rest of this review below the fold] Continue reading

Raghubir Goyal, the only one who still shows up

Sepia Mutiny has had a long tradition of writing about the exploits of Raghubir Goyal (born on July 6!), a White House press corps member who claims to write for an Indian-American magazine (“India Globe”) that may or may not actually exist. (Does it? Has anyone ever actually seen it?)

Goyal was of interest to us and others because of his status as “foil” for White House press secretaries eager to change the subject over the years, especially when hammered with too many tough questions about things like Enron, Abu Ghraib, missing WMDs, Katrina, civil war in Iraq, the President’s abject failure to privatize social security, and other various and sundry White House failures. Now, however, general interest in the Bush White House is winding down a bit, and reporters are often skipping press briefings. Goyal, however, is still faithful, as we see in a story in this week’s “On the Media”:

(Also see an earlier NPR “On the Media” story involving Raghubir Goyal here.)

I will miss Goyal; I cannot imagine his press credentials will survive into the Obama presidency. Indeed, his will be one of the very few faces from the Bush administration I will really miss. Appropriately, he is an unintentionally comic figure, with no particular qualifications or competency. And yet he continues to do his job as he always has, and no one has seemed to mind, except for a few alienated cynics.

Earlier Sepia Mutiny posts on Raghubir Goyal: here, here, here, here, and here.

Also, see the comprehensive Raghubir Goyal Watchdog site for some choice quotes. Continue reading

Why Do Americans Get To Eat More… A diff take

Earlier this week, one-man blogging machine Amardeep put up a post on the Food Price Kerfluffle asking Why Do Americans Get to Eat More than Indians?

While I agree with Amardeep that there are a couple funny / snarky jabs in the piece, I’ve got pretty much the polar opposite opinion on the situation. So, I figured it would be worth writing up and tossing up my usual, contrarian view in part because it touches on so many of the meta-issues I’ve been writing about here for the past few years.

For example, the first paragraph in his piece highlights the classic Consequentialist vs. Intentionalist divide –

The Source of the World Food Crisis?

On May 2, George W. Bush explained that the current spike in food prices worldwide is primarily a consequence of rising demand from China and India: “when you start getting wealth, you start demanding better nutrition and better food, and so demand is high, and that causes the price to go up.” The quote was widely seen in the English-language Indian media as “blaming” Chindia for the problem, and was met with outrage.

Bush’s assessment for why food prices are higher is econ centered and consequentialist — more demand, relatively static short run supply = higher prices as an emergent property of a world where millions are making independent decisions. The process is detached, impersonal, and decentralized and perhaps most importantly, true regardless of who this basket of newly richer folks are.

The Indian Media’s (& politician’s) response, however, was dramatically intentionalist. By pointing out this relatively straightforward economic model, Bush was somehow turning the issue into a Morality Play and personally “blaming” the racial other. Same facts, different frame, different narrative. So how does this sort out?

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Liveblogging: The APIA Presidential Townhall Forum [Updated]

Live from the University of California, I am here to give you instantaneous word on the activities of the APIA Presidential Townhall Forum going on right now. It’s 1pm, and I just got here. Volunteers, press, and community leaders are quietly milling around – HRC has a outreach table all set and as of this moment, the McCain and Obama tables are still empty. A group of Cambodian veterans just walked in and a small group of Pacific Islanders sit quietly in the corner.

If you want to check out the activities for the day – you too can join in. The Punjabi community has generously donated internet space – you can access the live feed at the Passion for Truth website here. I’ll be back with word as the day goes forward – but as of now there will be a Clinton simulcast and an Obama phone call. I’ll keep you posted! Continue reading