Some Hin-dos and Hin-don’ts via The Colbear Report

In the following adorable clip, Stephen Colbert worries about Democratic nominee Bharath Obama being church-less and offers some divine guidance regarding salvation and religious affiliation; the segment is apparently the first of many in a series where Colbert thoughtfully helps Obama try on various faiths…I’m guessing Islam won’t be included. (Thanks for the tip, Maisnon and Kalyan!)

I share Maisnon’s skepticism about Auntie’s “no guilt!!”-claim, how about you? I also love the “spoiler” about how Manoj Nelliyattu Shyamalan will be paying his karmic debt. Finally, isn’t Colbert a little late with this fantastic suggestion? Bharath seems rather fond of Hinduism already. Continue reading

Low expectations yield high results and other pearls of spiritual wisdom: THE LOVE GURU Review

“Mariska Hargitay.” Say it aloud, softly and with reverence: “Mariska Hargitay.” Yes, it’s the name of the actress on Law and Order, but from the lips of Mike Myer’s newest creation, Guru Pitka, it’s a mantra, a blessing, and a joke that never stops giving. securedownload.jpeg

I went to see The Love Guru with hackles raised and claws sharpened. I came to bury, not to praise. But 87 IQ-draining minutes of fart jokes, midget jokes, and sight gags (ever wanted to see someone literally have his head up his ass?) later, I came out slightly charmed, humming the Guru Pitka song and wishing my friend “Mariska Hargitay” every time he sneezed. Light-hearted, good-natured, and silly beyond belief, the movie might bore those who can’t easily access an inner 12-year-old, but for everyone else it’s well worth at least 5 demerits on the Hindu Janjagruti Samiti chart.

Mike Myers built a career playing outsized characters, goofiness masking the fact that world inhabited by those characters, the entire point of the parody, revolved around something actually not all that familiar to most Americans. Sprockets? How many Americans knew anything about West German Mimimalism, let alone enough to mock it? Wayne’s World? Brought GenX tropes and Slackers and cable access television to the mainstream in 1992. Austin Powers? It seems obvious now, but British 60s spy films weren’t on anyone’s cultural radar in the mid-90s.

So now that his new creation satirizes Hinduism, spirituality and the Guru-Shishya relationship, what will mainstream Americans make of it? How offensive is Guru Tugginmypudha?

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Hijabs and such not very photogenic (update)

The Obama campaign got itself into a crap load (a unit of measure used in politics) of trouble today after a couple of its junior campaign staffers (who no doubt had some guidelines from higher up advisors to Obama) decided that women wearing headscarves should be “discouraged” from being in the background when pictures of the candidate were being taken in Detroit (of all places!):

Two Muslim women at Barack Obama’s rally in Detroit on Monday were barred from sitting behind the podium by campaign volunteers seeking to prevent the women’s headscarves from appearing in photographs or on television with the candidate.

The campaign has apologized to the women, both Obama supporters who said they felt betrayed by their treatment at the rally.

“This is of course not the policy of the campaign. It is offensive and counter to Obama’s commitment to bring Americans together and simply not the kind of campaign we run,” said Obama spokesman Bill Burton. “We sincerely apologize for the behavior of these volunteers.”

Building a human backdrop to a political candidate, a set of faces to appear on television and in photographs, is always a delicate exercise in demographics and political correctness. Advance staffers typically pick supporters out of a crowd to reflect the candidate’s message. [Link]

This incident is D-Punjab all over again. I have no doubt that Obama is disappointed in his staffers over this but the buck has to stop at the top of the ticket. By forcefully refuting rumors that he is a “secret Muslim,” I think he is beginning to overreact and hurt his reputation among the very people who believe in him to bring a change. I mean, how in the world do you expect to campaign in Detroit and NOT be associated with Muslim supporters?

… incident began when the volunteer asked Aref’s friend Ali Koussan and two others, Aref’s brother Sharif and another young lawyer, Brandon Edward Miller, whether they would like to sit behind the stage. The three young men said they would but mentioned they were with friends.

The men said the volunteer, a 20-something African-American woman in a green shirt, asked if their friends looked and were dressed like the young men, who were all light-skinned and wearing suits.

Miller said yes but mentioned that one of their friends was wearing a headscarf with her suit.

The volunteer “explained to me that because of the political climate and what’s going on in the world and what’s going on with Muslim Americans, it’s not good for [Aref] to be seen on TV or associated with Obama,” said Koussan, a law student at Wayne State University. [Link]

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Evolution vs. Bobby Jindal

For as long as this blog has been around, Bobby Jindal has been a source of controversy in the comment threads. Should South Asian Americans support him because he is an undisputedly intelligent politician and desi like us, or is it okay to turn our backs on him because we fundamentally disagree with his policies and the type of America that he represents? Both answers are of course correct, depending upon what matters most to you as an individual voter.

When the media reports on a political stories there is nothing they enjoy more than a stark contrast between two people or viewpoints. That is one of the reasons that the Obama-McCain race is generating such excitement this year. Almost everyone (except maybe Nader supporters) believes that Obama and McCain have a very divergent vision for the next four year. Because of a law working its way through the Louisiana legislative process right now, the next few weeks will also provide us with an incisive look into the mind and soul of Bobby Jindal. Will he govern according to his religious beliefs or according to accepted scientifc fact? Whether or not he is chosen as McCain’s running mate this year, one thing seems clear: eventually he will be on a national ticket.

Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-Ga.) said Sunday that Louisiana Gov. Bobby Jindal “would be far and away the best candidate” to appear on the Republican presidential ticket with Sen. John McCain (Ariz.).

Gingrich, who appeared on CBS’s “Face the Nation,” heaped praise upon the former congressman, saying that he is a “spectacular” governor and predicted that Jindal would be a presidential candidate in the future. [Link]

As the New York Times reported two weeks ago, there is a proposed law working its way through the Louisiana legislature right now that is going to stick with Jindal, for better or for worse, for a very long time.

In the Legislature, the climate for a conservative Christian agenda is warmer than in years. Some of that agenda, including a school voucher program for New Orleans that Mr. Jindal calls a “scholarship plan,” is being pushed vigorously by the governor. On other parts, like a bill favored by Christian conservatives that opponents say is a stalking horse for teaching creationism, Mr. Jindal has been well in the background, though legislators say they think the governor would sign it, as he has raised doubts about evolution. [Link]

The Louisiana Science and Education Act is nothing but a thinly-veiled attempt to allow the arguments of Creationism to be taught in Louisiana schools alongside evolution. This in a state that already has some of the worst school systems in the country. Continue reading

M.I.A., like Jem, is truly outrageous!

Controversial crooner (and cover girl) Mathangi Arulpragasam got fugged not once, but twice over at the always-entertaining Go Fug Yourself (thank you thank you, mbawife). Behold her first fugtacular outfit below, and her second, after the jump (click to enlarge both to their full glory…srsly).

She's a brown Gem.jpg

The first thing I thought of when I saw this (as if you hadn’t already guessed from my title) was “Jem! And the Holograms!“, or Jerrica, more accurately. They don’t make cartoons like they used to, do they boys and girls? When we played “Jem”, I always wanted to be “Aja”, but I was often stuck playing “Kimber”. The four of you who know what the hell I’m talking about need not comment, I can feel your sympathy over the intarweb. I’m sensitive like that. Continue reading

Gather ye rosebuds, while ye may…

GatherYeRosebuds1909Waterhouse.jpg I can hear your voice, your brash, loud, excitable voice.

You are on the phone, making a precious, international phone call, damning someone or something in your inimitable Malayalam; the velocity with which you deliver words another generation will forget would make an auctioneer or a debater envious. As the conversation progresses, you grow louder, gleeful, more boisterous. I can discern happiness where others hear anger. Indeed, “Americans” fear your voice or find it disturbing; you are forever forced to clarify that you are not at all upset, that this is just. how. you. speak.

You just shouted your punchline and you have punctuated it with raucous laughter. As far as I’m concerned, someone might as well have cranked a Fisher-Price mobile to commence a saccharine rendition of Brahms’ lullaby; there are no audible sounds which I could ever find more soothing, which is why I wake only momentarily before nestling back in to the crook of the couch, where I am lying down.

It is a hot summer day and the fan is purring while whirring cool air around the room. I am sick, and that is why I am passed out instead of reading, my Saturday-afternoon activity of choice. The cough medicine I reluctantly swallowed makes my extremities tingle, I feel such velvet electricity when I stretch…and even with my arms extended and my longish legs splayed out, there is couch to spare, I don’t feel the armrests and that is a reminder that I am small. Safe. Monsters cannot eat you if all your body parts stay on the couch or bed, this is a rule which all children know innately. Continue reading

“The Happening” — What Did You Think?

After seeing so much bad press on M. Night Shyamalan’s The Happening, I was beginning to get ready to not see it, to let it wait until DVD as I ended up doing with Lady in the Water (which was every bit as hokey as people said it would be).

In this case, the New York Times was just positive enough to keep me in my Shyamalan == opening weekend pattern, and I’m glad of it. I actually enjoyed the film. I did have my doubts about some of Shyamalan’s choices, and in the end the whole thing doesn’t make a whole lot of sense. But some of the images Shyamalan put together in the film were genuinely, arrestingly creepy — I will probably remember the scene in Princeton for a long, long time. Finally, the conceit as a whole is, I have to say, strikingly original.

If you generally like Shyamlan, don’t let the reviewers’ piranha-like viciousness keep you away (especially since that viciousness is so easy: quite a number of people seem to be using the ready-made zinger, “‘The Happening’ Is Not Happening”). On the other hand if you hated Signs and The Village, you’ll probably hate this too.

I’m sure readers will have their opinions, and not all will be positive. Fire away (try to avoid spoilers, please).

Finally, the obligatory desi tidbit: The Happening was 50% financed by an Indian company, UTV. Though The Happening is not going to make anything like the kind of money Shyamalan made with his first three big films, it apparently has exceeded opening weekend expectations, despite the horrendous press. Which means, UTV and Fox will likely make their money back. Which means… Manoj Shyamalan probably isn’t going anywhere.

Trivia: Did you know that Shyamalan just came up with the middle name “Night” around the time he applied for college? The application wanted a middle initial, and he went with “N.” Gogol, all over again. Continue reading

He Said, She Said

A news report a while back talked about the rapid adoption of in-car video cameras for cops on patrol & the qualitative changes it was introducing to law enforcement. In some quarters, the initial rationale for videotaping folks on the job was to keep tabs on the cops themselves. But, far more often, and the reason the cops themselves eventually became enthusiastic proponents of “dash-cams” was that they often helped defend their version of events.

Instead of the old world of conflicting accounts, presumptions, and testimonies, we’re now often able to hit the play button on the VCR and see some (but clearly not all) of the story for ourselves. A traffic misdeed coupled with efficient, lawful capture by the police, all caught on tape, more or less gaurantees a swift conviction in the eyes of judge and jury.

Interestingly, a recent incident in the GWOT has Pakistan up in arms and the narrative may similarly pivot around a critical, live video. A few days ago, front page news from Pakistan discussed how their forces were “cowardly” attacked by coalition forces on the Afghan border

PESHAWAR, Pakistan (AFP) — Pakistan said a “cowardly” air strike by US-led forces killed 11 Pakistani troops on Wednesday near the Afghan border and warned that it had harmed cooperation in the war against terrorism.

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Mumbai sensitive about its manholes

There has been a little bit of a diplomatic incident in Mumbai with regards to a warning posted on the U.S. Consulate’s website that warns Americans walking around the city to be careful not to drop down manholes into the sewer:

Dear American citizens:

We bring this warden message to your attention so you can carefully consider the information it contains. Please pass along the information below to the American citizens in your area or put this information on your notice boards for dissemination. Thank you for your cooperation…

The monsoon has arrived in western India, and Mumbai is experiencing the season’s storms. With these come the possibility of heavy flooding. Heavy rains and associated winds can, at times, have the same intensity as a tropical storm. The rains during monsoon are significant and, in July 2005, led to heavy loss of life. You should follow common sense precautions, avoiding low-lying areas that appear to be flooded. Also be extremely cautious when driving or walking during flood periods. To ease flooding in Mumbai, Bombay Municipal Corporation workers will open manhole covers on roads, and there may be no markers. Tree branches upright on streets sometimes serve as caution signals. In reduced visibility conditions, you could drive into one of these open manholes. You should also pay attention when walking, since sidewalks are non-existent in some areas or used for other purposes in most parts of the city. It’s possible that you could inadvertently step into an open manhole. [Link]

SM commenters have previously discussed the “manhole problem” on this thread. However, the pride of some officials was hurt over the above statement.

Mumbai city officials are upset by an American warning about the risks of falling into manholes in India’s commercial capital during the monsoon season… The Brihanmumbai Municipal Corporation rejected the statement, and said it had e-mailed the U.S. consulate on Wednesday stating it had cast the city in a bad light.

Jairaj Phatak, the municipal commissioner, estimates that 10 people or fewer have died in such a manner in recent years. [Link]

I like the “10 people or fewer” comment because it speaks to the different thresholds applied to a public safety problem in the U.S. and India. Maybe instead of denying the problem the officials should instead launch a PR campaign by highlighting that Indian manholes are used all over the U.S. Something like “India: Securing American holes since 19##.”

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