Twas the night before…

I never went to journalism school and I haven’t taken a writing class since my freshman year of college (as I am sure is more than apparent to long time readers). Thus, I’ve been kind of flustered all day today (on the eve of one of SM’s biggest moments) as to how to prepare for THIS. If you know me then you know I am an obsessive, to the point of ridiculousness, preparer (which has actually served me well for my chosen profession). However, I don’t really know how to prepare for the responsibility we now have and neither does our young new blogger Ravi , who has already started blogging from Denver. He hasn’t even been to college yet! What the hell were they thinking letting us crash these gates?

I sat down tonight and started preparing dossiers (well…ummm…index cards) on some of the people we want to interview. We want SM readers to get some firsthand insight into who the South Asian Americans are that are going to this Convention, some serving as delegates. I’m also reading the book all those political types are reading so I can sound somewhat smart when I get there.

The logistics of the convention alone are a total nightmare. Venues are spread all over Denver. Luckily I lived in Colorado for two years so I remember some of the streets and have a place to crash with a friend. My flight gets in too late and I am going to miss the IALI Cocktail hour where all the South Asian Democrat big-wigs are going to be schmoozing, but Ravi will be there. Last Tuesday I put in a request to interview Joe Biden about his views on Pakistan. After Saturday morning’s big news I’m sure that’s not going to happen.

We just want you all to know that we are excited and we hope that you are excited too. We want to make this as participatory as possible so if you have story ideas or things you want to learn then hit us up and we will do our best to chase them down.

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Sepia Mutiny’s Tumblr and Twitter go Live

We here at Sepia Mutiny are always working (especially our sleep deprived admin Chaitan) behind the scenes to improve the site’s features, interactivity, and addictiveness. Thus, just in time for the Democratic National Convention, we are introducing two new SM features. The first is the new SM “shorts” site on our Tumblr page. This is the place where you can go to find small tidbits like quotes, pictures and videos that we are interested enough to want to blog, but might now have the time to write a full post about. It is in beta testing right now which means we are aware of a few issues (e.g. font colors, permalinks, etc.) that need to be worked out but we are on it. Both Ravi and I will be using this site A LOT while reporting from the convention so please visit it often this week. If I get to meet Fergie in Denver, for example, there will be a picture of us (but not of me touching any bumps) on our Tumblr site accompanied by a brief quote about how the meeting was a step forward for South Asian Americans in politics. Check us out:

The next feature we have added is an SM Twitter page. What’s Twitter?

Twitter is a free social networking and micro-blogging service that allows its users to send and read other users’ updates (otherwise known as tweets), which are text-based posts of up to 140 characters in length. [Link]

Whenever there is an event of interest to the South Asian American community (and we have a blogger there) we will microblog the event with “tweets.” Anna has been doing this already for a while now. More importantly, if a group of you are headed to an event (independent of each other) SM can “follow” your Twitter pages. Thus, we hope to be able to capture and post a diversity of reactions to the same event via our new Twitter feed. If you are going to be at the DNC or RNC in the next two weeks and want to participate then please create your own Twitter page and then email us (abhi at sepiamutiny dot com). We will “follow” you through SM so other readers can virtually attend through your microblogging.

Lastly, we are finally, seriously, working on a major site re-design. We hope to seamlessly incorporate all these new features and a re-vamped News Tab into a new accessible (yet still mutinous) format.

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Denver or Minneapolis bound? Contact SM

If you are a South Asian American delegate, volunteer, politician, blogger, protester, anarchist, whatever and will be at the Democratic National Convention this week or the Republican National Convention the week after, please get in touch with us as soon as possible. Our blogging team is looking to talk to everyone we can find there in order to bring the full experience of these events to the online community. Please email me at abhi [at] sepia mutiny dot com ASAP.

If you know a friend going to either event and they don’t read/know about SM then please forward this to them. This is our chance to maximize the participation of the South Asian American community and every person that attends these events will have a unique experience that we’d like to share.

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Why Joe Biden? Answer: Pakistan

As everybody and their mother now knows, Obama’s Vice Presidential running mate will be Senator Joesph Biden of Delaware. Very clever of Obama to wait the whole week, gathering the cell phone numbers of thousands of potential supporters wanting to be the “first to know” via text message (well eat it guys because this post is up even before you got your lousy text message…at ~3:30 a.m. EST). His campaign now has the ability to send get-out-the-vote texts to thousands of young and new voters, many of them who don’t even keep land lines and are traditionally hard to reach on election day. Anyways, we here at Sepia Mutiny have of course written about Joe Biden’s predilection for verbal gaffes before (see Donutgate here and here), which is probably his greatest weakness. However, it is no doubt his considerable strengths that led Obama to choose him as the running mate. Here Obama, in his own words, describes what he was looking for:

“Obviously, the most important question is, is this person prepared to be president? Second-most-important question, from my perspective, is: Can this person help me govern? Are they going to be an effective partner in creating the kind of economic opportunity here at home and guiding us through some dangerous waters internationally? And the third criteria for me, I think, was independence. I want somebody who is going to be able to challenge my thinking and not simply be a yes-person when it comes to policymaking…” [Link]

Biden walking with Kerry and Nawaz Sharif near Lahore earlier this year

Arguably, the most dangerous waters to be waded through internationally in the next few years will be the tribal areas of Pakistan and it’s border with Afghanistan. There is probably no one in the Senate who knows more about these issue than Biden. In fact, remember this article I blogged about last November:

President Pervez Musharraf and opposition leader Benazir Bhutto each placed telephone calls from Pakistan to Democratic Sen. Joseph Biden, chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to discuss the country’s crisis before either talked to President George W. Bush.

On Saturday, Bhutto stressed to Biden the need for parliamentary elections in January with Gen. Musharraf remaining as president but leaving the army. Musharraf called Biden Tuesday and asked that their conversation be kept confidential. Biden got the impression Musharraf could accept January elections although he had triggered the crisis by suspending the constitution. [Link]
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Mutinous Fashion: T-shirts for the political season

A few weeks back I offered a challenge to SM readers: Design t-shirts for me to wear at the Democratic National Convention next week and I’d buy them from you and publicize them:

design a t-shirt that features a political or social (but non-partisan) message and I can order it using Café Press, Threadless, or one of many other internet t-shirt companies. Send me the design at abhi [at] sepiamutiny dot com. I will narrow it down to the best entries and have SM readers vote on the finalists. I will be at the convention for three full days so I will purchase up to three winning t-shirts to wear on the floor. The more clever/funny/relevant/socially conscious your t-shirt, the more likely it is to grab attention and communicate your message to all the varied citizens expected to be in Denver

Well, a handful of you did take up the challenge (and I thank you)…but none to my satisfaction. What can I say, I am very hard to please and my standards are quite high (as the interns at our North Dakota headquarters know all too well). The response was also much less enthusiastic than I had hoped for. Thus, the always creative Manish and I joined forces once again (he did co-found SM in case you forget) to come up with our own original designs to sell to you all. Below are two that I will be sporting at the convention next week. These two are ready for sale now, but a few others will go on sale as early as next Monday, exclusively through SM and Ultrabrown.

Hopefully everyone understands the references but if not remind yourself here and here. Tell your friends.

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Art: Nandalal Bose at the Philadelphia Museum

nandalal bose Sati.jpg

(click on the image for a higher-quality version)

The New York Times is essentially perfect in its review of a current major exhibit at the Philadelphia Museum of Art, on the painter Nandalal Bose. The exhibit was put together by the San Diego Museum of Art and the National Gallery of Modern Art in New Delhi (which is also, incidentally, very much worth a visit). We went there a couple of weeks ago, and enjoyed it (though it certainly helps that the Philadelphia Museum of Art has a play area for children in the basement; otherwise, 2 year olds and art museums are usually not compatible.)

The key question the exhibit addresses is: what did it really mean to make “modern” art in an Indian idiom in the latter years of the British Raj? From the dominant colonial point of view, there was no such thing as “modern Indian art”: by and large, the British were mainly interested in ancient Indian art, including traditional Indian art produced in the modern era. (One prominent exception was Ernest Binfield Havell, who actively supported Bengali artists who aimed to invent a modern style in Indian painting.) Continue reading

Posted in Art

Seeing things that just aren’t there

Look, I’m just about as big a Michael Phelps fan as there is out there. No disrespect here. My boy is even a fellow Wolverine. However, when I saw the new cover of Sports Illustrated I thought it was a woman until I panned up to the face. I swear, with all those medals (8) it looks like he is wearing a top similar to something you’d see at an Indian wedding (picture on left). Am I going totally crazy? Am I the only one that now has this unusual image of Phelps etched into my psyche?

Truly sorry if this traumatizes anyone.

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Razib on Reihan + Grand New Party (updated)

Razib beat me to the punch in profiling the rising desi-pundit Reihan Salam. We first mentioned Reihan on SM a few years ago when he, as a blogging neophyte, held a guest spot on Daniel Drezner’s prominent blog & raved about PunjabiMC and H&K. Since then, his footprint has grown both through his own blog as well as via coauthoring a provocative new book, Grand New Party which advocates a sort of Natalism to “save” the Republican Party.

Reihan classifies himself as -

Rawlsekian neoconservative singulatarian meliorist humanist neoliberal infosocialist Viridian postliberal incrementalist.

SM Favorite Razib heard Reihan speak recently and characterized him this way

WITNESSING Reihan Salam speak off-the-cuff feels like some intensely demanding, habit-forming new spectator sport. While he’s in full rapid-fire, animated flow, the rapt listener remains completely engrossed, delighted by his insights, analysis, and wide-ranging references, wowed by his effortless formulations and disarmed by his wry asides.

…So, who is Reihan Salam? If you don’t know of him yet, you will. Salam is an American-born son of Bangladeshi immigrants, Harvard graduate, prominent political blogger and journalist, and now co-author of a serious and fast-selling political manifesto Grand New Party.

To add that he also blogs about pop culture doesn’t begin to describe the man’s breadth or curiosity. He has long posted original poetry and rap lyrics on the web and steeped himself in pop music, both Japanese and Anglophone.

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I was first in my class, Loan Officer Uncle, I swear

Finally. An actual reason to care about your rep in the NRI community.

It seems banks are sprouting up in the US that cater specifically to Indians, according to this Hindustan Times article, which says a dozen such already exist. Indians sans credit history who might be viewed unfavorably at the big banks – where sub-prime angst runs thicker than unclarified butter – turn to these Amma and Appa joints to be properly judged.

Sushil Patel, son of Chan Patel (founder, president, chairman and CEO of the State Bank of Texas) explains:

“Ethnic banks avoid bad loans as they take decisions based on factors like culture, background, social status. They are able to judge a person’s character better than regular American banks, who don’t know their clients as well. We are able to check the guy’s character because of the close-knit Indian community in the US.”

Hmm. So the aggressive pursuit of social standing produces real results these days, not just the downfall of budding young novelists.

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Fatima Bhutto on Musharraf’s Exit

By now most readers will have seen the news that Pervez Musharraf, Pakistan’s President, has resigned from his post rather than face impeachment charges. While for some this might seem like a happy day, a slightly closer look at the situation in Pakistan suggests that the country is not now headed for greater stability or economic prosperity.

Since his party lost the Parliamentary elections earlier this spring, he was already essentially irrelevant. The threat of impeachment announced by Asif Ali Zardari and Nawaz Sharif in recent weeks says more about the desperation of the new coalition government than it does about Musharraf himself.

In the weeks to come, I’m sure we’ll see a number of accounts of the fall of Musharraf, ranging from, “well, he was bad, but these guys are worse,” to “well, he was so bad that the room can’t help but smell better now that he’s gone.” There might even be a couple of people saying that he was actually good for Pakistan (democracy is overrated), good for women’s rights (he got a couple of laws passed; who cares about Mukhtar Mai, anyway?), and an invaluable ally to the United States in the fight against Islamic extremism (though I’m not sure how anyone could really make that argument with a straight face).

A preliminary account worth reading, which leans towards the first position, comes from Fatima Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto’s niece (but no fan of her aunt or her aunt’s widower, Asif Ali Zardari). Bhutto who starts off with a description of the recent press conference where Zardari and Sharif expressed their moral outrage about Musharraf’s “anti-democratic” actions as President and head of the military:

Zardari snarled every time Musharraf’s name came up, seething with political rage and righteousness, while Sharif did his best to keep up with the pace of things. He nodded sombrely and harrumphed every once in a while. The two men are acting for democracy, you see. And impeaching dictators is a good thing for democracies, you know.

But Nawaz Sharif and Asif Zardari are unelected. They’re not just unrepresentative in that they don’t hold seats in the parliament – they have absolutely no mandate in Pakistan. They head the two largest, and most corrupt, parties in the state but hold no public office. Pots and kettles.

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