Blue marble

Thanks, y’all, for having me over one last time. I’ve already said my goodbyes. This curious form of public performance brought me some of the people I cherish most. It’s been a second education in the erudition of the comments. The Mutiny was before and @allyousmartf-ers now, and this delicious salon will continue in another face.

I want to toss in one last thought. Early desi American artists began with the idea of marginalization. Their references were specific and elaborate in-jokes. But look at who’s blown up: those who gave no ground in their conception of themselves. They dabbled in the desi palette because it’s rich, not because it’s definitive. Those who started with I am a Queens rapper, or I am an art director, or I am an animator, experienced brownness not as conscription, but freedom.

And in fact it is. It is a thin layer atop a deep commonality. As a species we are, when you zoom out, genetically almost clones. The differences we draw among us are like the fictional Indiana town of Pawnee squabbling with the fictional town of Eagleton: from the outside, all look same.

A couple of years ago I was watching Aziz Ansari make silly jokes at a small NYC club about hitting on MIA in bad Tamil. Today he’s touring in a 007 tux. Still bemoaning his sex life, but on a much bigger stage. Sepia is one of our colors, one near and dear. But it is only one. Let’s launch our flicks, ebooks, startups, campaigns. Let’s let our freak flags fly.

Can’t wait to see it all, and unlike Bill, I will inhale.


And thanks for all the fish

We Sepiaites recently had a facial hair contest down in the North Dakota bunker in honor of our one-year-and nine-month anniversary. Ennis and Amardeep went all uncley (‘you young pups’) and were excluded for obvious reasons. The womyn were granted compassionate dispensation. Vinod dropped out early, muttering something about ‘Malayalee genetics’ and ‘evolution into hairless geniuses.’ The rest of us sported five o’clock shadows by eight o’clock in the morning.

Siddhartha broke down under the strain of the face-off and admitted to having his back waxed this one night in Tijuana. Neha looked ready to leap in with war stories, but something in Anna’s look said ‘unh-unh, don’t go there, girlfriend.’ The legend of Cooch Behar is apparently not, repeat not about royalty.

Finally it was down to Sajit, Abhi, Fofatlal and me. Sajit flexed his square jaw thoughtfully and instantly sprouted whiskers. Abhi downed some freeze-dried astronaut food and grew a Mangal Pandey before our very eyes. Fofatlal misheard the goal of the contest. He had his eyebrows singed off with incense and honey and pranced around yodeling ‘Ya-hoo!’ like Shammi Kapoor.

I, having out-hirsuted the Greeks, out-grown the Sicilians, out-whiskered the Iranis, was now faced with my own private I-da-ho’: geek stubble from the Punjab was beaten by astronaut stubble from Houston. Abhi once bragged:

I haven’t met a person alive that has more lethal stubble than I. Any girl I might date would have friends thinking I was abusing her because her face would be left raw.
· · · · ·

Unable to bear the shame, I went down to the SMU, passed out some endangered bananas and whispered a stoic farewell to my fine-furred friends. And then left the bunker for the last time, the pneumatic doors closing in the distance. Unlike Star Trek, they don’t say ‘shhhhhhhh’ when they close, they say ‘Desi please!’ with sass in the neck and quiver in the booty. Goddamn back-talkin’ bunker doors.

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Yes, We Have No Bananas

In what can only be described as poetic injustice, the most priapic fruit in the world may go extinct within five to ten years for lack of sex. I feel for you, brutha. India’s glorious, 12″ long banana fruit has been neutered by the cruel, cruel world (thanks, tipster):

The world’s most popular fruit… is in deep trouble. Its genetic base, the wild bananas and traditional varieties cultivated in India, has collapsed…

The main hope for survival of the Cavendish [variety] lies in developing new hybrids resistant to the [black sigatoka] fungus, but… the seedless modern fruit does not reproduce sexually and has to be bred from cuttings.

… wild banana species are rapidly going extinct as Indian forests are destroyed… In fact many of the genes that could save the Cavendish may already have been lost… One variety that contains genes that resist black sigatoka survives as a single plant in the botanical gardens of Calcutta… [Link]

The banana’s problem is that it is the seedless, infertile mutant cousin of a wild herb. The absence of seeds makes its fruit edible, but also genetically vulnerable… They have survived only because for some 10,000 years banana-lovers have propagated the fruit by taking shoots from the base of the plants…

The most widespread banana disease currently is a leaf fungus called black Sigatoka. It cuts yields by 50 percent or more on hundreds of millions of small farms across the tropics. Commercial banana plantations keep up production with weekly applications of fungicides – the most intensive application of chemicals on any major food crop. But now a new strain of an old disease, Panama disease, threatens to make even fungicides useless…

“In the 1970s we controlled Black Sigatoka by spraying 10 to 12 times a year…” That frequency has jumped to almost weekly… [Link]

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M.I.A. denied visa, endorses MasterCard

AIM and M.I.A. are forever mated in palindrome, but the news site is reporting that Her Highness of Baile Funk has been denied entry into the U.S. (thanks, tipster). Visa officials aren’t hip to terror chic by either Modi or Maya.

Speed bump courtesy of the Tamil Tigers

London rapper M.I.A. has been denied a visa to visit or work in the USA by immigration officials… Sources close to the British Sri-Lankan MC said that her lawyers are frantically trying to resolve the situation… She is hoping to get back to the USA as soon as US immigration will allow for a collaboration with producer Timbaland on her next album. [Link]

… Arulpragasam doesn’t downplay her Tiger connection, she flaunts it, it’s integral to her marketing. She did a mix album using unauthorized samples called Piracy Funds Terrorism. Her song ‘Sunshowers’ refers to suicide bombs (‘And some showers I’ll be aiming at you’), her first album bears her dad’s [LTTE] codename. Jungle guerrillas are all over the ‘Sunshowers’ video, there’s a large running tiger in her excellent concert visuals, she does a soldier step on stage and a shoutout to the P.L.O. [Link]

Arulpragasam’s blog is littered with misspellings, but her interview video clips have that sexayy, husky voice, a confidence which shows up on screen but not always on stage. Does your starcrush survive? Roll again.


Roger roger do you here me over!!!!
the U.S immigration wont let me in!!!!!
i was mennu work with timber startin this week, but now im doin a Akon “im locked out they wont let me in” im locked out! they wont let me in! Now Im strictly making my album outside the borders!!!! so il see you all one day, for now ill keep reportin from the sidelines
to my people who walk wiv me in the America, dont forget we got the internet! Spread the word! or come get me!!!!!! ill be in my bird flu lab in china! liming and drinkin tiger beer with my pet turtel. I love everyone for the support, now i need it more. ill stay up spread out else where. [Link]

im in india right now, hurding cows, theres some minister staying at my hotel, and his body guard has a a.k 47. me and my brother just caught him knockin on peoples doors askin for money. the police body guard that it. [Link]

The last time U.S. immigration turned back a pop star, they nailed international archvillain Cat Stevens. I sleep so much better at night knowing they foiled the plot to threaten America with music from the ’70s. Playing ‘Where’s Osama?’ pales in comparison.

Related posts: M.I.A.: Step up to blow up, The Modi protest, Modi gets B*slapped, Ain’t no junk in her trunk, Ga-ching-a-ching-a-ching, Wah, po’ Maya, I coulda been a contendah, Hello, this is M.I.A., Grind me down sugar salt, Fire Fire (updated again), Tinted Tilly, Bucky Done Underwhelmed, The transit of Venus in Mercury, New York, quieten down…, Acid-washed genes, M.I.A., fashion victim, M.I.A. now a role model?, Missing in Acton, Monsters of rock

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What’s the samachar, yo?

My buddy Chiraag of Pardon My Hindi has just posted a kick-ass second issue of Samachar, a superpremium, arty site which is the Häagen-Dasz of 2nd gen desi mags:

  • A scandalous, side-by-side audio comparison of ‘Don’t Phunk With My Heart,’ a Black Eyed Peas Grammy winner, with the song it plagiarized, ‘Ae Nau Jawan Sab Kuchh Yahan’ from Apradh. The catchy melody is a shameless copy. Listen for yourself.

    It’s not a sample, it’s the entire melodic backbone of the song, almost entirely unchanged. Royalties? Nope. Americans really are learning from Bollywood.

  • A video clip of NYU dosa man Thiru Kumar composing his mirch-e-frisbees while wearing a jacket with a big, LTTE-esque airbrushed tiger on the back

    Out-of-Office Tiger

    . Yes, he listens to M.I.A.

  • A stylish trailer for call center documentary John and Jane:
    The most startling character is the re-named Naomi, a Gujurati girl who bleaches her skin and hair and speaks with an American accent even outside working hours. [Link]
  • A self-promotional photo essay of PMH stickers pasted throughout San Francisco by friends of the artist

I really love this site’s aesthetic. The photos are ginormous and animated in a flipbook format. Raag loves his fabric textures and Billyburg blue-on-brown palette. The Meena Kumari (?) sticker still looks like she’s post-orgasmic. He’s got some new shirts big-upping ’70s Bollycomposer duo Anand-Kalyan (licensing issues?), who composed the song the Peas lifted.

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The Da Vinci Cody’s

Cody’s, a landmark, 43-year-old indie bookstore in Berkeley, is closing July 10 due to declining sales (thanks, Saheli). It was attacked during the Satanic Verses fatwa in 1989:

Cody’s Books, Berkeley, California was firebombed about 4:30 a.m. when a pipe bomb was hurled through a back window just thirty seconds before a similar attack occurred at a nearby Waldenbooks store. One of the world’s finest general bookstores, Cody’s was bombed just fourteen days after Khomeini [issued a fatwa against Salman Rusdhie]… During the cleanup another bomb was found on the floor in the poetry section of the store. The owner of the store… stood across the street while the bomb squad worked with the bomb and as it exploded. [Link]

… the store announced that it would continue to sell Salman Rushdie’s controversial “Satanic Verses” — a decision that Ross called “our finest hour.” [Link]

Rushdie was pithy as ever:

“Rushdie came to the store once, a surprise visit when he was still in hiding,” Ross said. The author gave the bookstore 5-minutes notice to announce that he was in the store and would sign books. “There’s a hole above the information desk from the bombing. Someone scribbled ‘Salman Rushdie memorial hole.’ When Rushdie was here, he looked up and said, ‘Some people get statues, others get holes.’ ” [Link]

Cody’s blames the closure on competition from online textbook and academic bookstores and the general decline of Telegraph Ave., a street which rocks out with revolutionary flava but isn’t all that safe at night.

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A zeitgeist of repression

Google Trends reveals the most sexually repressed (and Internet-literate) nations in the world by showing who spends the most time searching for the word ‘sex’ (via Andrew Sullivan).

The #1 city: Delhi. The #1 country: Pakistan.

Three of the top six cities are in India: Delhi, Chennai and Bombay.

The top U.S. city: Salt Lake City. Then Chicago.

The top language: Arabic. Was it really a surprise?

Also check out who searches for the word ‘pornography’ and the word ‘desi.’

One of the ultimate ironies of the traditional Indian gender roles is that, although they strive to keep chastity on every cherubic mind, they accomplish quite the opposite… every interaction is viewed through the filter of gender… it’s a perversion that the platonic part of our lives is defined by the sexual. If chastity were the objective, repression is clearly not the answer. [Link]

Related posts: Everyone’s having sex except you, No sex please, we’re Indian, Bad Indian Boy, There is no place to hide it in India

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Charlton Heston, libertine

The Beeb reports that Afghanistan’s Supreme Court once criticized godless liberal Charlton Heston for wearing shorts 40 years ago in a movie:

… [Afghanistan’s] Supreme Court sought to ban [a TV channel] for showing the Charlton Heston sword and sandals epic, The Ten Commandments, during Ramadan in 2004. “It showed the prophet Moses with short trousers and among the girls,” Wahid Mujdah, a Supreme Court spokesman, said at the time. “He’s a very holy person and Islam respects him. This is wrong.” [Link – thanks, WGIIA]

And that was when Heston was playing bearded ol’ Moses. I wonder what they’d make of Heston’s other works featuring homoerotic bondage and hot monkey love:

But after a little bronze-limbed tussle, I’m sure the Afghan judges and the former NRA president could have a heart-to-heart about the virtues of widespread AK-47 ownership.

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Jumping the shark

Goodness Gracious Me mastermind Sanjeev Bhaskar is now Sanjeev Bhaskar, OBE. Of the medal, Bhaskar wisecracked, ‘As an Asian bloke, it’s another thing I can stick on eBay.’

“It’s great for my parents. They’re of that generation that came over here with nothing. My ancestors would never have believed that their offspring would be at the Palace.” [Link]

Sanjeev Bhaskar and Meera Syal, who recently had a baby together, are currently filming for the next series of Kumars at No 42… confirmed guests include Cybill Shepherd… [Link]

Life’s sometimes ha-ha-hee-hee

No matter how much I love Bhaskar’s stuff, once a comedian has been knighted, he’s officially jumped the scepter. There’s nothing mutinous about a medal of the British Empire, a street cred slasher. Whereas the medal goes well with Sir Kingsley’s Shakespearean presence, even when he’s playing a goofy vampyre king.

There is one thing I love about the award. Can you keep a secret? Many Bhaskar sketches make fun of English people and their stereotypes about desis (thanks, BB and ksk). Shhh, don’t tell the queen.

Related post: Twee, innit?

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