About Abhi

Abhi lives in Los Angeles and works to put things into space.

The Ghosts of Mutiny Past

In 2006 I wrote the first of many posts here on SM about then would-be Virginia Senator George Allen and his use of the term “Macaca” to describe S.R. Sidarth, a young volunteer for the current Senator Webb’s campaign who followed and documented his opponent’s public gatherings (a very common practice now). All the main players involved are probably happy to bury the Macaca Incident. Allen certainly wants to forget about it given that he running again. The “macaca moment” is widely credited for sinking his first political career and haunts him in every article about him still. When I met S.R. Sidarth at the Democratic National Convention in 2008 I was told by others that he doesn’t like talking about the incident either and wanted to move on. Given that Webb is not running for re-election it doesn’t hurt him to move on either.

But George Allen is working hard to resurrect his career and win office again. We pick up the story at the annual Shad Planking in the Real Virginia:

As the front-runner in the GOP nominating contest to succeed retiring Sen. James Webb (D), former senator George Allen swamped his opponents at the annual Shad Planking festival, offering more of everything: signs, stickers, hats, volunteers and — crucially, given the hot, sticky weather — cold beer.

Jamie Radtke, Allen’s best-known foe and former head of the Virginia Federation of Tea Party Patriots, went to the Wakefield Ruritan Club southeast of Richmond with a smaller financial war chest but armed with an argument — that Allen isn’t conservative enough to deserve the Republican nomination — that she hopes will be enough to fuel an upset.

“People are looking for an alternative. They really are,” Radtke said.

Radtke’s booth at the gathering featured a large sign contrasting her views with Allen’s record in the Senate — including votes to raise the debt ceiling and for the No Child Left Behind law. [Link]

The winner will meet Kaine. I still believe that if not for the Macaca moment the 2008 election would have been Allen vs. Obama and that contest would have been much closer. I also believe that times have changed and Allen might not be nutty enough for the Republican base this time around. But I also want to go back to the title of my post from five years ago. What did Allen think “macaca” meant when he used the term? We may never know for sure but Slate’s Chris Wilson pointed out on Tuesday that what we think he meant was largely influenced by Wikipedia: Continue reading

Bandish Projekt’s latest

This morning Taz splashed my Facebook page with a phenomenal sound and with lyrics she knew I’d love, even the curveball at 2 min 5 second that I didn’t see coming given the title of the song:

Of course, Bandish Projekt has been known to some Sepia Mutiny readers as far back as 2005. The Projekt is the creation of artist Mayur Narvekar.

Mayur Narvekar, a composer, producer, creative director, Dj, remix artist, performer and a multi-instrumentalist, calls his Bandish Projekt an emotion, an experience that can awe spectators with its live performance. An arts student from Gujarat, Mayur developed an impeccable flair for classical music, an art form that is deep-rooted in his upbringing. A tabla ace, Mayur dived head-on into the world of percussions, earning repute as a tabla player, and adoration as a jazz-funk drummer. Fuelled by his father’s vision, today he is a master of rhythm through a cross-section of genres.

He has used his roots in classical tabla and percussion training to bring to the music maturity and authenticity while his taste for strange sounds and electronic noises brings in wildness and fervour. The classical element keeps Mayur grounded, while his need for experimenting takes him to heights unsurpassed and us to the lands unexplored. It is a journey of life beyond the known. [Link]

I also enjoyed the sound and the video for “Didi”:

You can buy the tracks here.

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Kumaré. Believe.

As Razib pointed out in the post immediately preceding, Sathya Sai Baba is dead. Who will stand up now to replace him? May I offer a humble suggestion? Kumaré:

What? Ok yes, I did just go there.

Kumaré is an enlightened guru from the East who builds a following of disciples in the West. But Kumaré is not real. He is an American filmmaker named Vikram Gandhi, who has transformed himself into Kumaré as the centerpiece of a social experiment designed to explore and test one of the world’s most sacred taboos. Concealing his true identity from all he meets, Kumaré forges profound, spiritual connections with real people from all walks of life. At the same time, in the absurdity of living as an entirely different person, Vikram the filmmaker is forced to confront difficult questions about his own identity. At the height of his popularity he reveals his greatest teaching: his true self. A playful yet genuine and insightful look at belief and spirituality, the film crosses a line few have dared to cross, all to discover: from illusion comes truth. [Link]

Check a review from SXSW.

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Ravi Singh’s CV

Ben Smith of Politico reports:

In capitals across the globe in recent months, the face of Barack Obama’s groundbreaking 2008 online campaign has been one Ravi Singh, a self-styled “campaign guru” with a colorful turban, a reassuring smile and a killer sales pitch.

He has been called the man “responsible for the Internet campaign of Barack Obama,” in Poland, the “election guru” of Obama and Clinton” in India, “el guru tecnologico de Obama” in Colombia, and “homme qui a géré la campagne d’Obama sur Internet” in France.

There’s just one major thing wrong with this international portrait of Web wizardry –Singh never worked for Obama. [link]

I don’t know, I think he is kind of brilliant. He is using an error made by some lazy journalist and letting others feed off the initial error sans fact-checking. His legend has been growing and he remains silent. That is quite a public relations strategy.

…his appearances in a half-dozen countries have been accompanied by remarkably similar publicity campaigns announcing the arrival of “Obama’s guru,” even if Singh himself is not quoted directly in local media accounts claiming the role.

“What do U.S. President Barack Obama and Euro politician Antonio López Isturiz have in common? Their common denominator is Ravi Singh,” wrote the European social media blog Sociable. “The self-acclaimed Campaign Guru was credited with the overwhelming success of Obama’s online electoral campaign. But now he is turning his sight to Europe.”

Maybe I can claim that I was once Obama’s ghost-Blogger or Twitterer?

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Years later, and still no justice for Mai

We’ve had many posts here over the years about the rape in Pakistan of Mukhtaran Bibi (Mai) and her struggle to bring to justice the men who perpetrated it. This past week, justice was finally NOT served:

“I don’t have any more faith in the courts. I have put my faith in God’s judgement now. I don’t know what the legal procedure is, but my faith [in the system] is gone.

“Yes, there is a threat to me and my family. There is a threat of death, and even of the same thing happening again. Anything can happen.”

Ali Dayan Hasan of the US-based Human Rights Watch said the verdict sent a “very bad signal” across Pakistani society.

“It suggests women can be abused and even raped with impunity and those perpetrating such crimes can walk,” he told the BBC. [link]

Her attorney is going to appeal for a “review” but I find it difficult to hold out hope at this point. I was also surprised that you can appeal a Supreme Court decision in Pakistan:

Barrister Chaudhry Aitzaz Ahsan, counsel for Mukhtar Mai, has announced filing of a review petition against the Supreme Court verdict acquitting five men of the charge of gang-raping his client.

In a statement on Saturday, Mr Ahsan expressed his disappointment at the Supreme Court’s verdict, terming the judgment manifestly flawed and not even based on the evidence available on record.

“In drawing their conclusions, the learned judges disregarded cogent evidence and failed to notice actual material on the record and the facts proved thereby,” Mr Ahsan observed.

The former SCBA president and PPP leader further said that judges had misread evidence that they had adverted to.

“The judges have also failed to take notice of the social backdrop, which was established on the record itself, and in the context of which the horrendous crime of gang-rape was committed, reported and investigated,” he added.

Maybe somebody can explain the judicial process, or what passes for one. Amnesty International is concerned for Mai’s safety and appealing to the government to protect her.

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Three Cups of Crap

By now most of you have heard the allegations of truthiness and mismanagement leveled against author and “philanthropist” Greg Mortenson on 60 Minutes last night. It was quite damning to say the least:

I personally have not read the book and barely knew the story. What little I did know until this 60 Minutes exposé has come in the form of word-of-mouth recommendations that start with a gentle hand on my arm at some event and end with breathless “you have to read it.” It always hurts society the most when the seemingly most beneficent emperors are shown to have no clothes.

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2011 Indian Film Festival of Los Angeles. Who’s in?

I can’t tell you just how excited I am. After being away from LA for the past three Aprils I am now back to enjoy this year’s film festival which, as always, will be at the Arclight. In the past I would have done a detailed breakdown of the films and then maybe recommended some to you based on my LA street sources. Nah. Times have changed and I have been out of that kind of hard slog blogging for much too long. I am going to crowdsource this. Here is the program complete with trailers to most of the films. Tell me what you think I should go see either because the trailer “speaks” to you or because you know that one of these films has serious buzz or you’ve seen it. Better yet, if you made one of these films then leave a comment. The artist is the best advocate. Filmmaker Geeta Malik sent me the trailer to her film which will be playing at the festival so I will feature it:

Also, do any of you plan to go to some of these films? Please let other like-minded readers know in the comments below and maybe we will see each other there.

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A cautionary tail

Best opening to a New York Times article in recent memory:

HILLSBORO, Ore. — Like many these days, Shiva sits around too much, eating rich, fatty foods and sipping sugary drinks. He has the pot belly to prove it, one that nearly touches the floor — when he’s on all fours, that is. [Link]

They should hold an essay or short story contest for NYTimes readers that continues this story. Or, our readers can in the comments.

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The age at when you learn what’s what

Late last week I received a tip (on our Sepia Mutiny tipline) about an upcoming play in Seattle,Washington. The play, MOTHER IN ANOTHER LANGUAGE, by Taniya Hossain, is being performed by the Repertory Actors Theater and starts this weekend. The tipster Nitya is one of the actors and sent me the full press release with a detailed description: Mother in Another Language – Press Release.pdf (24 KB). Seattle area Mutineers, go check it out, and let us know how it is:

Tickets: Available online at http://www.acttheatre.org/Shows/OnStage/MotherInAnotherLanguage.

Adults: $15 Students: $12 Children 17 & Under: $12 Seniors 65+: $12

Groups (10 or more): $12 per person (available through the Ticket Office only, (206) 292-7676)

But merely informing you about this play is not what this post is actually about at all. Sorry Nitya! You see, on the first pass through her email tip I stopped reading as soon as I saw her name. The name was familiar to me. Nitya and I went to elementary school together in San Jose, CA in the 80s. I didn’t know her too well back then. In fact, I can’t remember a single interaction or conversation I had with her, although surely there were several. But I did remember her name and the fact that she had long braids and an even longer last name. When I mentioned the tip to them, my parents remembered her too! As memory serves, myself, Nitya, and another kid Sanjay (who is now someone I regularly meet up with in Los Angeles) were the only three brown kids in our school year. In the 80s all brown kids knew each other, even when they didn’t know each other. You know? When I replied to her tip and asked her which elementary school she went to, Nitya was as surprised as I was. What a small world! She says she can somewhat remember my 10-year-old face but not well enough to recognize me today. Even though Nitya and I did not really know each other well in elementary school, she indirectly played a part in a defining moment of my life (about which she has no idea…until now). It is a memory so strong I can replay it perfectly in my head 25 years later.

Fifth grade, late one afternoon (I recall that it was late spring and very sunny outside). Our teacher, a grumbly bear of a man, who was a Korean War veteran and had definitely killed enemy, declared that he was pleased with the great progress our class had made that week and decided we could have the 40 minutes until afternoon recess off. This was a surprise because he had a reputation of being the toughest teacher at the school. I once memorized the Gettysburg address in three hours on a Tuesday night because he said it was due Wednesday. He meant the following Wednesday. On this afternoon Mr. P decided we could do whatever we wanted for fun as long as it was inside the class. Some of the girls in the class, the pretty ones who could get away with anything, had an idea. Boys that age are too slow to come up with anything good when put on the spot. The idea these clever girls came up with was to play the Newlywed Game: Elementary School Edition. Amazingly, surprisingly, I was picked to be one of the 3 “husbands.” My wife was a girl named Juliet.

Keep in mind that I was not a popular kid. I was small and nerdy but well liked. You know that sound and feeling you experience when you get a rental car and turn on the radio and it is on full blast on some rap station that the previous renter was listening to and you awkwardly fumble to turn it down before the bass blows out the windows? That’s what my heart sounded like when I was picked to play this game.

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