Dec 27, 2006

Finally emerging from finals exile.

Not unscathed.

Not scarred.

Not bad.

Happy New Year, friends and folks.

Stay tuned.

Read More......

Dec 16, 2006

R.I.P. Baiji

China's River Dolphin Declared Extinct
20 Million Years and a Farewell

Andrew Rivkin, New York Times, 12/17/06

The first species to be erased from this planet’s great and ancient Order of Cetaceans in modern times is not one of the charismatic sea mammals that have long been the focus of conservation campaigns, like the sperm whale or bottlenose dolphin.

It appears to be the baiji, a white, nearly blind denizen of the Yangtze River in China.
Sobering news on the extinction front. This river dolphin, which once lived in the Yangtze River in China, was just declared "functionally extinct." Full story here, for now. Otherwise, go to the website for the research and conservation team.

And so go the large mammals, the most noticeable victims of ongoing human development...

Read More......

Dec 13, 2006

My Restaurant Concept... and a new name for Desi orgs.

Okay - this isn't a fully baked idea yet, but I'll add to it as I think more about it. Anyway - if I were to open an Indian/desi fastfood place, I would call it "Naan Veg."

Okay, there's no deep concept behind it, except that the place would be small, cheap, clean, and non-fusion, except for the occasional tinkering with the tried and true formulas. But yeah - as a preview of something I've been working on a for a while, the place would be vegetarian, of course, with the pun being a little less painful (albeit barely) than some of the ones I've seen. And let's face it: who wants another annoying reference to the Taj Mahal, awful alliteration like "Bombay Bistro," any kind of Chowk, or a reference to a hut, a famous restaurant in India, or Mt. Everest?

Though trust me, this wouldn't be another Lassi either. No $1/ounce fusion lassis, and no $4 parathas that stick to the roof of your mouth. Maybe we'll even give dipping water for your fingers after the (quick) meal.

Anyway, as the new tag below boasts (and I'm definitely digging that they finally integrated tags into the Blogger template), mine first, yo!

So I'm taking this to the next logical step, given my interests. I'm tired of saying "South Asian American community-serving organizations, or even desi orgs. I'm proposing the new label of naanprofit.

Because if we have a million food metaphors infecting many of our book titles, films, and identity-related literature, we might as well have a little fun doing it with our organizations. Of course, I realize that this would put non-punjabis in the serious risk of becoming even more invisible and tokenized, but hopper-profit, puri-profit, dosa-profit, dal-profit just don't seem to have the same ring.

Okay - it may not go very far outside of this space, but that's the new tag for desi orgs here. Mine first, yo!

Read More......

Dec 10, 2006

Desi Mashups.

Cirque du Sholay. Three ring event, with Gabbar Singh on a unicycle juggling cannons that shoot flowers, and the dancing happening on upside down on a ceiling 50 feet up, above giant stalagmites of quartz.

Don't know how they'd capture the yearning looks between Amitabh and Dharmendra, but I think it's a hit waiting to happen. Trump's awful Taj Mahal can host it, Royal Albert Palace can cater, and people can take home little dolls that spout their favorite lines from the original, and a bag of masala popcorn.

Read More......

Dec 7, 2006

R.I.P. James Kim

This is such a heartbreaking story. I didn't put the name to the face to the awesome dude that I've watched on CNET a number of times. I was so proud that an Asian American man was doing work that he enjoyed, bringing his joy of gadgets to the wider public, and looked at ease and like he was having fun doing it. I can't pretend to know about his personal life, etc, but just seeing the clips in the short tribute piece that CNET put up, as well as reading about his commitment to his family, really rips your heart out.

Read More......

Dec 6, 2006

t-minus + Wolfgang's Archives.

Finals looming in the near distance. I feel at peace, and yet I have so much to do. So I'll put my best foot forward, thank the powers that my northstar is near again, and listen to more music that won't distract me from my re-learning of the year's material.

Ok, so a music shout - for anyone who's into live, archived concerts, and likely, so-called "classic rock" (though there's some good new wave here too), you have to go to this site. I read about it in Rolling Stone (yes I still read that rag, though it's about as non-hip, non-independent, and non-interesting as you can get, I feel like it's my entry point on mainstream music news and the subscription was taken out way back when they were actually reputable and took risks. All that said, I still think that their non-music articles are occasionally much more interesting than their attention-deficit-disorder 500 word pieces on musicians).

Anyway - this site, once you register, is awesome. They have some great full concerts on here, including gems from the Cure in 1984, David Bowie in the late 70s, Black Sabbath in their prime, Zeppelin, Pink Floyd, and of course, the Dead. It's a great way to hear good (soundboard) recordings from concerts when live music meant something more than reproductions of the studio effort. I'm still digging through the archives, but it's worth it if you're looking for something different and you're a fan of anybody who played live in the late 60s - early 80s... they may have some surprises stuck in there...

Read More......

Dec 2, 2006

Shining (a light on) India

Found this article by Siddartha Deb via Amitava Kumar's blog.

It's a very good, very concise assessment of India's economic progress that doesn't suffer from the usual black or white view of either "India shining" rhetoric that continues to dream of India's complete "awakening" from the quasi-socialist agenda of Nehru, or the far left critique of a nation that's done nothing but oppressed the masses and struck out into the moral abyss of capitalism and nuclear chauvinism with reckless abandon.

Deb somehow finds the balance, without wasting pages to get there. I am fascinated and terrified of India's economic and social explosion, especially in light of the many things that the nation, much like the United States, still has to deal with in its cultural past, present, and future. The current leadership and broad population in the United States is ignoring the legacies of genocide, oppression, and imperialism that have brought us to this "American century," and the dismantling of programs like affirmative action and public benefits that were meant, at least in part, to address history has escalated after the brief self-assessment period during the Brennan court.

Set-asides and perceived privileges by the underclasses in India have caused much resentment in the middle class, who as always and everywhere, continue to claim the most oppression. Certain relatives complained a lot about the push on the middle class, and I guess I could see some of their points. Schools are overcrowded and with a youth population that is huge, the only way a student can distinguish himself is through extensive after school tutoring and achieving the highest marks, all of which cost a lot of money. When they see woman and some scheduled tribes/castes getting set-aside seats, and apparently, also able to compete for the seats that are "merit-based," there is bound to be mistrust, anger, and resentment. I don't know if my cousins have it right - and if that's how the system works. I do know that it's more affirmative than American systems, and I don't know if I find it better or worse.

But that resentment, at least in India, gets violent very fast. And how do you "take away" what's been given to groups in the name of reform, even if it's progressive reform? I mean, though the Michigan and California votes removed affirmative action, what if they were replacing it with a different system, which the designers truly believed would be more equitable and serve the ultimate purpose of affirmative action - to level the playing field and balance privileges based on gender and race that pervade higher education and employment arenas? Would the general public, especially those with the most to lose, understand the nuances and trust that the wonks are trying to "fix it, not nix it"?

I'm not very confident. Politicians and the lobbyists who feed them are sustained by the stupor in which the general population lives concerning important policy decisions. Better to give them more cable stations (or another Hindu epic on television) than to make sure they are making informed decisions - and demands - about the direction that the country is taking. Representative, republican (small r) government is not about the voice of the people. Anyway, so we'll have to see what happens.

Read More......

Dec 1, 2006

Maybe I'm showing my age here, but I don't understand why people are so enthusiastic about MySpace - what's so great about it that distinguishes it so much from the other social network sites? Am I just not with it enough to appreciate?

Read More......

short letter to my polaris.

Sometimes I feel guilty, because unlike some people I know, I did not search the whole world for many many years to find you. Somehow, it just happened.

I fell ass-backwards into the best thing that has ever, and probably will ever, happen to me. I'll be damned if I don't wake up every damn day and recognize that on its face. So when I'm off that clear path, feel free to kick me back into place. Because bar none, you are my shining star.


ps. hurry back.

Read More......

Nov 29, 2006

dark horse.

Here's to George, on the fifth anniversary of his passing. While John and Paul got all the press, before and after the band's time, George was the enigmatic, whimsical, talented, pure soul who made beautiful music, took a lot of drugs, was always called "the shy Beatle," and said he was happier being a gardener than a musician. Beyond all the accolades - for his clean and unique guitar tone, his beautiful harmonies, and his lyrics that went from pensive to blissful - he seemed to live the philosophy and spirtualism that he adopted after going to India in the 60s.

I mean, we're talking about the guy whose wife left him for his best mate, Eric Clapton, and he not only forgave them, but he attended the wedding! Can you imagine anything like that happening with the jokers that folks listen to now? Living in the Material World, indeed. Though I still love the famous scene in Let It Be when George throws a fit because of Paul's attitude during the rehearsal. Didn't George quit the band at some point, too?

Peace to you, George. Thanks for the music and the inspiration.

Read More......

Nov 28, 2006


The struggle now is to stay on this path I've found, at least for the next three weeks. I wonder how not to wander. This is when my one and only usually nudges me back to the trail.

I have to do that on my own right now.

Read More......

Nov 26, 2006

Keep it in the Family (3)

My extended family frustrates me sometimes, as I've written before, but there is something so pure about the bonds that you feel with some members of that family. I don't feel like I have to try to be someone - they know and love me for being part of the circle of kin, for my broken Gujarati, and probably for my connection to my mom, who they love in a way I can't even begin to understand.

I feel a level of comfort that I still don't fully understand when I'm around certain cousins and nieces/nephews. It is so bizarre to me that the person who I am generally is not who I am in their company, and even the majority of my conversations don't reflect the things that I care about or focus on in the rest of my life. But yet, it feels like something beyond just small talk. But I wonder what they all think of me, given that what I do or what I'm studying doesn't really ever come up. I find myself incredibly boring in that context - but I guess that's why family is great: they don't seem to think the same.

And every once in a while, I get to connect on a different level. Last night, I reconnected with a cousin who really mattered to me while I was growing up, and with whom I felt very close. It felt nice to retouch that connection that we'd had from our childhood/adolescence. I don't know what happened along the way, but it was just nice to find some path out of the thickets that had grown between our lives.

I feel blessed that my immediate family are who they are, even though I have less patience with them than I should. But I realize after these family events, when I'm alternately pleasantly surprised that people even speak with me still, and thankful that there is so much laughter, so much joy. I just wish I could be a better presence for my many nieces and nephews... I wonder what they are learning through their suburban upbringing, and what they could learn from my mistakes and minor life lessons.


But I still have reservations about the way that my cousins are raising their kids. This new generation of suburban brown kids has a built-in guju posse in their cousins, but beyond the convenience of age-matched playmates while growing up, they also have the potential for a built-in superiority complex about Gujaratis in the broader food chain. And there's more than a little competition going on between their parents, although I have seen how much they take care of their siblings' kids.

I'm just not sure of what values the 1.5 generation in my family - many of whom came here as adults (in their early 20s) bring to the mix. For some cousins in particular, the biases, dogmatism, and small worldview from their parents are being passed along directly. For others, their exposure to the system in the United States is incredibly limited, and their kids are calling them out on some things - which is interesting, but then how are their parents dealing with it? Do the kids have the compunction to work through these aspects of their parents' personalities?

It's very hard to tell, and sadly, I see some of the pitfalls that I reference when I speak about the next generation of desi kids generally. My parents' generation worked very hard to enter the middle class in the United States, and our period of second generation kids has its own range of issues. But the technical class that entered the United States in the 80s and even 90s, have settled down and have kids. Their kids, while second generation as well, are being raised in more upscale neighborhoods, by parents who are more removed from their humble beginnings, and from the India that our parents knew.

Their perception of "making it" is reflected in the general movement in Bollywood films from depicting the social aspects of modernization as the fledging democracy took its first unsteady steps towards free flight as a nation, to the mass consumerism and coca-colonization that has taken invidious and perverse forms by interspersing "hip" English-language phrases, hyper-gendered and sexualized musical numbers that are supposed to represent some new freedom but just come off as parody, and vacuous plots, dialogue, and actors.

Name brands and status symbols abound, and the parents seem to be showering their noveau wealth all over the kids, who know little to nothing of discipline, of struggle, of the valuation of material items vs. honest work and thoughts. While the kids may be able to go through the motions regarding religion, how much of it is filio-piety, and how much of it is real engagement with the philosophy that drive the machinations of so-called faith?

Then again, that can be said for any group, I guess. I wasn't raised within some shroud of poverty or difficulty, but I also didn't have an entitlement complex when it came to material possessions or station in life. I overheard one of my cousin's husbands speaking with another about the kids, and how without the feeling of urgency that comes from coming out of a disadvantaged background, the kids will not have the same drive as people who come from India. I tend to agree with that. But the problem arises when the parents still refer to the same system to judge success and "making it" for their kids - what possessions they have, what their parents can provide for them, and where they end up in school and as careers.

Even the pursuit of education is not seen as an end in itself - the education is only a means to get the gold at the end of the rainbow. My expedition into a second career in public interest law, after working for a number of years and getting married, doesn't make sense in this calculus filled with derivatives and permutations of wealth and earning potential. Success is the nest egg you've built for yourself and the assets you can accumulate and pass down for the next generation.

Of course, I'm essentializing their experiences and lives after only brief encounters, but the threat of such moral bankruptcy still scares me. And more than anything, the clannishness can be suffocating. Expanding beyond the tiny concentric (or overlapping) circles of faith, language, and culture in which they find themselves could be a very good thing for their kids. But I guess, just like it was for some of us during our period, that's up to the kids to work out.

For me, I'll continue to offer up my own unorthodox opinions for anyone who takes the time to listen in my family, or read here.

Read More......

Nov 24, 2006


I resisted the urge to join the throbbing, frenzied masses at the malls, outlets, and streets this holiday. I stayed home and did what I should have done last year: read.

My head hurts, and I don't know how much I retained. But there's nothing like being around my family without the dozen commitments that I used to make in the false hope that I'll be able to meet about half of them with only 1/3 of the attention I need to make it all worth it. So with all of that, I'm happy to leave the socializing for after reckoning day(s).

Went through some of my old shit that's still in boxes from a transition between apartments in the mid-nineties. My parents' home has become a repository of some of my old stuff because I didn't think it important enough to go through it and move it out. My mom has been as patient as you can hope, probably because of the fits I used to throw when she tried to get rid of anything. But there are more boxes than there should be, and now that I have room (and a car) I really want to go through this stuff once and for all.

I wish it were warmer - I have the desire to go through my old papers, my letters, my odds and ends and purge myself of a lot of it. The need to break free from things (even in light of my reverent post on books last week) and the attachments that come with this material culture which we've bought into (literally and figuratively, I guess) has never really motivated me in the past. But we carry so many effects with us, accumulating memories without meaning as we roll down the hill of life, an evergrowing brambleball of unmatched beginnings and endings, half-feelings and blurry recollections that wind up distorting a past that you'll never quite have the peace of mind to step back from and make sense of the whole thing.

I'm tired of finding half-written poems, and partial journal entries. I don't want to be the archaeologist with inside knowledge about the life I'm excavating (my own) box by box from the depths of my early twenties. I don't want to hear those voices anymore. My life here and now is good, and I want to be fully present here and now.

It's not the memories, but life's debris1 that bothers me now.

[1] Okay, borrowing from Bharati Mukherjee, of all people. She wrote in one of her short stories, one of the few I read, really, that "love flees, but we're stuck with love's debris." I liked that, and appropriated it here. At least I'm honest.

Read More......

Nov 23, 2006

Two Thoughts on Thanksgiving.

1] " Wait, we can not break bread with you. You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs. We will sell our bracelets by the road sides, and you will play golf, and eat hot h'ors d'ourves. My people will have pain and degradation. Your people will have stick shifts. The gods of my tribe have spoken. They said do not trust the pilgrims, especially Sarah Miller. And for all of these reasons I have decided to scalp you and burn your village to the ground." Wednesday revising history at that fateful euphemized moment, in Addams Family Values.

2] Every year, Indigenous Political Prisoner, Leonard Peltier, has organized an annual gift drive for the children of the Pine Ridge Lakota Nation in South Dakota. Pine Ridge continues to be the most impoverished community in the United States. This is one way Leonard continues his humanitarian work for his people despite his incarceration. Help Leonard Peltier reach out beyond the bars that imprison him. The gift drives does not only help the families, but also helps Leonard keep his spirits strong through the difficult holiday season. Gifts can be mailed directly to Pine Ridge.

Read More......


Day 2 of distance. I had the chance to see a little of the hustle and bustle of the city in full holiday cheer. In the spirit of things, I almost took the head off of some lady in line behind me at the bakery when she asked me "are you in line?" Sometimes it seems like white women in the middle of whatever crisis they are imagining tend to treat men (and women) of color as if we're invisible, inept, or ignorant. I can't begin to imagine how people working in the service and food industries at Grand Central during the holiday rush can deal with it all.

I had a good few hours between studying and getting ready to spend some time with family. It's nice to step away from the law school/studying bubble into the bustling metropolis. New York during the holidays is the one time I feel like it's okay to be a little more forgiving of tourists, though I still wish they'd spend their money and fuel our economy while walking at our pace and enjoying the sublime subtleties unknown to them in their suburbs (rather than Times Square and the Capitalist Concourse on Fifth Ave).

Okay - that's a lie. I just can't stand people who come into the city, treat it like a well-treaded carpet and go to the same old places in Midtown Manhattan, then call it a day. I am offended that so many people think they can somehow distill this vast and strange and beautiful polycultural landscape of tastes, struggles, art, songs, stories, sadness, and rebirth into a family vacation documented by a few staged photographs, cheap souvenirs, overpriced musicals, generic food, and an adventure or two downtown. I am incensed that people don't take the time to learn more about the many nuances of the city. That the white people who come in from middle Amerika can't ask the right questions or see what a beautiful and fluid tapestry our city's many peoples are weaving beneath our feet even now.

But I better understand when people who live or have tried to live here feel overwhelmed. It is a place where perpetual motion is the rule, whether while you're walking a mile through the busy city streets, or you're hustling for your job - be it on Wall Street or Church Avenue. Without stamina, or a fire inside that is fanned with each unexpected turn or encounter, this place can wear you out. I've stopped trying to keep track of all the changes. And I'm scared that in a place where the unexpected business or artistic expression creeps up out of the concrete like some delicate, urban bloom, there is a rapid movement of big box stores, chains, and suburbanization that seems to be wiping out a lot of what kept NYC ours.

Anyway - this is all old news. But seeing all the tourists, seeing them sipping away comfortably on their mochachinos that taste exactly the same as wherever they came from, seeing them shop for things in stores that are just flashier siblings of the same stores they have in their nondescript towns, and hearing their pronouncements about New York after coming through and leaving with the faintest of ideas about its people, its magic, and its importance in the history and future of the country, I feel helpless and angry.

Perhaps not the Thanksgiving story I set out to write up above.

Read More......

Nov 21, 2006

First Lesson.

I learned the hard way that you can't make chai with rice milk. Ewww.

Reminds me of when I put both lemon and cream in my earl grey tea.

Though I guess I drank that.

Read More......

Loneliness. 1.

Loneliness is the growing pit you feel in your stomach as you climb the stairs to the apartment that you have gradually turned into a home with your partner who is on a plane currently somewhere over the Atlantic. I started an entry like this a long time ago about a summer goodbye, but this feeling is so different from that time.

An infatuation, or even a more earnest love affair during youth is a cluster of elusive emotions: the constant status-checks, the insecurities of what tomorrow may bring, and the pressure cooker of modern-day romance turn many of those moments of pure connection into anomalous blips on the widescreen of neurosis in interpersonal relationships. In the lucky moment, we are conscious of how fleeting those moments are when they are happening, and we find some way to memorialize them, perhaps with a shiny coat of new paint for good measure. "Trust the memory more than the thing itself," Shawn Wong wrote in American Knees. Maybe we should question the memory, especially as it becomes more removed in time from the person you are now.

But as you grow with someone, adding to the newness of springtime a depth that only comes with time and patience, you realize that that was just little league. The struggle to make one life between two individuals, while respecting the needs, goals, and quirks of each of us, is the hardest thing I've ever had to do. I can give advice about many things, but relationships wouldn't be at the top of that list. And challenging yourself to bring new things into that space that you share with this person you've chosen to be your life partner... well, that's not easy either. Standard relationship entropy gives way to routine and patterns of interaction, responses, and interpretations.

With 12 days and a couple of continents between me and the one I love, I'll have a little time to think about who I am, and who I am with/out her. The loneliest moments are those few that come between finding a comfortable spot on the bed and drifting off into the nether domain of Dream, when the mind drifts towards the last few words you usually share with that person. The bookend conversations of your days and nights smoothly melting into one another even as your consciousness and hers mingle on the edge of sleep and beyond.

Relationships are hard work, and it's easy to waste a lot of time in battles of will that don't really matter. But I cannot imagine the alternative anymore.

Read More......

Nov 18, 2006

In the company of friends.

Waiting on my furniture delivery as I start to work through boxes of books that we've had in storage for more than a year. Actually, it may have been even longer than that. Once upon a time, I imagined a life with many bookshelves everywhere. The clutter of that vision wasn't as clear then as it is now, but I think we're working on creating an organic space where we can read, relax, and just check the troubles of the world at the door like your bag at a small downtown shop.

There is something so soothing about being in the company of books, not only for the stories that lie within, but the particular stories that the physical books elicit from your own life - the memory of the person who gifted you that favorite book, the fossilized record of friendships that no longer exist either as the result of attrition, distance, or an actual parting of the ways. The memories of a self we once were, and the impact of the words of others upon our own writing, thinking, being.

I loved to read, and the first year of law school almost kicked that from me, but I feel a resurgence. I ordered American Born Chinese (still waiting) and just received Li-Young Lee's latest collection (an impromptu reading of one of his poems for a visiting friend reminded me that I missed my poetry, which I'd shoved away in a box without ceremony... the sounds I heard at night were the poems calling for release, they needed to breathe again). But all this in good time.

Read More......

Nov 17, 2006


Oh yeah, one other thing. Check out American Born Chinese, by Gene Yang. I just ordered it, but his website is damn cool, his reflections on Asian American stereotypes, and his use of a stereotypical character is particularly telling of how dope this dude is:

There is always the danger, of course, that by making a comic book about Cousin Chin-Kee I’m helping to perpetuate him, that readers — especially younger readers — will take his appearance in American Born Chinese at face value. I think it’s a danger I can live with. In order for us to defeat our enemy, he must first be made visible. Besides, comic book readers are some of the smartest folks I’ve ever met. They’ll figure it out.
And you know what else? He's an educator too. Check out this site on using comics in education that he did for his masters thesis. Man, if this graphic novel is 1/2 as good as I think it will be, a lot of people are getting it for Kwanzaa.

Check out this interview with Gene Yang on the Asian Pacific Forum (WBAI).

Read More......


In the wee hours of the morning, I'm having a crazy flashback to a time, many moons ago, when I was on the other end of the student budget process. But it meant something different back then, partially because it was so new at that time, and partially because we had real autonomy and really felt like it was a government of sorts, because it was a public university, our budget was at $1.4 million, and we were truly running the show. In a private school (and a graduate school at that), money is tossed around like it's nobody's business, and the numbers don't really feel real. I've taken it upon myself (of course) to try to do something a little more serious, but it's very weird, and very different from a past I once had.

I miss those heady days of my last undergraduate year. I felt like I was on top of something at that point, even though it really wasn't much of my academic work. Still, it was a good time, and so much of who I am now, and what interests me, derived at least in some small part from those experiences. Whatever man - this is a boring post. You still reading? Aight then. Let's see... what's a more interesting topic?

I'm crazy scared about finals, which I think is a good thing. I'm definitely reading more, and I feel more focused, though I'm unhappy about what the end of this weekend means. The one who keeps me grounded and nurtures the wounded ego I bring home each day will be out of town for about 10 days. So that means I have to stay focused, though lonely, for that time.

Anyway, can't believe I'm still working on student group budgets. Dag, man. Some things just don't change. And that was 12 years ago.

Read More......

Nov 15, 2006

The Better Bowl: Chili.

Damn! I can't believe the first actually really good vegetarian chili that I've had in I don't know how long was actually served at my law school cafeteria! It has the following criteria that I've found profoundly lacking in all the other chilies I've tried (including places that are supposed to specialize in this stuff):

1) Spicy. It has a kick, without my having to add anything. There's nothing worse than bland chili. Why make chili at all if it's going to be bland. Of course there are limits that you have to maintain so that it's more than the one or two folks with steel stomachs who can actually eat the chili. But if I can't find hot sauce (like today) I would like to have some chili that has its own flavor. This one did that - and did it very well.

2) Tender vegetables that are mixed together into a uniform taste. This chili has obviously been cooked for a long time - the onions are very tender, the tomatoes are soft, and though there aren't too many other vegetables, the beans seem thoroughly cooked as well.

3) Hearty. If I wanted a moist mix of vegetables, I would get vegetable soup. Chili should have a texture and taste that permeates the whole dish. It has to be hearty - I think that this one has crumbled veggie burgers in it as the beef substitute - which kind of works (definitely better than the Textured Veggie Protein that I get in other chilies, which just has a rubbery texture). I guess I would pick a burger that's a little more amenable to this taste - something like Spicy Black Bean burgers from Morningstar Farms.

Anyway - I know that it's odd to have a discussion of veggie chili in what is supposed to be some kind of brown power site (whatever) but hell, if folks can navel-gaze endlessly about the contents of their pockets or whatnot, then the search for a perfect vegetarian chili isn't so far off the mark. I have to give another shout-out right here - my cousin, who's an amazing cook, makes a mean, bad-ass chili. I have to get her recipe.

Read More......

Nov 14, 2006


Just wanted to say I'm thinking about my sister, who I haven't really had the chance to fully catch up with since her recent trip and return from abroad. I don't get to speak with her much anymore, though we lived in the same city for three years at one point. Now we're not in the same place, and that sorta sucks. And you have to work harder to make those links and ties mean something. I've been working on that with friendships, with people moving away and onward with their lives, but I haven't made that effort with family. It's always easy to settle into some false lull of comfort knowing that holidays and the like come and the opportunity to reconnect come with them. But it's not about the occasional face-to-face eating or family-togetherness, right? It's about the times in between, and the times when, despite ourselves, we're growing and changing. I feel this same tug with one of my close friends who is going through a lot of transitions right now. A major shout out to her as well, though I know that she's okay, we trade an email here and there, and we've been playing catch-up through our voice mail messages.

But this one is dedicated to my lil sis. You're awesome. Don't let the bastards drag you down. Thanksgiving is going to be a time of much studying, but there's gotta be at least one or two movie premieres, shopping sprees, and baking adventures that we can still share.

Read More......

So much to do, but finally feel like I'm hitting some kind of groove in a lot of things. I still have many questions about where this is leading me, but I feel like I can actually build again. The positive flow is rejuvenating.

Read More......

Nov 9, 2006


Sometimes you don't realize how fortunate you are until something or someone tries to take that away. I'm working on my priorities, of which, sadly, this blog is not one of at this time. I realize how lucky I am to have a partner who really cares about me and where I'm going on this roller coaster called life, but with all of life's distractions, maybe I don't make it clear enough that I do realize how fundamental she is to me. So... sporadic posts, if any, in the weeks to come. Maybe some spontaneous, ugly poetry if I feel like sharing.

But I have to say a couple of things:

1) Rummy's out, is Dick next? I don't think so. And let's not get overly excited about Rummy's replacement. We're already in Iraq, so it's just another head on the chopping block, as far as I'm concerned.

2) Let's also not get overly excited about Jim Webb or the Democrats, for that matter, winning. Yes, it's change. But how much change? And did the Dems win without big corporations hedging their bets and supporting both candidates or parties in the tight races? No - so if you think people are crazy to say there's no difference (there are differences, but they aren't that great) - answer this question: are we going to see comprehensive campaign finance reform to get rid of corporate influence? If not, what's going to change?

3) Lieberman is still in the Senate. Connecticut sucks. Mofo is probably going to get a committee chair, just to spite me. Someone should make a video game about him with a companion parental guidance heavy album.

Read More......

Nov 5, 2006

Answering a Call?

I've been thinking about missionary or quasi-missionary work that some of my former contacts have been doing. I still don't really get it. But I'm trying to understand. I mean, I really admire people who meditate and who find new ways to explore personal development through spirituality, but I just don't really understand the calling. Why try to convert people? Why trample over their personal beliefs and ways of life? I guess I can see the institutional compulsion, and even that for the powers that be within the church leadership, but why do young folks feel so inclined to turn away from other methods of actualization through good humanitarian work, and feel driven by this calling?

Their commitment is compelling, but troubling. It almost feels like they are dropping out of society. I have a good friend from a past life in the arts who shocked us all in his complete aboutface and headlong dive into this work. While it would be great to have some more progressive folks involved in ministry, I still find faith to be a very personal thing, and I don't know if the calling comes from social justice tendencies or some reaction to modern society that pushes people into what I view as a different kind of isolationism. I'll write more when I think more about this.

Read More......

Nov 1, 2006


Clearly many issues are of interest to me, but I just can't get around to writing about them at this point.

But I like to name things.

So, consider this my contribution to creative commons, folks - if you want one of these, take it and drop me a thanks, because I'll never end up using it, given the crazy schedule I'm on for this semester/year/lifetime.

1. Twilight in the Orchard of Cloned Mangoes: The Prodigious Growth of Unoriginal South Asian Writing in English.

2. Browns vs. the Board of Elections: Voter profiling/intimidation and immigrant communities in the United States.

3. Throw Some Money at Me: The Rise and Obsolescence of Indo-PACs. (alt: The New Photo Op: Uncle Politicking and the Myth of Effective Ethnic Political Fundraising).

4. Attention Surplus Disorder: If We Stopped Reading "BlogStars" Would They Just Go Away?

Feel free to add to the list... I'm sure I will.

Read More......

Oct 31, 2006

American Halloween

It's Halloween, and the kids are out all over the country. At least, in middle class suburbia, where the houses aren't too far from one another, and people still have some limited degree of trust for the person next-door, although it's hard to reconcile with all the nightmares of moral and psychological depravity that are hidden just behind some of the doors... after all, aren't most serial killers lurking there? And isn't drug use rampant behind door number two? And can you even trust the kids when you know that one of them may be plotting to take to the school in a final Rambo-like blaze of glory?

Anyway, when I was growing up in a small suburban town, Halloween was a pretty big deal. I didn't really get into it the same way as others - my costumes, when I had them, were store-bought and simple. But the candy was a big draw, as was the effort and wish to cover as much ground as I possibly could, and the inevitable fear of going to the "wrong" streets, where adolescents with eggs, shaving cream, and toilet paper made go at one another, the neighbor's car, and everything else. I remember walking home from school the next day, taking specific paths that would take me through the war-torn areas (there was at least one street whose name was synonymous with battles in the lore of my growing up), just so I could survey the damage.

I also remember taking my sister around trick-or-treating when I was older. She wasn't much of a sweet tooth, and was pretty timid while young, so she would dutifully give me most of the candy at the end of the night. But she enjoyed going out. But somehow, I also remember walking with her, and a pair of scissors in my pocket, in the hope that I'd be able to cut a hole in some unsuspecting kid's bag. Ah, the memories. I even remember some of the houses where we'd get the most loot (when I was growing up - there weren't as many kids around the quiet blocks, so people were fairly generous).

Later, I would spend a number of Halloweens in my house with the lights turned off and garden hose primed and ready in case anyone made the unfortunate mistake of targeting my house for a shelling. I never had to use it, happily, but I would have. The thing about Halloween, though, is that even though I didn't have a particularly good one any year that I can remember, we had our small customs and rituals that our family came up with, like the "traditional" meal of frozen ravioli that my mom would have ready for us upon our return. Somehow, we turned Halloween into a small holiday that was just about our little family, extended clan excluded.


Now, living in the city, Halloween seemed like less of a staple autumn activity for the kids. I'm sure there are some things that folks do at home or in school, but with kids' safety in mind, I wonder if they go around much at all. It's sad, really - because in my mind, it was one of the few times that kids are encouraged to step out of the closely guarded world in which they live, where even a neighbor is a stranger with whom you should not speak. Kids finally have the ability to peer into their neighbors' home, if even for a brief second. To know a little of what they normally don't get to see.

And I guess that's what makes Halloween such an interesting celebration for the United States, where personal privacy and the right to be left alone, and the prevailing concept is that "every man's home is his castle" (and he'll take great pains to build the moats and barriers he needs to keep everyone else out). For a few brief hours during this one night, it feels like kids are able to satisfy some of their curiosity, and some communities, at least, feel a little bit closer as many participate in the effort for the benefit of those children.

But what Americans who don't travel will likely not realize is that many places around the world are like that normally - where though they don't have much, the boundary of experience and contact extends for the kids beyond the four walls of their family's dwelling. And it's okay to admonish the neighbor's kid once in a while, because we're in this together, and the kids benefit from the collective knowledge and caring of the community. America, or at least white sub/urban America, has lost this element of community life. And while giving candy to kids for doing a few parlor tricks is not really reaching back into that tradition, it's an interesting throwback, when viewed through this perspective.

I wonder how immigrant families engage with this tradition now - I mean, my parents had their own feelings about it (Mom loves it - she wanted to give $1 per kid this year, to which I replied "you're going to see the same pirates again and again!"), but I know that some folks just don't want to deal with the hassle. I mean, what if the kids looked at them and said "and what are *you* supposed to be?"


Anyway, my favorite Halloween story has to be about a desi friend of mine who grew up in a small town in the MidWest. As a little boy, his parents dressed him up as "Man from India" for Halloween, wearing some of the clothes he had around as his outfit. That was strange enough for the neighbors, I guess.

Read More......

Oct 27, 2006

Striking up a Conversation about Metal.

On a recent expedition into the hinterland to visit a professor's house for an informal dinner with our seminar class, I broached the subject that forms the foundation of my easy relation to people: music. Generally, this is a winning conversation for me, because I have a pretty voracious appetite for new music, and no matter what your political or personal quirks, we'll probably have some common ground there.

In the past, I'd make a wry comment about how I listen to very disparate things, though nowadays, most people says that they listen to "everything." Perhaps as shorthand to avoid exposing too much about one's self. Or maybe it's the tipping of the hat to the pundits who claim that the advent of the digital age and Nintendo generation attention spans say that most formats of in-depth listening to music (artist-oriented or even non-single driven through the radio or tape trading) has disappeared and what's current is all that people care about. In a less cynical mood, I might have argued that genre-hopping suggests that the tall walls between rigid discourse of "right" and "wrong", "disco" and "rock", "black" and "white" are being shaken at their very foundation. I'm not in that mood right now.

I've written about music, and my personal tastes, a number of times before, including my formative experiences with different genres of metal while growing up. So lately, instead of just speaking with folks about the tastes or groups that they mention as their favorites, I have taken to exposing this facet of my personality with more wreckless abandon. It's not gone particularly well. While I don't expound with unbridled enthusiasm about how a good power riff can get me through a bad day, I have gotten defensive pretty quickly when challenged or questioned about my taste.

I guess the cognitive dissonance for many people remains in how something that seems so abrasive can actually be more forward thinking than most mainstream music. Many groups wrote about environmental issues, the cost of war, nihilism, literature (I love the Poe references out there in Maiden, Crimson Glory, and Annihilator to name a few), nuclear proliferation, and even racism before mainstream groups caught on (have they yet?). Part of the reason lies in the desire to write about things that are fairly grim, and while fantasy topics like J.R.R. Tolkien are still very popular, history is replete with many incredibly dark moments that fit quite well with the aggressive/dark music.

I guess this focus on the underside of civilization and human nature is unnerving for people who take the time to look at the lyrics. Before we get that far, the genre(s) are filled with outsiders - and their anger, or at least their disinterest in fitting in - is quite unnerving for people, especially in America. In other parts of the world, it is a legitimate protest against oppression and the normalization (and commodification) of youth culture. In Brazil, for example, Sepultura's music, which lives on the very border between thrash and death metal, was known and sung by protestors crying out against the oppressive government. They were one of the groups that caught the political moment - not unlike the way that Dylan did it in the 60s in the U.S.

Anyway, perhaps it's okay that people don't go crazy for this stuff. I mean, it's like underground hip-hop, in a lot of ways. There is precision and layering of skill in the MCs, the turntablists, and the producers (sometimes) that transcends the commodified, white-washed stuff that people hear on Z100 (sounds like underground metal, in contrast with... Metallica). They do it for their love of the music, and because that have something to say.

So I'll continue to listen to many genres, but I'll have to rethink approaching this question in a neutral social context. Because maybe this is one of those things that's not so well understood. And the questions of race and gender are also particularly interesting. I've found that a number of groups have spoken about racism, but classism is not really addressed, and there is a strong stream of homophobia that is more visible in some of the groups. Perhaps that has more to do with the socialization of men in general, but I'm a novice at this social science stuff.

Read More......

Oct 26, 2006


You know what really pisses me off? The way that some straight white men interact with public space - the sense of entitlement to dominion over shared or other public space is overwhelming sometimes. Let me give one example, though I (and I'm sure you, the intrepid reader) can think of many more.

The kicker for me has always been in the simple task of walking down the sidewalk, or even a crowded hallway. Most people that I know, from women, to men of color, usually yield a little when faced with someone walking towards them in a constricted passageway. When walking down a crowded sidewalk, I weave and lean, leading with one shoulder at a time, sometimes stepping briefly off the curb, sometimes falling straight behind the person I'm walking with, in the effort to do my part to make the public space work.

If we all walked with our shoulders squared, we would crash into one another all the time - specifically when there isn't enough space for people to walk abreast of one another in opposite directions (like in most of the City below 14th Street). So we do our small part, generally subconsciously (and it's an easy way to figure out who belongs in the City, and who is a spectator in a full-contact sport).

Anyway, I can't count how many times I've been walking along, either thinking to myself, or with a friend, when I've squared off, as it were, against some white guy, walking alone or with his own companions. As we're walking by, I do what I have to do to make room, but almost without fail, the white dude doesn't - his shoulders are squared, and he brushes against me, or sometimes even sends me spinning.

WTF? Is it that hard to just accommodate the other person and find a way to coexist on the busy streets? I'm not asking for a hug or something - I'm a New Yorker after all - but at least recognize that I exist, and that I have a claim to the same right of walking down the street without being knocked into. So therein lies my problem - more than anything else. I feel like at times, these people walk around like they own the joint - and we're just granted some license of use, but they can pull that whenever they feel like it.

The phenomenon is not limited to just a few men - I've gone through this over and over again, where someone will walk straight down the middle of the sidewalk like he owns it. He won't yield. I usually get angry as a result, but don't do anything (because it's usually too late, and it's not like I'm going to make a cogent argument to the back of someone's head anyway. And it's not as satisfying, or probably as seemingly safe, as road rage. But it just pisses me off that I, and many other people (women, people of color, etc) are expected to make the space around them (or in their shadows?) work for the rest of us.

I guess men in general are guilty of filling out more space than necessary on subway cars, spreading their legs like tsars in their own small domains, creating spatial inefficiencies for women, children, and non "guy-guys" who have to squeeze into the spaces that they leave for us.

But maybe the beleaguered white man feels like sidewalk is one of the last domains where he can still feel like the king of the jungle, after all, he's been beat down by all these -isms and hyphens in America. He is the new oppressed, the new minority, the vilified, the victim, the target of virulent attacks. Whatever. My solution? I don't yield to them. I keep my shoulders square when I walk down the street and face someone who doesn't seem like he sees me. Because this is about being visible, and being invisible. If you don't even respect me on the street, where we should all be equals, how will you respect me in a situation where there is a more obvious challenge of power? You won't. And we head south from there.

So I square my shoulders, and if you have to yield for once in your life, good. If not, you'd better be a helluva lot larger than me, because I have sharp shoulders.

Read More......

Oct 21, 2006

We Had to Believe.

Still recovering from the Mets' loss on Thursday. They kept us hanging on. One has to think, Willie's boys (or more appropriately, Omar's boys) would have made it fairly easily if El Duque or Pedro were healthy. But such is baseball, and as the commentators say ad naseum, such is the wonder and marvel of the game - you can't always just dominate the team that doesn't have the marquee players (not that the hated Cardinals don't have marquee players, but clearly, neither Pujols nor Rolens were the stars of this series). I know that it's somewhat passe to like baseball, but there's something about the game. It's a game of math and statistics, and clearly, one of the most diverse in American professional sports.

I guess there are a number of similarities between it and cricket that go beyond the "bat-and-ball"... American influence, while not always wholly colonial like the British, still came in visions of empire in the Western Hemisphere and the Pacific frontier. It's no surprise that baseball's popularity in Japan has surpassed its omni-presence as the most popular American pastime. I guess the same, or at least similar, could be said about cricket in the South Asian nations and their diasporas throughout the world, and certainly the same can be said about the West Indies. Though I guess England still has its rabid fans (is there some loss from cricket to futbol, I wonder out loud).

There has been a lot written about how the ballgame is no longer the preferred game in American urban communities, for African American youth, or even for suburban school kids. The swelling soccer rolls have to come from somewhere, and I guess we can hear the crickets chirping in some Little League fields. The baseball strike in the 90s, the lack of a salary caps and the whinny players who benefit from life without them, the steroids crisis, and the planting of stadiums on top of flourishing communities (ok, that's my issue) all have contributed to the turning of the collective American backs to the game.

But still, I like baseball. And I liked the Mets - though I have to admit that I am a recovering Yankee fan who just realizes that they *are* the Empire, and I was following the wrong team for a long time. Anyway, I feel like if there's anywhere that suburban desi kids are going to break through in a major way in professional sports, I think that they have the best chance in baseball. It's the most diverse sport, you don't have to be the most fit person in your school, and hell, there are just so many players. I wonder if there are any desis making their way up through the minor leagues. I'm sure there are (Single A, even), but I guess I should check.

Wouldn't it be funky fresh if a team imported a South Asian cricket bowling superstar to take a crack at relief pitching? But I guess that's not home-grown. And I don't really know as many 2nd generation desis who are fanatic about cricket...See, Mr. Average White Guy? We do assimilate in America.

Read More......

Oct 17, 2006

Today's Lesson.

Nearly two months of Criminal Procedure have taught me this critical lesson: Make sure you know every single traffic rule in the state/city in which you are driving. If the cops want to stop you for anything, a minor traffic violation - including keeping your left turn signal on when you're not turning at the next intersection, or stopping at a stop sign for too long - can start you on a path towards getting the car searched and who knows what else.


Read More......

Oct 13, 2006

New Red iPod Nano and HIV/AIDS in Africa

Clearly, I'm not going to be able to write about this in depth, given my track record lately, but check this new collaboration between Apple and Bono.

Basically, the new red nano will market at the same price as other nanos (199 USD). And Apple will give $10 of each sale to support research/anti-retroviral medicine.  The comments section of that link is interesting - a lot of Mac-heads actually talking (sorta) about global suffering and the best use of the money.  It's nice to see that there isn't a "forget the Africans" post on there, but I also haven't seen anything in there about how Steve Jobs has been a bit of a cheap bastard for a long time, and compared to Bill and Melinda Gates, this effort is laughable.

I guess I'm a little bitter because people who use Macs are cool, but the company isn't quite so cool, and the sheer consumer culturism of the place is making me sick.  While MS and Dell and the rest of them are boring, they're just in the computer business, really.  Apple puts itself out there as a big forward-thinker, but I have a hard time buying any of that at this point. Yeah they are a smaller company, but they have a lot of money in the bank, based on the iPod sales, and they have the ability to move more minds through innovative technology than the more traditional, older companies. 

But rather than talk about movement, techno-equity, or anything else that could actually make change, they resort to comodifying the images of great thinkers as part of their marketing strategy rather than anything more.  So yeah, I'm a bit skeptical.  That said, the red looks pretty cool. :)

Read More......

Oct 6, 2006

Tamil Cooking Podcast?

I've taken it upon myself to try to figure out how to cook. Our household is into it, but we're neither of us well-trained in even the basics. So in my search to find something useful online, I came across a few interesting podcasts, and then... this. I don't even know where to begin, but I wish this person would continue the podcasts - it's just more comforting to hear an auntie-type. Damn. I wish I understood Tamil. But regardless, her blog covers some of the same ground.

Now, to find a Gujarati analogue... anyone have any tips?

Read More......

Asian American Awards/Recognition Dinners.

When minority groups in the United States run out of "firsts" to recognize - like "first congressman of xyz origin" or "first Australian American to kick a soccer goal 3 times in a row," I wonder what we'll do at our award dinners and ceremonies? Will we become more creative about our selections, and less biased towards the celebrated "trailblazer" who we reimagine as a civil rights leader for her individual achievement, when really it could just be characterized as a personal triumph that wasn't done in view of advancing justice for the race at all?

Asian Americans are notorious for these dubious awards. Some folks really have done amazing things, and I'm not so put off in the recognition of their achievements and life work. But others have fallen into the spotlight very much by accident, or when one is less forgiving, mainly for some ulterior motive. The first CEO of a major corporation who happens to be Asian American suddenly makes the rounds as the honoree or award-winner from different organizations. I used to get tired of seeing the same old faces all the time, or seeing folks who I didn't recognize, and once I read their bio, really didn't care much about anyway.

Maybe we honor courage nowadays in people who were the first to do something, because, we reason, they must have faced some kind of difficulty as an outsider. Not to belittle that, but if you're different looking, but you do the same thing as everyone around you, you're not so extraordinary, as much as the people who make you suffer are subordinary. Maybe giving you an award for sticking it out (in the military, in a nontraditional occupation) is more sticking a thumb in that guy who tried to keep you down's eye than it really is a recognition of your particular achievements. I would be more impressed if they gave an award to that desi woman with PETA who keeps throwing tofu-cream pies in the faces of people with too much power and not enough humility.

Where is the creativity in these awards and accolades? Clearly some of the folks who are recognized deserve the recognition. Someone like Dalip Singh Saund, for all my questions and (I think, still valid) attention in past posts, still earns my respect as someone who should be recognized because of what he did, and when he did it. Maybe not as a champion of South Asians in the United States, but certainly as an American who happened to be of South Asian descent who broke through another barrier. I know the question will easily, and rightly, be "what's the line for so-called authenticity?" And I don't have an answer to that.

But I just feel so frustrated with most mainstream Asian American civil rights/policy/social service groups that award the same people over and over again, or the same kinds of people over and over again. If it's all about the money anyway, just make that clear and let firms and other companies compete for the recognitions directly with the amount of money that they donate. But back-dooring it, by honoring people who you think will buy a table at a "platinum" or "lotus" level, well, that's just boring, dishonest, and false advertising. Especially when the people sometimes don't know much about your organization or our community, and it's clear from their acceptance speech. I mean, I went to an event recently where the honoree spoke for 15 minutes about the work his group did, but each time he mentioned the sponsoring organization, he had a different variation of its name, until the reference degenerated completely into "[executive director]'s group."

I have to say, I've had much more fun and been less annoyed at arts organization events. At least there, even if I don't agree with the choices, it's clearer why they are being honored: they are artists, and it's an arts organization. Voila! Synergy between idea, mission, and execution! And if we're going to honor trailblazers - has anyone given Bruce Lee an Asian American award? That brother -- whose long-tarnished image as a stereotype/cliche was (I'm convinced) created by the white entertainment-industrial-political complex because he scared them all to death -- was off the scale. And he wasn't afraid to say "no, I'm not going to play that masked sidekick anymore."

Speaking of Bruce Lee, some groups still push for more Asian Americans to be on TV and in the movies. They're succeeding, but for each East Asian American woman I see as a news anchor, or increasingly, in commercials for everything from cell phones to cars, I see 2 South Asian or Arab American men portrayed as ignorant, illogical, unassimilable sight gags with bad accents - or even more likely now, swarthy terrorists. Thanks for the media advocacy. Can you do some screenwriting workshops too, while you're at it?


While I'm in the complaining mood... I am sick - absolutely sick to tears - of Asian American organizations having dinners and other events that don't recognize vegetarian or halal diets in their menu selection. Is it that hard to understand that everyone can eat vegetarian food, but vegetarians cannot eat all the meat that are featured front and center at these events? And if you're going to have meat, can you at least cut out the swine and cow? Oh no! But you can't do that! So I end up eating garnish and bread rolls. Sometimes I can't even do that, because the garnish has been sitting with the fish, or the beef, or whatever else. I can't believe I used to complain about the steamed (soggy) and paltry vegetarian "option" I used to get thrown together for me at some dinners. That was something, at least. Witness me now with 3 desserts at each of these events, and diabetes at the age of 45. When they say getting your just desserts, I didn't think they meant dinner for me would just be desserts.

Read More......

Sep 30, 2006

Audioslave's Tom Morello Arrested at Protest

Got this from Rolling Stone this morning...

AUDIOSLAVE guitarist TOM MORELLO was among nearly four hundred protesters arrested at a march for immigrant hotel workers' rights Thursday night on the main road to Los Angeles International Airport. "These hotel workers by the airport make twenty percent less wages than hotel workers around the rest of Los Angeles," Morello told MTV News prior to the protest. "We're here to express our solidarity with them, to help them unionize and to help them close the gap between their sub-poverty wages and the millions and millions of dollars the people who own these hotels make." BEN HARPER also attended the two-thousand-strong march but avoided arrest.


Hey what can you say. He's been doing things like this for a long time. Though I definitely liked Rage Against the Machine more than Audioslave, many props to people like Tom Morello, Serj (System of a Down) and others who are getting out there with their beliefs. Hella lot better than people just talking the talk but not doing much else.

Read More......

Sep 26, 2006

Michelle Malkin's New Angle.

I just found this while trying to get caught up on the Clinton interview that is apparently big news. So I end up first seeing that Ann Coulter called Clinton gay at some point, which was mildly amusing, and right down the track from Coulter, trying desperately to cash in on her cache, I find Michelle Malkin once again.

I have to admit, I was once quite upset with Malkin for her commentary, but as I started to listen to it more closely, I realized that she really doesn't have strong analytical skills, and fits more in the vein of smear journalists from the past than a legitimate conservative threat. I think of Dinesh D'Souza as more of a threat, because his arguments have been reaching a more elite base, and have the potential, at least, to affect people of influence. Malkin feels more like a pop culture diva riding out her novelty as a neo-con, but not really bringing anything new to the table. Basically, she's a journalist who gets more play because Fox News picked her up as a political analyst.

Though this segment of Hardball made the rounds when the John Kerry swiftboat attacks were causing waves in the presidential campaign of 2004, I wasn't particularly pleased with it. It felt like Chris Mathews was beating up on a woman, and a woman of color at that, and it seemed quite unfair, and almost violent. I was offended for Malkin, even though what she was saying seemed off base. If she were a white man, she would at least have been given the respect to finish a few sentences before being proclaimed ridiculous. I don't know - I don't watch Hardball, but that was my feeling, and with whatever animus I feel towards Malkin (she's taken aim at quite a few folks that I know), I couldn't cheer that display on.

However, I just found out that she has some new venture to "balance" the video clips that are out there with her bugging out on the O'Reilly Factor, or wherever else. And I found this particular post, from last week, to be quite interesting. She's positing that liberals have hurled all kinds of race-based insults her way, and in the direction of other conservatives of color (cheers, Michelle, for moving forward in your lingo). She is asserting victim status (something that she's done before, but never to this degree) to call out the liberal establishment as racist and uniquely bigoted. It's interesting - because I feel that she has definitely gone through some image consulting - she's more confident, less obviously crazy, and possibly a better messenger for the "Democrats are biased" line than a lot of other folks in the GOP.

But I guess I would say that she should be more of a purist. After all - the Dems and the GOP aren't very far apart from one another, and it would be pretty hard to say that the Republicans really have a better image than the Dems in this issue. They just have Karl Rove, who's a bit smarter and ballsier in his ability to put together smear campaigns. But the point is - they both suck at true integration of their parties, and there's a lot of bias that remains just under the surface (if it even stays that far under, right Mr. Allen?). The GOP are well-served by the round of visible, strong candidates like Steele in MD and Blackwell in OH. They are definitely starting to show that the party isn't 100% monochromatic. But I guess my interest in her points lies in the question of whether there will ever be a point at which the Dems start to look at themselves and realize that they have to change as well. That they can't continue to just play business as usual, taking the default votes of communities of color and immigrant communities as the lesser (by little) of two evils, while just playing lip service to our real issues until their backs are against the wall and something has to be compromised in the chamber of white men (with some women and minorities thrown in for the good ol' PC/media thing) called Congress.

While the fact that politicians of color often suffer from the exaggerated expectations of co-ethnics who hope they can make something change for their communities is often spoken about (releasing those politicians from any responsibility and letting them just go with the machine and focus on building their individual careers), what about white men protecting their own? It doesn't matter whether they are Dems or Repubs... they have another representation beyond their states, their districts, and their corporate backers: they have a race that looks to them as the great hope, the circled wagons on yonder prairie trail, because the wild, wild west is coming back to get them. And while the natives regain their strength, the new pioneers are not white. But wherein lies the power, therein lies the future. And there's not been any significant, nor proportional shift in power from the white majority to the other peoples of America.

So while I could talk about Malkin's new attitude, new look, and new approach (well - new to me), I'm just curious about how we're going to get anywhere in this place as peoples who love elements of this nation, but realize that its been built in blood, and that its entire foundation depends on a particular worldview: militarism, and know-nothingness. There is no party of ideas anymore. And while Jefferson and his brethren were slave-owners, aristocrats, and white men, they were also thinkers who battled in great ideas that mature even now, more than 200 years after they explored them in the founding of this system. Our great thinkers now remain entrenched in garrisons that become more distant and more removed with each passing year... the ivory towers and halls of the academy. Our intellectuals and rebels would leave the United States as ex-patriates, writing, thinking, and living a different American reality overseas. But now - they distance themselves in theory, or in esoteric research that isn't current or relevant.

Does Malkin have a point with her "only comes from the left" angle? Well, the right doesn't care about left-leaning people of color - it's also just assumed that's where we'll all be until very recently. Plus, the outspoken folks of color in either party are countable on one hand, and most folks who are conservative don't want to be known for their group/race/ethnic affiliations because they believe in the Horatio Algers myth of the self-made man, and in individual identity at the cost of group identity. Hey - hurling the "sell-out" thing at Malkin is easy. Look, I don't know her personal story, but she's obviously trying to make a living, and she's using the intersection of gender/race that she has as a marketing tool. She's benefiting from the novelty of race in her particular rhetoric niche, but as of tonight, her post about race-baiting had only 40 views, compared to 5,000 for the Hardball segment. So... she may have to think about podcasting (she may be doing that, too).

Michelle - I hope you find some peace somehow. You don't seem happy. Pinay sister (I think), we'd welcome you to the fold again, with a little work maybe you'd even have some pride in the rich history of resistance to authoritarianism and racism that people of color, of whom you seem to count yourself a member, have waged in this country for more than 500 years. Join us. We're more fun, and at least within the more hip circles of color, we won't exoticize you, either. But maybe you like that sort of thing.

Read More......

Sep 25, 2006

The Human Reaction to Conservation.

Well, this is a funny story. I'm not surprised, but I'm still overwhelmed the brazen desire to retain man-attributed value in land, at the threat of something natural. The American spirit of land-ownership, which I have had to study (sometimes with great pain) in my intro to Property law class, distills everything into dollars and little sense. Not to be on a high horse or anything, but no wonder people have no qualms about stepping on and smashing terrain, flora, and fauna alike.

NY Times
September 24, 2006
Rare Woodpecker Sends a Town Running for Its Chain Saws

BOILING SPRING LAKES, N.C., Sept. 23 (AP) — Over the past six months, landowners here have been clear-cutting thousands of trees to keep them from becoming homes for the endangered red-cockaded woodpecker.

The chain saws started in February, when the federal Fish and Wildlife Service put Boiling Spring Lakes on notice that rapid development threatened to squeeze out the woodpecker.

The agency issued a map marking 15 active woodpecker “clusters,” and announced it was working on a new one that could potentially designate whole neighborhoods of this town in southeastern North Carolina as protected habitat, subject to more-stringent building restrictions.

Hoping to beat the mapmakers, landowners swarmed City Hall to apply for lot-clearing permits. Treeless land, after all, would not need to be set aside for woodpeckers. Since February, the city has issued 368 logging permits, a vast majority without accompanying building permits.

The results can be seen all over town. Along the roadsides, scattered brown bark is all that is left of pine stands. Mayor Joan Kinney has watched with dismay as waterfront lots across from her home on Big Lake have been stripped down to sandy wasteland.

“It’s ruined the beauty of our city,” Ms. Kinney said. To stop the rash of cutting, city commissioners have proposed a one-year moratorium on lot-clearing permits.

The red-cockaded woodpecker was once abundant in the vast longleaf pine forests that stretched from New Jersey to Florida, but now numbers as few as 15,000. The bird is unusual among North American woodpeckers because it nests exclusively in living trees.

In a quirk of history, human activity has made this town of about 4,100 almost irresistible to the bird.

Long before there was a town, locals carved V-shaped notches in the pines, collecting the sap in buckets to make turpentine. These wounds allowed fungus to infiltrate the tree’s core, making it easier for the woodpecker to excavate its nest hole and probe for the beetles, spiders and wood-boring insects it prefers.

“And, voilĂ ! You have a perfect woodpecker habitat,” said Dan Bell, project director for the Nature Conservancy in nearby Wilmington.

The woodpecker gouges a series of holes around the tree, creating “sap runs” to discourage the egg-gobbling black snake, the bird’s chief enemy. Because it can take up to six years to excavate a single nest hole, the birds fiercely defend their territory, said Susan Miller, a biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service. “They’re passed from generation to generation, because it’s such a major investment in time to create one cavity,” Ms. Miller said.

Like the woodpeckers, humans are also looking to defend their nest eggs.

Bonner Stiller has been holding on to two wooded half-acre lakefront lots for 23 years. He stripped both lots of longleaf pines before the government could issue its new map.

“They have finally developed a value,” said Mr. Stiller, a Republican member of the state General Assembly. “And then to have that taken away from you?”

Landowners have overreacted, says Pete Benjamin, supervisor of the federal agency’s Raleigh office.

Having a woodpecker tree on a piece of property does not necessarily mean a house cannot be built there, Mr. Benjamin said. A landowner can even get permission to cut down a cavity tree, as long as an alternative habitat can be found.

“For the most part, we’ve found ways to work with most folks,” he said.

Read More......

Sep 17, 2006

Let's go - a thousand million thoughts, not a second of time to make sense of any of it. But life is good, neither sun nor rain faze me, autumn in NY is coming, and perhaps I'll be able to travel someday to see more of the world that I don't know enough of.


I spoke with a distant cousin who has come to the States to study on the phone today for the second time, first since he landed in Mobile, AL. I've never met him face-to-face, and yet I still feel some sense of older brotherly protection that I should confer to him, especially in lieu of his own family, half a world away in Bombay. He's a good kid, studying for a graduate degree at age 22. I think he was surprised that I hadn't been "Americanized" in whatever that means to the average middle class Indian. Sometimes I think that Bollywood conspires to stereotype me more than the average redneck.

It's an old story, but the assumptions that folks make about second and third generation folks are still amazing. And I guess I have to put up the mirror and think about the assumptions I make as well. This particular conversation seemed to suggest that he thought I wouldn't "get" family, or that I'd be rude or uninterested in him. But I guess I was raised to think about family expansively, even though I still have many "yo you're crowding me" moments. There's something stable and dependable about kinship. Knowing that regardless, we're bonded by blood in a way that transcends the mutable and mercurial nature of most friendships. I don't pass along my deepest secrets to my extended family members, but we have each others' back. And they forgive me when I get too carried away in my desire to neutralize the conservatism that I feel is creeping up all around us.


But I guess that's another point that I've been thinking about. When do you make your point strongly, at risk of breaking off a conversation entirely, and when do you attempt moderation? I have a problem with the latter, especially when things get heated. I like to go for the jungular, or at least duel enough to get to the truth. But not many people are in that frame of mind, and taking up a position seems to broadcast closemindedness or immovability. But I want to have conversations that challenge me and others to question our assumptions and to go beyond regurgitating what we've been told or sold.

Truth is, there's too much ego involved in that initial challenge. If it's a real discussion and dialogue, it will come. But pushing for it might mean that I'm overconfident that my position/point of view is the right one. Not a good place at all - conquering one's ego is the only way to truly be open to learning from others even if we disagree wholeheartedly. So strength of conviction, as well as some level of thought about an issue that led to that point of view, gets in the way, particularly when it seems like the other person hasn't thought much at all about the issue in question.

And then, it appears like you have no capacity to tolerate different opinions, a dissuasive element that turns people off, far more than showcasing knowledge turns them on to your ideas. So how to share without falling into the paternalistic/condescension trap of trying to "educate" someone? How do we learn together?

Read More......

Sep 8, 2006

A Matter of Life and Death.

Finally picked up and listened to (most of) the new Maiden album, A Matter of Life and Death. I can't believe these guys are actually making better music now than 10 years ago. I'd all but lost hope for them when they put out Fear of the Dark, which was easily my least favorite album by them before the Blaze years (for anyone who is lost, you can catch up here). Brave New World was a tremendous return to form, and while I really liked some of the stuff on Dance of Death, I was getting afraid that they were slipping down the path (again) where I'd start to recognize passages and arrangements from their previous catalog. Not a good thing when a group starts to cannibalize its own past.

But this album has some freshness to it that explodes from the get-go. I guess I realize now how much I appreciated Adrian Smith's presence in the band - he brings with him a rock attitude that seems to sheer off some of the excess and yet still afford riff-heavy songs that are fun to sing along with Bruce. He's a co-author of a full half of the songs, and it's just very clear that this album is much stronger. There's something urgent about this one, which I guess is evident from how fast they were able to write, record, and put it out. They seem more fresh and ready to take risks.

Interesting, Bruce actually explores more terrain with his voice in this album than he's done in most of the past albums. While this isn't a full-on review - I'm really impressed with all that he's been able to do with his voice - it's a combination of his trademark sound with a lower register, some more melodic/non-air raid siren singing, as well as some elements that almost sound like Ray Alder of Fates Warning/Engine/Redemption (man, how many bands can that guy be the singer for anyway?). I haven't heard much of Bruce's solo work, but I'm thinking that I may want to at least check out the two albums in which he and Adrian Smith were working together.

Anyway - so let's just say that the new Maiden is an 8.5 or 9 at this early point in listening to it, the new Roots album is only a 6, and the new Dylan is so hard to map that I can't come up with a rating. A good time for new music.

Read More......

Aug 30, 2006

The Worth of a Comma.

I railed against the Blue Book and the somewhat ridiculous world of the infinite minutiae in legal citations in a previous post. But I have to admit that the story below in the New Standard (thanks to Saurav for introducing me to the news source, by the way) has me rethinking my ridicule:

Arizona questions workers’ comp for undocumented immigrants
The future of workers’ compensation benefits for undocumented immigrants in Arizona could hang on a comma.

Earlier this month, a three-judge state appellate court panel declined to address Jose Luis Gamez’s Workers’ Compensation claim and upheld a lower-court ruling that denied the benefit on medical grounds.

But attached to the decision was a concurring opinion by Arizona Appellate Court Judge Daniel Barker that said Gamez’s claim is not only illegitimate on medical grounds, but also because Gamez is ineligible for workers’ comp benefit because he is in the country illegally. Baker noted that Arizona’s 1925 compensation law failed to carry a comma in a key portion spelling out which groups of workers qualify for compensation.

As written, "aliens and minors legally or illegally permitted to work for hire" are eligible for compensation. According to Baker’s assessment, the law "makes plain the legislature’s intent that ‘legally or illegally’ modifies ‘minors’ but does not modify ‘aliens.’" Therefore, Baker concluded, workers’ comp eligibility does not extend to undocumented immigrants.

Though Baker’s concurring opinion does not set precedent for lower courts, the Arizona Star reported, the Arizona State Compensation Fund is seeking to have the Baker opinion erased, saying it could cause confusion for employees, employers, and state officials. [link]

Aside from the obvious concern regarding the ramifications of a case that denies undocumented workers the right to workers' comp protection at the workplace based on protection status, there are a couple of other real concerns here.

First, the fact that a whole class of workers could be denied benefits and protection based on the basic grammatic rule used by an Appellate Court Judge to push forward a ideological perspective is worth taking note. While non-lawyers imagine the legal profession as a test of oral advocacy skills, I'm learning quickly that it is more about our command of language in the written form that is most often and severely tested and honed through law school and practice. This is reinforced in the way that our assignments and papers are graded. I've even heard of professors who have taken the time to correct spelling and punctuation in exams, even though the final grade did not depend on that precision. Words, and the proper use of language, have been called our tool kit, our metaphoric equivalent to a field doctor's black bag.

I'm still quite scared at how a comma can wield such power in the hands - or on the page - of the right person. It reminds me of an old friend who once told me (in middle school of all places) that he can make a weapon out of anything...

Second, and more of a general observation based on recent readings for 2 classes, is how even a concurring opinion in a case, which we were originally led to believe in class was just the privilege given to members of a court to add to or focus on a particular aspect of a case or underlying legal concept, can be adopted as the analytical rule for future cases. For example, the Katz principle, which has been one of the most important analyses concerning the Fourth Amendment rights against unreasonable searches and seizures because it's applied even still, came from a concurrence by Justice Harlan, not the main opinion. I was initially taught that opinions other than that of the actual decision, are just opinions, and not legally binding. But what I didn't think of was when the additional opinions (or more precisely, the ideas within the opinions) are cited in the decision of a future court, they suddenly become law. And such is the power of words, and the reason why dissents, concurrences, and other opinions are carefully written - because someone somewhere sometime may pick it up and say "that's it!"

Hell, even footnotes in decisions can take on incredible importance - the most immediate one that comes to mind is famous footnote four in the United States v. Carolene Products (1938) decision, in which the concept of the standard of judicial review for legislation concerning "discrete and insular minorities" was first introduced. This concept was built upon and heavily influenced equal protection jurisprudence in the progressive Warren Court. All from a footnote (which is rumored to have been written by a law clerk).

So I guess my obsessive compulsive nature about grammar (not evident from these posts, of course) is a plus in this crazy profession. And I guess (even more) that I shouldn't be immediately dismissive of the prospect of a judicial clerkship somewhere, were I to be accepted. The clerks, and their turns of phrases in the opinions they author for judges, could indirectly plant a seed that can grow under the guidance of subsequent courts into full-blown, unforeseen jurisprudence, protections, or rights. Yeah, but it still doesn't seem like my cup of tea.

Read More......

Aug 28, 2006


Through conditioning, either social or otherwise, some dates become fixed in our minds as the ultimate symbols of a particular moment, the threshold between a before and after point in our understanding, our lives, the world. For example, August 6th always reminds me of Hiroshima, the eruption of the nuclear age, and the moment when the ability of humans to radically alter, or end, this world was no longer theoretical. It was also the date that my grandfather passed away, almost 50 years ago, a very personal date and memory for my mother and her family, but one that I do not have.

Likewise, December 7th, the so-called "Day of Infamy" was the date when Pearl Harbor was attacked in 1941. It has little significance to me personally, although it makes me recall the subsequent actions of the government, and the entry (at last) of the United States in the world theaters in which it had been so reluctant to engage.

I guess that comes more immediately to mind because I just revisited a public education piece concerning the Nazi Holocaust, and the American complicity in the death of millions is hardly mentioned - the more commonly known issue is that the United States knew what was happening and waited for years before it got involved. The piece I surveyed wrote about the possibility of bombing Aushwitz, one of the death camps that the Nazis ran with chilling efficiency in Poland. The U.S. had the ability to bomb it many years before it was finally shut down at the end of the war. But they did not do it. Why don't more people ask why? But perhaps it is even more chilling is that Hitler credited some of his techniques to wipe out populations of Jews, homosexuals, Roma, the disabled, and other non-"Aryans" to the American genocidal campaign against the indigenous peoples of North America.

Anyway, more about this idea of historical dates... nowadays there is a small sliver of the non-Korean, Asian American community that recognizes April 29th, sa-i-gu, as an important date for reflection, and a reminder that our places here remain questioned and questionable, no matter what flag we wave in the daylight, or what identity we wear in our dreams. Sa-i-Gu was a recap of what happened to Japanese American's fifty years before, only instead of being taken away from their homes and communities, the Korean immigrants, their stores, and their American dreams were left to burn. In the last five years, we've had a return to the pack-them-up syndrome of the WWII evacuations, but now the camps and prisoners are far more isolated, and minor offenders are sent away, broken men who because of the status of their families and their lives, seem stateless in many ways.

So some dates trigger a lot of feelings, from reverence to personal memories to more abstract emotions of duty, disappointment, or disgrace. But some dates seem easily forgotten. I just saw V for Vendetta, and I still forgot that Guy Fawkes' Day was the Fifth of November, even though there was a clever little rhyme to keep it fresh in one's mind, and his message was memorable in itself. But maybe that's just because I'm American.

Similarly, while September 11th has long passed from simply a moment in history to a symbol all its own (with the offensive shorthand of 9/11 taking the place of a more contemplative full name), what does it mean when a particular anniversary with a date overwhelms any other association with it? As, I suppose, will be the case with July 7th in London, and March 11 in Madrid.

But what about August 29 in the United States? The date, last year, when Katrina's aftermath, and the criminal negligence of Federal agencies, devastated one of the most important cities of American culture. As we go through the obligatory anniversary programming on network and other television, the ease with which people have forgotten what's happened and continues in New Orleans is incredibly disheartening. The devastation after September 11th became a rallying cry for the war hawks, the xenophobes, the "love-it-or-leave-it" crowd, and has been used to justify everything from foreign wars to radical domestic spending priority readjustments.

The televised aftermath of Katrina in New Orleans was horrifying - not because of the questionable lawlessness and looting that reports were alleging, but because we saw the poverty and the wretched condition of people who'd been waiting to be rescued. But what we didn't see as much was the real scope of the Federal government's absolute failure to deal with what happened in our own backyard. It's been spoken and written about ad naseum, but in the theme of this post... while many people remember many dates, will Aug. 29 be passed from year to year with some recognition, or moments of silence, or something to memorialize what we as a nation lost beginning that day? And will people remember that while we have somewhat moved on, the people of New Orleans, many of whom have not yet been able to return home, have not had that comfort.

I had so much I wanted to write about this, but I'd rather just leave it here. Take the time, think about how we can be more actively engaged in the world around us, or at least, in the stories that go on long after the news cameras and the public outpouring of charity and caring fall off. Here's a link for some oral history from survivors through NPR's wonderful StoryCorps initiative.

Read More......