Jan 29, 2006

What - ANOTHER South Asian Magazine?

Just found out about this mag. So what's the deal - yet another magazine trying to capitalize on a group that is 2+ million strong in a nation of 300 million? Is it Femina for all genders? I don't really care, actually, and I have bigger fish to fry in the next couple of posts, so I'll leave it to the interested reader to find out more about this venture. Hell - it may not even be new, for all I know.

Still - a cursory glance through the contents of the recent issue begs the question "hasn't this already been covered enough?" *sigh* Forgive me for hoping to find more progressive spaces in print and on the 'net. But still, perhaps it's just as well, given the time constraints that law school put on me. Can't go on reading other people's opinions all the time. Especially if they end up being the same all the time anyway.

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Jan 27, 2006

Left South

There's a revolution goin' on in Latin America. Venezuela's leader, Hugo Chavez has been kicking up a fuss since he's been in power. His rhetoric and his ability to bring people to the message of revolutionary change has been inspiring from a distance. I wonder about the specific way that things are going down in Venezuela, but it's fantastic to see Latin America turn left as the rest of the world continues to look right.

Hell - the World Social Forum just took place in Caracas, Venezuela.

Bolivia just elected a new President, Evo Morales, a member of an indigenous community in Bolivia. He just declared that he is halving his salary. Yup. That's definitely not capitalism.

Chile's new president is a woman, a socialist, and a reformer. Peru is working to extradite Fujimori from its nextdoor neighbors.

Brazil has had all kinds of interesting cultural activity going on, or at least so I heard in the past year.

Man, I'm in the wrong hemisphere.

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Jan 25, 2006

iPod Stories

Very interesting research project on iPod music listening practices. For an article on this researcher, go here.

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Interesting Take on Gates v. Jobs

I'm an avowed Apple fan, and have been for a long time. I don't think that it's just the "support the underdog" mentality - I really do like the feel of Macs more than the soulless Wintel boxes. But I've grown a little disillusioned over the years, because brand loyalty feels too capitalistic for me, and at the end of the day, all of these companies are just looking at their bottom lines. That said, there's an interesting, and provocative, article on Wired.com by Leander Kahney that I just read that compares the two men behind the icons.

Some excerpts:

Until recently, Bill Gates has been viewed as the villain of the tech world, while his archrival, Steve Jobs, enjoys an almost saintly reputation.

Gates is the cutthroat capitalist. A genius maybe, but one more interested in maximizing profits than perfecting technology. He's the ultimate vengeful nerd. Ostracized at school, he gets the last laugh by bleeding us all dry. On the other hand, Jobs has never seemed much concerned with business, though he's been very successful at it of late. Instead, Jobs has been portrayed as a man of art and culture. He's an aesthete, an artist; driven to make a dent in the universe.

But these perceptions are wrong. In fact, the reality is reversed. It's Gates who's making a dent in the universe, and Jobs who's taking on the role of single-minded capitalist, seemingly oblivious to the broader needs of society. Gates is giving away his fortune with the same gusto he spent acquiring it, throwing billions of dollars at solving global health problems. He has also spoken out on major policy issues, for example, by opposing proposals to cut back the inheritance tax. In contrast, Jobs does not appear on any charitable contribution lists of note. And Jobs has said nary a word on behalf of important social issues, reserving his talents of persuasion for selling Apple products.


To the best of my knowledge, in the last decade or more, Jobs has not spoken up on any social or political issue he believes in -- with the exception of admitting he's a big Bob Dylan fan. Rather, he uses social issues to support his own selfish business goals. In the Think Different campaign, Jobs used cultural figures he admired to sell computers -- figures who stuck their necks out to fight racism, poverty, inequality or war.

These are interesting points, and really worth thinking about, even though we're pondering two mega-capitalists. I guess I wonder about the Fords and the Rockefellers and the Carnegies of the early 20th Century - their names were attached to huge corporations that received all kinds of assistance from the government in their unfair business and labor practices. At the end of their days, though, they turned over their monies to charitable work and foundations in their names, and their legacies are sometimes baptized in the new work that they've supported since - would I have seen as much art if not for the monies donated by some of these ultra-industrialists? Why does my Mom always talk about them with a tone apporaching awe? Is this what will happen with Gates, the man who has already donated more than most individual philanthopists in history?

Is there really such a thing as "clean" money? Does the end, of philanthropy, justify the means of acquisition? I don't know how I feel about these absolutes anymore, but I haven't fully let go of my feeling that these things are still important, and that there's something shady about Microsoft. But maybe that's just true of all companies that have that kind of market share and power - Starbucks is another unfavorite of mine, but they are apparently very good about their giving. So where should that line be drawn?

For the rest of the article, go here.

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Jan 24, 2006

Exoticize This!

Keepin' the Neighbors Up With: Testament/Live in London

SM regular, Manish was right on the money in this visual takedown of a new release from Ballantine Books, "The Mango Season." I can't tell you how many times a friend and I would decry the choice of book cover, font, or other elements of design that trivialize or even worse, completely objectify the writer and the writer's community. For him, it was the "chinky" letters that plagued even serious Asian American titles - what gives? Can't they give the damn Charlie Chan routine a rest?

And now, though I have been sick to tears of the food metaphors for more years than I can remember, the scourge remains, and in this example, at least, seems really quite egregious. I just don't know how much creative control the writer has, but you have to see all of the classic examples in this case, and wonder if she couldn't have at least cut some of the most obvious shit out. If we don't stop ourselves from self-exoticization, how can we expect the Man from doing it?

So sisters, do us a favor and stop using mango, chili, spice, papaya, palm trees, curry, vindaloo, coconut, banana, and all the other obvious, rote, boring, tired, offensive, annoying, and unimaginative choices as metaphors for cultural dissonance, plurality, or confusion. Just tell your stories, and leave the lame titles out of it.

Brothers, well... where the hell you at, anyway? And that's a whole other post. Where is the progressive South Asian male literary community? Queer or hetero, but especially the latter. Was there an alien abduction that I didn't hear or read about?

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Jan 18, 2006

In the news...

Haven't been able to post much with the Spring schedule kicking my ass already, but I've been saving some articles, and hope to write at some point (wait with bated breath, damn you).

But here's an article to read that I won't be commenting on. Much.

Except that it really bothers me that a desi newspaper writes "American Hindu" and means white folks. Just say it, for damn sake. Not to mention that Hare Krishnas are a different breed altogether. But yeah, live and let live, man. Keep your hands off my cow.

Meanwhile, I'll wear my leather jacket, my Air Nikes, and eat my jello...

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Jan 14, 2006

Another Spin on Outsourcing

So I'm at home cleaning up some old files and I have to call up a credit card company on a late Saturday afternoon. I realize a couple of other spins on the whole outsourcing thing:

1) With non outsourced-to-India companies, I can quickly assume the personality of my partner to clear up any issues on her accounts, and they are none-the-wiser because they don't know the gender differences in desi names. Can't do that with call center folks. They offer an added level of security to the companies, and they don't even realize it.

2) With outsourced companies, I seldom have to suffer through the painful process of spelling and re-spelling my name. The call center folks just get it, and the transaction is that much smoother because even if they are amused at my American accent, I'm polite and gracious, and from the reports that I've been reading, that's a bit removed from the common experience that the call center folks have been having with stupid Americans.

Then again, maybe they're more than amused, and a bit contempuous of my apparent departure from the core of "Indianness" embodied in Indian English. Whatever - I hear pleasantness on the other side of the phone, I don't care about what folks may be thinking, and I'm happy to have a good experience and another item scratched off my ever-growing to-do list.

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Searching for the Next Generation

I had lunch with a friend who runs a small community-serving non-profit today, and we spoke about one of my favorite subjects: the fact that the folks coming into community-based work nowadays are very different from those even 7 - 10 years ago. The entry-level folks come in with more knowledge, generally, about Asian American or South Asian American issues, but they don't have the context. They've read the books that we read, many even have taken classes in Asian American studies - something that was much more rare, especially on the East Coast, 10 years ago. So they are more savvy in traditional knowledge base. And they have been weaned on the internet, so they are quicker to pick up the new technology.

But there's something missing about many of them. This may be an overgeneralization, and I may have crossed over into the realm of the old-timers who can't deal with fresh new blood coming in and shaking shit up, but I don't know - it feels like a lot of the younger folks entering community-based work either have an entitlement issue about what they think they deserve, or they think that they know everything already (or better yet, that they don't need to know what or who had done similar work in the past). There's a seemingly deep gap in the area of humility. And it feels like there's a deepening gap between the new folks and the old guard who still run many of these organizations, because said old guard has already burned through (and stonewalled) the people of my generation who were rising in the ranks of their respective organizations only to hit a ceiling regarding decision-making power within the institution.

So we have more people entering the work, on the professional track of "non-profit community work" at the same time as we have fewer mid-level folks still around to help guide and support (and train them in both approach and a touch of humility). So what happens? These organizations that we wish would either have a revolt and new blood take over or just run out of suckers to fill the positions keep finding fresh bait to take over vacated positions, and the cycle continues, at the expense of a more expansive, inclusive movement-building effort.

It's very disheartening.

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Jan 11, 2006

life's disappointments
are only heavy showers
seek the horizon

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Falooda Nation

While we're on the theme of crazes that should be taking over the nation, and returning to an old theme of sweets from the past, forget bubble tea: make mine a Falooda. Think about it - Falooda's have all the basic elements to take over the world - saccharine sweet, composed of many fun and colorful elements, ice cream, stringy vermicelli... what's not to love? And I've even had it with Tapioca, if anyone is still a hold-out from the East Asian fave of bubble tea.

Build a good falooda bar. People will follow.

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Bollywood Blowout!

Why aren't there more Bollywood Karaoke places in the United States? Am I just missing it, or am I right? I would think that these places would be all the rage in the diasporic community. It could be a great meeting point between members of different communities, actually, since it seems like every time I turn around, I realize that there's another fan of Bollywood talking to me who comes from an altogether unexpected place. Remember Rustam? Well, this past weekend, I had a Chinese man from Shanghai who'd been in the states for about 15 years tell me that he loved desi movies. That his daughter is dating an Indian guy in college. That the dances, the songs, the music are amazing. Bollywood could connect the disparate warring populations in one big extravagent Superstar Spectacular... just have the biggest stars come together and work through some of the popular favorites. Indians, Pakistanis, Russians... we'll all get together and have a great time.

Seriously, though, at least on the karaoke front, kids and adults alike know the songs inside and out, but it's more likely that you'll see a blown out version of the song and dance routine of the latest movie in the middle of a wedding reception than you would in a karaoke bar. Hell, if one of the computer whiz kids felt like it, I'm sure that he could hotwire the Playstation dance pad games and turn it into a singing and dancing game that would sweep the nation in a mega-craze - Bollywood Blowout, the video game! Imagine the potential in arcades across the country, where the latest moves of Sharukh and pals are turned into dancesteps and singing on electronic pads by the youth of today...

I think that this may just be the next big thing... but in the interest of Creative Commons, I'm sharing it with you. Go out there. Make something happen.

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