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Showing posts from April, 2009

Why torture is wrong, and the people who love them

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I saw this play at the public theatre today and found it relevant and distressing at the same time.

Don’t feel guilty about laughing so hard at “Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them,” Christopher Durang’s hilarious and disturbing new comedy about all-American violence. Though it tackles and practically tickles to death subjects that are sensitive to the point of rawness just now, the production, which opened on Monday night at the Public Theater, has a healthier heart and conscience than many a more pious play.


"Why Torture Is Wrong, and the People Who Love Them," with Laura Benanti and Amir Arison, opened on Monday at the Public Theater.
It’s just that Mr. Durang chooses to wear his morality not as a minister’s black robe but as a jester’s crazy motley. There are occasions when this is perfectly correct attire for playwrights of good faith, especially when they’re visiting matters that have started to seem too serious to be taken seriously. Like guns in the hand…

New York Magazine- Rich People Things

Chris Lehmann
writes about the social, class and power that New York Magazine represents. I find the magazine vacuous, gossipy and centered in downtown Manhattan reality.

My ill-starred tenure at New York magazine was, among other things, a crash course in the staggering unselfawareness of Manhattan class privilege. Sure, there was the magazine’s adoring, casual fascination with the “money culture”—a term deployed in editorial meetings without the faintest whiff of disapproval or critical distance. But more than that, there was the sashaying mood of preppy smugness that permeated nearly every interaction among the magazine’s editorial directorate—as when one majordomo tried to make awkward small talk with me by asking what it was like attending an urban public high school, or when another scion of the power elite would blithely take the credit for other people’s work and comically strategize to be seated prominently at the National Magazine Awards luncheon.

Since decamping from that sch…

Juan Cole writes an intelligent response to the situation in Pakistan

Juan Cole writes this on his blog...

Pakistan Crisis and Social Statistics

Readers have written me asking what I think of the rash of almost apocalyptic pronouncements on the security situation in Pakistan issuing from the New York Times, The Telegraph, and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton in recent days.

And Stephen Walt also is asking why there are such varying assessments of Pakistan's security prospects. He suggests that one problem is the difficulty of predicting a revolutionary situation. But Pakistan just had a revolution against the military dictatorship! The polling, the behavior in the voting booth, the history of political geography, aren't these data relevant to the issue? Why does no one instance them?

As I have said before, although the rise of the Pakistani Taliban in the Pushtun areas and in some districts of Punjab is worrisome, the cosmic level of concern being expressed makes no sense to me. Some 55 percent of Pakistanis are Punjabi, and with the exception of…

Mallika Sarabai for the Lok Sabha

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Here is her Manifesto. I wish she wins. Gujarat needs another voice, a saner voice than the fascist Narinder Modi.I recently saw Firaaq, directed by the brilliant Nandita Das. The movie is depressing but honest about what happened in Gujarat after the 2002 riots. And how people react to "the other".

Internationally acclaimed classical dancer Mallika Sarabhai is taking on India's main opposition leader LK Advani of the Bharatiya Janata Party in the general elections from Gujarat. The BBC's Soutik Biswas hits the campaign trail with the feisty artiste in Gandhinagar.

A little over a fortnight ago, Mallika Sarabhai woke early one weekday morning and heard what she called an "inner voice".

Over the weekend, a group of NGOs had approached her, promising to back her if she contested the general elections as an independent candidate.

The proposal left the busy Ms Sarabhai in a spin: she had been in the middle of recording a TV quiz involving schoolchildren in weste…

Happy George Day

Juan Cole writes about George today celebrated in Barcelona, where women give men books and men give women flowers.

Friday, April 24, 2009
A Modest Proposal: George's Day and Saving Bookstores (and not bad for Florists either)

There is a delightful custom in Barcelona. On April 23, St. George's Day, men give their girlfriends or wives a rose. And the women give their male beloved a book. The gift of the book is said to have been initiated in 1926 as a commemoration of Cervantes, the author of Don Quixote

The rose is more traditional. It is said that after St. George killed the dragon to save the maiden, a droplet of its blood sprouted into a rose.

Perhaps under Catalonian influence, April 23 has already been adopted by UNESCO as the International Day of the Book. However, I don't think very many people know about this day.

The advantage of the way the Barcelonans do it is that it ties book-giving to individual romance, and so makes it universal. Obviously the precise Catalonian…

Sikhs in Swat to pay Jizia tax

Sikhs in Swat are being asked to pay Jizia tax to the Taliban.

The Daily Times, Lahore, of April 15 carried the following as reported by Abdul Saboor Khan:

"Sikh families leave Orakzai after Taliban demand jizia

"HANGU: Sikh families living in Orakzai Agency have left the agency after the Taliban demanded Rs 50 million as jizia (tax) from them, official sources and locals said on Tuesday.

"Residents of Ferozekhel area in Lower Orakzai Agency told Daily Times on Tuesday that around 10 Sikh families left the agency after the demand by the Taliban, who said they were a minority and liable to pay the tax for living in the area in accordance with sharia.

"Locals said the Taliban had notified the Sikh families about the ‘tax’ around a week ago. They said of the 15 Sikh families in Ferozekhel, 10 had shifted while the remaining were preparing to do so.

"The locals said the families were impoverished and had left the area to avoid any Taliban action."

The following day…

Amrit Singh

In the swirling controversy surrounding the legal memos relating to the use of various forms of torture, Ms. Amrit Singh is getting attention for the work she did in documenting the practices at various detention centers and related policies. Ms. Singh is a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU).

The following link to ACLU's site has information about "Administration of Torture," a book co-authored by Ms. Singh: http://www.aclu.org/about/staff/administrationoftorture.html

More on Singh, who happens to be the daughter of Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh, below.

Administration of Torture is the most detailed account thus far of what took place in America's overseas detention centers and why. Jameel Jaffer and Amrit Singh draw the connection between the policies adopted by senior civilian and military officials and the torture and abuse that took place on the ground. They also collect and reproduce hundreds of government documents—including inte…

The Kahani Movement

Check this site about the Kahani Movement, where first generation South Asians write about their experiences in America. Sanjay Gupta of CNN fame is one of the cofounders of this social networking site!

This from Sepia Mutiny.

I’m borderline obsessed with the ideas of documenting the history of South Asian Americans, and am completely fascinated with how this project is merging documentary with social networking with user generated content. There is so much potential.

The Kahani Movement…ties the concept of StoryCorps to the technology of Web 2.0 by inspiring Indian Americans to tell stories of their early days in the U.S. from the comfort of their own kitchen tables and then share this content on a newly developed social network.
The project takes a Hollywood 2.0 approach to sharing these stories by motivating young Indian Americans to pick up a camera, interview their parents, grandparents, aunts, and uncles, and then post that footage to Kahani’s web platform. The eventual audience fo…

London Book Fair- Focus on Indian Writing

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The London Book Fair is hosting a conference on Indian writing. Amit Chaudhuri reviews it here.


In search of India This year's London book fair celebrates the diversity of contemporary Indian writing. How much do the novelists of the new generation have in common, asks Amit Chaudhuri. Writers and publishers recommend old favourites and rising stars
Amit Chaudhuri
The Guardian, Saturday 18 April 2009
Article history

The theme of the London book fair this year is Indian writing. Vikram Seth, Amartya Sen, William Dalrymple and other writers in frequent circulation in this country are going to be joined by writers - K Satchidanandan, Javed Akhtar - distinguished or popular on their own terrain but less known here, for five days of discussions and celebrations. Something like this happened in 2006 to the Frankfurt book fair, when planeloads of Indian novelists and poets descended on the Intercontinental Hotel, waved to each other over breakfast, and then read from their work to courteous…

Khushwant Singh 94 and Rockin

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Khushwant Singh just released another book.


At 94, the grand old man of Indian journalism, Khushwant Singh, is still in scintillating form. Talking to him on the release of his book Why I supported the Emergency, edited by our Sheela Reddy, I suggested (borrowing from Malcolm Muggeridge) that "Indians have sex on their brain, and that is the wrong place to have it". He promptly corrected Muggeridge saying you need to have it both on the brain and the body.
And who, among living public figures, does he admire most? "Manmohan Singh," he replied. Then something slightly unusual happened. In the Le Meridien Hotel banquet hall, the largely upmarket crowd cutting across party lines broke into spontaneous applause. Is there a message in the clapping?

Jagdish Tytler- Killer of Sikhs

Jagdish Tytler has been axed in running for elections. I guess Jarnail Singh's shoe throwing worked!

Jagdish Tytler is a symptom of the unfinished business of 1984. HARINDER BAWEJA examines why the Congress had to axe him once again

SOMETIMES, WORDS can haunt even decades later and become a powerful leitmotif. Rajiv Gandhi’s infamous words — when a big tree falls, the earth shakes — during the brutal massacre of Sikhs in 1984 is one such sentence. It has peppered discussions and debates for 25 long years and it is this chillingly cold analogy that still records a high nine on the emotional Richter scale, so powerful is its recall.


The past will not forget Congress candidate Jagdish Tytler had to step down due to party pressure
Photo: SHAILENDRA PANDEY

This time, the earth shook again, but under the Congress’ feet. One boot thrown at the Home Minister P Chidambaram by a journalist was enough to uncork the lava and focus attention straight and square on the anti-Sikh riots once again. Bu…

Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie

Amy Rosenberg reviews Adichie's new book, The thing around your neck.

The Thing Around Your Neck
Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie
Fourth Estate
Dh82


In a 1962 radio interview, Chinua Achebe, Nigeria’s best-known novelist, explained that he started writing out of anger over Mister Johnson, a 1939 novel by the white British author Joyce Cary. The title character is an ambitious but clownish Nigerian clerk who blindly and cheerfully enmeshes himself in larceny, graft and murder while trying to gain the respect of his colonial superiors.

Of the much-praised novel, Achebe said: “It was clear to me that this was a most superficial picture of – not only of the country, but even of the Nigerian character. I thought… someone ought to try and look at this from the inside.” Forty-five years later, during a talk at Harvard, another Nigerian novelist explained that she began writing because she was startled, as a young child who had devoured books by Enid Blyton, to stumble across Achebe’s work and real…