Thursday, January 11, 2007

Rediff special on the Indian grad student from 'Freakonomics'

Rediff has an interview with the guy who did the research for the first essay in Steven Levitt's 'Freakonomics'.



From a BBC story on the state of emergency in Bangladesh:

Since 1996, Bangladesh's constitution has required the elected government to hand over power to a neutral, non-partisan interim administration on the completion of its five-year term. This was an extraordinary admission by politicians that they could not be trusted to hold free and fair polls.

The system worked. Government headed by retired chief justices in 1996 and 2001 produced two of the cleanest elections in the country's history. Turnout exceeding 75% showed the faith voters had in the fairness of polls held under caretaker governments.

India, in that sense, is lucky to have had Seshan and now have the independent Election Commission. How did India manage to get EC? I think there is a clause in the Constitution or something like that...



Uttarayan is round the corner. Saturday, Shoreline Park, 1:30pm PST. Get ready for some kite-fighting! See you there! Thanks, Manali, for the kankotri!

Two Indian writers: similar experiences

In the introductory essay to his anthology of post-independence Indian writing in English, Salman Rushdie recounts how he was once cornered in Delhi. He had just concluded a reading to a gathering of university students when a young woman said to him: "Mr. Rushdie, I read your novel Midnight's Children. It is a very long book, but never mind. The question I want to ask is this: Fundamentally, what's your point?" Then she added: "Oh, I know what you're going to say. That the whole effort -- from cover to cover -- is the point of the exercise." Rushdie was thrown off balance. "Please," he begged, "do I have to have just one point?" His interrogator responded firmly: "Fundamentally, yes."

Now compare this story with another recounted this time by Vikram Chandra in his Boston Review article called 'The Cult of Authenticity':
A woman in the audience, somebody I didn’t recognize, raised her hand and asked, "Why do the stories in your collection Love and Longing in Bombay have names like ‘Dharma’ and ‘Artha’ and ‘Kama’?" I answered. I talked about wanting to see how these principles--Duty, Gain, Desire--worked their way through ordinary lives. But my interlocutor was not satisfied. "But your stories are so specific, and these titles are so abstract." That’s precisely what I like about the titles, I said, the burnished glow of the Sanskrit, their seeming distance from the gritty landscapes of the stories themselves. "No," she said. That wasn’t it, according to her. "These titles are necessary to signal Indianness in the West," she said. By this time, I was annoyed. I’m afraid I was a little short with her. Absurd, I sputtered, I used these titles because of the energy inherent in them, in the electric charge between the abstraction and the concrete.

After the discussion was formally closed, the audience and the writers milled around in the courtyard of the British Council building. I was deep in the middle of a much-needed whisky when the person who I was by now thinking of as Title-Lady walked up. "You misunderstood what I said," she said. "I meant that since ordinary people don’t think about such things as dharma, or use that kind of language, the titles couldn’t have arisen from the stories but were tagged on to signal Indianness in a Western context." I was again bewildered. What I wanted to say was, "then perhaps you and I live in different Indias, or even on different planets." We were standing, after all, in the capital of a nation that had watched the Mahabharata and the Ramayana on television in numbers that had set all-time world records, a nation that had experienced the rise of the BJP and the destruction of the Babri Masjid and widespread riots. I myself was from a city that had been ripped apart by bombs, where a single saffron-wearing man ran the government by remote control and lectured us often about dharma.

But I didn’t say any of this to Title-Lady. I’d just started working on a new novel about the underworld, about Bombay cops and Bad Guys. So, I told her about an evening I’d spent the week before with a police inspector, a man who at the time was working in the criminal investigation department in one of the western suburbs. In a bar, over a beer, he told me about a murder case he had been investigating. He had caught one of the shooters, and then, when he felt he was getting close to the man who had paid for the killing, a man of some influence and power and wealth, he had been told in no uncertain terms by his superiors to back off. "What did you think of that?" I’d asked. He said, "Sometimes I feel that I’m suffocating. But you tell me, Vikram, what is my dharma?" So I told Title-Lady about this, and she nodded, and said, "That’s what I wanted to hear," and was off like a shot into the crowd.

Do you see some similarities or is it just me?


Sacred Games

Vikram Chandra's "Sacred Games" is making its big US entry with lots of positive press. Tyler Cowen has read 100 pages and is already calling it the Novel of the Year.


Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Dhagala lagli kala

Marathi remix hit - very cool. Not new. Translation here.


States I've visited in the US

Strange picture... I've only been to "border" states - not much into the "interior" at all.

create your own visited states map
or check out these Google Hacks.


Countries I've been to

create your own visited countries map
or vertaling Duits Nederlands


Sunday, January 07, 2007

Dil Lutiya

Cool bhangra track: Jazzy B with Apache Indian - Dil Lutiya.



Dirk's CostCo experience

Dirk has an awesome post on his blog about customer service in Germany vs. here in the US. I also love the few-questions-asked return policy at CostCo, Fry's etc. But they can and should go a step further, meseems. CostCo and Fry's have very competent employees at their returns counters. When they ask me a question, I'm willing to give pretty detailed feedback about the products. Why don't they record that feedback? They never seem to care. I wonder why. The manufacturers whose products these stores are selling should certainly care, no?

I bought an Acomdata hard drive enclosure from Fry's a couple of weeks back. The piece of s&*# just didn't work. I called up their support line, was on hold for 50 minutes and finally got thru. I was able to start the unit but it was very flaky. Finally I gave up. I went to Fry's to return it and started giving them detailed feedback, like Dirk. They just wouldn't listen. In this case, though, Fry's had had dozens of them returned and my additional data point was unnecessary.


RSS view of the world

I'm now getting all my web content (WSJ, NYT, CNN etc.) exclusively via Bloglines from today. I think it'll work. I use Bloglines from Treo also, and so it's going to be a lot better than checking 30 different websites separately.

Now if Bloglines can consolidate feeds from different sources on the same topic, that would be fabulous. Like cricket stories from Cricinfo and Rediff, and news stories from NYT, WSJ, CNN etc.

I am yet to figure out how to fix the issue with BoingBoing and Slate feeds where the same stories keep popping back up even after I've viewed them before.

Update: Got up this morning and there were 20+ feeds with lots of updates. But it was very efficient scanning them. Took less than a few minutes. I must say that MSM (mainstream media) is good at creating short, pithy summaries for their RSS feeds.

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