December 2007


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I already have more teacups (and teapots) than is necessary for any well-adjusted 24-year-old woman, but I just can’t stop myself when I see something that would enhance the drinking ritual. From Bits and Pieces: Heart-shaped teacup and saucer! Only (OK, only?) $12.99, or two or more for $9.99 each! Ooh la la!

(They also have a fun 3D jigsaw puzzle of a teapot and cup. Mmm. Gifties.)

I will go see Pieter Hugo’s exhibition, “The Hyena and Other Men,” at the Yossi Milo Gallery (525 W. 25th St.) before its run ends on Jan. 12. Hugo followed a troupe of what are sometimes described as wandering minstrels and sometimes described as animal charmers, men in Nigeria who travel with chained hyenas, babboons, and snakes. He won the first prize for portraiture in the 2006 World Press Photo awards and is genuinely interesting, in that rather than exploiting this already-charged topic, he takes quiet, sparse photographs contrasting man and beast, wildness and domestication. Top notch.

“Wombs for rent: Surrogacy business booming in India” (Associated Press)

The Indian/global press has been covering this story for some time now, but it’s a pretty compelling stuff, so I’ll let the article’s nut graf speak for itself:

“More than 50 women in this city [Anand, India] are now pregnant with the children of couples from the United States, Taiwan, Britain and beyond. The women earn more than many would make in 15 years. But the program raises a host of uncomfortable questions that touch on morals and modern science, exploitation and globalization, and that most natural of desires: to have a family.”

 

Tonight’s episode of The Amazing Race season 12 million (or whatever) is set in Mumbai, India. Moments of zen?

“Seeing Vyxsin twisting, turning, and contorting her body is always a highlight for me, and I think it was a highlight for the instructor as well” (Kynt, token goth, during a “speed bump” obstacle that involved them emulating a series of asanas, because yoga is all about tawdriness, titillation, and ogling supple young women)

“Follow the music to the bridegroom? Do we give it to the elephant?” (Token hot blond, looking to deliver a garland of flowers she just made)

“You know, I think this guy just wanted a free ride” (Racer — more, racer with race-induced hernia! — conned into allowing a young man to ride atop his bicycle load of gas cylinders under the aegis of getting directions from a local)

 “We’ve gotta find someone who speaks English!” (Token hot blond, again, who seems unaware that there are approximately 100 million English-language speakers in the subconty, the great majority of which are in metropolises like Mumbai)

Also? Obligatory India marvels: Man in a turban! Crazy traffic! Bollywood! Yoga! People dancing! Wedding! (Check, check, check, check, check, check, and check!) What could be more mystical and exciting?

Personally, I wish they had made them ride the local trains. My favorite picture of all time? Graffiti on one of the cars. Witness perfection:

Slow trains sucks!

So, I considered not posting these, because, well, they’re juvenile, they’re not very well executed, and they’re cartoonish, but what the hey. Let it all hang out, yes? Two excerpts from a series of small canvases for my kitchen. The theme, obviously? “Cookin’!” That’s right, I dropped the G. I’m that serious.

I think I was a pointillist in a past life.

The Rochester Democrat & Chronicle reports that travelers on the New York Thruway can pick up free coffee or tea from 11 p.m. Monday (New Year’s Eve!) to 7 a.m. Tuesday (Welcome, 2008!) at any of the thruway’s 27 travel plazas.

While I applaud the effort to keep drivers safe, a steaming cuppa is no panacea for drunk drivers — no, not everyone chooses to imbibe on NYE, and many designate someone to safely steer them home, but it’s an issue. A big issue. If you’re going to drink, take public transport. Eat something, then wait a few hours before you pick up the keys. If you’re still soaking in gin, stay the night at your host’s place. Just, uh, be safe ya’ll.

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 Interesting (quick) read on Bloomberg about a pretty sizeable drop in tea exports from India. Exports are down 24%, attributable partly to the rupee’s appreciation and partly to an increase in supplies from Kenya.

What are Kenyan teas like? Anyone tried? Can you get all tea snob and check out their estate wares like you can with Makaibari, &c.?

(Picture is from trip to Dharamsala in February — it’s always tea o’clock in my house!)

“Why some U.S. soldiers feel at home in Iraq,” Lawrence Kaplan, Slate

Christmas isn’t the best time to ask your Marine stepbrother whether he’s going back to Iraq or not. After — what, six years? — B’s term was up; he initially signed on the the reserves to put himself through college (a bachelor’s in exercise science, of little use unless one wants to be a gym rat for life). He was on the front line invading Iraq (driving a truck that was fitted to detect landmines) and returned once (or was it twice?) to the country, fighting a war he didn’t want to understand, but coming back for occasional holidays, when he would tell us he was sure he saw Saddam Hussein driving around in a taxi (“I should have just fucking shot him, I should have just fucking shot him”) and then describe, using the Thanksgiving turkey as a guide, how to quickly kill a man with little more than a pocket knife. He’s gruff and blunt and never shies away from what he feels is his duty; when they asked him if he wanted to reenlist, he deferred for a bit to think about it, because he didn’t want the new guys to go to Iraq without someone there who “knew” the place. Noble, or maybe foolhardy; a way of reenvisioning his hastily chosen displacement?

(I still don’t know what he decided; I could e-mail his girlfriend, or ask our parents, but I almost don’t want to know.)

(Instead of drinking my way through the Village …)

1. Gustav Klimt at the Neue Galerie — an old favorite; what’s not to like about Viennese art nouveau?

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2. “My Complement, My Enemy, My Oppressor, My Love,” Kara Walker, Whitney Museum of American Art — probably the best-reviewed show of the year; I don’t explore contemporary American art nearly enough as I probably should.

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3. “This is War!”, Robert Capa, International Center for Photography — a retrospective of the Magnum vet’s war photojournalism, and a reminder that the images coming out of Iraq now lack a certain independent spirit of earlier eras.

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4. “Pricked: Extreme Embroidery,” multiple artists, Museum of Art and Design — I stitch, I bitch, therefore I am?

5. “Arts of Kashmir,” Asia Society — a deeply divided region that nonetheless houses some of the most beautiful art in the known world.

Morning
Oolong tea
You and me

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My aunt and uncle’s holiday gift to their grandchildren: a book they wrote and illustrated together, called The Adventures of Rose Pettles. My aunt is a painter, but her watercolors border more on the tangibly realistic; her piquant illustrations of fairies and pirates go in a delightfully different direction.

Communal tensions crackle between Christians and Hindus in Orissa, India: The Hindustan Times, Time

Fallout from Benazir Bhutto’s assasination: The Associated Press, The New York Times

Price increases hitting the tea industry in India: The Times of India

Coffee culture in the subconty: The Independent

Yeah, when you’re the youngest of seven kids, the holidays tend to be an extended affair.  

 

Grandchildren were amused by crinkled paper ….

 

… unholy quantities of food and drink were consumed …

 

… and whilst jiggling a four-month-old on his knee, Uncle B regaled the family with a story about airport security personnel overlooking mortar shells falling out of his backpack when he returned from Iraq. (Similar TSA officials, it should be noted, frisked my very Indian, heavily bearded and mustachioed husband at JFK International Airport, and grilled him for 15 minutes about looking “nervous” — I mean, he was preparing to visit his in-laws for the first time, how else would he look? — as I stood impatiently, waiting to make our way to the gate.)

Oregon ceases to exist. Back to Met Supermarket and Key Food and our small impersonal bathroom, which doesn’t matter to the husband since he’s again working 16-hour days.

On the upside, I got some new books from the library: Beethoven Was One-Sixteenth Black (Nadine Gordimer), What is the What (Dave Eggers), and The Abstinence Teacher (Tom Perrotta). Until the office reopens, I plan on painting, reading in the bathtub, and consuming mass quantities of food, like my patented sweet sweet potatoes (butter, brown sugar, cinnamon, and mashed yams). Maybe I’ll come up with something else to do, or maybe I’ll just enjoy my bit of deserved sloth.

Family, food, cream puffs, tiny disco balls … what more can a girl ask for?

Gridskipper, the bastion of hip urban travel, has for some reasons decided to highlight the benefit of Christmassing in India…without actually saying anything. John Rambow notes:

Christmas in India! What could be wackier? It’s true that Christians make up only a sliver of India’s total population. But in some areas, such as parts of Kerala and Goa, on the southwest coast, their numbers may be as high as 20%. Additionally, cities that were once centers of power under the British Raj, including Kolkata (Calcutta), Bangalore, and Chennai, also have fair numbers of Jesus-loving types, and that means garlands, nativity scenes, and Christmas stars are easy to spot in December.

Yes, what COULD be wackier? Those heathens, always coopting our perfectly benign, semi-secular traditions; what will they do next — buy their sweethearts chocolates on Valentine’s Day? Insane-o!

What disturbs me most about this, though, is not that Rambow is so patronizingly astounded that people in another culture might be Christian and/or celebrate “Western” holidays, but that Gridskipper — which I find generally informative and helpful — moves so far away from its generally palatable tips about occasion- and location-specific to-dos. Why not stick with your formula and highlight the five best places for a Christmas brunch in Delhi or Mumbai, rather than mawkishly marveling about another symptom of globalization?

To fill their void, my picks for making merry in India’s capitol:

1) Wenger’s in CP

2) Pam’s Breakfast & Food Centre (for more egg-based propaganda than you can shake a stick at)

3) Chocolate Wheel in Jor Bagh

4) The German Christmas carnival in Chanakyapuri

5) INA Market, across from Dilli Haat, for any fresh fixing you need to create your own Christmas dinner (even the notoriously hard-to-find jellied cranberry sauce)

(Alternatively, some ideas from journalists at the Hindustan Times, Times of India, and The Indian Express.)

My step-aunt Jana died this morning. I barely knew her, and if I were as vociferously Mormon as her extended family, I would be questioning my faith. What kind of benevolent omniscent being takes his own on the eve of his holiest day? Or, conversely, is this an attestation to the brute injustice of all life, proof that the world is unfair regardless of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Sikhism? I don’t know. And we’re all too involved in our immediate circumstances to ponder over the point too long. Here’s to mindfulness, reflection, and the dawning of a new day.

Back to blogging. New and improved. Preemptive publishing goal for 2008 (hello, resolutions!): Updated content five out of seven days of the week, or 260 posts per year.

And: What’s with the title? Well, “bed tea,” in India, is the tea that you have right when you wake up, or right before you go to sleep. It’s a habit, but a pleasurable one; without bed tea, the day feels just a little bit emptier. This little corner of cyberspace is dedicated to beautiful daily traditions that don’t have to be a drag; it’s dedicated to art in the every day, to the making of new habits that die hard, and to friendly collaboration with a tiny kick of caffeine — the jolt that gets one’s neurons to firing.