February 2008


The Times of India reports, “[a] survivor-against-all-odds baby, the 1.4 kg girl … had a delivery through her mother’s womb into the toilet bowl of a running train and then right onto the tracks.” Nearly unintelligible prose notwithstanding, holy moley. That’s way more riveting than Georgia the subway cat.

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… is always nice, but if I poured with this pot, the romantic feelings would probably have to be put on hold as I mopped double the mess from my lap. Design via Marla Dawn Home.

Beautiful Children, Charles Bock’s fiction debut (which more or less everybody orgasmed in anticipation of) is available as a free, downloadable PDF courtesy Random House until Friday, February 29 — get it here!

It’s gimmicky, sure, and I don’t know what the publisher’s end game is (demonstrate that even netizens occasionally express demand for finer forms of the written word?), but I’ll be honest, I downloaded it. And I can’t wait to start reading it, if only to be able to put forth an informed opinion about this middle-aged wunderkind everyone’s talking about.

A group in Indore, Madhya Pradesh, India, just set the world record for the largest tea party — 32,000 people gathered for a ritual cuppa, breaking the record previously set in Japan.

“From an industrialist to the man on the street, a cup of tea is a major bonding factor in India,” said Sanjay Mani, general manager of the Dainik Bhaskar newspaper, which helped arrange the event.

Darjeeling, anyone?

A sketch of the building of the Golden Gate Bridge done by my great-grandfather, Stephen Thomas Hennessy, some time in what I'm guess were the 1930s.

A view of the south tower of the Golden Gate Bridge under construction, from either 1935 or 1936, courtesy the San Francisco Museum.

My mom just made a pilgrimmage to the grandparent’s abode in the Sierra Nevadas, where she took a series of photos of her grandfather’s sketches from the Bay Area in the early twentieth century. I don’t know much about Stephen, but I have culled a few facts and/or amassed some anecdotes that may be historical conjecture:
— He was born in Cincinnatti, had moved to St. Louis by 1920, and ended up in California in the 1930s (according to U.S. Census records)
— My mother claims he drove a motorcycle built by a Native American across the country
— He painted alongside S.C. Yuan and spent much of his time mimicking landscapes in Carmel-by-Sea
— Walt Disney approached him to work with him as a studio artist, but Stephen refused
— He sketched maniacally, on any material available to him (which included brown paper bags, tissue paper, and cardboard inserts discarded by dry cleaners)

I’ve created a set of photos of his work on my Flickr account. It’s got landscapes, a few fabulous figure studies, and, of course, those select sketches of the Golden Gate going up. My aunt, an artist herself, is rumored to have squirrelled away about 20 more.

The San Francisco Museum, from which I brazenly stole the above image for comparison, has a great repository of images of the Golden Gate Bridge being built.

America Hurrah’s Bill Roddy also offers pictures he took while the bridge was going up, which he later published as a set of postcards. Another comprehensive set was posted by history_eyes_05 on WebShots; numerous books on the subject have also been published.

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Current obsession? Making my morning brew in a Mono Fillio 50-ounce pot. Now, if only I could justify spending $139 on a tea accessory …

A piece by Salman Rushdie, “The Shelter of the World,” ran in last week’s New Yorker, and while I didn’t find the story (a tale of Emperor Akbar and maybe-real, maybe-imaginary wife Jodha) as gripping as I have some of his work, one passage jumped out at me:

“The court was also full of foreigners, pomaded exotics, weather-beaten merchants, narrow-faced priests from the West, boasting in ugly, undesirable tongues about the majesty of their lands, their gods, their kings. When the Emperor showed her the pictures of their mountains and valleys they’d brought with them, she thought of the Himalayas and of Kashmir and laughed at the foreigners’ paltry approximations of natural beauty, their vaals and aalps, half-words to describe half-things. Their kings were savages, and they had nailed their god to a tree. What did she want with people as ridiculous as that?

They came in search of—what, exactly? Nothing of use. If they had possessed any wisdom, the inutility of their journeying would have been obvious to them. Travel was pointless. It removed you from the place in which you had a meaning, and to which you gave meaning in return by dedicating your life to it, and spirited you away into fairlylands where you were, and looked, frankly absurd.

Not sure whether it’s happenstance or by calculation, but Rushdie’s not the only person who’s got something to say about the erstwhile emperor. Jodhaa Akbar, a Bollywood flick billed as “a sixteenth-century love story about a marriage of alliance that gave birth to true love between a great Mughal emperor, Akbar, and a Rajput princess, Jodhaa,” debuted on February 15 and has been in the news ever since, not least because its historical accuracy has been called into question. The Times gave it a fairly good review, but people in Rajasthan, Madhya Pradesh, Sonepat, and Ambala will have to wait for pirated VCDs of Ashutosh Gowarikar’s Cecil B. DeMille-esque grasp of cinematic grandeur.

The Times of India offers a fairly good precis of recent controversies related to Bollywood releases; the Hindustan Times also chimes in with analysis of the phenomenon.

Mass hysteria, the making of a mountain out of a molehill? Or a microcosm of a deep sense of unrest about (historical and contemporary) identity in India? I can’t say that I have any answers, or even insight. But Bollywood — and artistic expression, disciplined studies or street-level outpourings — does, however, seem like an important vehicle for understanding the subcontinent; I certainly find it, and the way people in the middle class interact with it, more enlightening than figures from the World Bank about the economy’s growth.

Additional links:
Bollywood literacy for the 1990s and today, a Berkeley course coordinated by Leena Kamat and Katherine Good
Hindi cinema: making meaning of a popular culture
Desi critics
Queering Bollywood
Bollywood as India’s cultural ambassador
Bollywood for the skeptical
Upperstall: a better view of Indian cinema
Bollywood fashion police
BollySpace 2.0
Beth loves Bollywood

Profusion of art is connected to my recent procurement of a combination printer, scanner, and copier. Fervor will fade soon, I imagine.

Related:

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79 years of posters for Best Picture winners. Fabulous repository of images, from 1927-28’s Wings to 2006’s The Departed. Tuning in tonight?

Bonus: Link to a blog that presents a graphic of posters for this year’s best picture nominees: Juno, Atonement, No Country for Old Men, There Will Be Blood, and Michael Clayton.

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“Indian Pink and Orange,” mixed media, Hermes spring 2008 advertisement and a 2005 photograph of a group of women pilgrims in Kovalam, Kerala.

 

The Times of India reports that it’s now as expensive to lease a flat in Mumbai as it is in NYC.  Nauzer Bharucha writes:

“A three-bedroom apartment on Manhattan’s Upper East Side can be rented for about $5,000 to $8,000, or Rs 2 lakh-Rs 3.20 lakh a month. In Mumbai, a similar-sized apartment in any good building between central Mumbai and Bandra could cost as much, or even more, according to realty experts.  …

“The rental segment of the residential market is booming mainly because of expats and a large number of senior executives belonging to corporates setting up base in Mumbai,” claimed Joygopal Sanyal of Jones Lang Lasalle Megraj, a global property consultancy firm. According to him, large flats in south Mumbai could fetch upwards of Rs 10 lakh a month.”

This is bloody bonkers! I guess I got out of India at the right time ….

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I can’t believe amazing artist Ryan let this linger at the bottom of a drawer. I wants. I wants!

By the way, his whole site is amazing, and I urge you to buy some of this dude’s artwork. It’s masterful.

In honor of my discovery of Steal This Wiki (based on Abbie Hoffman’s Steal This Book), I present a bit of culture-jamming from the mean (har har) streets of Williamsburg, Brooklyn — the above picture is of homemade stickers with slogans such as “We are rapacious developers” pasted onto a real estate company’s plate-glass storefront etched with “plain-folks” platitudes so unfriendly bohemians begin to bond with the nouveau riche couples snapping up million-dollar condos in post-industrial playland.

Bonus: I love public art, even if (or particularly when!) it’s a bit rough around the edges, as evidenced by this street scene from N. 6th —

Jezebel reports on a new exhibit in France aimed at educating children and teens about sex. Elsewhere, teachers, parents, and students debated sex ed in Indian high schools; the education ministry in Israel pushed for programs to raise awareness about sexual violence and harassment; and in America, the battle continues over abstinence-only courses and those with a more comprehensive view of sex education. Is it me, or does it seem strange that other cultures are attempting to embrace the availability of information vitally important to public health while America seeks to repress it? Perhaps this is not a fair assessment — indeed, maybe I should be criticizing other countries for not more wholeheartedly embracing sex education to this point — but I am continually amazed about the ignorance displayed by so many of my countrymen (and women) concerning more base affairs than should probably be mentioned in this space. No, I don’t think that 11-year-olds should be trading sexual favors, and in general, I think a lot of people have sex before they’re really ready — but isn’t it more effective to, at the very least, equip those with the options in front of them with basic facts about reproduction, rights afforded by our Constitution (and judicial precedent), and resources they can turn to if they get in a jam?

Foreign Policy posted an absolutely chilling audio clip, courtesy E. Benjamin Skinner, author of A World Enslaved, of a pimp selling a girl to a man in Bucharest for a used car.

I know there are arguments for legalizing prostitution, and perhaps adequate legislation could better address the problem of sex slavery better than a shadowy journalist type, a rogue armed with little more than a tape recorder, but … this is just it. The depths. Despair. Humanity dark as night.

Interesting write-up of a photographer’s work on explicit graffiti in Bombay’s commuter rail lines (an example of which I’ve posted above — taken about a year ago when the hub and I visited a friend in Mumbai) — Chirodeep exhibited some of his pieces at the city’s Kala Ghoda Arts Festival.

This was the tenth year of the Kala Ghoda event; a full listing of artists and workshops is here. A blog chronicling some of the work from the festival is still being maintained — and added to — which takes the fest to a new level; even though I’m no longer in India, I can get a feel for Kala Ghoda’s heady, artistic atmosphere. If that’s not enough, there are some great pictures at Fractal Enlightenment.

Man. Wish I could have gone.

I don’t care if dead bodies occasionally bump the side of my schooner — the Times’piece on the houseboat people of the Hudson has me piqued. Anyone selling a reliable watercraft built for two (and a couple cats)?

LINK.

I don’t normally turn to the Times for my pop culture news, but I found “Boys Will Be Boys, Girls Will Be Hounded by the Media” a rather interesting take on the media circus surrounding Britney Spears, Amy Winehouse, Paris Hilton, and the like — as well as the noted lack of said circus around men spiraling out of control.

“Ow! That’s my head!”

“Frankly, you natty bagel hipster, I don’t care. When your pate is made of sweet, sweet French-toast bagel, all bets are off.”

(Or, a short homage to The Bagel Store, 247 Bedford Ave., Williamsburg, Brooklyn.)

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