Snap Year Apostrophes: 2004

You have some nerve. You couldn’t be one of those years in the late 70s or mid 80s who all blend into each other. You couldn’t be like the late 80s when status quo dictated solid pacing, good character development and adversity that is conquered through hard work and dedication. I didn’t expect you to be like 1993 or 1995, the best years ever. You could at least have been like 1998 or 1999 – filled with intense experiences. But no. You had to lay claim as one of those “sigh” year, the “shorthand for misery” year, the “well-at-least-it-isn’t-as-bad-as-THAT-year” year.

You had a nice start. The research trip in Pakistan, the rolling around looking for engravings in graveyards like some academic Indiana Jones. But, by the time spring bloomed, you started to show your true colors. First, you took away Dean. Then, you took away any hope for the future by letting them win. Then, you took away the loves and lives of hundreds of thousands and knocked the fucking earth off it’s axis. I would ask you why? But I know you are just made up of those inexorable ticks of a clock chasing the tocks. Someone else knows. Someone else better have an explanation.

Still you had your moments. The academic conferences, the Vegas madness, the GOTV in Milwaukee, the Halloween party. At the very least, you kept me, my family and my friends in good health. For that, I am grateful to you. And I know, I know, that the next year will be monumental. [with apologies to moacir]


What she said.

Look for me in the new year [except for one special post scheduled for dec. 24].

I wish all my readers a warm and bubbly break and I hope that 2005 knocks your socks off.

Free Bajaj

Been a bit slow here lately. ‘Tis the holiday season after all. There are some exciting things happening lately in India though. This whole MMS [multi media service – trans. sending and storing video clips on your cell phone] mess, for example.

Some Delhi school kid recorded a tryst with his girlfriend back in November and passed the clip on to his friends – via his cell. It spread like, uh, wild fire through Delhi and beyond, eventually, ending up on – the Indian eBay. The authorities tracked the kid and arrested him, arrested the kid who sold it on but also arrested the CEO of for allowing the listing.

Two things are of immediate interest to me: the cultural impact of surreptitious video-recordings and the tensions between the IT elite and traditional bureaucratic/political elite in India.

The internet cafe scandals in Pakistan, as covered on CM here and here, show that salacious footage finds a mass market in a heartbeat. This is not purely a technological issue, in my view, but the rapidity of exposure makes it at least partly that. Like I said earlier, such materials and tapes have always existed but now they are accessible quickly and cheaply to every pimple-ridden teenager in South Asia. Anecdotal evidence suggests that such clips are becoming increasingly common. I have heard similair stories from other friends in Pakistan. I hesitate to say that it is a class issue but that may very well be how the press eventually spins it – the rich immoral kids with their toys. At least, a few editorials in India already point that way with phrases about the “posh New Friends Colony” where the boy lives.

Now about that poor Avnish Bajaj, the Harvard-returned CEO of This guy is an American citizen and eBay has protested his arrest. Why arrest the CEO of an ebiz company? He wasn’t diligent enough in checking each listing? Many have said that this arrest will curtail IT development while the press is enthusiastically noting that he will now eat 4 rotis and a sabzi a day. Some are miffed that the Condi Rice (I need a nic for her) is getting involved. The Indians, it appears, are getting testy with the Americans. More anecdotal evidence about that. Anyways, I find it curious that the police jumped so quickly to arrest the CEO of a tech company when the guy responsible for yet another train tragedy goes free. Obviously, the IT elite have no real purchase in the Indian bureaucracy. With the foreign press focused and the State Dept. watching, it will be interesting to see how the Indian government handles all this extra attention. Just let the guy out.

This case might prove to be one of those media-circus cases that have a cultural and legal impact in India.

In related news: Pakistan Cricket team can call this guy. 491 runs. Unbelievable.

Sunday Reading for The Writer

It is absolutely freezing outside but we went to get a xmas tree. What is with the tree? Really. This pagan wants to know. Maybe I should put in a request to the great Sharon Howard.

  • In the NYT, Curtis Sittenfeld wonders aloud about the sexual magnetism of writers and their prose. Jhumpa Lahiri is namechecked. Is there a gender bias in public perception of a writer’s hotness? I dunno but there are authors with whom I have fallen in love based on their ideas and their texts – they are predominantly male. That either proves Sittenfeld’s thesis or disproves my heterosexuality. But, I also know a few Iowa Writers and I can vouch for their intense sex appeals – male and female. I predict groupies galore for them.
  • In the Telegraph, Noel Malcolm gives a warm reading to Bernard Potter’s book about the curiously missing Empire. I eagerly await my copy of the book as I have taken to heart his admonishment to not review something one hasn’t actually read.
  • In TLS, Ali Smith reviews the reviews of reviewer Rosemary Dinnage – a personal favorite of mine. “Part of her art,” Ali Smith writes, “has always been an instinct for when and where to impress the presence of her own personality on both her readers and her subjects”. Words of wisdom for all of us who write – blogs or dissertations or bestsellers.
  • Richard Taruskin is a renowned historian of music [particularly his Stravinsky work] who decided to write a single volume history textbook for college kids and ended up with a 13 year long-in-the-making, 4,000 page, six volume history of Western Music. Don’t you just hate when that happens? The interview in NYT is quite fascinating and has elevated him to new heights in my estimation. Some notables in the interview: his answer to how a historian tackles objectivity [non-partisanly]; his conception of a historian [Yes, I feel very strongly that historians are storytellers]; and his short-term plans for the future [But first, I’m going to take a nice long nap]. So, it should be after the deed is done. And done well.