Just Illin’

I had a nice post planned about what I have been doing for the past 6 months which culminated on saturday.
but.
i am a sick, sick, sick man.

so, hang on tight, gentle readers. I will be back.

ps. farangi can chime in with an entry anytime. that slacker. feel free to bash him in the comments.

Open Letter to Bunim-Murray

Women+Islam is hot, she said. If those were your keywords, then you would be getting job talks all over the place. Yeah!? Well, who in heck decides what is hot? I retorted. Is it a dark room filled with greying sanskritists flashing one word cards for responses? Globalization. Flash. Terrorism. Flash. Muslim Historiography in India. Crash and Burn. Maybe. She replied. Or maybe, Paris and Tinkerbell decide what is “hot”. And so, dear readers, came the epiphany. After googling for some how-to, below is the actual email I send to Bunim-Murray, the producers of The Simple Life:


From sepoy@chapatimystery.com Thu Feb 24 21:44:41 2005
Received: (qmail 12601 invoked by uid 10134); 25 Feb 2005 03:44:04 -0000
Date: 25 Feb 2005 03:44:04 -0000
Message-ID: <20050225034404.12598.qmail@word.wingt.com>
Subject: Pitch for The Simple Life: Going Academic
Content-Type: text/plain; charset=”iso-8859-1″
To: jmurray@bunim-murray.com

Dear Mr. Murray,

Imagine The Simple Life meets The Apprentice. Imagine The Simple Life meets Legally Blonde. Imagine The Simple Life meets Gladiator [the Collosium bits not the boring Roman politics bits]. Imagine The Simple Life meets The Godfather [the shooting bits AND the politics bits]. Are you excited, yet!?

Premise for season 4: Paris Hilton helps choose the next hire in the history department of prestigious Ivy league university. First 3 episodes, Paris and Tinkerbell are intimately involved in choosing the short list of candidates. The fun that Paris could have with the wacky c.v’s [Tamil for 6 years! HA!]. Or with the wacky names of applicants! All this while surrounded by bumbling, brooding, tweedy academics desperately trying to impress her! Hilarity ensues! Next 3 episodes, Paris sits in as young PhDs are hurdled into the room for interviews. She picks who is hot and Who is “Tired!” [as in…subaltern studies is sooo tired!]. Next 3 episodes, Paris hangs out behind the scene with the 3 short listed candidates as they plan for the biggest afternoon of their 12-yr long doctoral career. Will they be able to concentrate? Can the candidate pull it off while Paris hides pages 4-18 of his job-talk, Fatima Jinnah: The Schumann Factor?. Hilarity continues to ensue!

In the end, it comes to 2 candidates and Paris gets to know them and their sexual histories before choosing one LUCKY winner to be Assistant Professor of History! Tenure Track!

There is a lot of variations we can introduce. We can jury-rig the pool to include a “conservative” job candidate [these are very hard to locate but I believe Tufts has one or two], a “gay” candidate [bisexual is hotter, of course], the heavyweight “bengali woman” and the underdog “brown man”. Perhaps we can really reel in the pool by finding a conservative brown man [dinesh d’souza isn’t available, I emailed already].

In terms of backstory, we should try to get some conflicts by introducing the advisor-who-slept-with-the-grad-student and the famous-academic-who-used-his-research-students-work-for-his-own. These are comedy gold!

For future shows, we can have Paris teach the Hum core! or deliver a “What Matters to Me and Why?” with Martha Nussbaum! The possibilities are endless!

I eagerly await further communication on this matter.

History Carnivals

I have been horribly remiss in not pointing out to my readers the History Carnivals: #1, #2, and now, #3. Erroneously, I assume that everyone reads the same blogs I do and, hence, knows all these bits. What a dunce I am.

If you like this sort of stuff, and I have been accused of over-indulgence here, I urge you to set aside some time this weekend and read these great entries. And let no man or woman tell you that the blogging world is nothing but a political echo chamber. Little do they know.

Word of the Day: Islamist

I don’t like the word Islamist – not one bit. Today, I would like to take a skewed opinion poll from my lagging readership. What do you think about that word? In a headline today, NYT writes, “Shiites in Iraq Back Islamist to Be Premier”.

Islamist is referenced in the very first sentence: ” Ibrahim al-Jaafari, a Shiite doctor with an Islamist bent, was chosen Tuesday by the victorious Shiite alliance as its candidate to become Iraq’s new prime minister.” With an Islamist bent. I read the article with great interest to try and find which of the two meanings OED provides for Islamist applied:
a. Islamism, n. Add: Islamist n., (b) one who is versed in Islamic studies.
or
b. Islamism, n. The religious system of the Muslims; Muhammadanism. So Islamist, an orthodox Muslim; Islamistic a., Islamic [OED]

So, the NYT is obviously going for the second definition, but not quite adhering to the script. Look at this para:

Dr. Jaafari, the Shiite alliance picked a soft-spoken leader whose personal modesty and ties to the Dawa Party, a victim of bloody purges carried out by Mr. Hussein, have made him, at least according to opinion polls, the most popular leader in Iraq. A native of the holy city of Karbala, where his father worked at the Imam Hussein shrine, Dr. Jaafari fled Iraq in 1980, after Mr. Hussein began a campaign of killing and torturing thousands of Dawa members. Since returning to Iraq after Mr. Hussein was toppled, Dr. Jaafari has cut a cautious political path, tacitly supporting the American presence here but staking out a strongly adversarial position on many key issues.

As a member of the American-appointed Iraqi Governing Council, Dr. Jaafari pushed for a more expansive role for Islam in the country’s interim constitution. And he was one of several Shiite leaders who initially refused to sign the document, based on his opposition to a provision that would allow a two-thirds majority in three of Iraq’s 18 provinces to nullify the constitution when it goes before voters later this year. Dr. Jaafari, whose Shiites represent a 60 percent majority in the country, said the provision was undemocratic.
He eventually signed the interim constitution, but even now says he may lead a move to reverse the provisions he opposed last year. That prospect is viewed with alarm by many groups here, including Kurds, secular parties, and the Americans.

The CSM also used Islamist in a similiar fashion in the headline, “A ‘pragmatic’ Islamist for Iraq”, a few days ago defining Jaafari as:

As a politician, Jaafari presents a blend of a secular style, human rights rhetoric, and commitment to Islamic values that sometimes seem contradictory to Western observers. But his friends and allies say no contradiction exists – that he’s a pragmatic politician who sees Islam as the best guarantee against more turmoil, and who believes that a modern interpretation of Islam’s political role can be found that’s acceptable to most who live here.
“Iraq’s minorities must be protected, and they must be given their rights,” Jaafari said in a recent interview with the Monitor. “But we must also respect the majority, so Islam should be the official religion of the state … and we shouldn’t have any laws that contradict Islam.” “He looks at Islam as a bridge to all humanity, not just for on particular type of people,” says Mr. Khadimi. “He doesn’t want an Islamic republic like Iran’s, or a system like Saudi Arabia’s. He wants to see something modernized and that recognizes that Iraqis are closely tied to their religion and traditions. He’s going with what the Iraqi people want.”

In both cases, the reference is to a politician who may or may not be a devout Muslim but is using Islam as a political tool to reform/enact laws in the land.

From MSM, lets move to the blogosphere. Here, Islamist, has a very specific meaning.

Islamist, hence, can mean someone who studies Islam, someone who is an “orthodox” believer [whatever that means], someone who is using Islam as a political tool for mobilization, someone who wants to bring back the Golden Age of Islam, someone who endorses resistance against govts. and civilians, someone who is engaged in subversive or terrorist acts against the US/West, someone somewhere anyone anywhere who is a MUSLIM – a practitioner of Islam.

You see my frustration? Is Bush ever refered to as having a “Christian bent”? And I abhor the implications in “bent”. Is Will Bennet a Christianist? Or how about Billy Graham? Or James Dobson? Can you tell me with a straight face that the faith of a billion people – with all of its complexities, rigidities, varieties of expression and belief – can all be described unapologetically and bluntly by one word? And that word a condemning one at that? Because the taint is not on the believer. The taint is on the faith. No matter what you say or do, your avowal taints you with that disease which may be dormant, mild or in full onset but it is always there. And that is exactly the point made by the Pipes and the Malkins.

To be precise, NYT also qualifies Islamist with “militant” or “radical” in certain cases but the curse remains. Should the NYT and CSM use the same word to describe Jafaari as they do for al-Zarqawi? Is there no difference between the two? Is there a problem here? Am I being overly sensitive? Have we lost the word “Islam” forever?

Kottke Goes Pro

I have been reading kottke for a long time and always liked him esp. the tone and cadence of his writing. Today, he declared that he is going pro: “blogging for blogging’s sake”. He has quit his job and will attempt to write the blog only for a year. I, for one, am psyched for him and rooting for his success.

Usually, I hate to indulge in talking about blogging on my blogs (or anywhere for that matter), but let me make this one exception. Blogging as a medium is not revolutionary. What is revolutionary is the maturation of the consumers of digital knowledge. There were static pages, way back when, that were personal journals, thoughts, screeds writ large and there are blogs aplenty that still do that. There may have been good writers and good content back in that day but it was hard to find, quantify and aggregate. All that and more is now the most mundane aspect of blogging. Good bloggers are just as good as MSM and quite capable of extending the public dialogue.

Kottke’s step, in a way, can be the next evolution in this model. Like a subscription to the Week, I can support my blogger in doing whatever she does best and I like best. I mean, I don’t demand any specific content from the NewYorker – just quality content. Such it shall be for some lucky bloggers. Though, like NewYorker, I don’t think Kottke should simply reject ads out of hand. I see some future in text-only ads; sponsored links. One always assumes that this somehow, somewhere will assail the editorial integrity, but the newspapers have been living with this for centuries. Why can’t the bloggers?

Anyways, good luck to Kottke. I will support him. So should you. Maybe I won’t even need to become a tenured history prof. Maybe, I can just blog about history and get paid and never have to submit myself to the vagaries of the search committees.

Eulogy for Thompson

[Sepoy notes: Gentle Readers, my good friend farangi shares his thoughts about HST. If HST lives on in anyone’s soul – I point squarely to farangi and his upcoming saga of rocking in Jerusalem.]

Rumor holds that Hunter Thompson has been temporarily dead several times already; each round of scuttlebutt credited those lapses into the hereafter to his penchant for aggressive recreation. He himself admitted to being surprised that he had survived the seventies. In the foreword to The Great Shark Hunt, a collection of his last good work, Thompson registers his surprise at being alive:
Continue reading Eulogy for Thompson