Archive for the 'Blogs & Blogging' Category

Eating and Belonging: a Conversation

a conversation

So, I met this girl… on the internet.

No, that doesn’t really capture it. To begin with, she’s a woman, not a girl. A really, really smart one.

More to the point, we met quite by accident, not on JDate or ashleymadison.com. It seems we both live in, and blog about Pondicherry. And we are both a little food-obsessed. So we started corresponding about these things.

Deepa Reddy is a cultural anthropologist by profession, an artist by natural talent and temperament, and a cook by passion. Her blog, Pâticheri, is a thing of beauty, thoughtfulness, and deliciousness. During one of our exchanges — about the semiotics of baking or some such thing — she suggested that it might be fun to take our “ethnographic free-play” public, to post our back-and-forth on our blogs in real-time. With you, Dear Reader, adding your own “deep play” (I promise, that will be my one-and-only cultural anthropology joke) in the comments, this might just be an interesting experiment.

After loosely settling on a topic — national identity and all-things-food — we have decided to let it rip. Let the wild rumpus begin!

MBJ

The Conversation Thread
1. So American! (Deepa) 15 July 2012
2. You Are Having One American Nature Only, I Am Telling (MBJ) 16 July 2012
3. Cosmopolitan Comforts (Deepa) 20 July 2012
4. No Accounting for Taste (MBJ) 24 July 2012
5. What a Mess! (Deepa) 10 August 2012
6. Tell Me What You Eat and I Will Tell You Who You Are (MBJ) 21 August 2012
Reader Comments…

Pages: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7

Skins and Steel: a First-Person-Plural History of Calypso Culture in Vancouver

Skins and Steel

All the important stuff on this blog seems to happen in the comments, rather than in my original posts, which anyway have been few-and-far-between of late; and it was in a comment that I mentioned Vanessa Richards’s brilliant show Skins and Steel, which premiered for a two-evening run in November. It is being reprised for a special one-night performance at the Vancity Theatre tomorrow, Thursday, 23 February, as part of Black History Month programming. I urge you to see it.

When I wrote about Skins and Steel, the focus of my discussion was a brief film that plays midway through the show — a “remix” done by Vanessa of a 1960′s era CBC documentary about her parents’ interracial marriage — that fit into a theme of mixed-racedness I had been exploring. I mentioned the stage performance itself only in passing, promising to write a more complete review. Sloth being what it is, that fuller assessment never happened.

The show is no longer fresh-enough in my mind to present a review, per se; but here’s a thumbnail sketch. It traces the introduction of Afro-Caribbean dance and music to Vancouver. The Afro Caribs were a drum-and-dance calypso ensemble, founded in Vancouver when Rudy Richards (Vanessa’s father — and the guy soaring in the photo above), Felix Assoon, Clyde Griffith, and Ron Rogers came from the West Indies in the mid-1950′s to study at UBC. They are now approaching their 80′s, but they perform with a sassy verve that gives a nice sense of how the exoticism and expressiveness of calypso rhythm may have caused an stir, as the staid, monocultural 1950′s had only just begun to give way to a new era of cross-polinated art. The audience is also treated to performances by the great singer and dancer, Thelma Gibson, whose presence exudes that rare mix of elegance and joyfulness that has somehow evaded recent generations, and by steel pan virtuoso Kendrick Headley. Vanessa smartly pulls the melange together with narrative and film clips, including a fascinating segment in which she connects the dots between Vancouver’s dance scene and the seminal New York choreographer, educator, and company director Katherine Dunham, in large part via Ms. Gibson’s brother Len. The show is both personal and fascinatingly revealing of an aspect of Vancouver’s cultural history that is neither well-known nor broadly celebrated.

Go see Skins and Steel — and report-back here to give your impressions. You can offer the review I failed to write.

A Warrior’s Salute to Young Peacemakers

Pakistan Defense Blog: Web's Authoritative Source on Pakistani Security & Strategic Affairs

In its brief, brilliant two years of merrymaking, Friends Without Borders attracted attention far and wide. Our projects were covered in every significant newspaper in India and Pakistan, on every major television network, in the major news magazines, on radio, and of course on the web. But, as the project fades into the past, ripples in the media have been fewer and fewer. Sure, we were proud when the Times of India and the Jang Newspaper Group adopted our ideas to form their new Aman ki Asha project; but, as with most ideas lifted by the every-slimy TOI, this sincere form of flattery proceeded without attribution or notice.

But recently FWB received a bit of retrospective acclaim – and from a very unlikely source. To celebrate the 1000th post on the Pakistan Defense blog, which describes itself as the “Web’s Authoritative Source on Pakistani Security & Strategic Affairs”, the site cribbed photos and a bit of explanatory text about our “Love Letter” friendship project. Check it out.

And, after a brief celebration of peace, the blog resumed its bellicose themes. Crazy. But we’ll take it.

Haagen-Dazs, Mistaken Cause

The Offending Haagen-Dazs Banner.  Photo Credit: Times of India
Photo credit: Times of India

Indians have a strange love of parsing insults from the innocuous — or, as in this case, the poorly thought-through. Particularly when the phantom effrontery seems to come from foreigners.

The latest uproar involves a newly opened Haagen-Dazs ice cream store, which had the bad judgment to fly the banner depicted above to announce its store opening. It reads:

PARTIED AT THE FRENCH RIVIERA? WELCOME.

Haagen-Dazs

EXCLUSIVE PREVIEW FOR INTERNATIONAL TRAVELERS

Access restricted only to holders of international passports.

The reaction began with a sketchily described post by Times of India writer and Chief Editor of Times Internet, Rajesh Kalra, on his TOI blog, Random Access. According to Mr. Kalra, a pseudonymous “friend” of his was refused entry to this Haagen-Dazs store for failure to proffer an “international passport.”

Continue reading ‘Haagen-Dazs, Mistaken Cause’

Understanding the Gift Economy, II

Gift Economy by Manoj Pavithran

When I was preparing to write my piece on the gift economy for the Dictionary of Ethical Politics, I read a few essays by others but quickly abandoned that approach to ensuring that I was fully up-to-speed on the current thinking. As I explained with my customary lack of sensitivity, diplomacy, and fairness:

Unsurprisingly, [the gift economy] is a topic that appeals to well-meaning, good-natured, spiritually curious people. Unfortunately, this results in treatments that are often long on fuzzy-headed feel-good and short on rigor. I’m sure there are some very good essays on the gift economy to be found with a simple Google search; but I really had no stomach for a needle-in-haystack exercise that would subject me to the level of penetrating analysis found in the average Hallmark greeting card.

After I published my synopsis of the gift economy, I received a superb essay from my good friend, Manoj Pavithran, with a very different approach to the subject. Manoj is that rare and spectacular combination of deeply thoughtful and utterly brilliant; and his careful analysis is constructed with the considerable philosophical rigor one might expect from him. It represents a significant contribution to the growing, evolving appreciation of the gift economy.

Manoj is not simply a theorist of the gift economy; he is a practitioner. He lives in Auroville, a community founded, in part, on both collectivist and cooperativist gift economy ideals. He also played a direct and influential role in the gift economization of two significant product initiatives of Upasana Design Studio: the Tsunamika dolls and the Small Steps cloth shopping bags.

With his permission, I offer Manoj’s essay for your consumption and reflection.

Continue reading ‘Understanding the Gift Economy, II’

One Fine Day

His Giggliness the Dalai LamaPresident Barack Obama

This blog is, just now, emerging from a lengthy vipassana (“Do not spit on the footpaths! – Be Happy!”), full of all that clear-headedness and deep insight that only silence can confer. Or that’s the hope — and the story.

If ever there was a day to shake me from my writing stupor – I mean, meditation – it was yesterday. I attended an address by His Giggliness the Dalai Lama in the afternoon and watched Barack Obama become President of the United States late at night. That’s a pretty heady one-two punch.

Continue reading ‘One Fine Day’

Posted

Washington Post Masthead

This has been a lucky stretch for me in getting letters to the editor printed in major daily newspapers. Today the Washington Post ran a badly edited version of this letter I sent in response to Josh White’s report of a former Guantanamo prisoner involved in a suicide bombing in Iraq.

To the Editor:

Your story, Ex-Guantanamo Detainee Joined Iraq Suicide Attack (8 May 2008) states that “the Defense Intelligence Agency has estimated that as many as three dozen former Guantanamo detainees are confirmed or suspected of having returned to terrorist activities.”

This characterization begs the question which is absolutely central — and completely unaddressed in your report — as to whether this activity is, indeed, a “return” to terrorist activities or an initiation into terrorist action prompted, at least in part, by resentment based on the Guantanamo imprisonments. In a system which puts habeas corpus, not to mention release, beyond the reach of most detainees, is it plausible to believe that the DoD had evidence of prior terrorist participation on those it had released?

Mark B. Jacobs
San Francisco, California

Continue reading ‘Posted’

Driven to Write

Tata Nano

It’s been a crazy few days for this blog. The announcement by Tata of the launch of its Nano, the Rs. 1 lakh ($2,500) “People’s Car” designed to bring automobile ownership to India’s masses, gave my old essay, India: Going Nowhere Fast, a new currency; and this blog has received more than 1,300 hits in the last three days.

Continue reading ‘Driven to Write’

Happy Anniversary to Me!

writing memestream

Exactly one year ago, I moved my blog to WordPress. It was a major pain in the ass — or the asses, I should say, since my friend Nipun also lent his scrawny booty to the effort — to migrate my 2004 – 2006 entries to the new site. Along the way, I lost all the great comments contributed by readers, and almost all my regular readership.

A few days ago, as if to celebrate the anniversary, memestream logged its 30,000th hit. Not a bad year, all things considered.

Continue reading ‘Happy Anniversary to Me!’

Jayesh Patel, Superstar!

Jayesh and Anar Patel

In October of 2005, I wrote a short profile of my friends Jayesh and Anar Patel, husband-and-wife and two-thirds of the founding triumvirate of the extraordinary Ahmedabad-based NGO, Manav Sadhna. Two years later, that small essay has received nearly 400 viewings and still averages nearly three hits per week.

Small wonder. Jayesh-bhai and Anar-ben are perhaps the loveliest, most optimistic, and broadly inspiring people I know. This is no small distinction, given that I am in the habit of collecting friends who answer to the general description “lovely, optimistic, and inspiring.”

Now, a group of filmmakers calling themselves the “Global Oneness Project” have created a beautiful portrait of Jayesh-bhai and his philosophy in a new video called “Living Service.”

Continue reading ‘Jayesh Patel, Superstar!’


Blasts from the Past

Man Up!
Man up you pussy!

... because the Miami Dolphins NFL bullying episode brings the evergreen topic of the idiocy of manliness back into focus.

.

Talking Turkey
how to cook a perfect turkey in half the time

... because Canada and the US will celebrate their Thanksgiving holidays and, regrettably and preventably, not 1-cook-in-10 will serve a decent turkey.

.

Filial Piety Awareness Day
Kaki Tusler, Mother's Day Celebrant

... because everyday is Mother's Day.

.

America Dreaming Small
American Dream

... because the re-election of President Barak Obama has done nothing to turn America away from its recent ethos of small-mindedness.

.

Serenity and Gratitude to Bring in the New Year
New Year's Eve at Tibetan Pavillion

... to remind us that not every mix of Tibetans and Western spiritual seekers has to be nauseating.

.

Incredible Vision
Infinite Vision

... to celebrate the new edition of Infinite Vision published in India.

.

Expelliarmus! Harry Potter and the Path to Gandhian Nonviolence
Expelliarmus, Potter, Gandhi, Nonviolence

... reprinted in frustration that a dumbass nonevent brought down David Petraeus, the most brilliant, influential, deeply flawed military strategist since Harry Potter.

.

India Going Nowhere Fast
Nano in Flames

... because cars are ruining Pondicherry, where I live. How badly are they fucking up your Indian town?

.

Understanding the Gift Economy
Gift Economy Explained

... reprinted because more-and-more people seem want to understand the gift economy. (Yeah!)

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