30 January 2008

Out of Touch (Out of Time*)

Wow - THIS is how out of touch I am. It never even occurred to me that 'I'm John Locke' would be anything other than the result of a 'What political philosopher are you?' quiz.

It also shows me how out of touch my subject matter is to the world out there. I mean, they wouldn't name a character on a TV show William Shakespeare or Charles Darwin, would they? Because people have, like, you know, HEARD of those people. But the name of probably the most important thinker of the principles at the heart of the American revolution and founding? Nah, why would anybody have heard of that guy - let's make him the bald character!!

I don't watch LOST, but I wonder if they have this character sneak in references to the importance of protecting 'life, liberty, and property'?

*Words in parentheses are nothing to do with the content of the post - just a gratuitous and paraphrased Hall and Oates reference.

28 January 2008

Bullet point update

  • a bird shat on my shoulder this morning. gross. ill boding for the semester that started today? hm.

  • the bird we ate last night (a chicken) fell apart like it had done yoga all its life. may it be reborn as a calm asana guru. or perhaps the bird this morning was karma for the bird last night. hm.

  • 5 workouts a week. not 6. 6 too hard. me lazy. 5 plenty.

  • gave in to Peets promotion for Yemeni village coffee. was it the 1,001 nights Orientalism? or the cute village-y pic? or the fact that they called them 'micro-lots'? I'll never know.

  • books: Winterson's Written on the Body in-progress.

  • books: Martin Amis is a bit (lot?) of an arse and it kinda shows in his prose. not a huge fan after House of Meetings.

  • film: Waitress: should be cute and yet its cuteness makes light of rape within marriage. I think: not okay. not okay. not okay.

here endeth the list.

19 January 2008

10 Things I've done that you probably haven't

Got the idea from Stonesthrow, so here goes:

  1. Organised and led an sleep-over in the Natural History Museum in Denver. For 500 Girl Scouts. With live snakes.
  2. Been vigorously scrubbed (while naked) by an elderly Japanese woman at a public bath in Kyoto, having demonstrated my utter incompetence in the practice of public bathing.
  3. Seen a dead body at the side of the Jumna river behind the Taj Mahal. Good times.
  4. Been introduced as an honoured guest to a conference in Bangladesh. with the PM in the room. in Bangla. ick on many levels.
  5. Seen the Sistine ceiling at 1 foot distance. (Refrained from touching it, sadly.)
  6. Mounted this 19th century shadow puppet on plexiglass and carefully coloured each tiny thread to match the object.
  7. Met Hiroshi Hara and heard him discuss this project of his before it was completed, and asked a question. Was invited to return any time.
  8. Wrote lyrics to 'And then I Read Foucault', as well as several other political theorist anthems.
  9. Sang solo at Boettcher Concert Hall.
  10. Drove on the 10 from Santa Monica to Claremont seeing only half a dozen other cars.

18 January 2008

New year's resolutions: books and rowing

A bit of time since the ol' last post. ah well.

Been reading, rowing, and relaxing (oddly different than Debbie and Doyle's three R's: "I believe in the three R’s—“R” children “R” “R” future.").

My new year's resolution is to work out 6 days a week. Because otherwise I am rather lazy (and even with this resolution I'm rather lazy) and so I need some sort of discipline and pattern to do things properly. Working out 6 days a week is rather difficult, it turns out. First there's the showering. Well, not first, obviously, but this is my primary issue with the regime. I dislike bathing. What can I say. Then there's the clothing, and the time, and the scheduling of it all. And the other things like lying on the couch that you can't do if you're rowing every day. Sigh. But it will be good for me. I have as yet not fallen off the wagon. I am recording each workout in my new Battlestar Gallactica calendar (huzzah!), in hopes that some of Starbuck's buffness will transfer. (For I do not have the legs to aspire to Six's physique. Some things are genetic. Sigh.)

F's new year's resolution is to copy No.3 over at FFB. Well, only in the resolution sense. Book a week. This results in two things: I am reading a book a week and F is working out nigh 6 days a week. Which is, also, good.

As forementioned I am lazy, and thus I have discovered that on the long rows it's lovely to listen to books on iPod. I finished Jane Austen's Persuasion last week (all 8.5 hours of it) and I believe that Austen should only be listened to. For it was sooo much better than reading it. So I highly recommend trying this out if you have had difficulty dealing with the classics. I have run into the problem that audiobooks are expensive. Something about paying actors to read them? Huh. For those wishing to explore the classics, however, there is a possible solution: LibriVox. Public domain works read by volunteers. It's the last bit that I will report back on. One doesn't want to hear an amateur drone on for 8 hours. But these people must be dedicated to the project, so perhaps it works. I'll let you know.

Books read since Christmas: Anansi Boys (Neil Gaiman), Spook Country (William Gibson), House of Meetings (Martin Amis), and of course Persuasion (Jane Austen).

02 January 2008

no expert

I have been called out from the end-of-year/beginning-of-year haze to comment, in my capacity as 'expert' on the loss of Bhutto last week to assassination. I have been reading OpenDemocracy's authors on this, along with the usual press coverage; salon's various articles are helpful, including a summation of the South Asian press's reactions, and several comments on the rather sad and pathetic reactions from the US's presidential hopefuls on both sides turning this into something related to 9/11 (Guiliani, natch) or something related to the US's borders (er, it's really, oddly not completely always about you, people). Others have commented on the potential better than I could; see Juan Cole in Salon as well. Perhaps the most annoying element of the coverage is the 'when I met Benazir' trope--wasn't she lovely and oo! so powerful! so manipulative! Hitchens is the worst on this (to be fair: it's an obituary, but still.); Fred Halliday also goes a bit in this direction.

I am not a Pakistan expert. This is perhaps indicative of the divisions within South Asia since I became a scholar more than a decade ago--despite teaching the entire region in various contexts, my focus is largely India. I'm somewhat still in shock from the Bhutto assassination--not surprised, I suppose, but in shock, in the way that one knows a sick relative will die, but then when it happens it's still sudden. Ascertaining who killed her will be difficult; it was one thing when you could capture the assassin (Godse killing Gandhi) and figure it out--even then most of my students think that Gandhi was killed by a Muslim. (Except that it was a Hindu fundamentalist upset that Gandhi was meeting with Muslims in an attempt to bridge post-Partition communal divisions. But close!) Here we have a shooting/suicide bomb combo. Musharraf had warned her not to speak in Rawalpindi back in November because of security concerns; it may indeed have been people acting in what they felt was the military/Musharraf best interest, but I'm not sure it was truly in *his* best interest to have her assassinated.

Bhutto also kept her family away from Pakistan; in part because her husband is not liked--the corruption charges and money scandals surrounding her are usually about him--Hitchens' obit pointed me to this NYT article detailing some of that. She also anticipated being the focus of assassination attempts and wanted her family away from that. It's difficult enough to protect major world leaders from this sort of thing--Hilary's campaign headquarters was taken over by a crazy person not too long ago--but when you're addressing public rallies out on the streets in Pakistan, it becomes a bit trickier to claim any level of 'security' for that leader. I haven't met Bhutto, but I've been in crowds in South Asia.

The PPP is her family's party. We in the West have been led to believe it was/is the saviour of democracy for Pakistan. I don't know. Perhaps she/it would have been. But the corruption charges are real. The demagoguery that her obituary 'when I met Bhutto' writers talk about is equally real. If democracy means civil society with space for dialogue and debate, then Pakistan needs a free judiciary back--that looks unlikely. And some sort of balance in order to acknowledge a bit of the Islam-centred identity of the nation (along with its multiethnicity) without tipping into extremism would be lovely. The Dubai-raised, Oxford-educated 19 year old now heading the PPP may provide that. But not this year.

Much more to think about re: US interests in the region and the Euro-American fascination with playing with this end of the Silk road (most recently from the 19th-20th century British Great Game through the mujahideen to Musharraf). It is the crossroads of culture. It's too bad that's been a curse rather than a blessing for the last little while.