Saturday, June 27, 2009

Carnatic Jazz Fusion via Alto-Sax

This is a performance of a portion of the album 'Kinsmen' at U-Mass. The album's name is quite apt. The collaborators are Rudresh Mahanthappa, U.S born Jazz Musician, and Kadri Gopalnath, The carnatic exponent. This article in the New yorker reviews the album and mentions how these two wonderful musicians got together and realized their parents are both from Karnataka (my home state) in India. You can listen to this album here. You can follow the Dakshina (i.e., "South" in the Kannada language) Ensemble if you are interested. Rudresh has gone on further to work with Vijay Iyer, another acclaimed U.S born Jazz pianist, who in turn, is also part of the band 'Tirtha', along with personal favorite Prasanna (see link on the right side of this tab).

A vigorous discussion of fusion music in general, including more feedback on this album can be found here.

These may be the next generation of musicians who take Indian (and south Indian) music to the next level and enable it to reach an even wider audience. This blog post talks about Prasanna in this context.

Thursday, June 18, 2009

U.S Citizenship inteview - feedback

This is perhaps the only part of the immigration process, where things are actually made easy for you to succeed. The new 'history and civics' questionnaire format requires you answer 6 out 10 questions (these are all sitters, and strictly sampled from a bank of 100 that you can find online or in their booklet/CD). You then read and write a simple sentence in English. If everything goes ok, its a 5-minute process (thats it!). The process of document verification and other questions to ensure that you aren't a commie, criminal, or an extremist, you've paid your taxes, etc. takes about 10 minutes. Make sure you have your green card and driver's license for the state you reside in, to make life easy (else you have to provide other acceptable evidence of state-residency). Of course, if you are filing based on your spouse, additional documents that are required.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

The Jackals lend their voice

After the T20-WC debacle, it is time for the inevitable pattern of criticism of Team-India coach Gary Kirsten by unemployed ex- and fringe Indian cricket 'coaches', who lay in wait until the Indian cricket team fails, to do their usual rubbish post-event expert analysis. Nobody likes being kicked off the gravy train.

John Buchanan who coached the Kolkata team right out of the IPL is now going to 'help' England before the Ashes. I cant wait to see this one ...

The best useless cricket coaches make the best useless cricket commentators, and vice versa.

Monday, June 15, 2009

T20 world cup crash

India was on par with England after 19.4 overs. Harbhajan then bowled a 5-wider with yuvraj misfielding. In fact Harbhajan had two of those in an otherwise excellent spell. The match was probably lost there. A dubious selection - Ishant Sharma is an excellent test/ODI bowler who shouldnt be playing T20 cricket - hasnt done much in this format and should have been replaced by Nehra or I.Pathan.

Anyway, its been an overdose of T20 cricket - even ODIs look attractive now ...

Monday, June 8, 2009

English Cricket momentum

English Humor on cricinfo blogs is back after the t20 victory over Pak. Excerpts:

" ... Physicists among you will know that momentum is the product of mass and velocity. When Rob (Key) propelled himself along the Lord's outfield, those two ingredients were present in abundance. If England can recreate that moment and harness the momentum, they'll win every match for at least the next 10 years .."

Dadaism redefined -
Do people still believe in dada?

another funny sound-bite on tv from the t20wc is the 'yahoooooo' call from the stadium-DJ after every few overs. this event is sponsored by the internet company. And this sporting headline is mildly funny if u read between the lines:
"Boxers off to winning start at Asian Championships"

In the twitter era, headlines are all that's needed. the actual stuff that follows is not going to be read anymore. Finally, a huge thanks to t20wc commentators in England. After the IPL mass-regurgitation, they are under no pressure to do an encore here, and the focus is back on cricket, even if its just 40 overs.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Meanwhile, on the other side of the Wagah ...

It is obvious that the entire news media, cable or otherwise in the US has had absolutely no clue about South Asia, not now, not ever. Any immigrant to the US from that region will tell you that. 'Da Man' and sought-after de-facto expert on Af-Pak is Ahmed Rashid of Pakistan. His first book was written before 9/11 and gives you a great overview of the rise of the Taliban. His more recent 'Descent into Chaos' clearly identifies the original culprits - the policies of the late duo of Ronald Reagan and Zia-Ul-Haq. Most Americans are totally unaware of this - they live in a collective bubble out here.

Equally interesting are the stories of Pakistani patriots (as opposed to simply being anti-Indian) who believe in country and common-sense more than ideology. Dr. Hari-J's blog talks about Ms. Sabiha Sumar, and the video of her brief interview with tribal elders is quite revealing. She's also talked to Musharraf and some of that is on youtube. As the Pak government (i.e., ISI/military/ministers) wavers, its up to the common Pakistanis to reclaim Jinnah's more democratic vision.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

On Obama and the great common-sense experiment

Having followed Obama since 2003-04 (lived/worked in the Chicago area for many years), yesterday's speech in Cairo easily beats everything else in terms of striking a blow for common-sense. Whether it leads to any change in ground reality is a completely unrelated question, but this much can be said. He's probably the first international leader in a long time (and probably the first US president ever) to present such a balanced understanding of what goes on outside the US. The beauty of the speech was to cut thru the 'dual noise' and for most part, state the obvious - what is, and what isn't. So what is obvious and why is it so difficult to state? Let's ramble a bit about our Janus-faced coin first.

The obvious thing about a coin is its duality - it has two sides, and in many cases, you look at one side, it is also obvious what the other is. But the problem is that most people covet this metaphorical coin but choose to live on, or favor, one side or reject the other. We are somehow shocked when we make a dent on one side and it shows up on the other side. Nothing new - it is just a restating of the ancient concept of 'Vasudeva Kutumbam' in Hinduism, that oldest statement of duality (as broadly defined by this tab). Neither Palestine nor Israel can be safe unless they both are. Violent movements ultimately turn upon themselves. Tradition/Culture and Progress cannot move independent of each other for too long, nor should they bog each other down. Urban prosperity in India without improving our villages at some positive rate is bound to fail. People ultimately come together only if they have the freedom to move apart but no longer feel the need to exercise it. The only thing obvious about these examples of duality is it is rarely followed by any of us, at least not all the time.

Obama is certainly not going to act on every one of his speaking points. It it much easier to focus on some quick-hit means that are then justified on the basis that it helps toward moving us closer to the big-picture ending. After a series of such hare-brained ideas riddled with noise, we find that it is just taking us on some random walk. Keeping this in mind, it is great to have a US leader who has lived in different continents and cultures, a mixed heritage, loves Hanuman, and one can who can apparently see the big picture clearer that most. For example, compare this to Bush Jr.'s "you are with us or against us" speech.

There are lots of sound-bites that appear to come right out of Hindu philosophy, with the phrase "Mutual Respect" being the most prominent, especially when viewed along with his statement (paraphrasing here) of wanting the world to move away from the notion of "for us to be defined, the other has to be rejected"- The classic false duality. A coin is never going to have just one side (at least not in the long run!) it is as if Obama has been reading up on Rajiv Malhotra's essays on this subject. Most of Obama's domestic speeches thrive 'on disabusing people of the notion' that there is any truth to this false duality (for example, his statements on torture and national security).

For this tab, the strongest part of his speech was is this simple sentence:

"I reject the view of some in the West that a woman who chooses to cover her hair is somehow less equal, but I do believe that a woman who is denied an education is denied equality".

This should be a lesson for some of us Indians who have been 'brain-washed' to believe that visuals of our women wearing western clothes and winning inane beauty pageants is necessary and sufficient proof of women's rights in India. Instead of being just one of the means with which to fight for the right to female expression, it's become an end in itself - yet another false duality (This tab may also have the narrow, vested interest of having actress Katrina Kaif move away from crappy western clothes and appear in more traditional Indian dresses. not that its going to help her acting or Hindi diction). Firstly, we have to allow girls to be born in India. Then while we cross that hurdle, we can talk about "right to education", followed by a right to economic opportunity, and the right to dump (or bump off) your lazy husband who's also the classic drunkard that beats you up at night and takes away the money you earned after 10 hours of manual labor, with little food in between, while also dodging harassment from co-workers.

It is shocking to see a politician who brazenly speaks common-sense. If it turns out that he's actually going to put some of this stuff to practice, well, that would be something, wouldnt it. After all, the world has seen several lunatic politicial experiments fail and we are comfortable with that. But if we do test the theory of common sense, it better not fail.... The outcome do not look obvious to me, but its worth trying.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Women Reporters in Cricket

The last few years have witnessed the emergence of many women who have gotten involved with cricket in some form. Let's start at the bottom and work our way up....

Most Indians cannot forget Mandira Bedi (some, not quickly enough). On the other hand, I did like the tricolor peas pulao in her old TV ad. One of the positive side-effects of the IPL has been in this area. We have a couple of rich 'Bollywood' glam-acts who own stakes in IPL teams. Then we had Ms. Tishani Doshi, a dancer (or is that danseuse?) / poet/journalist born and based in Chennai wo-manning one of the many IPL blogs on cricinfo. While she is no cricket expert, the view from the distaff side made for some interesting reading. A rather unexpected piece of cricket-related writing came from Rebecca Lee, one the 'mischief gals', hired as cheerleaders for home-team Bangalore for IPL-II. The blog by Ms. Lee was quite interesting, in that it comes from an American, trans-cultural perspective. Furthermore, their comments on the effort level and mental state of the Bangalore team while it put together a nice, long winning streak before the inevitable final tragedy was noteworthy. While I'm not a fan of this whole cheer-leading stuff, I do hope these gals return next season and blog some more.

IPL aside, we have more cricket-aware, serious lady writers/speakers today than ever before. Many of the cricketers who participated in the recent Women's world cup have blogged regularly on cricinfo during that tournament. It was a pleasant surprise to listen to the commentary on the recent Aus-South Africa (men's) ODI cricket series in SA. One of the persons on the commentary panel was Kass Naidoo (i think), and she was pretty good. Certainly better than all the crappy ex-cricketers throwing up en-masse into the mike during the IPL.

A personal favorite is Sharda Ugra, Deputy Editor of India Today. Her regular cricket columns (such as 'free hit') are among the best in the sports journalist business. She calls a chuck a chuck, and reminds me of Mary Carillo (Tennis), albeit less controversial. Among other things, she has worked with John Wright, former Team-India coach on his wonderful book 'Indian Summers' that captures many moments of the renaissance years (2001-2004) of Indian cricket. She is also the winner of the 'best sports writer of the year 2006' (India).

i've probably left out many more, and we'll have to end with this:
Behold, Mandira and Sharda,
meal-ticket and sticky-wicket
there's room for all in desi cricket,
but fitting 'em to rhyme is harda