Saturday, August 23, 2008

Guilty Conscience

As I recently found out to my dismay, reading blogs or even newsmagazines is not considered a very scholarly thing to do. So even Daniel Drezner's quite excellent IR blog is now a guilty pleasure. So this makes this post doubly furtive, as I'm taking off from his response to the ipod guilty pleasures meme. As anyone who knows me well knows, I C-A-N N-O-T resist making lists of anything so of course this is a must do.

Now most people would consider most of my ipod full of really mainstream music with overly pop-sensibilities. What can I say? I'm a sucker for a hook and melody.

But there are some songs that make me cringe a little in public and that I tried to hastily justify last semester when a student asked to scroll through my ipod (much to the class's amusement)...So...

Here are my 3 guiltiest pleasures: 

1. N'sync- Bye Bye Bye (Relentlessly catchy)
2. Celine Dion- A new day has come (yes truly CRINGE worthy but...what a voice)
3. That guilty pleasure classic- Backstreet Boys 'I want it that way' which is really just a great song.

I'm hoping that in a few years these will be pleasantly ironic haha songs that we look back on fondly. Yes New York Times, I misused the word ironic. Which brings me to another guilty pleasure- that Alanis Morissette song which apparently did not contain one truly ironic thing. 

Friday, August 22, 2008

Songs for Tibet

Since my last post shows how I'm all for exposing the excesses of power etc, here's my last post of the day.  China has blocked access to itunes because of its promotion of this CD. On itunes reviews of the CD fluctuate wildly, with many suspicious 1 star ratings from guess where? 

So here's my bit to promote it..... to all of the 1.5 people that know about this blog.

 It's got some great music by a pretty huge line up of musicians, including John Mayer singing a great stripped down version of belief. 

: ) 

Need I say more?

China and the Olympics

Inspired by this site, I'm going to try to make sense of my jumbled up thoughts about the Olympics in China. 
On the one hand, I bristle at the jingosim of the U.S. media when it comes to describing the Olympics and the Chinese handling of it. Story after story has focused on the scandals, the lack of democracy, the curbing of individual rights at every point etc. From the two old ladies being sent to labor camp for protesting the treatment of Chinese citizens to the enormous pressure placed on Chinese hurdler Liu Xiang and the way that slums and low income areas were hidden overnight in walls. On the other hand, all of this stuff should raise our hackles. Why should we excuse such behavior, just because this is a developing country. That's an Ayoobian argument that I find difficult to buy. 

Case in point for me was the story about the lip-syncing switch with the two little girls.  Yes, it was callous to have switched the girl with the voice with the girl with the angelic face. Yes, it was another indicator of the Chinese obsession with national image. But as my friend pointed out, do we really think it would have been any different in the US? I thought about it and I agree that it is not like the US is any more altruistic than China but I do think on balance, that such a switcheroo would not have taken place. Why? Not because of any more moral reason, though that is debateable too, but because such a thing would simply fire up too much of a media fire storm in the US. The media would have been all over it, the kids would have been hounded, the olympic committee would have been crucified by Tyra and Oprah and all the rest of them. They just could not have gotten away with it. 

And that's, on balance, a good thing. 
At the risk of often being over played and over-hyped, it is a good thing for governments, people in power etc. to not be able to ride roughshod over people with impunity, to not be able to get away with abuses of power without protest and shaming. Power will often prevail but our greatest triumphs as a global citizenry have come when we speak truth to it, to use a cliche. 

What is disturbing to me is the implicit agenda behind the sustained coverage of the Olympics in the U.S. where the media seems to delight in exposing such stories, all the while marveling in a distinctly envious tone about the spectacle and efficiency of the opening ceremony and the prowess of Chinese athletes. At each turn praise has been accompanied by qualifiers...
 Yes, China leads the gold medal tally but you know they send athletes away as little kids contrasting with Shawn Johnson who got to go to prom in a sparkly yellow dress. Yes, the opening ceremony was amazing, but they handpicked only the best looking people. Yes, the architecture in Beijing is stunningly innovative but ordinary citizens do not have a voice in this development. 

All true, no doubt, but amplified by decidedly mixed intentions. 

It's been a tough one- these Olympics. As a fellow third-world citizen, I sympathize with those who feel that singling out China smacks of jingoism and first world condescension coupled with just a tinge of panic. But as a citizen of the world with some basic respect for human rights and fairness, I cannot help but agree that these very episodes need to be highlighted, for things to change even a bit. 

Tough indeed. 

Today I made Khichuri- a dish I normally detest. It's something I've always associated with being sick, or being lazy - just a hodge podge- in fact I'm pretty sure that's what a hodge podge is- of a dish. 

But it's been years since I ate it and since I am running perilously low on groceries I decided to try it out. And lo and behold, I was transported to another time, like smells and food will tend to do. 

Suddenly, I was reminded of my grandmother who used to make the dish with fired eggplants and potatoes and the most delicous tomato chutney. I saw clearly the small round cane dining table we used to eat at, with the sound of crickets and cricket in the background. My grandfather urging us to eat more of those side dishes, looking forward to mangoes.

Funny, how nostalgic something I so dislike made me. It was great. 

Friday, August 1, 2008

5 things I would have loved to have been, but alas can't be: 

1. A professional photographer of architecture- I thought of just saying architect but I don't think I have the discipline to have gone through school for that. What I really love is finished buildings, wandering through cities and learning more about why structures look the way they do. So a photographer who could take great, iconic pictures of buildings would combine both those loves and travel! 
My favorite building: the Chrysler building (hardly original but what a structure that is). 

2. A chef in some small, not very high-pressure situation. I don't do well with pressure but I enjoy cooking and feeding people, experimenting with food. 

3. A novelist of well-regarded, insightful books. So hard to do and so easy to write a lot of crap that is clever, gets published but is in the end just very disposable.  

4. An interview journalist- someone like Charlie Rose. I like his style a lot- I don't think I'd do well with interrogating people or being tough and hard-ass. I like the idea of a curious interviewer who just wants to have a chat with someone/something they find fascinating. 

5. A professor in one of the most top notch liberal arts colleges in the world. This is closest to what I do of course but I know the social and professional hierarchies of academia well enough to know that I won't end up anywhere like that. Since I don't do well with pressure- I'm not going to put a research institution as my dream job and even though I know top notch liberal arts colleges require research etc.- that's where I think I would thrive. 

So is there a pattern here? They're all creative jobs which require discipline. Hmmm. 

5 jobs I would hate, and thankfully cannot do either:

1. Anything to do with medicine

2. Being a criminal lawyer

3. Hard, menial labor- I would be terrible at it and lack the discipline completely

4. Anything to do with IT 

5. Investment banker 

So nothing with long hours or lots of at least that's covered. 

So in the end everything works out just fine.