Best Book : A slump also means that I haven't done a lot of reading for pleasure- despite it being summer. I did however do some re-reading and some reading of work related books. In never-read-before books, I finally read Upamanyu Chatterjee's English, August. English, August was one of the first of the wave of Indian writing in English that sprang up in the 1990's and I've always intended to read it but never got around to it. The book follows the lethargic, pot-filled and utterly sluggish life of Agastya Sen, in his first posting as an IAS officer. Madna, the town he gets posted to, is the stuff of modern Indian nightmares- a crumbling, unberably hot, dusty, dilapitated and provincial dump. For a Delhi-boy like Agastya, it's like being on another planet. Agastya is eminently unlikeable- superior, snobbish, lazy, cynical and a pathaological liar. Despite that and the somewhat overdone scatological references, I liked the authenticity of the book. The repetition of mindless interactions with prominent locals, the pitch perfect Indian officialese and Agastya's hours staring at the ceiling of his hot room all rang comically and regrettably true. And I think the book is still frighteningly relevant, two decades after it was first published.
Best Academic Article: This one is easy. Timothy Pachirat's “The Political in Political Ethnography: Reflections from an Industrialized Slaughterhouse on Perspective, Power, and sight." It's the kind of article, and the kind of work that can change how you view the world. Pachirat has written the kind of dissertation that us, mere mortals can only aspire to- a clever take on important questions, theoretically rich and with deep insights. It also made me give up meat.
Best Song: My best song is actually more a best 'Musical moment': Loyal readers of my blog might recall a certain fondness I have for the musician John Mayer. What? You don't remember? ...Oh well, just take my word on it. Imagine the unbridled joy of the following scenario: it's late at night and you log into twitter briefly just to see what your friends/celebs are up to. And you see a tweet from the above mentioned favorite musician alerting you to an impromptu radio show he's doing- from his apartment! Just sitting in his apartment and playing music from his laptop to thousand of fans interspersed with commentary and stories and trademark witticisms. And the music- demos, forgotten gems, oldies I never would have known or heard, rough cuts of unreleased songs from all sorts of interesting artists. All this was incredibly organic and live and unmediated- a great twitter moment!
Best Blog: In view of the entry above, let me say that finally after a few months of being on twitter and hardly using it- I'm slooowly warming to the concept of micro-blogging. I still think it can be very banal but there is something cool about having access to unique perspectives, ideas, experiences and thoughts from people who have important things to say in their domains - in a manageable and often, witty form.
Best Movie: I finally watched Oye Lucky Lucky Oye and was really impressed by the talent of Abhay Deol. He actually can act and he picks movies that are intelligent, with strong scripts and meaningful plot. No mean feat in Bollywood.
Best Podcast: My roommate
Best Discovery: 1. Mystery theatre night at the Spaghetti Warehouse. Food was totally but I LOVE interactive theatre 2. My new neighborhood. There's a park. And a co-op. And squirrels in the roof. 3. This American Life- it takes a special show to take almost any subject and make it moving, interesting and profound.
Worst Discovery: Squirrels in the roof. Squirrels rattling in the roof. Squirrels on the porch. They are no longer cute- they are the enemy.
Best Meal: An excellent, authentic Korean feast a couple of days ago at Chorong house, a small and simple place run out of a house right near campus. Nothing like fresh kimbap and hae mul pahjong...
Best Moments: Surviving the institute, surviving the move, surviving the fourth of july, watching the epic wimbledon mens final, hanging out with my very cool and fun friends, two of whom happen to be my new roommates (they're great :) ), the cool, rainy summer, watching my goddaughter turn one and change so quickly from week to week!
Worst moments: Dealing with my summer rash and then relatedly, getting ripped off by a quack who poses as a homeopath- suffice it to say there will be extremely bad word of mouth about this particular doctor whose name is very similar to a salad named after a famous NYC hotel.
Challenges of the Month: Four S's sum it up- Sun and Skin, Squirrels and sadly, the slump.
As I write this, I realize this summer has been about catching up- catching my breath after the institute ended and the move, catching up with friends back for the summer,catching up with news and culture that had slipped me by and catching up with what I'm supposed to do. Now I just have to catch up with the summer and all will be set. At least now you're all caught up with the D-list.