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An Inconvenient Hope (and some Bollywood)

Wonk the Vote here with my Saturday reads, rants, and recommendations.


Mohd. Rafi Sahab, English recording,
“Although we hail from different lands…”

I’m actually starting this roundup on Friday night while getting my Bollywood fix–if that kind of thing bores the daylights out of you, by all means, skip down to the newsy part of this post. I have Rafi playing in the background as I type, and I just can’t pass up a chance to frontpage a bit on filmi stuff. If you haven’t scrolled past already, here’s the Times of India’s Nikhat Kazmi on the blockbuster that is breaking a lot of box office records right now:

“For anybody who wants to know what is the on-screen definition of Bollywood, Dabangg is truly text book fare. It’s loud, crazy, zany, exaggerated, larger-than-life, almost nonsensical, totally make-believe, comic book like, complete kitsch, generously peppered with the mandatory desi tadka (garnishing) of songs and dances that keep popping out of nowhere and is literally oozing with star charisma. Most importantly, it’s not meant to make sense. It’s only meant to entertain. And entertain, it does in overdoses. No, this isn’t meant for people who are looking for different cinema. Nor is it meant for the viewer who likes movies to appeal to his head. Yet, for those who celebrate and serenade the `silliness’ of mainstream masala movie lore and swear by its popcorn quotient, Dabangg is the greatest getaway of the season.”

That’s basically spot-on, except that I enjoyed Dabaang (literally “Fearless”) even though I’m a cinephile lover of all that is heady, slow, and cerebral in Indian parallel cinema (which, in my personal experience, most people don’t even realize exists when they bash Hindi films). I grew up on masala films, though, and love it for the good dumb fun it can be when it’s done fearlessly. Indian cinema so often gets a bad rap, and I mostly brought the topic up just so that I could sneak in my abridged list of my recommends from the last decade or so (some are arthouse indies, others are actual Bollywood fare believe it or not):

  1. Rituparno Ghosh’s Raincoat (2004), my all-time favorite; adaptation of O’Henri’s “Gift of the Magi.”
  2. Nagesh Kukunoor’s Dor (“the Thread,” 2006), women-centric and another all-time fav of mine.
  3. Aparna Sen’s 15 Park Avenue (2005), my favorite movie on the mystery of madness.
  4. Chandra Prakash Dwivedi’s Pinjar (“the Skeleton” or “the cage,” 2003), based on the 1970s novel of the same name, set against the backdrop of Hindu-Muslim tensions during Partition time. A look at gender-based violence in areas of social unrest. The conclusion is difficult, but the movie prokes thought and discussion.
  5. Deepa Mehta’s Water (2005) as well as Mehta’s Heaven on Earth (2008), these are technically Canadian, because Mehta is too controversial for the misogynist asshats in India who protest her.
  6. Ram Gopal Verma’s Kaun (“Who,” 1999), my favorite Indian suspense thriller.
  7. Prakash Jha’s Gangaajal (“holy waters of Ganga,” 2003), the plight and uprising of ordinary people. Loosely based on the 1980 Bhagalpur blindings.
  8. Ek Alag Mausam (“A different season,” 2003): groundbreaker, broke the silence on HIV/AIDS in Indian movies.
  9. Subhash Ghai’s Yuvvraaj (2008), one of my guilty pleasures. Shameless ripoff of Rain Man but with its own whimsy up the wazoo.
  10. I could really go on forever, but I’ll wrap up with a movie I saw just the other week — Anusha Rizvi’s Peepli Live (2010) dark comedy on farmer suicides in the fictional village of Peepli satirizing the media and political reactions; India’s submission to the 2011 Oscars.

Ok, now onto the news. I’ve already done my lil’ miss politically independent rant for the week (see: “Thing One and Thing Two…”), so this is just going to be a rundown of headlines with quick blurbs from me.

First up… a president so historic, Al Gore dare not speak its name. An Inconvenient Hope, if you will. From the UK Telegraph:

Al Gore failed to mention President Barack Obama at a campaign rally in Florida as Democrats extended their new tactic for next month’s elections – ignoring the man who so inspired them in 2008.

For more headlines, click on the prompt to keep reading after the jump…

Meek also steered clear of mentioning Obama’s name:

Instead, the black congressman lauded “President Gore” – a reference to the 2000 election, when hanging chads in Florida and the US Supreme Court cost the Democrat the White House.

Paired with the story of President Gore’s omit on memeorandum right now is a Crist headline from Palm Beach — “Crist tells Dems ‘I can win’ against ‘radical right’ Rubio”:

In case you missed Gov. Charlie Crist’s hourlong sitdown with The Palm Beach Post editorial board this morning, the Republican-turned-independent governor made it pretty clear his strategy over the next month will be to paint GOP nominee Marco Rubio as a “radical-right” fringer and woo Democratic voters by convincing them that Dem nominee Kendrick Meek can’t win.

Here’s some direct quoting:

“I can win,” Crist told the editorial board when asked about the difference between himself and Meek.

Crist continued: “And I think that it’s important in this race, unless you want to have a radical right U.S. Senator, a decision has to be made pretty fast, in the next 32 days. What’s the reasonable alternative, and can it be victorious? I’m that person. I’m number two in every poll I’ve seen….And God bless the congressman (Meek), he’s a fine person, a good guy, I like him. But I don’t want to have Marco Rubio as my United States Senator.”

No offense to Crist, and I’ve no sympathy for the hard right either, but bragging that he’s the number 2 person in a race doesn’t make the case for much of anything. (Imagine if Hillary talked to an editorial board right after the South Carolina primary and said, “God Bless that Johnny Edwards, I like him, but I’m the number two person…”)

The strategy on all sides this political season appears to be to run against something, since most pols have little, if anything, to run on.

Right on cue a headine from The Hill that reads, “Obama launches campaign recess with shots at GOP agenda.” Nothing to see there, it’s the same old politics.

Obama said he was going to change Washington, but it looks more like he shortchanged the American people.

Some interesting horserace details on the midterms at The Hill as well, in a piece titled “Dems face hard choices.”

I’ve already shared my thoughts on the Rick Sanchez firing, but I was digging around to see if there was any word on a replacement. I haven’t seen anything so far other than the standard sentence about airing CNN Newsroom in his timeslot. CNN is so stuck on stupid that I wouldn’t be surprised if they put David Shuster in that spot eventually. Whatever they do, the channel will probably remain a yawn fest.

Ok enough on Ricky Renob, let’s move on to Niqabitches. Niqa-whatta? The UK Telegraph again:

Two French female students have made a film of the pair of them strolling through the streets of Paris in a niqab, bare legs and mini-shorts as a critique of France’s recently passed law.

Calling themselves the “Niqabitches,” the veiled ladies can be seen strutting past prime ministerial offices and various government ministries with a black veil leaving only their eyes visible, but with their long legs naked bar black high heels.

The music on the video (to the left just above) is lovely. More:

In an opinion piece published on the news website, rue89, the anonymous duo – political science and communication students in their twenties – said the film was a tongue-in-cheek way of criticising France’s niqab ban, which the Senate passed last month and is due to go into force early next year.

“To put a simple burka on would have been too simple. So we asked ourselves: ‘how would the authorities react when faced with women wearing a burka and mini-shorts?,” asked the students, one of whom is a Muslim.

I’m just going to link to the San Francisco Chronicle’s coverage of California downgrading pot possession to infraction, on par with traffic and littering tickets.

Here’s an ominous story from the UK Guardian called “Global unemployment to trigger further social unrest, UN agency forecasts” :

The International Labour Organisation (ILO) has warned of growing social unrest because it fears global employment will not now recover until 2015.

This is two years later than its earlier estimate that the labour market would rebound to pre-crisis levels by 2013. About 22 million new jobs are needed – 14 million in rich countries and 8 million in developing nations.

The United Nations work agency today warned of a long “labour market recession” and noted that social unrest related to the crisis had already been reported in at least 25 countries, including some recovering emerging economies.

With depressing news like that, it really wouldn’t hurt to decriminalize marijuana across the country.

In domestic economic news, Stiglitz calls for a second stimulus (via the Reynolds Center for Business Journalism):

NEW YORK — Nobel Prize-winning economist Joseph Stiglitz called for another round of federal stimulus dollars to spur the economy. He spoke Sept. 30 to the Society of American Business Editors and Writers (SABEW) at its Fall Workshop.

“We will see in the next two years the real cost of there not being a second round of stimulus,” he said. “We will see the economy slow down at a very high economic cost.”

The Columbia University professor also said that the “new normal” as far as the unemployment rate is concerned may not be the 4 to 5 percent that existed before the financial crisis in 2008, but more like 7 to 8 percent.

Unemployment is about 9.5 to 9.6 percent officially, he said, but many people who are working part-time involuntarily or who have stopped looking but want work are not counted in the official rate.

Just another in a long line of Bush-Cheney policy fails that have become the “new normal” under Obama.

Shocking revelation — U.S. apologizes for Syphilis tests in Guatemala (via the NYT):

The revelations were made public on Friday, when Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton and Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius apologized to the government of Guatemala and the survivors and descendants of those infected. They called the experiments “clearly unethical.”

“Although these events occurred more than 64 years ago, we are outraged that such reprehensible research could have occurred under the guise of public health,” the secretaries said in a statement. “We deeply regret that it happened, and we apologize to all the individuals who were affected by such abhorrent research practices.”

In a twist to the revelation, the public health doctor who led the experiment, John C. Cutler, would later have an important role in the Tuskegee study in which black American men with syphilis were deliberately left untreated for decades. Late in his own life, Dr. Cutler continued to defend the Tuskegee work.

It’s good that Hillary and Sebelius apologized, but I’m saddened to find out that Cutler did even more damage than we knew of with Tuskegee.

Another headline from the Gray Lady — “Bank of America to Freeze Foreclusure Cases” :

Bank of America, the country’s largest mortgage lender by assets, said on Friday that it was reviewing documents in all foreclosure cases now in court to evaluate if there were errors.

The WSJ is reporting that “CIA Escalates in Pakistan”:

WASHINGTON—The U.S. military is secretly diverting aerial drones and weaponry from the Afghan battlefront to significantly expand the CIA’s campaign against militants in their Pakistani havens.

The words Nixon and Cambodia come to mind.

On a more uplifting note, CNN International talks about the exciting election in Brazil with Dilma Rousseff poised to be Brazil’s first female president and the most powerful woman in the world:

Rio De Janeiro, Brazil (CNN) — Brazil’s general election Sunday spans across all levels of government, from the presidency to local offices. But the spotlight will be on the presidential race, with a former Marxist guerrilla positioned to become Brazil’s first female president.

Dilma Rousseff is the hand-picked successor of President Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, who has an 80 percent approval rating. The outgoing president has steered Brazil into a major global economy, and his choice for the next president is influencing voters.

CNN ends its report with the caveat that always rears its ugly head without fail:

But many Brazilians and investors still need to be convinced that Rousseff has the political strength to drive through fiscal reform and major infrastructure projects needed to keep the economy booming.

If they don’t think she’s tough enough, they can give us Rousseff and take Obama. He’s already flexed his impressive muscles for us on the economy. They’re so impressive that Kendrick Meek is reminding us of the President Gore we never had while both Gore and Meek won’t even mention the current president’s name. And, now we’ve come full circle.

One more link. Forty three years ago, Thurgood Marshall was sworn in:

He was the great-grandson of a slave, rejected from his home state’s law school, and his parents wanted him to be a dentist. But despite these early setbacks, on in this day in 1967, Thurgood Marshall became the first African American appointed to the U.S. Supreme Court, the nation’s most prestigious judicial body.

I recommend clicking the link to catch the rest. It’s a concise but great read.

Enjoy your Saturday and please share your reads, rants, and recs in the comments.

31 Responses

  1. Sorry, about that Wonk! I didn’t see this in the post listings and thought you might have gotten lost some where.

    • no prob, I totally understand, plus I owed ya one. I accidentally hit publish too soon on a Big Dawg post after one of your roundups, remember. 🙂

      • I never have a problem with that because usually people use the news threads all day to post things of interest when they don’t fit any where else. Folks are used to flipping in between threads any more. I usually try to give a thread an hour to cook if I can, however.

    • thanks. That’s interesting and kinda concerning:

      Although the research is continuing and could not reach definite conclusions, she said she’s puzzled because the samples aren’t taken in areas that have been directly oiled, because that would ruin the net equipment, she explained.

      “We’re only sampling grass that looks healthy,” she said. And yet, in areas that were adjacent to heavily oiled marsh, the sampling nets came back empty.

      “Insects are really bio-indicators of stress, environmental stress,” Hooper-Bui said.

      • I’ve found that if I don’t follow the local papers and TV stations from Louisiana and Alabama, you don’t hear about this kind of stuff. Thank goodness University researchers are doing this. What worries me is that the NSF will defund them eventually.

  2. I loved Water, especially the scenes shot like music videos. The monsoon rain scene, Piya Ho and the Holi festival really stood out. But what a sad movie.

    • Mehta also did “Fire” first didn’t she? That was powerful as well. I’ll have to check out your other recommendations.

      Happy Saturday Conflucians! Beautiful fall day here in MA.

      • yes Fire and Earth were the two earlier parts of her Elements trilogy and Water was the final. I like to bring up Heaven on Earth, because more people have seen Fire but haven’t heard of Heaven.

  3. There’s an Indian section of Edison, NJ where the food is outstanding, there’s an Indian movie theater and an Indian dessert shop where you can eat your pastries while watching musical numbers from Bollywood films. Lots of fun.

    • I think Bobby Bright wants to be reelected in Alabama. Talk about running away from your party!

  4. If you really want to be offended in oh so many ways, read this:

    http://www.salon.com/news/politics/war_room/2010/10/01/obama_lbj_hillary/

    I can’t wait to hear what BB has to say about it …

    • thanks for reading Salon so I don’t have to! I am so tired of that place, save for Glenzilla.

      that piece’s analysis is just lame. ANY Dem would have an uphill battle to climb in primarying O, and Hillary would have had an uphill battle even if she had not joined the Admin. The DNC destroyed the Dem party in 2008.

      • Jeez yes and I read in Politico they are thinking of making Gibbs head of the DNC. That would surely help a rival.

    • Yeah, as if invading Vietnam had nothing to do with it.

    • What a repulsive article. We’ll just have to wait and see what happens, won’t we Obots?

      • So, they’re praisimg him for doing the blatently obvious? Maybe they can applaud him for not gargling with razor blades or peeing on the carpet next.

  5. Inside Story – The calm before the storm in India?

    There is a cautious calm in northern India after a court ruled on Thursday that a disputed holy site in the town of Ayodhya should be shared between Muslims and Hindus. The judges gave control of the main contested section of the site, where a mosque was torn down in 1992, to Hindus. Other parts of the site will be controlled by Muslims and another Hindu sect. More than 200,000 police had been deployed across the country and temporary jails were set up as the government prepared for Hindu-Muslim riots in the wake of one of the most divisive court cases in the nation’s history. On this episode of Inside Story, we ask: Just what security implications will this ruling have in the coming days and will judicial process put an end to this combustible issue?

  6. Lord, I’ve gotten two calls from the tea party about the Lt. Governor Race here. This morning it was a robocall from Michelle Bachman.

    I’m voting for the loan Dem woman in the race. Michelle Bachman calling down here is beyond the pale. Maybe up in the KKK part of the state that works, but New Orleans? Sheesh.

  7. Threads loaded with embedded videos, are like parties to which only the chosen are invited.

    Guess who wasn’t ‘invited’ to the previous thread! [Sniff …] 😦

  8. Great post, Wonk.

    I’m that person. I’m number two in every poll I’ve seen

    If the Dems weren’t supporting him over their own guy, he’d be in a lot of trouble. Imagine ripping off the slogan inscribed over the doors of the DNC.

    • Lol. Thanks for finding and reading my post, Seriously. I think you may be the one person who did besides Kat 🙂

      If candidates like Crist had a clue and the guts, they’d reject both the DINO and RINO institutional support and turn Stuck in the Middle with You into their campaign theme song right now, they just might have a shot at being a number one candidate in the race instead of number two:

  9. Twice the jobs at half the salary ?

    Earlier in 2010, State Bank of India ( SBI ) advertised for 27,000 clerical job vacancies.

    Some 28,00,000 candidates appeared for a written exam.

    Amongst those who got selected were 4,000 graduate / post-graduate engineers.

    Not surprising considering that India produces 500,000 engineering graduates every year [ including 150,000 software engineers ].

    Their median starting salary would be approx. $ 1 per hour – about the same what I pay 2 software engineers who are developing my website for past one year.

    Should SBI have created 54,000 jobs by paying $ 0.50 per hour ?

    Ask any of the 38 million jobless Indian graduates who have registered at 900 + State Employment Exchanges.

    The last registered must wait 126 years to get his job-offer !

    With regards

    hemen parekh

    Jobs for All = Peace on Earth

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