Sunday, January 18, 2009

Blogworthy: I'm What I Read

One of my New Year's resolutions is to write a weekly blog post about the articles, anything from the world wide web, which I found interesting. Yes, can't you tell I am single and I have no life :). So here's the first installment.

1. "The Power of Prayer" [The Wall Street Journal]

"Barack Obama mostly seems focused on ideological rather than denominational diversity. He chose Rick Warren, who opposes gay marriage, and then added Gene Robinson, the gay Episcopal bishop from New Hampshire, to pray at a morning service. He's also reportedly going to have a full range of faiths -- including Muslims and Jews -- at the prayer service the next day. But at the high-profile, official event -- the swearing in -- there will be just Rick Warren and Joseph Lowery, both Protestants."

Barack Obama's inauguration ceremony is on this Tuesday. Just an obvious pointer, in case you have been living in a cave for the past two years, and missed the news of America electing its first Black president. In my opinion, I think it is wrong to call him black. Because phenotypically he may look black, but genetically he is also half-white. This brings my attention to Pasha Malla. Malla wrote the following about racial terminology and assignment:

"When people ask me my "background," a common question, I've started telling them that I'm "half white." This usually proves inadequate, and sometimes disconcerting. Folks want to be able to categorize other people based on difference: knowing what you "are" will dictate how they can interact with you — and more importantly, what they can and can't say. My ambiguous response might seem snide, but I struggle to think how it's any different from people defining themselves as "half" whatever ethnic minority. Regardless the halves, I'm still neither one race nor the other."

Pasha Malla in this insightful article, "Self-portrait of a racist" points out, we are all racists. I actually agree with that. Malla kept a racist journal, and here are a few of his journal entries:

"…today I was sitting on the subway beside a black man. When he got off at his stop, I instinctively checked my pocket for my wallet."

"… at the movies I noticed a Middle Eastern-looking guy in line, wearing a backpack. For a moment, I second-guessed going into the theatre."

"… a Hasidic man cut in front of me at the grocery store. My thought was not: 'Asshole.' My thought was: 'Jew.' "

He continues:

"We often hear that racism is largely a result of ignorance — but I live in Toronto, with regular exposure to all races. If my journal is any indication, exposure to other cultures doesn't necessarily allay racist tendencies. Maybe part of the problem is that Toronto neighbourhoods are often divided along ethnic lines, so (with a few notable exceptions) there's little interaction between one cultural group and another. My only real communication with the city's Vietnamese population, for example, is when I order pho tai from one of their excellent restaurants."

Furthermore, judging by "Stuff White People Like" and the Onion, Obama is as "white" as they come. But going back to the inauguration article, I personally believe that they should not include religious priests in the inauguration processions, because that in my opinion makes the inauguration ceremony too much like a coronation.

p.s. While we are discussing racism I would recommend another article, "Would You Have Been A Nazi?" - This article discusses Milgram's average rate of obedience.

2. "Clara" [The New Yorker]

It is a short-story about love and life. Lately, I find myself wondering, what is that keeps people together? What is that makes us take the big leap, and decide, "Okay, you, right there, I want to spend the rest of my life with you." I keep hearing that in life you don't get everything you want. Sometimes you have to meet destiny halfway. But, how about those who refuse to compromise, and persistently remain on their quest to find the right person? Are these the individuals who end up losing out in the end? And, those who are not really happy but still stick it out, are they smarter than the idealistic individuals, such as yours truly?

My biggest fear is settling down with someone who seems okay at first, but then things fall apart once the honeymoon period is over. Enter these 2 breakup songs: James Morrison ft. Nelly Furtado - Broken Strings and Gnarls Barkley - Going On. There are certain people who sound perfect in theory, but their personalities and values just don't mesh in the end. And, then there is the case where you meet the person, who has everything you ever wanted, but something is awry. I am starting to think that this relationship stuff is very complicated. People should either live alone. Or, when they get married their brains should be reprogrammed to fulfill each other's needs and wants.

Geez, when did this blog become so confessional! In my defence, I just got a "talk" for being too picky. My mom clearly took a page from Mama Bennet's 'How to successfully get your daughter married' book. I always believed that the only important thing a person should look for in a relationship is mutual respect and appreciation. But now I feel, respect and appreciation alone can only take you so far. I guess nobody understands this stuff, hence the abundance of movies and books addressing this subject. Theoretically we all know a successful relationship is based upon myriad factors. But it seems that when push comes to shove we are required to have a moment of solitude and decide what is important to us. Or, if some one's making you do that, and things don't flow and fit automatically, then you know it is not working. Right?!

3. "Horatio Alger Relocates to Mumbai Slum" [The Times]

This article is about 'Slumdog Millionaire'. The movie won the Globes last week, and has a strong chance of winning the Oscar. The million dollar (insert: embarrassed smile) is what makes this predictable fairytale story so exceptional? The writer here says, in Jamal the American audience sees Great Gatsby. It is the first movie out of India which is not about the exotic land or about the Indian singing and dancing ('Monsoon Wedding').

The movie for the first time shows:
"The arbitrary power of the police officer toward the citizen and the gangster toward the slum dweller. The schools where teachers throw books at students and lessons consist of choral echoing of the teacher’s words. The slum where cooking and child-rearing and defecation are semi-public activities, and where it would be hard to develop the mental independence to question an arranged marriage or abuse by the better-born."

But that is not it, it also reminds Americans of an important lesson of Collectivism, a cultural belief Indians hold very dear, and sometimes use to attack the West; but now trying to shed.

The movie works because:
"It is roots and linkages that many Indians now seek to shed, and many Americans now seek to reclaim. And that may be the silent allure of “Slumdog Millionaire.” It is a tribute to the irrepressible self, filmed in a society now realizing it has given the self too little, watched in a society now realizing it has given the self too much."

4. "One Day You're Indispensable, the Next Day..." [The Times]

"'Nobody is indispensable indefinitely,” said John Kao, a jazz musician and innovation consultant to corporations and governments. “The ‘great man’ theory does hold water, but mainly at times of transition when a charismatic leader lends what psychologists would call an individual’s ego strengths to the organization or country as a whole, to allow it to regroup and move forward.'"

This article, ponders over Steve Jobs's indispensability, and what the future of Apple would look like in his absence. Resisting the urge to mention any of Bart Simpsons jokes I have already mentioned here, in the past.

This article about indispensability makes me wonder, how Obama would be tested. Bush in his last interviews has said that only time would be able to judge his 8 years objectively. The article also mentions that in 1930s Churchill seemed indispensable, but by the end of his term in 1935 that was clearly not the case. On Tuesday, new era would be sworn in. I have doubts and my share of skepticism, but you cannot really go wrong with hope, eh? Maybe I wouldn't mind dating an American guy after all ;). Only if Obama knew, how happy he is making the North American-South Asian community :).

N.B. I have included pictures, I took on this beautiful Snowy Sunday.


Kia said...

> Zany
This is a great idea. I really *should* be working but those articles seem really interesting, particularly the 'Self-portrait' one (I too agree with what he's saying). I'll give it a read and comment in more depth later.


Maria Sondule said...

I absolutely adore this post!!!
I agree that we're all racist to some degree. Personally, i think I'm racist just by trying not to be racist. (it's like colleges and their quotas) Although I don't get nervous when I see a middle-eastern guy with a backpack.
And love is extremely weird. It's too deep to understand. That's why so many people get divorced.

changetheworld360 said...

Zany, I wish I had time to read all of these very insightful articles and thoughts instead of just skimming! I'm looking forward to seeing this on a regular basis. I agree with the fact that we are all racist, at least subconsciously. Interesting take on Slumdog Millionaire as well.
Also, props to your photography. Snow looks so quaint yet mysterious under a lens.

Zany said...

Thank you so much for reading. I also really liked the "Self-Portrait" article and could relate to the issues Pasha Malla pointed out. I really appreciate your comments.

I look forward to reading your comments. I hope your cold is better now :).

You mentioned an excellent point about American colleges and their racial quotas. Luckily, we don't have the racial quotas in our universities. Or maybe they try to judge our ethnicities by our names?! Hmmm...

I have to come up with a shorter name for you :). I will try to make this a regular post. I got the photography inspiration from the snow pictures you and Maria have put up on your blogs. I am glad you liked them. Thanks :).