Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Excuse the mess

Sorry about the way all this looks. It'll be fixed soon.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The Rest is Rubbish

After much haranguing, Landmark finally gave up and got me a copy of Alex Ross's The Rest is Noise, a delightful book about 20th century classical music. The first few pages have been pure oxygen. The language is so light and lyrical. I've needed this. My daily reading has otherwise constituted of sentences such as:

"The Central Government may specify penalties to be imposed, including suspension or revocation of licence, permission or registration, for violation of various terms and conditions as may be specified under section 3, subject to the condition that amount of a pecuniary penalty shall not exceed one crore rupees..."

Yet again The New Yorker and its writers come to my rescue. I truly dread reality in the form of government documents.

Monday, November 12, 2007

Falling out of love with a love song

When I first heard Mitwa, on the Kabhi Alvida Na Kehna album, I listened to it over and over again to understand why it was so haunting. Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy had last constructed songs so meaningful many years ago with Dil Chahta Hai, so this was a seriously welcome return to music that lasted. The song's opening, a delicate strum, wasn't new for the instrument - you hear beautiful guitar openings so often these days, few more evocative than Thakshak's Khamosh Raat - but the rise and fall in key as a musician barely plucked at strings slowly and deliberately, conveyed the message that matters of love can indeed be quite delicate. A female chorus rose then, singing in the voice of angels, "Love will find a way..."

I understood this much later, for upon hearing this song for the very first time, the words that registered in my head were, "Love me. Find a way..." I fell for these words more than the song, taking them to be a lover's plea to choose her over the other until a hunger had been sated. Frankly, it was magnificent. It was one man's wife telling another man to love her, and she didn't care how he did it. Alas, this impression of the lyrics was crushed one morning, and I was left with "love will find a way...", which is good advice for those without a plan, but not very encouraging for the realistic.

Update: Wife says "until a hunger had been sated" reads like a terrible line from M&B. I am inclined to agree, as all good husbands do.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Pearl, Kaplan, Packer, Wright, and Khaitan

Earlier today I watched A Mighty Heart, sharing an entire hall with eight others. I walked away a little shaken, for I had a back story to Daniel Pearl's drive to uncover links between the ISI and Al-Qaeda. As I have, anyone who has ever read The Journalist and the Terrorist, Robert Sam Anson's moving story in the August Vanity Fair issue the year Pearl was murdered is unlikely to forget. We learn that Pearl may have been spurred on by the irrational motivation journalists use to justify their doings. That his stories not making it to the front page may have added to it.

I came home and stared at my books, at Lawrence Wright's Looming Tower, at The Assassins Gate by George Packer, and remembered Robert D Kaplan's book where he hung out with militants. It's hard to describe the feeling. Not just an overwhelming sadness, or an admiration for what these guys do. A bit of a mix, you know? Ashish Khaitan has great courage, but the Tehelka investigation for me lacked something more lasting, something that carries on week after week, pummeling the rioters and instigators. Something that explains in detail what happened and when, and all the characters involved. Above all, something that has balance.

I'm afraid this has been one big ramble, but I guess what I'm trying to say is this: when you put your life at risk as a journalist, do you seek instant sensation, or do you, in your own little way, change the world you live in? Pearl, had he succeeded, would have certainly made it the the first page in a different way, by proving what people will say they already knew. But it would have changed people's positions slightly, now that they had proof. Khaitan has a wife and child too, and he probably knew of the danger he was and still is in. The outcome of his investigation has had its effect, but now what? Now what?

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Secret Dubai

From Secret Dubai, a very serious blog about life in the UAE.

"Hooray! Streets in the sandlands are finally getting names. No more endless driving around obscure areas of Jumeirah 2 looking for 19c street, only to realise that you actually need 19c street in Umm Seqeim 3, and it leads off 2 and 4b street before the junction with 12.75q street, rather than 19a street, which is actually somewhere in Al Quoz.

Does this mean streets will finally get interesting, evocative names? Such as "Old Camel Street", "Red Desert Road", "Palm Oasis Avenue" and "Stinking Fish Lane, Karama"? Or will we be stuck with several thousand more "Sheikh Ibn bin Khalid bin Al Waleed bin Talal Al Ziyad al Zayed"-type roads, all mispelt in every possible configuration on every map and road sign, with the result that most people end up in Abu Dhabi before they finally find anywhere?"

Ps. Also provided elsewhere on the blog, a UAE press release generator.

Why, Dubai?

This, in the New York Times:

"The authorities not only discouraged Alex from pressing charges, he, his family and French diplomats say; they raised the possibility of charging him with criminal homosexual activity, and neglected for weeks to inform him or his parents that one of his attackers had tested H.I.V. positive while in prison four years earlier."
And this, a corresponding report in the Dubai-based Khaleej Times:

"The Dubai Court of First Instance yesterday started the trial hearings of three UAE nationals, I.M. (15), A.A. (35), and A.G. (19), who allegedly kidnapped and raped a 15-year-old boy and French national, APC, in July this year.

The victim and his friend had left a beach café in Dubai to find a taxi. However, I.M. who was in the vicinity and who knew the victim greeted him and offered them a ide. After about 15 minutes, I.M. called the two other suspects who told the victim they have to go to some other place before they will drop him. They then drove towards Ibn Batutta mall.

However, APC whose suspicions were aroused called 999. I.M. and the two other accused who heard him talking to the police snatched the mobile phone and abused and threatened the French teenager. The three accused then drove to a deserted area in Al Barsha and APC’s friend to step out. They then threatened APC at knife-point and raped him.

Later, I.M. called his cousin to come to help pull out the car that had got stuck in loose sand. APC was to hide inside the car and not to raise any kind of alarm. APC was later dropped near the Beach Hotel in Jumeirah and immediately called his friend to inform him of what had happened.

During yesterday court hearing the Public Prosecution requested the court to sentence all three suspects to death. However, all three accused have pleaded not guilty on both counts of kidnapping and rape."