Wednesday, September 17, 2008

Movie Review : The Black Dahlia

Interesting movie. A little confusing with all the back and forth and multiple cases.

But some good acting, good performances and interesting story.

Some may need to watch the movie twice to get the whole story because the plot lines are a little convoluted.

But its worth a watch for those who enjoy crime mysteries. This one has a nice 40's vibe.

Book Review : Everyone Worth Knowing

Picked this one up because I found the "Devil Wears Prada" good for a light read when traveling.

The cover of Everyone Worth Knowing touted the fact that is was written by the same author in almost the same font size as the title.

That should have warned me : Be wary when someone is trying too hard.

The theme here is vaguely similar to the original bestseller, Bette the main protagonist is sick of her job in banking, her boss and his daily inspirational emails with quotations. One day she quits her job in disgust and then spends the next couple of weeks vegetating in her house.

Her well known columnist uncle, Will uses his connections to get her a job at an up and coming boutique PR firm where partying hard is part of her job.

The rest of the book is a constant whine of how terrible Bette's life is and how she isn't happy with what she is doing but still keeps doing it anyway.

This book has none of the humor of the first, or something enlightening like a window into the fashion magazine industry that the first book provided.

This book just talks about the parties the PR folks attend where they drink, do drugs and have random hookups with barely any insight into the inner workings of the PR industry.

This book is a combination of gossip pages, Harlequin romances (which Bette incidentally favours and even has monthly book club meetings to discuss them) and poor me whining.

The book is barely passable as chicklit. Guys don't even bother starting to read it.

Also published on


Monday, September 15, 2008

Movie Reviews : Trade & Human Trafficking

By coincidence, I happened to watch 2 movies dealing with the same subject in 2 days. One a video rental, the other a Lifetime miniseries on Hallmark.

Both deal with the subject of women and young children being kidnapped and sold in a modern day form of slavery.

Trade is a movie seen from the eyes of a Mexican teenager following the trail of his 13 year old sister and her kidnappers across the border. Human Trafficking mostly follows from the point of view of an NYPD agent working with the Immigration and Customs Enforcement.

In both movies, the women are brought from all over the world into Mexico and then into the US by walking across the Mexican border.

Both show Mexican cops hand in glove with the traders. In both movies there is a scene where the Mexican cops get to "sample the merchandise" when it is being en route.

In Trade, the group is caught by the border police in the US and placed in detention until they can be sent back to Mexico. And the American officials simply turn away when one of the women tries to explain that they have been kidnapped.

Both movies are very realistic without being sensational or titillating. The horrors the girls and children (little boys and girls) face are unimaginable.

In Human Trafficking an entire set of young children is sequestered in a container and sent on a ship bound for Saudi Arabia on a 10 day journey from Mexico when their pimp gets news that the cops are about to raid his den.

Trade introduces 2 new child actors who are absolutely brilliant in their roles. Kevin Kline is the only well known actor in that movie and is in more of a supporting role.

Human Trafficking has a star cast of Donald Sutherland, Mira Sorvino and Robert Carlyle (the Scottish guy from Full Monty) who turns out an amazingly chilly performance as a Eastern European Sex Trade boss.

The entire situation of Human Trafficking is summed up absolutely eloquently in Mira Sorvino's press statement at the end of that movie.

Worth a watch for the realistic view of a universal problem. As Sorvino said "It could be your daughter, your sister, your best friend next"

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Sunday, September 14, 2008

Attacks on Churches and Christians in India

Section 144 has just been clamped on Mangalore city.

Police resorted to lathi charge and throwing tear gas grenades at peaceful protesters where a number of nuns and women were injured and had to be taken to hospital.

What the hell is wrong with our country and its people? (I would not normally use such strong language in print, but it doesn't even begin to demonstrate how strongly I feel)

Today morning between 9am and 10am, Bajrang Dal activists attacked and destroyed 4 churches in Mangalore City.

Why? Because New Life members distributed pamphlets which said "Do not Worship Hindu Gods"
While I admit that this could be an incendiary statement, does this justify attacking people and churches who do not even agree with the methods used by the New Life preachers?
Does this justify attacking members of a church, who have not had anything to do with conversions or preaching and just listen?

Lets look at the issues here:
1. The Bajrang Dal resorts to violence because of something that is printed that they do not agree with.
2. When the Bajrang Dal says that conversions are illegal, (and all the other things they do with tis as their cause) aren't they infact enforcing that "you cannot worship any God other than a Hindu God"
3. The New Life Church is a relative newcomer, known to be more hardline than most other churches which distance themselves from them. Shouldn't the Bajrang Dal have at least distinguished that?
4. Even if they did not agree with what was printed by the New Life church in India, couldn't they try having a dialog with them first, before resorting to violence.
Looks like the hooligans behind these attacks are only interested in breaking bones and getting their adrenaline pumping rather than really trying to sort out any kinds of problems or misunderstandings.

The ruffians broke all the religious statues in the Sisters of Poor Clare's Adoration Monastery. They threw the Holy Eucharist on the ground and desecrated it.

Is this OK, just because it is being done against Catholics/Christians in India who have historically been as non-violent as the Jains and buddhists (other minorities) in India?

Concerned members of the churches gathered in the church grounds during and after evening mass in a peaceful way to seek assurance and guidance from the priests and other religious. Wasn't this a peaceful gahtering compared to mobs rampaging and torching buses because of some mud smeared on Meenatai's statue? or The countrywide riots following a desecration of an Ambedkar statue in Kanpur? The second incident was also of smeared mud. Both the desecrations happened on public roads. This does not make it right, but compare this to religious statues being broken on private property, the Holy Eucharist (which Christians believe is the body of Christ once it is blessed) thrown on the ground. Do not Christians have a right to congregate to discuss their fears following such incidents.

Remember the Christians were gathering in peace outside their place of worship (since the insides of the church were full) not going out and torching buses or hurting other innocent people.

To add fuel to the fire, the police arrived. No issues with their arriving where crowds had gathered, but they started lathi charging the gathered people and seriously injured nuns and women among the crowd and threw tear bombs inside the church where Sunday evening mass was being held. A religious ceremony, a peaceful ceremony, held everyday inside these churches.

Was this responsible on the part of the police to use force and violence against unarmed, peaceful members of the public?

People present at the scene said that the police themselves were pelting stones at the crowd and caning them, hurting both people and damaging property in the vicinity.

The news channels started to broadcast about this and then completely hushed up. I turned on my India feed of NDTV which promised for 15 minutes to show an update and news about Mangalore city and suddenly it stopped showing those banners without showing any news about what had happened. Looks like someone high in the political chain, got to them and yanked the news off the air.

Now take 2-3 other incidents into perspective.
On 29th August over 40,000 Christian Educational Institutions across India stayed closed to register a peaceful protest against the continuing violence against Christians in Orissa which has now spread to 13 out of 30 districts.

On the same day, the government of Karnataka announced its decision to take action against Christian schools in the state for closing without prior permission.

This same government has yet to take action against the Akhila Bharatiya Vidyarthi Parishat and RSS workers, who had launched violent protests when the JD (S) failed to hand over the state reins to the BJP last year.

Is it any surprise that both Karnataka and Orissa currently have the BJP in power?

The VHP held violent protests in Madhya Pradesh and other places asking why the Christians had killed Saraswati? (by shutting educational institutions for a day) What about all the occasions when the BJP/VHP/Bajrang Dal/Shiv Sena and other Hindu organisations force schools, colleges and business to shut shutter for their own bundhs which destroy all normalcy in the cities?

Why are these double standards in play? Why are Christians being given the short end of the stick? Religious Christian institutions have a large role to play in education, medicine, caring for the orphans, abandoned, old and dying in India. Christians have been one of the most tolerant minorities in India (imagine what would have happened by now if by chance the Bajrang Dal hooligans had desecrated a mosque this morning) who have contributed immensely to the growth of the country. Why this treatment? Do they deserve it?

Do they deserve a government that is apathetic to their religious sensibilities being trampled upon?

Christians have always believed in being peace loving, patient and tolerant. Will the Christian youth of today continue to be as tolerant when they see the atrocities being committed against their brethren in Orissa and the North East?

Why are these atrocities against Christians being downplayed in the media? (Try googling for the attack against Christians in India and see how many Indian media links pop up) Why aren't they being given coverage? Is it because the powers-that-be know that they aren't doing a thing to control, controllable situations and the miscreants in their party? Is it because the powers-that-be know that the Christians haven't ever retaliated with violence? How long will the Christians community be able to react with tolerance and peace? (2 values that a lot of Indians in the news seem to have completely forgotten about)

Final note of irony: Union minister of labour and employment Oscar Fernandes (a Christian) was in Mangalore today to inaugurate the opening of a (Hindu) temple.

And so we debate endlessly in the media about terrorism coming in from across the border while we burn our own own citizens in their homes and places of worship.

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Tuesday, September 09, 2008

Book Review : The Appeal

The latest bestseller from John Grisham after - The Innocent Man.

Given that the Innocent Man was a work of non-fiction, makes this book all the more frightening. Grisham himself was very excited about his first real legal thriller in years.

In this book (I wouldn't call it a novel) Grisham exposes the nexus between big business, politics and the law. While these have always been recurring themes in his books, this time in "The Appeal" it is the sole focus of the book.

The book starts with a chemical and environmental pollution case in small town Bowmore, Mississippi, now nicknamed Cancer County, where Krane Chemical is the accused and Jeanette Baker the plaintiff.

Jeanette has lost both her husband and son to cancer. This makes hers the strongest case to start with for her lawyers - Wes and Mary Payton. There are plenty of mass tort specialists and ambulance chasers waiting in the wings for the decision on this case, so they can all get themselves a piece of the pie (30% to the lawyers) while the Paytons themselves are over 400,000$ in debt by virtue of working and following up on this case (to the exclusion of all others).

The jury orders damages of 41 million dollars to be paid to Jeanette and here is where the plot actually takes off.

It is an intriguing ride that Grisham takes us on and is an excellent medium to learn how the Supreme Courts in the US work. Most states choose their Supreme Court justices by election, which leaves plenty of room for interested parties to skew the process. How that happens, is the meat of this book.

The ending may not please a lot of readers, but it is extremely realistic and I admire Grisham for leaving it there rather than neatly tying things up.

The book is extremely interesting and educating on the political and legal intrigue that takes place behind these elections. While this may be a work of fiction, it could very well become reality, any time in the near future and that is what is so scary about this book.

Also published on

Monday, September 08, 2008

Book Review : A Prisoner of Birth

Lord Jeffrey Archer is back with a bang! Doing what he does best. Writing fiction with revenge and justice as the major themes of his novel.

I have not been as lucky as IdeaSmith as to meet this Lord in person. But I'm sure it would be an amazing experience just to hear him speak on any topic on this earth. He has an astounding insight on what seems to be almost everything.

Lord Archer has proved yet again why he is one of the leading best selling authors of this generation.

The similarities to Dumas's Count of Monte Cristo are clearly evident in this tale and even the main protagonist keeps referring to the book. But Archer gives this tale a modern twist and spices it up with intimate knowledge of the details that he gathered during his 2 year tryst in Her Majesty's prisons.

The tempo of the novel keeps building up and its quite un-put-down-able (not sure if that is a word, but it describes this story aptly) To use a real word, this is a page turner. Definitely not bed time reading unless you plan to stay up all night until you are done.

This is a book that every mystery/crime fan should buy and read and re-read (its a book that may need to be read twice as new angles are discovered which have a different significance on past conversations and situations)

I'm now waiting for Paths of Glory which he is due to release in March of next year.

Also published on

Sunday, August 24, 2008

Movie Review : Jab We Met

Light fun movie of Shahid and Kareena Kapoors in the pre-split-up days.

Excellent performance by both. One of the rare movies where Kareena played a believable role.

Light hearted movie, worth it when you are in a time pass mood.

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Book Review : Diplomatic Baggage: The Adventures of a Trailing Spouse

As a Trailing Spouse to Egypt, this was a book recommended at an Inter-cultural training session that I attended.

I am glad I waited 2 years to read this book (I might have been terrified of the move) although I'm kicking myself for spending money on it, even though I got it at a discounted price on Amazon.

I got carried away by William Dalrymple's (an author I greatly admire) review of it: "Brigid Keenan, is a new comic genius.... very, very funny"

Later in the book, I figured out that he spent time at their house in Damascus, while researching his book From the Holy Mountain.

Why did I hate the book so much?
Except for the last chapter, the author was constantly whining and groaning about the hardships that life had tossed at her. This after choosing to marry her husband of her own free will, knowing the kind of job he did and loved would take him to obtuse corners of the world. It was a fully informed decision that she took. Even spending some days with him, in what she calls a "chicken shed" in Kathmandu before deciding to marry him.

She constantly whines about everything from the help, to the kids, to her husband, to location.... in short, she whines about Everything.

The life of a Diplomatic Trailing Spouse is much easier than that of other Trailing Spouses. Accommodation, household help, office help, everything is put in place before the diplomatic family even arrives at their new location. Brigid's grouse is that some of the other European embassies provide more services to the spouses than her husbands European Commission ambassadors office does.

She promotes herself as a glamorous, successful young London fashion journalist, but later in the book accepts and acknowledges that her children were the worst dressed in their school.

I do not know Brigid personally, but what I read in her this autobiography of hers, made me think of her as a spoiled, over indulged wife who can never find anything positive and good in life.

Granted she had a few scares like the maggots that got under the skin and had to mature and grow and eat their way out, but those kind of experiences were less than you could count on one hand. For the most part, she was preoccupied with how to find whit gloves for a 6 fingered servant in India and wondering why there was no association to put beggars to sleep the way Animal friends does it for animals! At the same time brushing aside her daughters experiences with pedophiles and exposers as casual asides.

Brigid has written about Kashmir's art and crafts and co authored a book on Damascus; which may be worth looking at, but Diplomatic Baggage is not a book you want to buy or gift a friend who is going to be a Trailing Spouse, not unless you want them to cancel all plans and send their spouse to live abroad on their own.

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Sunday, June 29, 2008

Book Review : Cherry Bomb

The entire title Reads - Cherry Bomb : The Ultimate Guide to becoming a Better Flirt, a Tougher Chick and a Hotter Girlfriend, And to Living Life like a Rockstar

I don't read "how-to" books, but the title for this one by Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna had me intrigued and itching to get my hands on it, to read more.

Carrie Borzillo-Vrenna has been a music and entertainment journalist since the last 20 years and is best known for her books on Nirvana and Kurt Cobain, her sex and relationship advice column “Dr. Love” for the Gene Simmons Tongue magazine and her music related articles in People, Billboard, Spin, and Alternative Press magazines.

The title "Cherry Bomb" comes from the song by Joan Jett of The Runaways. Carrie says "Joan Jett's attitude, style and music has always inspired me so I'm happy to reference the Runaways song (in the title) even if some younger people won't know what it means right away. That's ok because cherries are sweet and bombs are badass and the book is all about being a sweet badass! To me, those two words, sum up the book nicely and it's a killer song to boot!"

Cherry Bomb is an alphabetized reference from Absinthe (the new Drink of Choice for the Rock and roll set) to Zig Zags (The Cool Way to Roll a Joint) with Celebrity Pick-up tips, Fetishes, Infidelity Pacts, Orgasms, Piercings, Strip Tease and Tour Bus Etiquette in between .

The tips and techniques are invaluable to a rock chick. There are tips and detailed instructions on how to tie a cherry stem into a knot (using just your mouth- no hands), how to get backstage without being a whore, using bottle service to buy VIP status at the hottest nightclubs, how to perform a striptease (by Burlesque star - Ditta Von Teese) The tips are practical and easily doable, no matter who you are or what kind of budget you are on.

Being in the music industry as a writer and as a wife to a Grammy winning Rockstar - Chris Vrenna who plays keyboards with Marilyn Manson and drums with Gnarls Barkley- Carrie is more than qualified to write this guide. Most of the tips come from her own real life experiences. For the few areas that she did not have first hand experience with when she started writing, she enlisted the help of her celebrity friends including
Cherie Currie of THE RUNAWAYS (on "Cherry Bomb," the song that influenced the book)
Tori Amos (Life Advice)
Betsey Johnson (Breast Cancer Awareness and Personal Style)
Anna Sui (Fashion Inspiration)
Dancing with the Stars' Cheryl Burke (Dancing Tips)
Celeb hairstylist Dean Banowetz (Rockin' Up 'Dos)
Master Chef Dave Rubell (Black Vodka Recipes)
and Stylist Cynthia Freund (Rock Chick Style Tips) among others.

My favorite guest how-to chapter is the one by Peaches' drummer Samantha Maloney on how to play the Drums. It re-ignited an old flame and I just might be inspired enough to go out and get myself into classes and buy myself a drum set. My favorite chapters by Carrie are Jet Setting, Jobs, Money and Networking.

I always thought I had a more than fair knowledge about rock music and rock stars, but on reading Carrie's book, I know I have a lot more to learn and a lot more musicians that I need to listen to at least once. Her list of songs at the end of some chapters seems to be a good place to start. The lists are mood based - songs to Vacuum fast To (the Anger Stage), songs to Eat a Pint of Ice Cream to (the Depression Stage), Funk Fixers etc.

For the Relationship kinda quiz addicts, there are a couple of quizzes as well, to check if you are rockstar girlfriend material and which rock chick you are most like.

The illustrations by Liz Adams are apt and cute (not a word you would associate with rock, but thats truly what they are.)

There is something for everyone in this book. Men can find a lot of the chapters interesting and relevant too. The title hooked my husband and he browsed through the book and loved what he read.

You don't need to be in the rock industry or dating a rock star to use these tips. These tips are great for any independent, confident woman who is comfortable with herself and who she is. From a gangly pre-teen to a grandmother in her 60's, any woman with self assurance can find something of value in this guide and for someone who lacks self assurance, Cherry Bomb is a great place to start.

This book is due for release on the 5th of August 2008 and can be pre-ordered on Amazon. For anyone who has ever been interested in the lives of Rock Stars and been envious of their lifestyle, this book is a definite must-buy as it shows you step by simple step how to lead their life with panache and confidence. Cherry Bomb delivers on all its promises and does impart relevant and easy to follow tips on how to become a better flirt, tougher chick and hotter girlfriend.

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Monday, May 19, 2008

Relocation Stress Syndrome

Similar to Culture Shock.

Relocation Stress Syndrome (RSS) is defined as the physiologic and psychosocial disturbances that result from transfer from one environment to another. The stress associated with relocation is so extreme that experts evaluate it as being on par with the stress of divorce or of a death in the family. After a move, RSS can last for several months, often persisting a year or longer.
Psychologists agree that moving is a lengthy process of adjustment to changed circumstances and a new environment. The impact of stressors during RSS is heightened when there is no opportunity to move gradually and when the losses are considerable, i.e., loss of lifestyle, friends, family and usual routines, cultural values, and language facility.

The symptoms of RSS are loneliness, depression, anger, apprehension, dependency, confusion, anxiety and withdrawal and can affect anybody who moves to a new home. Minor characteristics include changes in sleeping and eating habits, insecurity, lack of trust and need for excessive reassurance.
RSS is experienced until a sense of control is regained. When experiencing relocation stress, the process depends on a number of variables, such as age and stage of life, personality, number of losses, amount of preparation and the degree and type of support before, during and after the move. There is a normal and predictable adjustment process that every relocatee will experience upon expatriation and repatriation, as well as with domestic moves, but researchers found that older individuals can take longer to adjust than the younger population.

From The 6th Families in Global Transition - International Conference

Symptoms of Repatriation:
A person returning to home country after living abroad for more than 3 years is likely to experience some or all of these symptoms:
  • A feeling of not being accepted or respected
  • A feeling of alienation from friends and family
  • A feeling that friends and family don’t understand or appreciate your experiences
  • A feeling of emptiness and meaninglessness
  • A feeling of loneliness and rejection from society
  • A feeling of loss of lifestyle, career and prestige
  • An idealization of the country that was left
  • A feeling of anger frustration which can manifest itself suddenly and sharply

Saturday, April 26, 2008

How Wikipedia Conquered my Reality Soap/TV Addiction

I was typing a comment on Uma's post A Bad Habit Called A Reality Soap and realised I had written a comment long enough to be a post :)

Most of the reality shows that I used to watch - I realised I was watching them because I liked seeing who would get eliminated next.

I was lucky, because most of the reality shows I watch are the American ones which come to India a couple of months after they are released in the US. So after losing a couple of hours spent unproductively watching reality shows, I realised that just checking the Wikipedia entry for that season cured me of it.

Wikipedia lets me know who got eliminated and why and who won & thats it, no longer any compulsion to watch the show. Thats because my trigger to watch most of them was the suspense and surprise.

With my location change and different seasons playing in different countries on different channels, I was getting confused with sequence of events on serials like Lost, Prison Break, Desperate Housewives. Wikipedia also helped me catch up on all the seasons of Lost with 3 hours of reading. Same for the other serials too.

Of course there are the shows like "So you think you can dance?" which I watch for the performances but I'm not too interested in the results show the next day because I know I will figure out next week who has been dropped anyway.

I used to be a huge fan of American Idol till Constantine, Latoya, Jennifer Hudson, Melinda, Daughtry consecutively kept getting out, way before their time while lesser performers were still kept on. I just stopped watching each season when my favorites got out because I no longer felt it was worth watching. Proof of the flawed voting system is that only 2 of the winners of this show in its 6 seasons - Kelly Clarkson (Season 1)and Carrie Underwood (Season 4) - have received commercial success while many of the finalists who were dropped on the side have had a better success rate. Season 7 which is currently on does not have a single finalist who seemed interesting enough for me to follow the series and Simon is now more obtuse than brilliant, so I just watch it intermittently.

With Rockstar INXS and Supernova seasons, I had slightly better luck. My favorites made it to the final 3 each season although they lost out to the person I least liked from the entire bunch both times. While I have reconsidered my opinion on J D Fortune, I still think Dilana was the best of the second bunch.

I used to love The Amazing Race till it started blurring the lines with Fear Factor. When competitors on The Amazing Race had to start eating weird stuff it grossed me out too much to follow it.

Each of my favorite reality shows/contests gave me its own reason to stop me from being addicted and obsessing about watching it on time every week. The downside is that I seem to have replaced it with an addiction to Wikipedia.

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Sunday, April 20, 2008

Book Review: The Innocent Man - John Grisham

Also published at

After lying unread on my bookshelf for over 9 months, I finally got around to reading John Grisham's latest offering and first work of non-fiction - "The Innocent Man".

Growing up on a steady diet of Erle Stanley Gardner and in love with Perry Mason, it was but natural that I become a fan of John Grisham's legal works of fiction. But other than "Skipping Christmas" which was moderately interesting, his non-legal fiction did not excite me at all. So I wasn't sure what to expect with his work of legal non-fiction.

Fortunately it was interesting reading for the most part except the botched trial that got really slow and repetitive. Since this was a true story and Grisham was using actual court transcripts, he had to keep it so, but could have edited it a bit to make it crisper. Maybe all the legal serials we watch - The Practice, Law & Order, Boston Legal and others of their ilk have gotten me to expect snappy, sharp detective work, logical but persuasive arguments by counsel and crisp closing statements. The way the case was handled was completely slip shod and pathetic and makes you wonder at the possibility of truly getting justice unless you are in a TV serial.

Little wonder that a libel suit was filed against John Grisham on 28, September 2007, by Pontotoc County - Oklahoma, District Attorney Bill Peterson and Gary Rogers, a former Oklahoma State Bureau of Investigation agent.

This true story, is remarkable for the fact that the main accused Ron Williamson who was framed by the law enforcement team of Pontotoc County was not just a "white" man, he was a semi-FAMOUS "white" man.

Ron Williamson was a local hero on the baseball field and was also the 41st pick in baseball's 1971 amateur draft, a second-round selection by the Oakland Athletics. Due to poor performance, he did not hit the big time but he was still quite a local celebrity when he was accused as the murderer of cocktail waitress Debra Carter.

His co-accused Dennis Fritz had nothing to implicate him except that he and Williamson were occasional "drinking buddies". Ironically Fritz's own wife had been murdered 7 years ago.

The police used forced dream confessions, convicted felons as snitches and witnesses, junk science and other dubious means to get them both convicted. Williamson got the death penalty which automatically set a series of appeals in motion while Fritz got a life sentence.

Through his incarceration, Williamson deteriorated physically and mentally despite the efforts of some good hearted souls until the Innocence Project - (basis for the serial In Justice) helped get them both acquitted after 12 years on the basis of the new technology - DNA testing.

Grisham read Williamson's obituary when he died (5 years after being released) and was inspired to research and write this book.

I started out reading the book, knowing that the main accused was innocent (could the title have been more descriptive?). Grisham wrote the book, knowing that Williamson was innocent. But even someone who didn't know some of the data presented here in hindsight, could have seen that this was a wrongful conviction. And it appalls you that even though the case came up for appeal multiple times, each person upheld the original wrongful conviction.

Hence Grisham seems to have achieved his major goal in writing this novel.

"If you believe that in America, you are innocent until proven guilty, this book will shock you.
If you believe in the Death Penalty, this book will disturb you.
If you believe the criminal justice system is fair, this book will infuriate you"

Friday, April 18, 2008

India's Game, U.S. Spice

I was just watching the start of the IPL today and looking at the cheerleaders in Chinnaswamy stadium, I commented to my husband "I wonder how long it will take for the nari sanghas and so called moral guardians of Indian culture to start protesting against these cheerleaders."

Apart from Brendan McKellums amazing performance and Shah Rukhs exuberance on the side lines, the cheerleaders and how soon they would be shut down was what we discussed. But as the following brilliantly written editorial suggests, we may soon have "cheerleaders" entering the Hindi dictionary :)

I don't have the exact link for this piece, but full credits have been mentioned.

Op-ed in NY Times on the IPL!!

April 15, 2008
Op-Ed Contributor
India's Game, U.S. Spice

IN the blink of an eye, India has gone from faith, prudence and chastity to ... Brittany, Courtney and Tiffani. On Sunday, a team of Washington Redskins cheerleaders landed in Bangalore to help create India's first cheerleading squad.

According to the Redskins' Web site, the cheerleaders will "conduct a national audition of Indian women." The aim of the exercise is to set up a squad of indigenous pompom wielders for the Bangalore Royal Challengers, one of eight teams that will play in the Indian Premier League, a rich new Indian cricket league.

"Cheerleading is a unique American spirit and the fact that it is now a bridge into India and their national sport cricket, speaks to the world vision of the Washington Redskins," said an American spokesman involved with the effort. But it speaks to other things, too. It shows how brash India has become, and also how this brash new India has transformed cricket — once the most staid of sports — into a game that is perilously close to a circus.

Yet how paradoxical it is, and how delightful, that Bangalore, a city that has leapt to global prominence on the back of work outsourced by America, is now itself outsourcing from America — outsourcing glamour, no less. How will India respond to cheerleading? An old language scholar I spoke to declared himself unsure of what a Hindi neologism for "cheerleader" might be. He offered "utsaah-pradarshak naari" — "a woman who displays enthusiasm" — as a candidate.

But when I countered that the job of the woman was as much to spur on a crowd as to spur herself on, we agreed that "utsaah-utpaadak naari" — "a woman who generates enthusiasm" — might be more apt. (We ruled out "utsaah-utpaadak-pradarshak naari" — "a woman who displays and generates enthusiasm" — on grounds of unwieldiness, although we have a sneaking suspicion that Hindi speakers will simply import "cheerleader" into their lexicon, as a loan word from English.

Inevitably, moral scolds — of which India, as a society, has a surplus — will write letters to the editor complaining about the vulgarity/anti-Indianness/neocolonialism of the cheerleaders. It is conceivable, too, that there will be demonstrations outside the cricket stadium by women's groups and Hindu fundamentalists.

All this, however, pales when compared to the broader lessons. With the Redskins cheerleaders on Indian soil, one can safely declare that the British cultural influence in India has been entirely replaced by an American one, cricket notwithstanding. India's relationship with the United States — economic, strategic, diasporic and cultural — is now its primary external alliance, with a complex nuclear deal at one end of the spectrum and 12 cheerleaders and two choreographers at the other.

Tunku Varadarajan is a professor at New York University's Stern School of Business and a fellow at Stanford's Hoover Institution.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Child Artists - Prodigies or fodder for Pedophiles ?

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There are a surfeit of reality programs/contests geared for kids on TV these days. There are also a number of kids who act/dance in TV serials and movies.

I have a few basic issues with child performers and their overall development as human beings, after being thrust into the limelight at a young age. But at the end of the day, their parents are their custodians and should be taking care of the mental development of their children.

Coming to the singing and dancing contests, most of the judges do try to be gentle with the children, but some of them are quite rude and fancy themselves as the Indian answer to Simon Cowell. This is terrible for the self esteem of young children who have not yet developed the coping mechanisms of dealing with negative comments directed at them (especially on National TV)

A friend of mine in the advertising industry, told me of an audition they had called for, a week ago in Bombay. It was on a week day during school timings. More than 5000 parents turned up with their children. Obviously the company could not see them all on the same day. The parents whose children did not get a chance on Day 1 were prepared to come back every day of the next week and longer if it meant getting their child a chance to audition. Not a chance to act, not a chance to be in a movie, but the chance to audition. They were willing to have their child miss school for over a week for a chance to audition for a silent role in an advertisement.

My mom would have turned down Karan Johar or Yash Chopra themselves, even if they had guaranteed me or my siblings a leading role in their upcoming movie, if it meant missing even half an hour of school.

Parents these days are trying to push their children into the limelight too soon. We do not have much data on grown up child stars in India. But look at Hollywood. With the exception of the Olsen twins (who also had their weight problems) which of the child stars has emerged as a balanced human being ?

Inspite of all this background, my main issue is with the kind of performances that some of these children are being coerced into displaying here in India.

They are dancing to item number songs. 6-12 year olds dancing to the steps of Helen or even worse - Rakhi Sawant and her ilk. Rakhi is old enough and smart enough to know what kind of effect her jhatak mataks & clothes can have on the adult male population. What do these little ones know and why should they know it so early in their life?

Look at the kid in the "cutting-shutting" paint ad. She was memorable for being what a normal 7 year old child would be. So why is the media trying to con us into believing that 6 year olds are old enough to be dancing as vamps and item girls? Why are they sexualizing young children?

The US has a long history of child beauty pageants and an equally long history of pedophiles who follow the child beauty pageant circuits. Mental health experts almost all agree, that exposing young children to the sordid world behind the glamor is completely unhealthy for their well being. And the end result of making children dress, dance and act like adults makes them easier targets for pedophiles.

Agreed we do not have a well documented history of Indian pedophile cases. The only ones that make the news are when foreigners abuse children under the guise of orphanages or children's homes. But that does not mean that pedophilia doesn't exist in India.

The actions of these children is perfect fodder for the appetites of pedophiles. They even look obscene to the general public (I hope its to the general public and not just a minority of people like me)

So why are these children doing this ? Is it pressure from parents or from the media to be all grown up and dance like a vamp? Or is it because the Shiamak Davar dance classes makes them seem ok? - His dances choreographed for children are reasonably age appropriate, but he sometimes has a couple of children dancing with the older members of the troupe and performing the same steps as the 20+ year old troupe members.

Fortunately Javed Jaffery tried to bring about a voice of sanity in an episode that I watched today of Sansui Boogie Woogie - he is the first Indian celebrity who I have heard talking about age appropriate steps. But he wasn't strong enough in condemning this practice. As the celebrity anchor on the biggest launch pad for dance talent in India, he could afford to be much more stronger on his disapproval of some of the steps.

I hope parents begin to see sense some time soon. They are always going to try to live out their own dreams through their children - that isn't going to change any time soon. But I do hope they stop turning their children into adults before their time.

Saturday, February 09, 2008

2008 : Africa Cup of Nations

As I confessed last time, I'm not an avid sports person at all. Not even a spectator.

But with Egypt's recent win against Ghana in the semi finals of the 2008 Africa Cup and the celebrations that erupted all over the city 2 nights ago. I could remain ignorant no longer and had to brush up before the finals tomorrow. Because Football is all that this country is talking about right now.

Football is to Egypt what Cricket is to India. An insider tip in Cairo is that the best time to travel around the city is before the midday prayers on Friday, during Iftaar time in Ramadan and during a televised football match (when Egypt is playing another country or Al Ahli is playing Zamalek) This is when traffic on Cairo's otherwise congested roads is almost non-existent. The city looks like a ghost town.

Al Ahli and Zamalek are local clubs. More often than not it is the Al Ahli club that wins, but that doesn't distract the Zamalek loyalists. Matches between these 2 clubs are so fierce, that they are almost always officiated by foreign referees.

Coming to the Africa cup, its been held almost every alternate year since 1957 (making it older than the corresponding European championship). This year is the 26th edition. Winning this tournament is a big deal because the winner gets to represent the Confederation of African Football at the 2009 FIFA Confederations Cup which is a prelude to the 2010 FIFA World Cup

Egypt has been a semi finalist 12 times thus far, but reached the finals just 50% of the time. So when Egypt won the semi finals against Ivory Coast (their co-finalist in 2006 Africa Cup of Nations) on the night of the 7th, the city turned 4-5 times noisier than usual. To those who have been in Cairo and thought it wasn't possible to get any noisier, I humbly invite you to be here during the finals and witness it for yourself.

Egypt is the nation that has won this cup the most number of times (5 of the 6 times that it has been in the finals) The other semi finals this year were between Ghana (host nation) and Cameroon - both 4 time winners of this cup.

The finals tomorrow will be between Egypt and Cameroon and the whole city is gearing up towards it. Flags are being sold on every street corner and major road (you might as well buy something patriotic when you are stuck in 3 hour traffic jams) Absenteeism will be at its highest tomorrow. If Egypt wins tomorrow, I don't even want to hazard a guess as to how long the celebrations will continue.

So if you are around during the finals, get home before the scoring starts and stay in no matter what the outcome because there will tons of people on the road post the match either celebrating or taking out their frustrations. Because whatever you may have heard: "It's not just a game!"
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