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January 31, 2003

Steve Almond interview

I don't usually flick two links from the same place in one day, but this Steve Almond interview is awefully good. (via bookslut). I don't share Mr. Almond's contempt for commerce, but it is still a very good conversation.


I now have a slightly longer list of links on the right hand nav. It is a compromise between what I read regularly, what I would like to read regularly and what I want to have there as an easy reference. I don't want the links list to become so long that it becomes ungainly and difficult to use. On the other hand, I do want to add on to this. I think the best thing to do would be to have a seperate links page which can be properly categorized.

I realized as I was adding links that I read way too much news and politics. I could fill my entire navigation with 'media and politics' links. It also helps that there are so many good political weblogs. But I really, really want to wean myself off that stuff. I ought to be reading more about retailing, supply chain and data warehousing. But there is no one doing a weblog on these subjects. Retailing people don't seem to be particularly enamoured of the web.

That storm in Ms Triesman's teacup

John Warner has a suggestion for Deborah Treisman (New Yorker's fiction editor). I personally think Matt Gross is right (the first letter dated Jan 31st). In top flight publications, salesmanship does matter. There is no point getting angry about it. They simply don't have the bandwidth when the noise to signal ratio is so high.

(links via bookslut)

Lieven's on Bennett's Pakistan book

Check out Anatol Lieven's review of 'Pakistan: Eye of the storm'. I thought Lieven is overly sympathetic to Pakistan's junta and its policies (I cringed when I read "Kargil operation brilliantly executed by the Pakistani Army"), but he did bring up a few excellent points including the fact that Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal alliance won only 11% of the vote in last Oct. and that they could win so much power only because ANP and PPP did not work together.

January 30, 2003


There are some interesting photographs of New York night life in Giovannu Del Brenna's portfolio.

My new write-up in Satya Circle

My new article, Deconstructing Hindu Extremism is up in Satya Circle.

I think as people we do very little self-examination. We tend to avert our eyes from the uncomfortable realities that do not conform to our world view. It is just so much easier to conform and let it all slide away.

An increasing percentage of people in India have an affluent lifestyle in the metros. The money cushions them from the violence and the disparities. Of course, the widespread upheavals that shake the country from time to time (e.g. the partition in 1947, the anti-Sikh riot of 1984, the violence against the Kashmiri pandits in the late eighties, the riot in Gujarat last year) etc.) don’t distinguish between the rich and the poor or the powerful and the weak. But the English speaking upwardly mobile of the metros are to a large extent shielded from the biases and the glass ceilings that affect the rest of the society.

Unfortunately, this section of the society is not as much a vehicle for change as one might think. Too many have a shallow fascination with the Western society, but have no appreciation for the values of independent thinking and egalitarianism that made the West great in the first place. Many tend to retain the prejudices.

In the rest of India, we seem to be getting the worst of all worlds; the economic disparities remind me of the South American countries like Argentina where the division between rich and poor is deep and permanent and the increasing religious divisiveness is akin to that of central European countries like erstwhile Yugoslavia where historic animosities tore the country apart. It is possible that I am being unduly alarmist, but I don't feel terribly hopeful about India right now. The political and social infrastructure of the country is badly in need of some healing.

The article is obviously an opinion piece and I am willing to be convinced otherwise.

January 29, 2003

The state of the union address

The note provides an exhaustive analysis of the State of the Union address and its media coverage.

January 28, 2003

A wonderful speech by Rushdie

"It is men and women who have made the world, and they have made it in spite of their gods. The message of the myths is not the one the gods would have us learn - that we should behave ourselves and know our place - but its exact opposite. It is that we must be guided by our natures. Our worst natures can, it's true, be arrogant, venal, corrupt, or selfish; but in our best selves, we - that is, you - can and will be joyous, adventurous, cheeky, creative, inquisitive, demanding, competitive, loving, and defiant.

Do not bow your heads. Do not know your place. Defy the gods. You will be astonished how many of them turn out to have feet of clay. Be guided, if possible, by your better natures. Great good luck and many congratulations to you all."

From the commencement address that Salman Rushdie gave at Bard College in 1996.

Update: The net is a magic place. Yahoo lists the most popular speeches on the net.

The spy cat that died

"they slit the cat open, put batteries in him, wired him up. The tail was used as an antenna. They made a monstrosity. They tested him and tested him. They found he would walk off the job when he got hungry, so they put another wire in to override that. Finally, they’re ready. They took it out to a park bench and said “Listen to those two guys. Don’t listen to anything else – not the birds, no cat or dog – just those two guys!” ... They put him out of the van, and a taxi comes and runs him over. There they were, sitting in the van with all those dials, and the cat was dead!"

It goes on to note:

"the environment and security factors in using this technique in a real foreign situation force us to conclude that, for our [intelligence] purposes, it would not be practical.”

Quoted from document 27 of this Electronic Briefing Book in National Security Archive. via Dave's blog.

Dave Barry's books and columns are an absolute riot. It is good to see that we have sent his new weblog to the top of blogdex today.

January 27, 2003

Random Links

Ok, I have been caught up. I had also been trying to polish off an article. I did not want to post anything until I was through with that. Here is some random interesting stuff ......

Guardian's take on Solzhenitsyn's new book.

Janeane Garofalo's rather provocative remarks on the Iraq issue (though she lost me with her Chomski suggestion). The story that Kurtz filed is here (the transcript is better).

lazyweb is an interesting idea worth checking out.

Mark Kleiman's very smart weblog

New Yorker's hilarious story on NYT's new code of ethics.

January 24, 2003

Drop down menus

Thanks Peter. (via Empty pages)

January 23, 2003

Van Gogh

van Gogh's Letters: My eternal gratitude to Web Enxhibits for putting this up on the web. There is also an interesting Van Gogh and Gauguin site here.

(both links from this mefi thread)

Winter in Connecticut

I think I have now discovered the secret reason for there being so many writers (and so many universities) in New England. You see, for almost half the year, this place kinda shuts down. In the peak of winter, sane people don't really want to go out unless they absolutely have to. Downtown Stamford that used to be so crowded and colorful only a few months back now looks deserted. Even the massive parking lots in the shopping malls look empty. The few people that you see on the road have a kind of determined, tormented look on their faces. Yesterday, as I was filling gas at a gas station, I could literally feel my finger tips slowly becoming numb through a thick pair of gloves.

I have been consistently trying to ignore the weather. But it is hard not to feel a twinge of resentment towards the unseen forces as you slowly bundle up in preparation for going out. What is worse is, you again have to shed all those layers of clothes in a few minutes when you are back from your errand. I feel a little like a disgruntled bear as I slowly shuffle out towards work every morning.

I don't mind the snow. As a matter of fact, I love snow. Watching snow falling or walking downtown after a fresh snowfall is still the best part of winter here. But friends here tell me that I would feel different if Stamford were a part of the snow belt and if it were truely snowing here. It seems that we don't get REAL snow falls in Fairfield county. REAL snow fall is what our cousins got when they called up from Albany to cancel our invitation to their place (They called up over fourty people that morning to cancell the party). They got 30 inches of snow that day. On an average, it took over 4 hours for folks in Albany to dig their car out from under snow. A colleague's daughter who lives in the outskirts of Coopertown in upstate New York also gets REAL snow. Recently, it snowed so much that that she could not open the front doors of her house. They had to call in help to remove the snow. The truck that came out also got stuck in the snow. It was evening before they could get out. Before last week, no one took our complaints about cold all that seriously either. Now everyone agrees that it is unseasonably cold. No one has apparently seen the likes of this in the last 30-35 years. I have started taking a certain masochistic delight in telling that to people who don't have the privilage of living through such cold weather. Take that! Huh ...

January 20, 2003

Random links

This is a nice story about the writing of 'Mme. Proust and the Kosher Kitchen'. (As I was reading it, I stumbled over the word 'Picayune' which, incidentally, means a. Of imitative origin b. Something trivial. It was derived from Provençal picaioun which means 'a small coin'). via Mobilives

The Power and the Silence in the Vatican is Alan Riding's review of 'Amen'. It raises interesting questions about how much did the Pope really know about the Nazi holocaust. (Among those who remained silent, count the the swiss banks too)

Stones of summer is a a film about bookishness (kind of). Having read the review, I badly want to watch the movie.

The unexpected candor of Peter Goldberg (the Outgoing CEO and chairman of IHT) reminded me of Jay Harris. (though Harris' gesture was in a different league altogether)

Check out the Winning photos of everyman photo contest (via Kottke).

And here is a profile of Ami Vitale. Some of the most powerful images coming out of India has her name on the credits.

January 19, 2003

Bruce Davidson

Tom Vanderbilt wrote a nice profile of Bruce Davidson in NYT.

January 17, 2003


We are off for three days.

I am a little harassed by life right now. My offline life is crowded with too many to-do lists, mammoth all day meetings that accomplist little and small errands that I have been happily ignoring for some time. I am one of life's great procrastinators :( .

Posts are going to be small and infrequent over the next few days. But I do want to make time to read over the weekend:
Lawrence Lessig and Jack Balkin on Eldred versus Micky Mouse

A car wreck

Ed Keating lost his job in NYT over the report that he staged a photograph for a sensitive NYT story. Village Voice seems to the only publication that (kind of) defended him.

"Eddie is a mess," admits his friend, Times reporter Charlie LeDuff, "but at the same time he's a brilliant photographer. He comes back with the goods, and the goods aren't a hoodwink. ....

For example, when Keating was detained by Serb soldiers in Kosovo in 1999, he charmed his captors by playing a mean version of "Mr. Tambourine Man" on the harmonica. In 1991, when Keating was covering the riots in Crown Heights, he was almost beaten to death by a crowd of black men. Two transit cops discovered his bloody body and took him to the hospital, where he got 50 stitches in the back of the head. ....

Keating has always landed on his feet, but few expected him to survive the wrath of Times executive editor Howell Raines and managing editor Gerald Boyd. ..... After all, Columbia's School of Journalism is the home of the Pulitzers and a training ground for Times employees. Given the Times' cozy relationship with Columbia, CJR's allegations carry more weight than they would coming from an antagonist. "

(both links via Romenesko's media news)

Keating was part of the NYT team that won a pulitzer last year for its coverage of 9/11 (he was also arrested by the NY port authority police for photographing the recovery of bodies of their fellow workers). His photo essay Rt 66: A Journey Across America is still available in the NYT archive.

It can be argued that a lot of photojournalism is orchestrated by someone or other. That many more important events are either staged or manipulated by or for photographers. But still this doesn't feel right.

I hope Keating manages to pick up the pieces of his life and continue to make great images.

Krugman on budget deficit

"Now the budget director, Mitch Daniels, has admitted the obvious: The federal government faces the prospect of large deficits as far as the eye can see. And sure enough, the drunk has turned mean. As the administration reaches for another bottle — another long-term tax cut for the affluent — its officials sullenly denounce the "fixation" on budget deficits, dismissing it as nonsensical "Rubinomics."

...Trust me: we're going to miss Rubinomics. Maybe not today, and maybe not tomorrow, but soon, and for the rest of our lives. "

From Off the Wagon by Paul Krugman.

Krugman also makes a reference to Brad Delong's post on the subject that I linked to earlier.

To my mind, Paul Krugman's op-eds provide one of the most cogent and accessible deconstructions of the US economic policy. Washington Monthly did a very good, balanced story on him last Dec. Pretty much everything that he writes on the web can be found here

In case you did not see it before, check out this hilarious reply that Krugman wrote in response to the question of a drstrangelove-ga in 'google answers'. (Original google thread here).

January 13, 2003

Last sunday's NYT book reviews

If you feel good about a book or a movie, you probably should not read the reviews. Sometime back, I forwarded Po Bronson's Fast Company article What should I do with my life? to everyone with my new year's wish. Last weekend, I read Caitlin Flanagan's review of his book. Scathing! Unfortunately, it is also well argued.

Michael Pollan's review of 'Fat land' by Greg Critser in the same issue piqued my interest. I would like to read the book sometime.

"At least from a business perspective, the fattening of America may well have been a necessity. Food companies grow by selling us more of their products. The challenge they face is that the American population is growing much more slowly than the American food supply -- a prescription for falling rates of profit. Agribusiness now produces 3,800 calories of food a day for every American, 500 calories more than it produced 30 years ago. (And by the government's lights, at least a thousand more calories than most people need.) So what's a food company to do? The answer couldn't be simpler or more imperative: get each of us to eat more. A lot more....

The best parts of this book show how, in the space of two decades, Americans learned to eat, on average, an additional 200 calories a day. In the words of James O. Hill, a physiologist Critser interviewed, getting fat today is less an aberration than 'a normal response to the American environment'.''

Judith Shulevitz's deconstruction of Byron's life in her review of 'Byron: Life and Legend' was also very good. I did not know Byron was a Don Juan, leave alone bisexual.

January 12, 2003

How other writers would have written Lord of The Rings

there is a very interesting threadon Straight Dope on how other famous writers would have written 'Lord of the Ring' (Sent by Kingshuk). Some of the entries are hilarious.

January 10, 2003

Jason Fulford

Jason Fulford self published Sunbird. Setting up your own publishing company in order to publish your book is a tad unusual. The current issue of PDN (print version) has a story about it.

Go check out his website. Very cool.


Interesting blogs

  1. Noah Shachtman has a weblog on defence technology and national security issues. (via Talkingpointsmemo)
  2. William Gibson now has a weblog. Gibson is the writer of Neuromancer and is widely credited with introducing the word 'cyberpunk' in English vocabulary. (via mefi)

  3. Update: NYT review of his new book 'Pattern recognition' is here.

  4. Maciej Ceglowski writes a weblog from Vermont and may well turn out to be the "Verlyn Klinkenborg of weblogging"! He writes very well. (via Anil)

January 9, 2003

PDN Galleries

I think PDN's online gallery is slowly emerging as the most interesting collection of images, commentary and soundbites on photography on the net.

New year's resolutions

All interesting people are later starters. (i.e. people like me!)

I have never managed to keep my new year's resolutions. But there is always a first time. I liked Mark Pilgrim's and Jonathon Delacour's simple resolutions. Here are mine.

Make good photographs

Wal-Mart wants to buy some banks

I caught the end of an interesting discussion about Wal-Mart's decision to offer cheap financial services (registration required) on Kudlow and Kramer last night.

The commentators had it right. Competitors have consistently lost out by underestimating Wal-Mart. K-Mart went into bankrupcy trying to compete with Wal-Mart on price. (well, that wasn't the only reason). If Wal-Mart gets into in-store financial services, they would give everyone a run for their money.

Wal-Mart is one of the very few retailers that are opening a number of new stores this year (the linked page probably won't be available until next week unless you are a subscriber to the print edition). It is also one of the few retailers that has consistently been on the vanguard (pdf file) of technology innovations that has revolutionized the retailing landscape in the United States in the last 15 years. And they learn fast. Not so long ago, their e-business initiative was sputtering. An acquaintance of mine consulted for the team that was putting up the Wal-Mart e-commerce site in '99. The business managers were apparently clueless about how e-tailing works. The version they were working on wasn't up by Christmas. Wal-Mart made them work through Christmas. Now BusinessWeek has Fleming saying that the "site will be profitable ahead of plan -- though he won't say by when".

I have a lot of admiration for the discipline, agility and innovative leadership of the company. Yet I hardly find anyone in the industry who actually likes the company. The requirements for doing business and the bare knuckles burgaining turns off the suppliers (yeah, they haul you through coal). The competitors of course don't like them. They seem to inculcate a cult like devotion in their employees that made even 'The Economist' uneasy. And when they set up shop in the subarbs it hurts the small businesses which doesn't exactly make them popular in a lot of quarters. But shoppers like me love their prices and their range. And at the end of the day that's all that counts.

January 7, 2003

Brad Delong on Hubbard

A lot of times, I have to reread Brad DeLong a couple of times to get what he is trying to say.

I am not sure I completely understand all the arguments for and against the relationship between deficit and long term economic growth presented in the comments section . But none of those detract from his core argument of why it's time for Glenn Hubbard to quit as CEA Chair.

A more accessible story that provides background is here.

Update: Two defences of Glen Hubbard

Powerpoint presentations

greg.org has an interesting, eccentric post on powerpoint as a creative medium.

I totally, absolutely relate to it.

I spent the the past one week obsessing over a presentation that I finally made this morning. Rest of my life ground to a halt while I was thinking about it. This is usual whenever I have an important presentation ahead of me. Mind you, I was not working on it all the time. Mostly, I was simply fretting about it and debating internally about rephrasing a particular bullet point or simplifying a Vision diagram. I NEVER wake up early. This morning I was originally up at 4.30 AM. This is not normal.

I love the quality of Matt Jones' slides.

January 3, 2003

Offbeat music

"For the entire year of 2003 (January 1st to December 31st) this page will feature one mp3 file (every day) to download. The content will be focused on musical pieces, but will also include spoken word." The choice of music is, as Otis himself says, strange and obscure. But I am quite intrigued.

Talking about an entirely different kind of music, for the next few days, CD101.1 will stream 2003 of their most requested songs.

(links via mefi)

Best of mefi

Metafilter Remixed: I no longer have the bandwidth to follow mefi. This (assuming that it works) is a very welcome addition (via LinkMachinego)

January 1, 2003

Happy new year

Happy new year every body.
Also, happy twentieth anniversary to Internet!