Saturday, November 18, 2006

Hu are you talking about?

Hu Jintao, as imagined by the art department of Outlook magazine, meet Eugene Levy, actor, riband, he of huge eyebrows. Or have you already met?

(I'm just saying, resemblance much? And also, how awesome would it be if Hu Jintao sang songs about terriers and literally had two left feet and danced in circles?)

Monday, November 13, 2006

Help! The Indians! They're stealing my copydesk!

Just when all my nitpicky editor colleagues were getting comfortable comes the latest news from our global world: Indians are plotting to take over the planet, one comma splice at a time!

Yes, an article on the Poynter Institute's Web site heralds the coming of age of the editing outsourcing business, and stateside workers clutch their red pens in fear. Well, from someone who is more intimately acquainted with the subconty than these chaps, I'd just like to say shenanigans. SHENANIGANS!

Although Joe Grimm points to a number of providers offering editing services, I'm guessing that he hasn't taken the time to do something so simple as give the providers' Web sites even a cursory read. For example, Hi-Tech Exports (which Grimm explains offers 40 hours of editing services for less than $300) -- what copydesk do you know would contract a company whose corporate site features the sentence, "We have so far completed successfully, a wide range of projects." Nice comma use, fellas.

I agree that it's certainly an interesting industry to watch, and given the preexisting English skills, there are certain editorial functions that may be amenable to this sort of parsing. But the kind of alarm implicit in this blurb and the responses to it just smack of paranoia. Do a good job, develop lots of skills, and, if need be, offshore yourself; if you are a dedicated worker, you have nothing to worry about, so long as you don't wed yourself to being in one place doing one thing for one's entire life.

Pre-shaadi snooping

So it's wedding season -- not just for me, but for thousands of couples throughout India. I'm not really sure why November-February is considered so auspicious, but I suppose it probably relates to the fact that the weather is bearable. Anyhow, everyone's getting hitched, and, always desperate to discover the next big trend, HT City brings us "Knot guilty: Is marriage on your mind? Someone may be stalking you -- perhaps, a detective your prospective in-laws have hired..." (Monika Adlakha, Nov. 13, 2006, Delhi edition).

Essentially, it seems that people are hiring private investigators to track (primarily) brides to be to make sure that the girl is "suitable" for marriage.

So what do agencies check, according to the article? "The bad news continues to be for the single-and-ready-to-mingle gang, particularly if you are a girl, as 'too much of openness is a complete no, that's the first thing we are asked to check,' says Sanjay Singh of Indian Detective Agency, adding, '...the enquiries for the girl's character have seen a rise.'"

Let me get this straight: women are spied upon by their potential families, and doing something so innocuous as, for example, talking to a man who is not the prospective husband can lead to a report being filed about how one is unsuitable? This is insane. Yes, with the proliferation of e-dating sites and marriage classifieds, you may be thinking about tying yourself to a person with whom your family is not intimately acquainted. But wouldn't it be more fruitful to, oh, spend time getting to know a person and their family, and judge from those interactions whether or not you think it's a good match? I am constantly told how impersonal and rude Americans are, but this strikes me as a far greater slight to the human spirit than my decision to read a book during my car ride to work.

Now, of course, people are free to waste their (thousands and thousands of) rupees as they see fit, but is this really necessary? No person is infallible; must I really live in fear that my decision to talk with a friend at a cafe is an irrevocable denunciation of my loose ways? Sigh.

Wednesday, November 8, 2006

Art in India

Not content with the domestic scene, art lovers in Delhi can now get a piece of the Met -- without ever having to leave the safe haven of South Extension.

So new that the location hasn't been added to the Metropolitan Museum of Art's listing of its store locations, I doubt that the outlet has been officially launched. But there it is, right on Ring Road, nestled above Mango and adorned, for the time being, with only a flapping red banner.

In brand-happy urban India, I'm guessing that this will be a smashing success -- once people discover that the store exists, and that the Met is a Famous American Institution. For now, we'll have to rely on what is presumably a story from the Press Trust of India (though perhaps the agency should be called the Press Release Trust of India):

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York, one of the largest and finest art museums in the world, has opened its first store in India. In New York, the Museum houses more than two million works of art spanning 5,000 years of world culture from prehistory to the present, and from every part of the globe. Founded in 1870, the Museum has long been one of New York’s leading tourist attractions, and was visited by 4.5 million people last year. A long-time leader in Museum retailing, The Metropolitan Museum of Art Store was ranked fifth among New York City’s most popular chain stores in the influential Zagat New York City Shopping 2006 guide.

Tuesday, November 7, 2006

Thank you India; thank you terror; thank you disillusionment...

(Or, why S should not order an entire bottle of wine for the two of us at a fancy birthday dinner.)

The past year has been one of tremendous growth. In another journal, I reflected upon the different needs I had as I faced both my 22nd and 23rd birthdays; one's life changes so fast in the rapid progression from excited young professional to haggard old crone. (Or, in the words of my mother, "Just wait until you're 50. Then your birthday will really become a non-event.")

Anyhow, instead of babbling on and on about myself, I'd like to give some shout-outs. I'd like to thank the Academy and:
S -- for being everything and asking nothing, for showing me that I can be beautiful, for believing in tenderness and progress and love that doesn't have to be perfect, but malleable
NY -- for remember, across all these miles
SV & theek hai -- for getting me a birthday cake, and for apologizing because what you really wanted to get me was a case of Diet Coke
S's mum, dad, and bro in the U.S. -- for being unbelievably understanding, for never asking too much, and for calling and wishing me well, even though I haven't made as much of an effort as I should have to make sure you're comfortable in my homeland
T&M -- for ringing up from Canada, though we've never met face to face
D -- for freakishly getting engaged to a woman who has my same birthday, making it easier for both you and S to remember the date
Mass Com bunch -- for flooding me with the sweetest e-mail messages this side of Hollywood, and for reminding me how much the day meant to me last year
E-lizzle, J-dawg, etc. -- for being, you know, my hos, no matter what

The airing of grievances will have to wait 'til Festivus...

Sunday, November 5, 2006

Pizza: What CAN'T it do?

So, one of the myriad *great* things about Cambodia, and Phnom Penh in particular, is the preponderance of restaurants offering "happy pizza." What is happy pizza, you might ask? Well, it's got a secret ingredient that looks somewhat like oregano, but is actually quite a different herb altogether. Depending on to whom you are speaking, it may or may not be medicinal, it may or may not kill your brain cells, and it may or may not give you the munchies. Hm.

Anyhow, I'm just sitting here wishing I had a nice slice of happy pizza, because basically since September I have been a gigantic ball of nerves. My sleeping schedule is off, my eating patterns are off, and I rapidly cycle between loving the world and, between sobbing fits, calling my co-workers names that are variations on the theme of genitals. Vacation was great, but the entire time I was still wrapped up in this drama related to some unfinished bureaucratic business that wasn't resolved until I got back to Delhi.

Here's to trying to lighten up (and to, ahem, lightin' up -- I know, bad, ba dum ching!).

Saturday, November 4, 2006

I have seen the future, and it is not bright

So, in pizza-related news, the latest rumors on the Internets are about Kono Pizza, which might be interesting to someone who doesn't live in the subconty, which, as I have previously discussed, features it's domestic version of the product, which Pizza Corner calls the "Conizza."

The best part, as many people have pointed out, is that it seems to be giving the pizza industry a collective hard-on, causing them to disseminate marketing buzz such as, "Every few years, a product comes along that completely changes its category. As the iPod has revolutionized the way people interact with music; as cell phones and wireless internet access has altered the way they communicate, so, too, will the way they approach eating change with the introduction of Pizzacono, the first dramatically new way to consume pizza in recent memory."

I still think it's all absolutely ludicrous, but maybe I should take some time this weekend to experience the magic. That said, most responses I've seen tend to affirm my belief that this is one of the most unholy creations wrought upon earth by the higher powers.

Chatter on Metafilter re: conical Italian cuisine...

"It's the next Pepsi Blue"
"You know what would revolutionize pizza? Put some general tso's chicken on it, cram a slice into a taco shell, then batter and deep fry the fucker. That would be revolutionary."
"Like calzone, but harder to eat"
"...'The name "Pizzacono" accurately describes the product's taste and characteristics.' 'Cono -- literal meaning is "vagina." Used by Spanish people everywhere, frequently in place of "damn," "shit," and "fuck."'"
"Who has a problem eating pizza with one hand? What kind of pizza are these people eating?"
"These guys are fools. There's just two ways to improve pizza: stick it between some breasts or inside a vagina. CASE CLOSED."
"I took my first bite cleverly from the bottom of the cone, and gargled in delight as I sucked out the toppings in one foul swoop. The gargle turned to a gasp as the hot grease overpowered my esophagus, and the cheese welded to the now blistering walls in my throat. As I fell to the ground, gasping puss and cheddar, the pizza crust cone rolled nearby in a lopsided manner, a silent megaphone that would never voice my cry for help."

Wednesday, November 1, 2006

Headline o' the week

Courtesy Indian Express, October 31, 2006: "Americans, Americans: Why Do They Do Things So Differently?"

And, for your pleasure, if you click "read more," you can read my version of the story -- in which I have merely substituted references to America with references to India and its people, and which I call, "Indians, Indians: Why Do They Do Things So Differently?" (Tongue, of course, firmly planted in cheek.)Do you think The New York Times would consider running this on their editorial page?

Europeans call them crazy. But are Indians really crazy or do they just do their own thing?

I have always been intrigued by their use of the word "prepone." When the world refers to plans that have been fast tracked, they say "the date has been moved forward," but Indians say prepone -- even if the prefix has just been added to an coantiquated term for a type of bread!

Even if India's teas were introduced to the world by exploitative colonizers, India's beverage of choice is still chai. And how. A paper cup of milky, syrupy sweet tea filled every two hours or so. Ditto with the samosas. A couple of friends may go through several dozen of these deep-fried wonders in about an hour. I've often wondered if there's such a thing as Indian food -- apart, of course, from tandoori, Chinjabi, dal, and roti.

Talking of khana reminds me of a time when I was visiting a small Indian company. We'd been working nonstop since morning and I was beginning to feel hungry. Finally, at 2:30, I asked we could grab a bite. "Oh, I'm sorry," responded my host, "I usually don't eat until later in the afternoon. And then I just see what's in the canteen." So we walked to the cafeteria; there was enough to feed an army, but I was with someone who "just wanted to see." I got myself a liter of water and some salad, with a small bowl of dal and some boiled rice, but there were Indian and Continental choices aplenty, which my host proceeded to heap in large portions and leisurely consume, before going back for seconds -- and having four or five jalebis. And this guy just wanted to check out the scene!

The Indian economy has traditionally been a disaster. They don't bat an eyelid when government officials embezzle crores of rupees , yet they complain when their company deducts 500 rupees from their monthly take to cover the free lunches and dinners provided at the workplace. Every Indian carries a few hundred spare rupees to bribe traffic police if they're pulled over for running a red light -- who cares if these are the same people who are outraged when Transparency International publishes reports that cites corruption in the country as endemic. Is this all a grand Indian scheme to drive the rest of the world crazy?