Friday, July 28, 2006
Tuesday, July 25, 2006
Monday, July 24, 2006
The Trouble with The Economist
In it's issue of July 6th, The Economist carried an article titled The Trouble with Pakistan, soft copies of which were was widely circulated by many via email.
While the title clearly conveys that the trouble lies with Pakistan, the article's first para ends with "it is clear why what happens in those two places is of huge importance to the rest of the world. From neither place is there much good news."
Strangely, too, while the para is itself headed A country that everyone should worry about - we discover, within the first three lines, that the country referred to means areas that cover "northern Pakistan and south-eastern Afghanistan".
Trouble with Language, I guess.
"My country, Right or Wrong" is not a philosophy I subcribe to, so I'd happily admit that many of the criticisms of the current government are valid. But it is the tone of the whole piece that is astounding. Placing itself at a higher level that many would grant it, the magazine - speaking of Pakistan's President - declares, rather arrogantly, "This newspaper was prepared to give him a chance on condition that ..."
Huh? Excuse me.
Are we to believe that, had The Economist not been so magnanimous, the people of Pakistan would have had another President?
The article maintains that "none of General Musharraf's protestations can hide the fact that Osama bin Laden is generally reckoned to be holed up on Pakistani soil" — although one reads just as many reports from several (non-Pakistani) sources generally reckoning that Osama is dead!
A whole paragraph, under the heading, And then there's Afghanistan, quickly shifts to a discussion of Pakistan's contribution to the crises that country is undergoing. Despite the author's feelings (expressed later in the piece) that "Afghanistan may now, thanks to Pakistani meddling and Western neglect, gradually revert to what it was before September 2001", the trouble - for some reason - is deemed to lie with Pakistan.
The Economist, as happens frequently, is economical with the truth. While stating "The Taliban, after all, were in part a creation of Pakistan's ISI", it conveniently forgets to mention that the ISI role was nowhere comparable to that of the USA in setting up, training, arming, and supporting this group and its leader (then known here as USAma Bin Laden).
Once a fairly respectable magazine, The Economist has long sunk to the depths of biased reporting and attitudes that are nothing short of disgusting and, often, downright crude. Consider this sentence, bundling together several groups, that appeared in its Oct 27, 2001, piece, All we are saying: "Buddhists, vegans, pro-Palestinian activists and other radicals of all stripes ..."
That's when I cancelled my subscription.
Friday, July 21, 2006
The Beginnings of Likud
I am grateful to The Gaelic Starover's post of today (you are advised to visit his blog as often as you can!) for leading me to this letter. Since, the original link was to a site of a religious nature it, it makes the display of this information seem unnecessarily biased (and even suspect, without reason, to some) in that context. Therefore, I have taken the liberty of duplicating the material here. The two names I have highlighted are of people whose works I am familiar with.
Letters to the New York Times
December 4, 1948
New Palestine Party Visit of Menachem Begin and Aims of Political Movement Discussed
TO THE EDITORS OF THE NEW YORK TIMES:
Among the most disturbing political phenomena of our times is the emergence in the newly created state of Israel of the “Freedom Party” (Tnuat Haherut), a political party closely akin in its organization, methods, political philosophy and social appeal to the Nazi and Fascist parties. It was formed out of the membership and following of the former Irgun Zvai Leumi, a terrorist, right-wing, chauvinist organization in Palestine.
The current visit of Menachem Begin, leader of this party, to the United States is obviously calculated to give the impression of American support for his party in the coming Israeli elections, and to cement political ties with conservative Zionist elements in the United States. Several Americans of national repute have lent their names to welcome his visit. It is inconceivable that those who oppose fascism throughout the world, if correctly informed as to Mr. Begin’s political record and perspectives, could add their names and support to the movement he represents.
Before irreparable damage is done by way of financial contributions, public manifestations in Begin’s behalf, and the creation in Palestine of the impression that a large segment of America supports Fascist elements in Israel, the American public must be informed as to the record and objectives of Mr. Begin and his movement.
The public avowals of Begin’s party are no guide whatever to its actual character. Today they speak of freedom, democracy and anti-imperialism, whereas until recently they openly preached the doctrine of the Fascist state. It is in its actions that the terrorist party betrays its real character; from its past actions we can judge what it may be expected to do in the future.
Attack on Arab Village: A shocking example was their behavior in the Arab village of Deir Yassin. This village, off the main roads and surrounded by Jewish lands, had taken no part in the war, and had even fought off Arab bands who wanted to use the village as their base. On April 9 (THE NEW YORK TIMES), terrorist bands attacked this peaceful village, which was not a military objective in the fighting, killed most of its inhabitants — 240 men, women, and children — and kept a few of them alive to parade as captives through the streets of Jerusalem. Most of the Jewish community was horrified at the deed, and the Jewish Agency sent a telegram of apology to King Abdullah of Trans-Jordan. But the terrorists, far from being ashamed of their act, were proud of this massacre, publicized it widely, and invited all the foreign correspondents present in the country to view the heaped corpses and the general havoc at Deir Yassin.
The Deir Yassin incident exemplifies the character and actions of the Freedom Party. Within the Jewish community they have preached an admixture of ultranationalism, religious mysticism, and racial superiority. Like other Fascist parties they have been used to break strikes, and have themselves pressed for the destruction of free trade unions. In their stead they have proposed corporate unions on the Italian Fascist model.
During the last years of sporadic anti-British violence, the IZL and Stern groups inaugurated a reign of terror in the Palestine Jewish community. Teachers were beaten up for speaking against them, adults were shot for not letting their children join them. By gangster methods, beatings, window-smashing, and wide-spread robberies, the terrorists intimidated the population and exacted a heavy tribute. The people of the Freedom Party have had no part in the constructive achievements in Palestine. They have reclaimed no land, built no settlements, and only detracted from the Jewish defense activity. Their much-publicized immigration endeavors were minute, and devoted mainly to bringing in Fascist compatriots.
Discrepancies Seen: The discrepancies between the bold claims now being made by Begin and his party, and their record of past performance in Palestine bear the imprint of no ordinary political party. This is the unmistakable stamp of a Fascist party for whom terrorism (against Jews, Arabs, and British alike), and misrepresentation are means, and a “Leader State” is the goal.
In the light of the foregoing considerations, it is imperative that the truth about Mr. Begin and his movement be made known in this country. It is all the more tragic that the top leadership of American Zionism has refused to campaign against Begin’s efforts, or even to expose to its own constituents the dangers to Israel from support to Begin.
The undersigned therefore take this means of publicly presenting a few salient facts concerning Begin and his party; and of urging all concerned not to support this latest manifestation of fascism.
(signed) Isidore Abramowitz, Hannah Arendt, Abraham Brick, Rabbi Jessurun Cardozo, Albert Einstein, Herman Eisen, M.D., Hayim Fineman, M. Gallen, M.D., H.H. Harris, Zelig S. Harris, Sidney Hook, Fred Karush, Bruria Kaufman, Irma L. Lindheim, Nachman Maisel, Symour Melman, Myer D. Mendelson, M.D., Harry M. Orlinsky, Samuel Pitlick, Fritz Rohrlich, Louis P. Rocker, Ruth Sager, Itzhak Sankowsky, I.J. Schoenberg, Samuel Shuman, M. Znger, Irma Wolpe, Stefan Wolpe New York, Dec. 2, 1948View & Download the reconstructed (for purposes of layout, only; no changes made!) NYT page.
Ayk hee thaelee kay chattay battay ...
Maybe size matters. Pakistan's idiotic ban on Blogger sites (according to some ISPs the extended list from the moderately enlightened Government includes Wikipedia) solicited small protests and big activism from Omer & Co. (and a helpful push from Ethan Casey) - but, on the whole, created no major ripples.
Secular democratic liberal India's recent, equally stupid ban, on Blogger sites and a host of others, has had big international press. Tickers run across TV Newscasts on the BBC, Web sites spanning the divide are abuzz, even Pakistani newspapers that took (and continue to take) little or no notice of the plight of their fellow citizens are carrying reports.
Amused - but not overly surprised - to hear that some rectoid in an Indian chat group has suggested that his countrymen not take the quick, simple and helpful route provided by Yassir Memon's team because Tiger Memon was responsible for the Bombay Bombings. If Israel bans Blogger and Marvellous Memon provides help, it's his first name that'll cause problems.
Jeez! Why don't the two countries just merge again. It is obvious that the battle-lnes drawn in the 40s no longer exist. The people now share a common religion (Corruption!) and are mentally joined at the arse! Let no man split asunder what idiocy has joined together.
Monday, July 17, 2006
Thank you, guys. You rock!
Those who read three of my earlier posts (Two Inspiring Refusals, the one on Principles, and Another Inspiring Refusal) must know that nothing gives me greater pleasure than seeing people thumb their noses at authority, as long as it is for a good reason (not too difficult to find, given the nature of almost all authority). So, I am pleased to quote another such incident.
The Cooper-Hewitt National Design Museum began the National Design Awards in 2000 to honor the best in American design. In the museum's words, the program "celebrates design in various disciplines as a vital humanistic tool in shaping the world, and seeks to increase national awareness of design by educating the public and promoting excellence, innovation, and lasting achievement." If design has an Oscar, the National Design Award is it. The honor is taken seriously. Nominations are solicited from advisors in every state of the union. The submissions of entrants are reviewed with great care over a two-day period by a panel of judges (which included me this year). Three individuals or firms are announced as finalists in each of six categories: architecture, landscape architecture, interior design, product design, fashion design, and communication design. Finally, the winners in those categories are announced, along with special awards that include honors for "Design Mind" and Lifetime Achievement.
Because the Awards program was originally conceived as an official project of the White House Millennium Council, the First Lady serves as the honorary chair of the gala at which the winners are celebrated. She also traditionally hosts a breakfast at the White House to which all the nominees and winners are invited. This year, however, five Communication Design honorees decided to decline the invitation. They wrote a letter to Laura Bush explaining why. Here is the letter that Michael Rock, Susan Sellers and Georgie Stout, from this year's winning firm, 2x4, and Paula Scher and Stefan Sagmeister, respectively finalist and winner for 2005, sent to the White House:
Dear Mrs. Bush,
As American designers, we strongly believe our government should support the design profession and applaud the White House sponsorship of the Cooper Hewitt National Design Museum. And as finalists and recipients of the National Design Award in Communication Design we are deeply honored to be selected for this recognition. However, we find ourselves compelled to respectfully decline your invitation to visit the White House on July 10th.
Graphic designers are intimately engaged in the construction of language, both visual and verbal. And while our work often dissects, rearranges, rethinks, questions and plays with language, it is our fundamental belief, and a central tenet of "good" design, that words and images must be used responsibly, especially when the matters articulated are of vital importance to the life of our nation.
We understand that politics often involves high rhetoric and the shading of language for political ends. However it is our belief that the current administration of George W. Bush has used the mass communication of words and images in ways that have seriously harmed the political discourse in America.
We therefore feel it would be inconsistent with those values previously stated to accept an award celebrating language and communication, from a representative of an administration that has engaged in a prolonged assault on meaning.
While we have diverse political beliefs, we are united in our rejection of these policies. Through the wide-scale distortion of words (from "Healthy Forests" to "Mission Accomplished") and both the manipulation of media (the photo op) and its suppression (the hidden war casualties), the Bush administration has demonstrated disdain for the responsible use of mass media, language and the intelligence of the American people. While it may be an insignificant gesture, we stand against these distortions and for the restoration of a civil political dialogue.
The letter was signed by Michael Rock, Susan Sellers, Georgie Stout, Paula Scher and Stefan Sagmeister.UNQUOTE
Enough cheer to last me a long, long time.
It still makes me feel slightly guilty to admit that I rarely read newspapers anymore. A small part of it has to do with the quality of writing; another small part with my disinterest in what the President and the Prime Minister have been inaugurating. Or in the latest lies of the Bush administration. Or in gory pictures of bodies strewn across the globe. But the major reason is that the news, delivered via a newspaper, is about as fast as a slug on crutches. The TV is quick enough, if it's just breaking news you need. And the Internet even better.
The old objection of "Aah, but there's no analysis ..." loses its strength once you see the quality of the analysis and the 24-hour wait for it, by which time something else has taken centre-stage. However, I still get a couple of weekend newspapers and throw away most pages to focus on some specific parts.
This Sunday I was awarded with a couple of really good pieces that I'd recommend to those who missed them:
1. Anatomy of blasphemy laws - a fairly concise and accurate account of some of the issues by UMass Profesor Emeritus Anwar Syed (whose personal bias is only very slightly discernible and does not detract in any way from the piece).
2.We need to know, General - with all the bite and delight we have come to expect of Ardeshir Cowasjee
3. Monstrosities Inc. is a treat - Thank you, Aamna Haider Isani! The issue raised by the article needs the active support of all Karachiites. The powers that allow such stuff should be forced into setting up an Aesthetics Committee, with members from IVSAA, KSA and others, to approve the designs. Protection of these installations should also be considered a serious responsibility and maintenance money sanctioned for the occasional repair. Programs on the TV and articles in the popular press about the particular pieces and the artists would make them more appreciated and give citizens a greater sense of linkage to them.
The above articles helped, too, by filling in for the missing dose of my favourite weekly, The Friday Times. Oh, it didn't go missing this week --- it's just that I was totally shattered by its prominent featuring of (and wasting 3 whole pages on) Mushahid Husain. Yes. In TFT! So I just put the issue into the trash-can. I never thought I'd live to see him give space there - other than as part of news, or even an interview! And - aaaargh! - it's the first of a whole effing series. So I have asked Jugnu & Najam Sethi to tell me how long this will go on ... and have decided to suspend my reading TFT for the period.
It's going to be painful, I know, but there are principles involved here.
Sunday, July 16, 2006
What a fortnight!
My brother-in-law, Tariq, is undergoing Angioplasty at the AKUH. His wife, Afshan, understandably full of anxiety, is also looking after her aunt under-going serious treatment in another ward at the same hospital. Her uncle (said aunt's husband), while visiting his wife, suffers a serious heart attack in the room and is rushed out to emergency. So that makes 3 patients, on separate floors, under the care of Afshan, whom even some AKUH staff assume to be part of their team since she is seen at every floor, elevator, counter and lab frequently.
Meanwhile, back at the ranch:
I am in a ward, at the NMC, for a hernia surgery. My wife, Nuzhat, is beginning to look like a poster-girl for CBC's Madly Off In All Directions, running between the two hospitals.
Sabeen - usually on hand to help - is trying to do her best with approaching work deadlines, while busy preparing for her mom's surgery at another hospital in the heart of old Karachi.
Dr. Shamim, an old family friend and neighbour, is expected to come and visit me at the hospital and provide the excitement that chats with him usually do, thereby helping me either recuperate quickly or get into an argument that will dislodge the staples I have on my stomach (photo: but not for the squeamish).
The plot thickens:
Come evening, Shamim's driver enters my room to say that Shamim wants to know how I am.
"Where is Shamim?"
"Oh, take one of these visitor passes and ask him to come up. Dammit, you sneaked in, so could he!"
"Naheeñ jee, he is in the ward downstairs."
"Well, tell him to see me even for a few minutes after he's seen his patient."
"Sir jee, he is admitted in the ward."
"He's had a heart attack!"
Sabeen's mom has her surgery the next morning.
Fortunately all the characters in the drama are now recovering, at their own pace, in various places.
Tuesday, July 11, 2006
I heard of the passing away of Qasmi Sahab just as I was being wheeled into the surgery for my hernia operation. Sad though the news was, I couldn't help feel glad that a doctor and an anesthetist were talking about a literary figure. Gave me some kind of hope about our society (and confidence in those about to cut me up).
Checking mail and blogs is the first thing you do after surgery (it's therapeutic and great for recuperation). So I read my posts as soon as I got home. Not as much of a fan of Qasmi Sahab as many of my friends were, I do agree that with his death another of Urdu's greats has gone. I was fortunate enough to have met and heard him recite on many occasions and remember several of his better ash'aar.
The ghazal that was quoted in the post brings to mind the time that a federal minister, attending a concert in Islamabad, sent in a request for Mehdi Hasan to sing that piece at the event. The legendary singer could not help but break into a guffaw, in the middle of whatever he was singing, when the minister's card with the request reached him. Later, he shared the joke with some of his friends. This is the shayr as quoted in the note:
Maeñ to darya hooñ, samandar mayñ ütar jaaooñ-ga!
Saturday, July 08, 2006
This one's for you, Doc!
Professor Arvind Mahalingam is a dodgy character who leaves comments on my blog with wild-goose chase links that people follow, mistakenly expecting to be transported to a scholarly blog. He found his way to my recent book cover posts. The first he found merely funny. But with the second, he decided to throw me a googly. Hopefully this response will meet his (and your) approval.
Epilogue: I have had an email from The Institute for Palsy Studies asking for the identity of the person making the astonishing claim on the cover. Sir, a click on the image is all it takes to find out. [Added: 05.40 July 10]
Is it English?
Through this post I would like to invite bloggers/readers, with a better understanding of the issue, to clarify this for me and others.
Over the years there has been a great 'recognition' of the fact that English now has several legit forms - other than England's own English, whatever that meant, or 'BBC English' - itself a thing of the past. American English has, for long, been clearly recognized as different, with a status above that of a mere dialect or accent.
While I assume that Asian English (or, even Pakistani English, someday) could be 'formally' recognized, I wonder if actual mistakes of spellings or usage - handed down by generations of bad teachers in our region - would automatically gain legitimacy and be incorporated. Mistakes and misuse, perpetrated by even some of our well-read and academically established writers, include the examples that follow, taken from just this morning's reading of newspaper articles, a chapter in a book by a well-known journalist, and blogs (where an allowance was made for typos and the ignoring of those posts that showed poor language skills).
'atleast' for 'at least'
'ofcourse' for 'of course'
'infact' for 'in fact'
'incharge'for 'in charge'
The above (and many more) are mistakes that even a Microsoft-developed spelling checker would catch. And I have no idea why teachers, generally quick to catch the slightest eror so that they can indulge in humiliation or punishment, miss these in class. Or do they know no better, either?
Among what cannot be caught by spelling checkers are:
'loose' for 'lose' (and vice versa)
'quiet' for 'quite' (and vice versa) The latter example is from the book by one of our internationally acclaimed journalists. He writes "Indonesian food was surprisingly quiet spicy!" (I am sure he sat through classes where the teacher screamed "Keep quite!" all the time.)
Then there are words we have invented ... such as 'timings' (as in "our office/shop timings are ..."). Obviously a pluralization of 'timing', it is based on the wrong use of the original word itself. The dictionary says: timing [n.] 1. The regulation of occurrence, pace, or coordination to achieve a desired effect, as in music, the theater, athletics, or mechanics. 2. The synchronization of the sparking of the plugs with the movement of the pistons in an internal-combustion engine. "Office hours" or "Opening hours" is what the phrase should be. (Is someone from one of our leading school systems listening? Please alter your signs, too.)
'Equipments' for 'equipment' is increasingly used. But 'equipment' is plural, na?
Finally, 'backside' ... although in the sentence from our journalist's piece it may not sound too wrong: Giving instructions to readers likely to visit a famous city, he says: Face the Mosque, with your backside towards the river, to see the incription ...
Perhaps some scholar* in our parts needs to compile a list of such things and do local/updated versions of Fowler: King's English, Eric Partridge: Usage & Abusage (it's simply delightful!), and Strunk: Elements of Style.
(*Just a note: The scholar should be someone other than the guy who was involved with Ferozsons' Concise English to Urdu Dictionary and thinks Parquet and Parakeet are alternative spellings. Aaargh.)
Thursday, July 06, 2006
Enough is Enough!
Wednesday, July 05, 2006
Loud and Clear?
Tom Lehrer, in one of his usual brilliant performances (Kazaa or Limewire him; Reading the lyrics is great, but listening to him is a lot more fun!), highlighted the dilemma well when he said, "Everyone ought to love one another. And I know there are people who do not love one another ... and I hate such people!" Controversial author Sam Harris, on a more serious note, says
"... most sensible people advocate something called "religious tolerance." While religious tolerance is surely better than religious war, tolerance is not without its liabilities. Our fear of provoking religious hatred has rendered us incapable of criticizing ideas that are now patently absurd and increasingly maladaptive. It has also obliged us to lie to ourselves — repeatedly and at the highest levels — about the compatibility between religious faith and scientific rationality."But a really 'thought-provoking' statement that caught my eye comes from a major religious figure.
Sunday, July 02, 2006
Take a deep breath! Block your nose and mouth. Exhale!
Damn! Now there are 3 people in my life wanting me to lay my trust in Breathing as a way to cure all diseases. The Video-CD that I have been made to watch guarantees Total Cure, for everything from Cancer to Hemorhoids. What does a Guarantee mean here? Total Cure or your disease back? I haven't seen all the videos yet, so can't tell you if Hemorrhoid treatment will require breathing from the usual end or not.
One thing's sure: Maharaj Thandagaram, who is conducting the training on the Video, suffers from Lingual Rectitis - a not-so-rare condition among such gurus - which is caused by the sphincter and jaw muscles becoming entangled and resulting in the patient talking shit! To be fair, he is much respected in circles that respect him, since his earlier book, pictured below, received the prestigious Deepak Chootia Award.