Tuesday, October 13, 2009

More Nobels

Elinor Ostrom gets the Nobel for Economics. The first woman to get the Economics Nobel, and one of the few (though not the first) non Economists to get it. (Is this making the Economists do a rethink on the funamental assumptions of their discipline?) What I like about Ostrom and Williamson getting the Nobel is the recognition that economic governance is inherently political- firms and communities make decisions not through prices but authority, power and reciprocity.

What I find problematic about Williamson's Nobel is the spotlight on the firm- I thought we already know this about firms- large firms are not markets and are not competitive. The prize seems to say the creation of large firms is inevitable given transaction costs, rather than being located in the political economy of hypercapitalism.

What I find problematic about Ostrom's Nobel is that her work on collective action erases power ('communities can be self governing'). But communities are shot through with inequalities, and we may have 'well functioning' systems which are deeply unequal (and I'm not the first to say this, political institutionalists have said this for the longest time).

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Sunday, October 11, 2009

Filling gaps

whew... too long since the last post. a new member in the family, loved ones' visits, and today (two days ago actually), obama winning the nobel- unexpected and untimely, even by his own account.

here's a thought- exclude statesmen/women automatically from peace prize considerations because they stand not only for peace, but equally for war.

the nobel committee being political, as all bodies are, is unlikely to ever do so. the nobel committee, being supremely political, is likely to periodically give the award to statesmen and women.

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Tuesday, July 07, 2009

Tarnished Ahuja

Boo Shiney- for denying rape until the medical examiner's report came in, and then asserting breathlessly that it was consensual when the report stated it was your semen.
In reply to my 'Boo Shiney' facebook status, friend Mohit said 'Not Shiney any more... all tarnished.'

Add to that all tarnished list Madhur Bhandarkar and Ram Gopal Verma.
A friend who covered the Bollywood beat said that 50% of filmi print gossip was gossip, the rest was real.
It's interesting that the same rumours about Bhandarkar and Verma keep surfacing over and over again. The media's way of saying that 50 plus 50 makes 100.

Saturday, February 14, 2009

Slumdog Millionaire

A typical Bollywood story told in a non-mainstream Bollywood way. Loved it for the way it showed Mumbai slums from the outside and inside, and slum kids' relations among themselves and with the rest of the world. The film has elements of Mira Nair, Anurag Kashyap and Ram Gopal Varma- Boyle apparently regards Black Friday, Satya and Company as greats, and you can tell it built upon them. There was Satya in the oldest Latika's life in a don's world and Salim's complexity, Black Friday in depictions of Bombay slums, slum-police relations and riots, and Mira Nair in the children's social world.

Loveleen Tandan, Boyle's co-director was Nair's casting director for Monsoon Wedding. Tandan insisted on Hindi dialogues for the film's first half which worked wonders. It made the first half especially alive for me with the children's language, like the little Jamal to Latika 'Ab main professional singer ban jaaoonga, apna time aa gaya hai... hum log Harbor Road pe rahenge.' And Salim when they lost Latika- 'Kisne haath chhoda? Haath kyun chhoda?' And telling Jamal why they couldn't go back, ' Woh teri aankhe nikaal dete.... chammach se.' And later, in the morning, 'Ab chalein? Pet mein choohe kood rahe hain'.

For becoming familiar with places like an insider- the shitting grounds, the dumping grounds, the school classrooms, the pipes on which people walk. This was my Bombay for two years and is the Bombay of millions of others who call the city their own.

The switch entirely to English made the film flatter, slower, and western, because most people in India never talk exclusively in English. English is punctuated with many meaningless meaning-making words in Hindi and a million other languages. And paradoxically, at the same time, the grown up Jamal and Latika's story became Bollywood kitschy. But a brilliant cast with Irfan khan, Saurabh Shukla, Raj Zutshi, friend Himanshu Tyagi, the brilliant child actors- Rubiana Ali, Azharuddin Ismail and Ayush Khedekar as the littlest Salim, Jamal and Latika, and Madhur Mittal as the oldest Salim. A fanciful story, well told, and the stuff of dreams.


Thursday, October 02, 2008

Biden vs Palin tonight

Biden was Bill Clinton-esque today. Which was reassuring coz I thought the Dems had lost that touch. His last line tonight about bringing the troops back home safe was a winner- thought he couldn't trump Palin's 'sittting around the kitchen table' line, but he did, and how. And he got teary with emotion, bonus points there.

Had strong misgivings when he started out- old, boring, stodgy, losing himself in a morasse of legalese like Obama, too polite to the opposition, contrasted with Palin's young skin, shining lipstick, sharp glasses and and that pouffy hairstyle. But picked himself up in the second half, gave credit to Obama, was realistic, spontaneous, and aggressive. Repeated the important parts looking straight into the camera (lessons for Obama there)- 'Money sepent in 3 weeks in Iraq more than 7 years in Afghanistan', 'This is what John McCain is going to do with your healthcare, I repeat, this is what.....' and nuclear control in Iran being with the theology, and the importance of diplomacy. To give Palin credit, she was civil and gave him his due.

I think he'll be a good VP. Obama's strength is not the economy, it's foreign policy-the Left is too embedded in neoliberal economics to say 'working class' without feeling it's committing a sin. It needs to include 'working class' along with 'middle class' in its rhetoric. Or is that an honest admission that it's really not about the working class anymore!

I enjoyed the WashU audience. It was more expressive than the Mississippi U one, but maybe it was because of Palin and Biden's self-depracating humour, and partly because it didn't start off with McCain ignoring Obama's presence from the word go.

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Wednesday, September 17, 2008


Fall weather
Fears of winter
Short days
Long hours of darkness
Winter comes too soon
Spring not soon enough

No no, I'm in no hurry for spring.

There's autumn colors to look forward to, and coats, scarves, firans and hand-knit sweaters.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Naya Daur/New Era

This film was made in 1957 and is an indictment of Nehruvian era's large-scale industrialization. I saw it the week of 15th August 2007 in Dahod district, in the SEZ-EPZ-global outsourcing era, which was like going back to the future, and thinking about democracy, choices, modernity and spirituality.

Everything about the film is surprising, from its songs to a lucid, elegant way of setting up the conflict between labor and capital, and its beginning with Gandhi's quote that a society in which human labor is valued is like a tree with deep roots that grows strong. In hindsight, it presents the chasm between Nehru and Gandhi's visions of progress and the purpose of human life. The film is about mechanization, the rise of capital, loss of livelihoods, and the ultimate triumph of labor not just through intelligence and strength, but with reason and dignity.

The film's beauty is its humor, love between men, between man and woman, and between landlords and laborers. My favorite song is the first song of the film (and the least known), a short conversation between Dilip Kumar and Jeevan which foretells the film's story surprisingly (just the first minute of the clip), an unsurpassed scene of bonding between friends in a film created with a feather-light, bantering touch:

(Dilip Kumar, sounding ironic):dil leke dagaa denge
yaar hain matlab ke
ye denge to kya denge
(friends- friends of convenience, (they'll) steal your heart and trick you)

(Jeevan replies):duniya ko dikha denge
yaaron ke paseene par
hum khoon baha denge
(i'll show the world- for every drop of your sweat, i'll sweat my blood)

Friend M pointed out one drawback- the female lead is the love interest of both leading men and seemingly has no choice in who she ends up with- the men decide unilaterally that "he will have her whose favorite flowers she brings as an offering to the village temple." Very nice. Here's chocolate in a wrapper. Open it. If it turns out to be white, it's yours. If it's dark, it's mine.

Despite this little flaw, the film is a great reminder for our times and worth watching many many times.