brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
When I feel like "why in the world am I trying to put on an arts festival" I need to reread this piece.
brainwane: A silhouette of a woman in a billowing trenchcoat, leaning against a pole (shadow)
Several years ago I got to visit my sister in Lusaka, Zambia.

I saw how it can work when utility companies work on a prepayment basis (as in, you have to top up your account before usage, much as you would top up a pay-as-you-go mobile phone plan). I found out about how one frequently irons one's clothes, or has them ironed, after washing, not just for aesthetic reasons, but to kill parasites. I learned that Zambia has a four-corners water border with three other countries. And I learned that the indigenous name for Victoria Falls is Mosi-oa-Tunya or Mosi-O-Tunya, which translates as "the smoke that thunders", inspiring the name of a beer. (If you visit during the bit of the dry season when the waterfall roars less impressively, enterprising locals will happily photograph you in front of the green-painted wall they've set up, digitally place your smiling family in front of a suitably watery background, and charge you for prints. They also have props available in case you want to, say, wear a headdress, hold a carved stick, etc., in the photo, and I feel mixed about this, as you might imagine.) I meant to write up more of what I observed (I tweeted about a concert I attended but that's about it), then didn't get around to it, sadly.

At the time, India was my default comparator; I noticed how bits of things -- the climate, the physical infrastructure, the history museum, intangibles -- were like, or not like, things I'd experienced in India. I hope someday I get to visit more, different places in Africa so I can get a better understanding of it as its own context.

Just now I reread an old Daniel Davies post about Zambia (he was born there; I think his father did some kind of job there for a while), which he wrote in 2008 but which -- as I see the toll extractive capitalism is taking on my industry and my country -- strikes close to home.

...relevant to natural resource curse. What the continent of Africa is full of, is chancers and get-rich-quick merchants. The natural resources industry is of course famous for such characters, and the trait that they share with vulture financiers is that they vastly prefer to substitute risk tolerance, sharp elbows and an eye for the main chance for graft and creativity. People like this are useful and even necessary in small doses, but (as any history of your favourite frontier and colonisation narrative will tell you), in large numbers they're pestilential; a walking, talking infestation of the same kind of behaviour that's the staple of the resource curse literature.

There's a post forthcoming ... on psychological obstacles to development but I think this is the big one; not the lack of a work ethic, but the perversion of the work ethic in a large proportion of the domestic and expatriate business class, who think that success isn't something you build; it's something you find...
brainwane: My smiling face, in front of a wall and a brown poster. (smiling)
May is my big conference month this year. cut for one photo + length )

.... I need to order business card refills.

(Edited a few hours later to add: crossposted to Cogito, Ergo Sumana.)


Apr. 13th, 2019 01:31 am
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
For many years, my go-to "is there big news I want to/need to know about?" source has been BBC News's front page. It has more of a UK and worldwide focus than most US sites, and that helps me both be a bit less provincial and see less "the latest outrage from the federal government" coverage.

On mobile in particular, one just gets a short headline plus a graphic for each story. I have this little habit of reading each one and mentally responding re: whether this is good or bad news. So my brain is going, e.g.,:

"Good? .... Bad .... Bad? .... Good .... Depressingly bad .... Soccer, no response .... Bad ..... Good? ....."

I am probably a user persona of some kind, in case you work on CMSes for news.

A poll

Apr. 9th, 2019 12:11 pm
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
My spouse and I got into a conversation, riffing on Columbo and A Suitable Boy, that leads me to ask:

Poll #21776 Live-in masseur/masseuse
This poll is anonymous.
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 37

When I think of the idea of a masseuse who lives in one's home (assuming the employer is wealthy enough to afford such a servant), I think:

View Answers

8 (21.6%)

Who gets massages that often?! Or, do they serve the whole household, including the other servants? [Logistics spiral]
27 (73.0%)

Someone's having an affair.
8 (21.6%)

Wait, what word do we use now? Masseur? Massage therapist?
6 (16.2%)

Something else, which I may discuss in comments.
4 (10.8%)

brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
I'll be off social media a lot between now and about April 14th. has a little more. I'm all right; see y'all soon and sorry for commenting less.

vid idea

Mar. 27th, 2019 06:59 pm
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
Us to Regina Spektor's "Grand Hotel".
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
I have now read The True Queen, Zen Cho's latest novel! It was diverting but I didn't love it as much as I enjoyed Sorcerer to the Crown.

pretty spoiler-free review )

Anyway! It has many fine qualities, it's funny in places, it just didn't strike me the way some of her previous work did, but I continue to be a fan of her work!
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
Over on my general blog I posted about loving Rosemary Kirstein's Steerswoman series, which I just devoured!!!
brainwane: Photo of my head, with hair longish for me (longhair)
Saw Captain Marvel. I enjoyed approximately all the same things that, for instance, [personal profile] yasaman did, but ... the moments of enjoyment did not add up to me being glad about the time and money I'd spent. I decided on the way home that I'm stepping off the MCU treadmill. I am aiming to not see Avengers: Endgame in theaters, and am noting this here as a bit of pre-commitment.

The MCU has structural problems that are just not going to go away. In particular, writers and directors have to connect up what's happening in a single movie with innumerable other future projects. And it also has structural constraints that stop it from being what I'm looking for in my entertainment right now. It's meant for children to watch and thus the movies never get as complex or experimental as movies for adults do; the movies are "action" movies full of unrealistic violence; practically every movie is about superheroes rather than thinkers, families, systems, etc.

About four years ago I was so intrigued by "Hey Ho" by [personal profile] thuviaptarth that I dove into the fandom and watched the extant MCU movies. And I got a bunch out of that! But it feels like the marginal returns are diminishing, and I'm going to cut my losses.
brainwane: Sumana, April 2015, with shaved head. (bald)
The other night I heard a story by an acquaintance (I think she's in her 40s now) who, in college, learned that her then-boyfriend was Ba'hai, but misheard and thought he was bi.

misunderstanding about bisexuality )
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
2 years ago y'all helped me out a lot -- thank you.

As I wrote on my main blog (post syndicated on DW via [syndicated profile] sumana_feed), two years ago today, I posted here requesting volunteers -- people with a knack for proofreading, 90 free minutes and a tolerable internet connection. 30 people signed up and about 15 of you ended up being able to schedule tutoring sessions with me. I'm grateful and they are too, and I hope other projects replicate what we did. Thank you.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
I grew up understanding "golf" as "a game rich people play while doing low-key industry networking." Indeed I know at least one executive woman who learned how to play golf tolerably well in order to acquit herself well when invited to play by colleagues, clients, etc.

Here in NYC it feels like game nights/board game afternoons are the golf of the programming class. It's kind of assumed that you can play socially, there are gaming circles that also end up serving as industry networking. And you can invite a coworker to a game night and they'll understand that it's social, and not a date, and it's ok if they play really badly as long as they show good sportsmanship.

Is it like this in other cities too?

Edited to add: By the way, I am someone who loves a few board/card games and doesn't love most of them and is willing to play many of them if that's what everyone else in a group of visitors wants to do, and I believe I recognize many of their virtues and their downsides. What I'm specifically curious about is what other cities have this same kind of scene.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
I saw the Sandra Bullock thriller The Net at some point not long after its initial release. Yesterday I rewatched it with my spouse (who'd never seen it) and realized I remembered nearly none of it. It's trying to say something kind of interesting, and the giant technical inaccuracies and TV movie-level plotting/characterization/cinematography aside, there's still something there worth watching.

(This is a kind of successor post to my review of Antitrust, another Internet-centric thriller from a few years later.)

Angela Bennett (Sandra Bullock) is a schlubby, isolated beta tester who lives in Los Angeles, works remotely for a San Francisco software firm, and is about to go on her first vacation in six years when her colleague tells her about a weird new virus-or-something. She forgets about it until she starts to get hunted -- the dude she meets on vacation tries to kill her, all records of her existence seem to be scrambled or lost, etc. All that you can probably get from the trailer.

Some disjointed responses follow.

spoilers )
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
On what helps some people decide to attend social gatherings.

On the Short Trek The Escape Artist.

On noticing that I'm trying to read inaccessible fiction.

"Random" (as in the modern slangy sense, e.g., "the Mountain Goats are making an album about D&D? That's random") means: unexpected in a way that I disapprove of, unjustified, and I resent having to make room for this unexpected thing; where do I even file this?!.

The coverage of celebrities (especially actors) and sports that I run into is usually a way into telling stories about labor and power.

Arrested Development loved showing us how its characters clung to the perceived power of names/categories, to make other people see things their way. "It's a satire!" "Illusions, dad!" "Mr. Manager." And, relatedly, mistook fake things for real -- living in the model house, George treating all dolls as though they were people.
brainwane: Sumana, April 2015, with shaved head. (shaved head)
After I wrote this review of Manikarnika and this tiny review of, among other things, Victoria & Abdul, I started showing Black Panther to my spouse and I was talking with him about it and about Thor: Ragnarok. And I started wondering aloud why Black Panther and Thor: Ragnarok, which are about royalty, actually have reasonably interesting things to say about geopolitics, while Captain America: Civil War tries to and is incoherent.

(Do I actually believe everything I say here? Not 100% sure. Iron Man 3 spoiler ahead.) )What I said about Victoria & Abdul and about Manikarnika: The Queen of Jhansi was: "both of which seem to think the problem with the British oppression of India is that local subjects were deprived of a wholesome, classy, righteous queen (rather than, say, that Indians were deprived of representative democracy)." And I think that message isn't just about the Raj. I mean, representative democracy is cognitively demanding and there are a million ways it's broken and everyone has to keep making decisions. Wouldn't it be nice for someone else to do it for us??

But -- no. We tried that.

[personal profile] yasaman, basically I am waving my hands around not sure whether I'm full of crap, and would particularly welcome your input here!
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
I was just rereading the Star Trek Encyclopedia I got for my 13th birthday and realized: this season of Star Trek: Discovery has every reason to feature Sybok.
brainwane: My smiling face, including a small gold bindi (Default)
From 37:14 till about 42:00 of the 1st February episode of Caithream CiĆ¹il is a rockin' instrumental tune with horns and strings. It is so rockin' that I wanted to know more! Despite not knowing Scottish Gaelic, I worked out that the song's "The Kelburn Brewer", and is a collaboration involving Natalie Haas and Alasdair Fraser and closes their CD "Abundance".

"The Kelburn Brewer" as a YouTube track. Gets going around 0:34, then picks up further about a minute in, then increases its jammin'-ness as it goes. Enjoy! And I should listen to more Haas and Fraser.
brainwane: Photo of my head, with hair longish for me (longhair)
(Capsule review by my spouse at his blog.)

I saw ads for this on Indian TV around Republic Day and thought, cool, sort of Wonder Woman action vibes plus a martial-arts-dance sequence plus anticolonialism! It's a big enough blockbuster that it's showing in some NYC theaters, so I took my spouse plus a couple friends to it the other night.

The friends in question are white, and one of them likes big action movies (we see the MCU together) but is pretty ignorant of history, especially world history. So I prepped them, double-checking that they did know that the British occupied India for basically most of the 19th century, and that we weren't too keen on that. I didn't want to spoil them for the film but I wasn't sure of exactly what events would be covered in the film. So I told them: I'm pretty sure that this film assumes you know that, in 1857, there was a rebellion against British rule. From the fact that India got its independence in 1947, you may infer that this rebellion didn't work out for us. So, British rule depended on a middle management layer of locals, including Indian clerks and Indian soldiers called sepoys.... And I explained the bit about the cartridges.

And we wondered what exposition would happen -- would there be a Star Wars-style info crawl at the start explaining who/what/when/where? Nope! More like, halfway through the movie, you see some soldiers and an onscreen caption reading "Cartridges were sent...." and then, mutiny montage. So I unknowingly guessed THE EXACT RIGHT chunk of history to preload into my friends' heads so they weren't COMPLETELY at sea.

But of course I could see/hear some other messages that they couldn't. Like how Manikarnika was being positioned as a kind of figurative avatar of Kali or Durga. Or the chanting of "Har Har Mahadev" (anodyne English subtitle: "Victory is ours"; actually an invocation to Lord Shiva so specifically Hindu that Hindus yell it during anti-Muslim pogroms and chanted it during Partition violence, and it's super noteworthy when Muslims say it as part of a "communal harmony" initiative). The anti-casteism message (the scene where the villager serves Laximbai milk) is tiny, and the "hey Muslims were a huge part of the mutiny!" message feels practically nonexistent. And yeah that closing where there's an Aum symbol written in fire on the ground (also sort of end-of-Ramayana Sita imagery, as I read it). And the pointed scene where the Queen of Jhansi rescues a calf from being slaughtered (read: only awful barbarians might want to kill and eat cattle!). And all the treason and betrayal by other Indians, and all the "motherland" and "we try peace but we'll fight to defend ourselves" and "honor" and "so awesome to have a chance to be a martyr!" talk. This is a disturbing movie. It has fun bits in it, it has moving bits in it, but I came away distressed.

See, I haven't seen Lagaan* in a while, but in Lagaan, all the Indians work together. All castes, Muslims and Hindus together, women and men together, a guy with a disability turns out to be an amazing pitcher, and so on. Aamir Khan's character shows some leadership and you get a lot of training montages and it's about beating violent coercion with excellence and discipline and cleverness. Manikarnika is not like that. Manikarnika is about the joy of killing British soldiers, about the indivisible pride of the motherland and the people on/from it, and about a vision of Hindu nationalism that has no room for Ambedkar or Gandhi. And this is a huge blockbuster hit in a country that means a lot to me.

I need to read Harleen Singh's The Rani of Jhansi: Gender, History and Fable in India (Cambridge University Press, 2014) or a similar work before I say: this movie is historically inaccurate. And it weirds me out that it's hard for me to find reviews where people talk in depth about what's going on in this movie, politically. Is it all happening in Hindi, which I don't know and can't read? Am I completely misreading it? Is it not even worth explicating because it's so obvious to every Indian sourcelander watching it? (Indian news sources do point out that this seems almost part of a BJP pre-election campaign push.)

I'm worried, you know? Maybe one reason I'm not seeing people talk about this online is because they're afraid of retribution.

* I could swear that one of the British officers in Manikarnika is played by the same guy who played the main villain in Lagaan. IMDb seems to disagree. Maybe it's just similar facial hair.
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