Sunday, October 29, 2006

Of paper walls and second bathrooms

There are two things about the way people live here in America that I have never understood. a) having only one bathroom per home and b) having paper thin walls between apartments. It shows a complete disregard for privacy -- which is odd, given that this is a privacy-obsessed country.

Right now, the thin walls are pissing me off. My neighbors, a pair of high-pitched, nasal, barely post-collegiate chiquitas (how they afford what they refer to as "the penthouse" -- told ya I can hear everything -- is beyond me. Not that it is a penthouse in actuality -- it's just an apartment on the top floor. It's not a penthouse unless there's a private elevator, in my opinion!) are having a cheesy and loud gathering. Cheesy because they're playing a lot of (now defunct) boy bands and Madonna, and singing -- badly -- along. And I can hear it all clearly. It's nothing short of an aural assault. No wonder their dog is a little neurotic.

Now am debating at what point I can go over and tell them to shut the f...ummm, you know, turn it down a notch. I really don't want to be that neighbor. But it's like being in a dorm again, an experience I have no desire whatsoever to relive. Yes, it was fun when I was 18. But I'm over it now and quite enjoy living like a (somewhat) civilized adult.

If only they had remotely acceptable taste in music -- or could actually carry a tune -- I might be able to stand it. Or join in. But they don't and they can't. And the party sounds lame.

Damn these paper walls! Sigh, at least I have that second bathroom (the small comforts of adulthood scare me sometimes!)

Thursday, October 26, 2006


I am comfortably numb.

Soon, it will wear off. By then I will have figured out how to feel. But for now...

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

The Revealer

I'm taking a class in which we keep tabs on coverage of religion in the media, so that we can do critiques. I recently wrote a piece and it was just published online: the piece.

It's exciting and scary. Exciting because editors clearly thought it was insightful enough to warrant publishing. And scary because I usually shy away from religion and politics in my writing. Still, it was an interesting, if challenging, assignment.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Almost as effective as chocolate...

Ok, so I had made myself a promise that I wouldn't indulge (too much) in the know-yourself quizzes anymore. And I certainly made a conscious decision not to share the results with the world -- because, honestly, who cares what kind of animal I am??

But..umm.. this one was too much of an ego massage to keep to myself, so I shall allow myself a brief indulgence (I've been kinda low, I needed a pick up and, well, this was certainly a good one). The question was: which Victoria's Secret Angel Are You? And the answer:

You Are Most Like Gisele Bundchen

Slightly exotic and perfectly gorgeous

I swear, I'm not vain.

Ok, maybe a little bit.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

India on my mind -- and everyone else's

So I was watching Gilmore Girls this evening (while avoiding the reading I have to do) and it was going along predictably for the first few minutes when, all of a sudden, Rory says, "Well, I could talk about Bangalore!"


I start paying closer attention and there's this 30 second riff on Bangalore and outsourcing -- how when you call customer service, chances are you're talking to "some nice person who speaks English in India." And just when I thought that was it, about 10 minutes later, she interrupts a (predictable) fight between her mom and grandparents by yelling, "Bangalore!" and stunning everybody into silence.

I guess that's one of many indications that India -- and Bangalore -- has really seeped into popular culture here in America. Sure, Americans have liked Indian food for a long time, and have been aware that their corner store guy and the cabbie are both South Asian. But we didn't figure in their collective popular consciousness quite like we do now:

Bangalore getting more than a mention in Gilmore Girls. A classmate knowing who Suketu Mehta is (and she'd read Maximum City, too). The words "contemporary Indian art" flowing off unlikely tongues.

And the fact that stories about India have been on the front page (or close by) of the New York Times several times in the last month. This last example, however, has annoyed me greatly. Not one of these apparently globally relevant stories has been positive. Not one. Here's a sampling of headlines:

Modern Ways Open India's Doors to Diabetes

In Teeming India, Water Crisis Means Dry Pipes and Foul Sludge

On India's Despairing Farms, a Plague of Suicides

And then there are the images, of course, and some very inventive captions, like: India Combats a Deadly Dengue Fever Outbreak.

Now, I'm not saying that any of these stories are untrue. Of course it's all happening and it's terrible and must be brought to national attention. The relevance on the front page of the Times, however, escapes me. It seems to do nothing but reinforce negative stereotypes.

I respect Somini Sengupta, the Times correspondent in India, a great deal. She does some extremely honest and necessary reporting and avoids falling into the "India Shining" trap. But while it's important to maintain a realistic perspective, there's also such a thing as overkill. And, I'm afraid, that's what's happened with the stories on India in the last month.

I expect more from the New York Times.

Friday, October 06, 2006

On travel writing...

I was having a conversation about a week ago with someone who told me he thinks travel writing is incredibly boring. Not that he does any -- he finds the reading of it boring. "You know," he said, "it's just 'where to eat,' 'where to stay,' 'where to party.' I mean, anyone can do that."

Ummm... ye-ah, sure.

Being someone who dreams of travel writing -- and who has done some herself -- I was offended. Initially. And then I decided I didn't need to have anything to do with someone so... stupid. (Yes, I am judgemental about people's literary worldview.)

But perhaps I'm being unfair. After all, maybe not everyone can tell the difference between the genre that guide books fall into and that of actual travel writing. On the other hand, maybe he was just not so richly endowed with the discernment gene.

The truth is, there's serious art in travel writing. Consider this: there is a finite number of countries in the world. And yet, people write about them all the time (witness the number of monthly magazines devoted to travel), which means coming up with a new take each time. Which, believe me, is not easy. And yet, the great travel writers manage to do just that.

I was reading October's Conde Nast Traveler and ran smack into a piece by Pico Iyer (I genuflect before his talent) about Singapore -- a city written about so extensively, I'm surprised anyone has anything left to say. And yet, his article was remarkably fresh. Which is what Pico Iyer consistently manages to do.

The trick is to be part nomad, part writer and part cultural anthropologist. Then, any place becomes more than just the sum of its hotels, restaurants and clubs.

Now that's travel writing.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Baby Katie

My beautiful new niece, 11 days old: