Friday, September 26, 2008

the jordanian news anchor, the development consultant from mumbai, the west point cadet, the greek woman from shanghai, the palestinian employee of OCHA, the british recruiter from brussels, the american in togo, the canadian-french-singaporean educated graduate student, the boy from oxford (not me). the united nations have arrived.

Monday, September 22, 2008

crystal ball

I am glad to see that someone is responding to ongoing developments in Pakistan with humour (thanks to dear S for the link). I am very depressed about Pakistan. There have been no major attacks by al-Qaeda in Saudi Arabia for at least the last couple of years and the network has been severely weakened in Iraq. But the key front in the 'war on terror' has now moved to Pakistan, at a time when its military is more unpopular (domestically) than it has probably ever been in its history and its civilian administration is led by a powerful crook whom almost nobody trusts. Benazir might have been able to hold things together, but Asif Zardari certainly cannot. I am not one to look into crystal balls, but my sense is that things will get a lot worse in places like the Swat valley. There will be no formal secessions, just long, grinding counterinsurgency that leaves no victors. Two things will happen, are beginning to happen. (i) US counter-insurgency operations will increasingly violate Pakistani sovereignty, making it ever more difficult for any administration in Islamabad to cooperate with the US (this will hold equally true, perhaps more true, for an Obama administration). (ii) The US will increasingly begin to see India as the key stable partner in the region. As Pakistan implodes, the US will become ever more serious about military cooperation with India, with a view to containing the festering sore of Islamic radicalism in the region. The most important dimensions of the developing Indo-US relationship are not those which concern civilian nuclear cooperation, but the less discussed side agreements on military cooperation and interoperability, which will pave the way for India to become a key regional military ally in a way that is reminscent of Pakistan's role during the Cold War. The irony will be that in the 'war on terror', India will be the new Pakistan.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

In these days of mind-bogglingly bizarre news, this was a rare bright spot: not the 10 best or worst places to be gay, but the five most improved places for gay tolerance. Look who heads the list. Of course if you were a woman, Delhi continues to be one of the most stifling and life-threatening places on the planet.

Sunday, September 14, 2008

this is N16

The book is getting written and in the meanwhile, I am shamed into working by the abundance of talent around me. Just heard the Don Weller Quartet at the Vortex Jazz Club, which is down the road from me. At £12, tickets seemed a bit too pricey for Dalston, but the music was smooth and sexy and sophisticated and the audience intently appreciative (but have you ever noticed how real jazz afficionados don't dance?). The quartet comprised three grizzly old men and a BOY playing what i usually consider the old man instrument - the double bass. Jazz is the new sound of my life. Goes well with wooden floors and period features. Am mining dear S's old CDs - Ella and Louis Armstrong and Bebel Gilberto and Getz & Gilberto and Marlene Dietrich are all getting a good hearing. Saw The Duchess at the Rio a couple of days ago. The Guardian review seemed to think it made Georgiana look simpering and victimised and took all the politics out of her. I think I agree, though I felt for the character - all the characters as a matter of fact, including the manically misogynistic duke played by Ralph Fiennes who seemed as much a victim of the social codes of his time. The Rio is a fabulous art deco cinema with a big curved ceiling that makes you feel like you are sitting inside a gigantic clam. I have to pinch myself to believe this is all on my doorstep. I think I'm going to give up on my LoveFilm membership. It livened up the evenings in the old life, but somehow doesn't seem necessary anymore. Entertainment is becoming public. Almost no one in my new gym (populated entirely by Caribbean, Turkish and East European men and costing £20 something per month, if you have an annual membership) carries an iPod, and the communal music is played really loud. It's a great basic place - just a big room with a corrugated iron roof, but packed with equipment and full of very friendly people, including some who talk to you and spot for you when they think you need their help, without your asking (this has never happened to me before!). And the great thing about living in an Afro-Caribbean area is that you no longer have to buy latin music - you simply have to fling your windows open most days. Saw Matthew Bourne's Dorian Gray at Sadler's Wells last weekend (ok this is outside N16, but only slightly). As these pictures and videos will attest, the show gets 5* for gorgeous eye candy. The first thing that needs to be said is that Richard Winsor in his underwear makes the audience lean forward in a collective gasp, wanting to reach out and hold his luscious perfect butt. This funky contemporary reworking of Oscar Wilde's obviously timeless narrative, re-set in the London fashion world (it's so ironic that these gorgeous people are probably playing themselves), will make anyone who has never watched ballet before a regular. It's hedonistic, dark, nihilistic, beautiful and self-combusts in a ball of white heat. Watch this if you like boys, Bourne, dancing or Oscar. I'm drunk on this neighbourhood.

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