This was the week that was

It was a good week for India. Swine flu [and Baba Ramdev cashed in], Shah Rukh came down to earth [now that would make a great movie, Jon Stewart quipped], and the media jumped over the moon in a mistaken belief that the importance of news is measured in decibels.

The Indian way of doing things was best illustrated by these examples: If you can’t travel by train, it is probably no use to anyone anyway, so burn it. If you can’t make your flight on time, delay it. And if you are confronted with a thought you don’t like, ban it. Hell, even if you are confronted with something you don’t dislike, ban it anyway – we are Hindus, no?

[If banning the Jinnah book shows that Indians – okay, some Indians -- don’t like intelligent debate and discussion, what does banning boobs tell you about the French?]

Stay with bans for a beat longer and consider this latest manifestation of intolerance: We can tolerate Ganesha batting and bowling for the cause of Indian cricket; we can picture him with 11 heads symbolizing the Indian team; we can re-imagine him in waste materials in a nod to the environment…

But if an artist shows him holding, among other things, an Oscar, hell – which hath no fury like a fundamentalist looking for a cause – breaks loose. [While on Ganeshas, in the week before Chaturthi the deity figured in Fairfax County police investigations as a burglar magnet].

Still staying close to home, Harpreet Dev has become famous for driving backwards.

My wife would have been, too, only I took the car keys away from her before she could do too much damage. And while on that, check this out – then imagine said better half, who is scared of everything on four or more legs and most things on two, at the wheel of my car.

Oh, and I’d love to let friend Dev lose in Samoa.

Talking of cars and traffic, a bloke snarled traffic in LA when he tossed wads of cash out his car window [intentionally -- unlike this incident]. Officials said the man was emotionally disturbed. No shit, Sherlock?!

In science, researchers in Australia are starting a study to find out if dogs can recognize themselves in the mirror. [And I am starting a study to figure out what the f*** we are supposed to do with the answer once we get it]. A study has also discovered that while candlelight dinners could heat up your sex life, it is hell for global warming.

Science also suggests that showing women pictures of rich cake is a good way to get them to stop eating the stuff. On similar lines, you have to wonder if showing monks pictures of naked women is a good way to keep them celibate – in which case Playboy just found a whole new untapped market.

Actually, you might want to experiment with pictures of Jacqueline Kennedy/Onassis in the buff, that just turned up in Andy Warhol’s junk.

From science to the arts, and LeRoy Stevens has put out an album of screams. He was not, confidential sources currently confined to the emergency ward with broken eardrums told me, inspired by Maria Sharapova, whose scream is now a ringtone. Or by So You Think You Can Dance judge Mary Murphy, who hits notes that make Maria’s best efforts seem like a whisper in the wind [while on Murphy, I’m torn: her random yells tempt me to turn off the TV, but then there’s Cat Deeley, and those legs that go all the way down to the ground].

From the police files: A five year old boy masterminded a robbery in, where else, a kindergarten; a man called 911 to complain that his family had hidden his stash of booze [and he was the one who got arrested for it, proving yet again that the law is an ass – a teetotal ass].

Elsewhere, we discover that police in Kissimmee have bad breath and are ignorant, since they can’t differentiate between breath mints and crack. [Speaking of ignorance and the police in the same breath, maybe this will explain why] Still staying with drugs, crime, cops and such, this is what I call progress: an official, full-fledged cocaine bar.

And in continuation of the general crime theme, two employees were fired for tackling an armed shoplifter. Advice to shop assistants: Live and let lift.

So, girls – what do you do if a guy wolf-whistles at you? Beat the bastard up, you say? Absolutely. You go, girlfriend. Only, first catch the right bastard, please. And while on guys doing things to girls the girls don’t like – this bloke invests ‘Whole Foods’ with a whole new layer of meaning.

It wasn’t all bad on the crime front, though – in England, former pickpockets are now committing another kind of crime: putting money back into the pockets of the unwary. And in Pennsylvania, a 72-year-old came up with a whole new use for the six-pack.

Moving on: The Fijian island of Bua, in an attempt to bring its people closer to god, has banned the wearing of pants on Sunday. And while on religion, an existential question: You don’t have to be his girlfriend to get closer to god. Or do you? Oh, and in case you are not in a position to do your own praying, no sweat – just tweet.

In a blow for compassion, it was revealed that several weeks after a woman was killed in an accident on the Pacific Motorway at Worongary on the Gold Coast, her mother was sent a letter from the Department of Main Roads making a claim for the cost of repairs to a damaged guard-rail.

From life to the afterlife: If you are quick and rich, you’ll get a chance to be on top of Marilyn Monroe for all eternity. [If long dead things are your thing, how about a T Rex?]

And finally, sport: As I write this, England is attempting to wrest back the Ashes from the Aussies. And the spearhead of this effort is Freddie Flintoff, whose body is being held together by rubber bands and hope. The media is making a big fuss over the bloke – but this other guy, it seems to me, deserves fussing over far more. After all, Ricky Ponting and company can’t kill you, but a bull can.

Right, so that’s it for the week. This was the previous week. I’ll see you next week. [Damn, all this effort has made me weak].

Chicken pickle

The story thus far: Labor MP for Glasgow Central Mohammad Sarwar took the battle over the origins of the chicken tikka masala to a whole other dimension earlier in July, when he asked that the European Union give Glasgow Protected Designation of Origin status [wiki] for the popular curry.

Not so fast, say India-based chefs: that dish has been made in India for generations.

Serious wtf moment.

One small step for man…

…one giant screwup for Mankind? Not that bad, really, but you would think if NASA can put a man on the moon, it could keep tabs on the videotape of it doing so, no? No.

And since this post is on NASA’s case, here’s journalist/author Tom Wolfe, suggesting that Neil Armstrong’s small step was actually a giant foot in the groin for mankind.

But never mind Mankind — the real problem is what Apollo 11 did to science fiction.

Oh and hey, ever wondered how today’s news channels would have handled it, had the moon landing been happening in our times? Here’s how.

Potty about the potty

He also reportedly autographed the toilet he used on a visit to local politician and Hindu nationalist firebrand Bal Thackeray, who invited him to the city. Thackeray is said to still proudly point out the signed loo.

In a statement, Thackeray, now 83, recalled Jackson’s dancing. “How many people can dance that way? You’d break your neck… He represents certain values in America that India should not have qualms in accepting,” he said.

For your WTF files. Incidentally — anyone care to ask Thackeray to spell out those American values MJ represents that we should accept? Didn’t someone say there’s no fool like an… forgot what I was going to say.

The shadow and substance

John McWhorter, who teaches in Columbia University’s Department of English and Comparative Literature and writes extensively on race relations, has a piece in Forbes on the passing of Michael Jackson worth your while because it differs from the flood of capsule biographies and evaluative tributes and frames MJ against the backdrop of race.

He wanted to be something else. Just what he wanted to be was hard to say. We got used to him over the years, but in the long view, it was downright odd how comfortable all of America was with a black man from Gary who made himself look as much like a white woman as possible, spoke in falsetto, and cherished the company of little boys to an extent which was, whatever one’s verdict on you-know-what, distinctly peculiar.

This was the King of Pop? What did it say about America that this was the man who made the best-selling album of all time, and whose later albums, like Bad and Dangerous, had sales that would have made superstars of any newcomer, but only seemed like letdowns in comparison to the once-in-a-lifetime success of Thriller? What it said was something we are more recently familiar with in the Obama phenomenon.

Michael Jackson, RIP

A very good friend I met for a smoke just now is still all teary-eyed about the passing of the ‘King of Pop’, and she is not the only one — a colleague told me of someone who’s mother is all broken up over the news. And they are not alone — on the New York Times, a graphical interface collates tributes from people around the world touched by the man and his music.

Michael Jackson’s passing leaves me emotionally unmoved, and only touches me in the John Donne sense. Remember?

No man is an island,  entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as well as if a manor of thy friend’s or of thine own were;  any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.

Perhaps my lack of ‘feeling’ stems from Michael Jackson’s music not having been an integral part of my growing up, in the way Hendrix and Joplin and Dylan, Led Zep, Floyd and Purple were to name just a few. I did for a while play the thriller album on endless loop, and I’ll confess to practising the moonwalk before a mirror till I managed a fair approximation of the move — but that is about it; otherwise I remained largely untouched by the endless soap opera of his life, while still occasionally listening to his music on my IPod.

Coincidentally, two weekends ago I was reading this piece in the Guardian by Peter Conrad [if you are checking out my Delicious feed on the sidebar here, you probably read it too].

I’ll leave you with two videos:

And this one, of Moonwalk down the ages:

One more: MJ in India

Come to think of it, the man had magic that spanned generations. I remember at the time choking over articles in Samnaa and elsewhere where Bal Thackeray gushed about the pop icon — articles complete with pictures of the loo in Matoshri that Jackson used.

Update: There is on Time magazine a ton of related stuff [actually, there is MJ stuff on every media site worldwide -- way too much to sift through]. Among points of interest, a compilation of Twitter tributes by celebrities, and Time’s compilation of top ten MJ moments. And Mental Floss on his early days.