Reading matter

If Americans were polled on a single question — “Name the primary grievance behind the terrorist attack of September 11, 2001” — how many would get it right, wonders Girish Sahane on his blog. [Charlie Sheen has his own answer]. Two other 9/11 stories I read this morning: one woman asks if she even wants to know the truth any more, while another [older story that I found through the related links segment] struggles with the guilt that 9/11 changed her life for the better.

Here’s 9/11, as seen at the time from outer space. Elsewhere premiere sand artist Sudharshan Pattnaik pays tribute in the form he knows best. [Unrelated but fun, check out the underwater sculptures of Jaison de Caires Taylor]

Also read, John McWhirter on moving on to a different world.

Elsewhere, Sepia Mutiny on Lisa Ray, the actress currently battling a rare form of cancer. Lisa’s blog here.

Earlier this week on Prospect, there was this story of the coming glut of drugs to mess with improve the mind. Now here’s Wired, with the secrets of eternal smarts.

While we mark the 40th anniversary of the Internet [timeline; a graphic representation of growth], spare a thought for Winston the carrier pigeon.

This week, a South African call-center business, frustrated by persistently slow Internet speeds, decided to use a carrier pigeon named Winston to transfer 4 gigabytes of data between two of its offices, just 50 miles apart. At the same time, a computer geek pushed a button on his computer to send data the old-fashioned way, through the Internet.

Winston the pigeon won. It wasn’t even close.

From LiveScience, the success secret of top tennis players: good eyes. More secrets: the trick to winning big tournaments is to dress smart, and make a noise. Still with tennis: fans, give this a go.

Great read: NYT reporter Stephen Farrell was kidnapped by the Taliban last Saturday — and blogs the experience. In the New Yorker, George Packer on Sultan Munadi, the local journo who died in that same kidnap, and on the relationship between foreign journalists and local fixers.

15 people died in a boating accident in Bulgaria. Madonna caused it. [Hat Tip: Amit Varma on Twitter]

From Cricinfo: the art, craft, and magic of two legendary spin bowlers. Clip:

Thus the myth enters the imagination. So the bowler pays up, and pays up again and again till the batsman coughs it up and hands it over sheepishly. The phrase “buying a wicket” was now de rigueur all of a sudden. It also proceeded to cause endless headaches every time Bedi was bowling. Following the progress of the match became a temporal jigsaw puzzle that had no solution. Every ball was a head-scratcher in itself: furious thinking would ensue as one tried to place it in a pattern initiated overs ago. Or was a new sequence of trickery starting with it? Now, was that a set-up ball, to be cashed in by the Sardar a few overs later, or just a bad one? Or was it just an innocent bridge piece in the composition before the cymbal crash came, causing the batsman to walk back? Wicket balls were the easy ones, and a relief, too, for they reset the puzzle. Yes, those times were magical. The period when the strategy has sunk in but the tactics are shrouded in mystery.

This merits a separate blog post of its own, but in the midst of much, so: Read this and weep — The Allahabad High Court sees fit to not merely set aside the death sentence against Moninder Singh Pandher in the 2006 Nithari killings, but to acquit him altogether. Surinder Koli, the domestic servant who was Pandher’s partner in crime, however gets it in the neck. Figures, no? [Hat tip Sridhar Parthasarathy in email]

Great read: ‘I will not read your fucking script’ — featuring History of Violence writer Josh Olson [Link courtesy Raja Sen]

Back in the day, Manu Joseph had done an impressionistic piece on Anand Jon [linked to in this post] for ToI. He now reprises it, against the frame of Chennai’s college sexuality, for Open magazine.

And the final link for the week: roflmao. Reminds me of the time I told the partner [mine, not Amit’s] that if a person can rattle off at the rate of knots without saying anything in particular, people will take him for an expert on art. Show me, goes the partner. So we wandered into this gallery, and walked around, and I stood in front of a particularly pointless daub and began throwing words together as they came to me: “That red dot in the middle of the large swathe of yellow? It particularly speaks to me — brilliant artistic riff on the human nature. We are all like that — we live our lives in a state of perennial cowardice but somewhere, deep inside, the small spark of anger, of rebellion and revolt, burns deep….” You know — that kind of thing, non-stop. And then I get this nudge and I look around, and I find an audience, half a dozen people nodding on with my every word. Hmph!

Anand Jon: gone but not forgotten

Americans, suggests Easy Rawlins creator Walter Mosley in an essay for a Newsweek special issue [which, incidentally, makes for good reading], is obsessed with true crime.

Americans are not the only ones: I’ve been following, fairly obsessively, the Anand Jon case since his March 2007 arrest through the November 2008 jury verdict and last week’s sentencing by LA Superior Court Judge David Wesley – and I’m damned if I’ve come across a more tangled tale.

Like Mosley’s Americans, I like my heroes squeaky clean and my villains doom black, but the Jon case, playing out against the background of the colourful world of haute fashion, is painted in shades of unfashionable gray.

Is Anand Jon a designer more intent in creating an image [he at one time claimed to be a protégé of no less than Giorgio Armani – a claim the label was quick to refute] than in creating clothes?

Is he a hubris-ridden arriviste [his ‘I am my own God’ line gave prosecutors a compelling beginning for the opening statement] whose sense of entitlement turned him into a sociopath, or unwitting road kill in the path of a bunch of women looking for an easy route to the top?

Or does the truth lie somewhere in the middle of those two extremes?

I have no personal knowledge of the man outside of a handful of ‘same party, same place, same time’ encounters; sister Sanjana I ‘know’ in the ‘hello darling how’re you doing muah-muah we really must do a dinner one of these days’ way, but no more.

Absent personal knowledge, I’ve been following the case through the reportage, such as there is, on the internet – and available matter in the public domain throws up more questions than there are answers.

A favorite resource has been the reporting [her magazine feature for here] and blog [Waxman’s trial-related posts here] of Sharon Waxman, and of the LA Post’s Steve Mikulan [post sentencing summation here, earlier Full Court Press posts here]. Here are two fairly extended pieces on the case, and the man; and here’s Manish Vij summing up recent stories.

The sense you get is that at various times, the prosecution stuffed up and so did the defense; that there is likely a fair degree of exaggeration in some of the victims’ accounts but also enough truth to suggest that Jon deserved to get it in the neck the way he did. [Besides the evidentiary weight the jury gave the testimony of some victims while rejecting the inconsistent testimonies of others, there is among lesser reported themes the point that some of the instances of sexual contact date back to 2004 – and in those, Jon was in violation of the terms of his probation after a nolo contendere plea to a charge of child abuse in 2003].

What leaves a bad taste in the mouth is the post-verdict media blitz mounted by Sanjana. Television viewing wasn’t among my priorities last week, but I did catch a bit of her shtick on NDTV vis a vis Rajdeep Sardesai, where among other arguments, she suggested that in one instance, the victim was 17 years and six months old, and hence could not be called a child – ergo, her brother was innocent.

Huh? Duh!

Getting everybody and his uncle KJ Jesudoss to speak out for Jon is one thing, but over the top doesn’t even begin to describe some of Sanjana’s antics following Jon’s incarceration. Like the time she walked the ramp at Fashion Week in New Delhi.

“I did it for Anand,” says Sanjana. “The fact that I can be a model and walk the ramp is a statement that I want to make to the other models. If I’m gonna dress for the ramp, somebody is going to touch me and if I turn around and accuse him of inappropriate touching – it’s ridiculous. I want those models (who’ve accused Anand) to get the message that I walked the ramp too.”

Again, duh! Jon wasn’t being accused of coming into contact with a model while adjusting her costume ahead of a fashion show – so what precisely this little stunt was supposed to prove is beyond me.

There is also the ‘racism’ charge, which has played out as a percussive undercurrent to the proceedings ever since Jon was arrested. Mercifully, the Indian American has largely steered clear of that one, despite the family’s best efforts to suggest that the designer is being victimized only because he is an Indian.

While on the India connection, back in 2007 Manu Joseph [now with Open magazine] reminisced about the boy he had known in college. What Manu diplomatically left out is the story that was pretty much general currency at the time — that Jon had knocked up the teen daughter of a very prominent business family, and had to flee in the face of the family’s wrath.

Anyway. This morning, an email landed up in media inboxes. As below:

Hello Everybody,

It’s time to prevail justice.

We need yourself and your help to SAVE a life of young Indo- American man of age of 32.

After loosing Big cases of OJ and other Celebrities DA of Los Angeles County FRAMED Celebrity to SHOW public that they are DOING something.

Let’s raise your voice for justice and save INNOCENT victim from Rape charges. No doubt Judge Wesley has given “”PRE MEDITATE” judgement to support DA’s office to retain credibility as District Attorney.

The DA’s Office have been fall short fighting against Rich people’s attorneys and at the same time revenge is taken out to Innocent Victim because he does not have fund to hire attorneys.

Who is the judge? A judicial politician who gets thousands and thousands of dollars to fight election to be elected judge. Let’s open the diary of donors to judge Wesley.

Let’s march – Let’s have candle light visual – Let’s FAST in front of DA’s office to prevail justice. If DA’s office so sure why not have re-trial? OR DA’s office does not want the golden opportunity given by Judge Wesley to punish Anand Jon Alexander

Friends, If you love humanity and you love justice Anand Jon Alexander deserves your support.

As Mahatma Gandhi said ” If you can not use your power for betterment of Human life that is ok but Do not destroy human life” Here, Pre meditate judgement of Judge Wesley is destroying upcoming a human life.

The time is an essence and action needs now. Can Anand count on your support?

Please circulate whom you love and whom you trust to prevail justice and Human life.

Fairly hysterical, ditto illiterate – and surprisingly, it comes from Sanjana’s personal email ID. The prose is in stark contrast to earlier emails that, while over the top in some of the allegations made, are characterized by much better phrasing.

At some point there is apt to be an appeal. Hopefully it will be fought on the evidence, and not on hype and hysteria. Hopefully, too, Anand will take a cue from this Sepia Mutiny post.

A clip, finally, from Waxman’s magazine article:

In Los Angeles, 20 of these women have made formal complaints against Anand Jon, resulting in 59 criminal counts, including forci-ble rape, sex-ual penetration by a foreign object, sexual exploitation of a child, sexual battery, and forcible oral copulation. The women say he did these things between 2001 and 2007. Some say they were as young as 14 or 15 when it happened and that he gave them alcohol. Several say they were raped repeatedly and in more than one city. The charges made headlines. Whatever the outcome of his trial here in Los Angeles, which could begin as soon as the end of August, Jon will face still more charges in New York and Texas.

In many of the cases against him, small-town values will collide with big-city realities, especially in the slippery sphere of cyberspace. Meet a girl, diss a guy, seek your fortune on the World Wide Web, and it can have devastating consequences. With a few keyboard strokes Jon found women, ping-ing them through MySpace or on sites such as and Some entered his circle, and when their quest for renown ended, they reached back through the Web to find other former models who felt aggrieved or said they had sex with him.

What these women told grand jurors exposed the world of semicelebrity. Anand Jon was a promising young designer, but he was no Tom Ford, and his ac-cusers are not from the covers of Vogue. They both are from the Los Angeles culture of the nearly known, the almost there, drawn to ac-claim and made aware of the jagged edge just beneath its surface. Some people under-stand this well. Marla Maples, the sometime actress and ex-wife of Donald Trump, is a close friend of Anand Jon. She calls him “one of the most inspiring people I’ve ever met.” The women blaming him, Maples told me, are “not comfortable in their own skin.” As a girl from Dalton, Georgia, she says, “it breaks my heart to see this need we have to be famous. It’s very addictive.”