if you liked slumdog millionaire…

One of my favorite things to do with a couple of stray hours is to go sit in a theater and watch a movie. Growing up, there were few things I looked forward to as much. Past few weeks I’ve watched a bunch…

Slumdog Millionaire is an awesome movie. It’s a movie about growing up in the slums of India and is a great holiday movie. Go see it. For those of you who have seen Slumdog, and liked it, I have just the thing for you. Go buy/borrow A Fine Balance. One of the best books I’ve ever read about outcasts in India. But, be warned, for as amazing a book as it is, it’s going to depress the hell out of you.

Benjamin Button is also an awesome movie. If you liked Forrest Gump, you’ll love B Button. (that’s my best Amazon recommendation impression). There are a ridiculous amounts of similarities between the two– shrimp/lightning, breadth of historical coincidences, mothers who shape the main character’s lives, a love story that defines life, and like 10 other things. Anyway, this is an awesome epic of a movie. It might be movie of the year, but I haven’t really thought enough about it to say that.

Seven pounds is awful. I’m a little queasy even thinking of things to write. So don’t watch it.

Did you like American Beauty? Go see Revolution Road.

Now go buy A Fine Balance. You won’t regret it.

the next obama?

We’ll likely here more and more from Bobby Jindal. He’s the Indian-American governor of Louisiana with a very impressive background. Rhodes Scholar, President of the U of L system before 30 and governor at 36. He’s a Republican. He’s a great marketer: “Bubbas for Bobby” was his campaign to get white southern males, a constituency which was likely his hardest to gain, to campaign for him.

Newsweek gives him some high-profile treatment. Worth the read.

the laundry list in my head.

Here’s a laundry list of what’s been bouncing around in my head the past few days.

1) Obama likely ran the best campaign in history. From approaching the campaign with a data-based decision making process, thinking through weakness and strengths and letting this guide a communications/tactical strategy, a consistent (reassuring) image and message to voters, and an efficient deployment of technology– just from a business case approach this was remarkable. The New Yorker has a good article on it all. When insiders either write, or contribute heavily to a definitive account of the operations and logistics of the campaign, I’ll be first in line to buy and study the book.

2) There is more fear in the air than I can ever recall. September 11th was a very different kind of fear and nakedness to the harsher elements of the world. Talking to friends, and more importantly strangers, and reading the accounts of what’s going on in broad swaths of America– there is real, palpable fear for the future. The stock markets are a reflection of sentiment (and probably themselves guide sentiment to some degree, completing the cycle) and it’s ugly. An organization, nation, etc needs renewal. The thing is we needed this back in 2001 at the latest. But we put it off by inflating home values and pushing the levels of credit. Continue reading

world on the edge.

The Economist (apparently Palin’s favorite magazine) has a good, short article on the credit crisis.

This is why those politicians who set the interests of Main Street against those of Wall Street are so wrong. Sooner or later the money markets affect every business. Companies face higher interest charges and the fear that they may one day lose access to bank loans altogether. So they, too, hoard cash, cancelling acquisitions and investments, in order to pay down debt. Managers delay new products, leave factories unbuilt, pull the plug on loss-making divisions, and cut costs and jobs. Carmakers and other manufacturers will no longer extend credit (see article) and loans will become elusive and expensive. Consumers will suffer. Unemployment will rise. Even if the credit markets work well, the rich economies will slow as the asset-price bubble pops. If credit is choked off, that slowdown could turn into a deep recession.

This nicely describes the anxiety I’ve been feeling about the credit markets seizing up.

the difference between john mcain and sarah palin.

Two amazing articles to read. I’ve got a helluva post coming on the election, and where my head is. But until that (it’s been saved as a draft since this weekend), these articles are must reads.

The first from The Atlantic on John McCain. I’ve been searching for some more good in depth material on my man, John. I’ve read a couple of his biographies (which are great, by the way) but haven’t found really compelling material in the past few months. This is incredibly so. Some choice selections:

“During the three years after President Bush declared an end to major combat operations, McCain was the rare Republican who was publicly critical of the administration, and in particular of General Casey and then–Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld. His anger at Rumsfeld remains palpable. “You’ve got to tell people exactly what’s going on,” he said. “This goes back to ‘Mission Accomplished,’ ‘a few dead-enders,’ ‘last throes.’ I used to grind my teeth.”

By the beginning of 2007, his frustration was boiling over publicly. At a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing, he reprimanded Casey. “You will need to explain why your assessment of the situation in Iraq has differed so radically from that of most observers and why your predictions of future success have been so unrealistically rosy,” he said. ”

“In my conversations with McCain, however, he never appeared greatly troubled by his shifts and reversals. It’s not difficult to understand why: tax policy, or health care, or even off-shore oil drilling are for him all matters of mere politics, and politics calls for ideological plasticity. It is only in the realm of national defense, and of American honor—two notions that for McCain are thoroughly entwined—that he becomes truly unbending.

Kissinger learned this at their first meeting. “When I was in Vietnam for negotiations on implementing the Paris Agreement, the North Vietnamese prime minister had a dinner—I was leaving the next day—and he said if I wanted to take McCain on my flight, it could be arranged,” he said. “I told him that I won’t take McCain or anyone else on my plane. The prisoner release would have to happen on a schedule previously agreed. Somehow McCain heard about this and months later, at the White House reception for returned prisoners, he said to me, ‘I want to thank you for saving my honor.’ What McCain did not tell me at that time was that he had refused to be released two years earlier unless all were released with him. It was better for him to remain in jail in order to preserve his honor and American honor than to come home on my plane.””

Pretty amazing stuff in there. Now, let’s switch gears.

The New Yorkers dives into Sarah Palin in a very solid piece of reporting (Vintage New Yorker). Choice selections:

“Palin, who studied journalism in college and worked for a time as a sportscaster, has an informal manner of speech, simultaneously chatty and urgent, and she reinforces her words with winks and nods and wrinklings of her nose that seem meant to telegraph intimacy and ease. Speaking recently at her former church, the Wasilla Assembly of God, she said, “It was so cool growing up in this church and getting saved here, getting baptized by Pastor Riley in Little Beaver Lake Camp, freezing-cold summer days that we had at camp—my whole family getting baptized when we were little.” She sounded the same when we met, high-spirited, irrepressible, and not in the least self-conscious. On the contrary, she is supremely self-confident, in the way of someone who believes that there is nothing she can’t talk her way into, or out of, or around or through. There was never a hesitation before speaking, or between phrases, no time for thought or reflection. The words kept coming—engaging, lulling, distracting—a commanding flow, but without weight. Yet, for all the cozy colloquialism, she cannot be called relaxed. She’s on—full on.”

“Sarah Palin seemed to understand this. Earlier this year, she wrote in a newspaper column, “The federal budget, in its various manifestations, is incredibly important to us, and congressional earmarks are one aspect of this relationship.” And, for all her talk of Alaska fending for itself, she told me, “There isn’t a need to aspire to live without any earmarks. The writing on the wall, though, is that times are changing. Presidential candidates have promised earmark reform, so we gotta deal with it, we gotta live with it, understanding that our senior senator, especially—he’s eighty-four years old, he is not gonna be able to serve in the Senate forever. We will not have that seniority back there anymore.” Suddenly she called out, “Alaskans, wake up!” Then she went on, “That means we have got to get ourselves in a position of seizing opportunities to develop and pay our own bills. ’Cause we’re not gonna see that largesse coming to our state as we had in all these years. Whether we like that or not or support that or not, that’s reality.””

Assuming you made it to the end, what do you think?

general petraeus & the future of iraq.

petraeus_newyorker.jpg

Great article in The New Yorker on Iraq through the lens of the story of General Petraeus. What’s interesting in this article is that it reinforces the notion that neither of the “official” narratives of the political parties is correct (things are great– we must stay the course OR we have to bail immediately– that’s what is best for america). This is pretty much must read material.

Like it or not, what happens in Iraq has massive financial (budgetary), human (soldiers), and security (terrorism) concerns for the future of America. The fact that no one talks about it anymore is fairly disturbing.

P.S. Weirdest moment of the weekend? Listening to an interview with VP-nominee Palin on CNBC where she repeatedly refers to the war in Iraq as a war for oil. Wait. What? There are so many things wrong with this, I actually don’t know where to begin.

some deep obama reporting.

dear new yorker,

This is why I love you. This article is ridiculously long, but worth the time. It’s a deep-dive into one of the most under-reported and discussed times in Barack Obama’s life: Chicago politics. With a collection of quotes and research from a wide-spectrum of former advisors, mentors, and political colleagues, this is likely a side of Obama that I had never read.

And then there’s that other reason why I absolutely love you, New Yorker. While you may lean left, you don’t pull punches. You’ve written some gushers about Obama in the past. And I’ll bet a large part of your readership is still swooning over anything-Obama. But you invested heavily and ran something you saw as important, and reported on it fairly. Cheers to that.

I just hope that people will read this, even though it’s going to take them, like, forever.

love,
surya

::Update added 7:57 PDT, 7/14/08::
P.S. OK, so I had no idea that they chose such…interesting…cover art. I’m not sure what to make of it, but my first thought is really, really weird. Are they mocking the right and the litany of rumors out there? Or are they adding fuel to the fire of the absurd? Both campaigns have condemned it.

5/27/13 – This letter format is so tedious. This was a good article, though.

lahiri.

There’s a short-piece (but impressive as a 2-page spread in the mag) about Jhumpa Lahiri and her new book in Time this week.

Lahiri is one of my favorite authors. I loved Interpreter of Maladies  and my mom liked it even more. The Namesake was almost a spiritual experience for me. I read it straight through the night upon its arrival. I was tired the next day at work, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the book. I just similarly, but less intensely, devoured, Unaccustomed Earth, her latest book. Continue reading