A Brief Letter From Borneo

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A Brief Letter From Borneo

…Yes, there is a place where being a wrestling fan is a respectable undertaking.

by Raywat Deonandan
December 2, 2002

This column is a regular feature on 411wrestling.com. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

Greetings from Borneo! Continue reading

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Sorry, Wrestling Is Not A Sport

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Wrestling Is STILL Not A Sport
…But that doesn’t mean you can’t pretend that it is.

by Raywat Deonandan
October 17, 2002

This column is a regular feature on 411wrestling.com. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

 

“you don’t see the point in watching sports yet you write a column about professional wrestling? f@ck you, a$$hole.” –Illmatic760@aol.com

(Profanity edited, since this is a family site, God damn it!)

 

Parents, please, I implore you: don’t let your retarded children use the computer! Continue reading

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The Promise of Biotechnology (aka “Frankenfoods”)

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The Promise of Biotechnology

by Dr. Raywat Deonandan
October 7, 2002

This original Podium article (from March 27, 2002) was re-commissioned by Strategic Health Innovations, Inc. for that company’s Nov/2002 newsletter under the title, “The Public Must Be Taught About Biotechnology.” It appears here with the author’s permission, though all rights remain with SHI.

For those of us working the biotechnology sector and related fields, the fast pace of innovation and discovery is an exciting harbinger of the exciting breakthroughs to come. Many of us envision our work as a small contribution towards — among other positive outcomes– future improvements in health care and the expanded efficiency of food production for the benefit of all. Yet once we step outside of industry circles, we often find that professing support for biotechnology research sometimes makes us pretty unpopular. At times, we even risk being perceived as an enemy of nature: in the public eye, biotechnology is synonymous with genetic modification (of foods, animals and eventually humans). And given the pervasiveness of GM (genetically modified) crops, support for biotech is also seen as being dismissive of the public’s right to choose. Such attitudes have spread among the public, born of a growing distrust for the dispassionate goals of big business and seemingly partisan governments. For, in the words of Dr. Ann Clark, a crop scientist at the University of Guelph, “What’s best for industry is not necessarily what’s best for society.” (1) Continue reading

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Profile This!

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by Raywat Deonandan
August 27, 2002

This article appeared as a feature essay in India Currents Magazine in the October, 2002, issue. A shorter version was published in The Ottawa Citizen November 5, 2002, under the title, “The ‘Swarthy’ Factor.”

 

Ann Coulter says a lot of outrageous things. In fact, the conservative pin-up girl has made her name being unforgivingly further to the Right than Ronald Reagan on his most addled day. Those who do not share her brand of lunacy have learned to respond to her ravings by simply slapping their foreheads and sighing audibly. That’s why it’s both shocking and worrying when a typical heartless and nonsensical Coulterian rant actually gets embraced and echoed by otherwise responsible and sensible people.

In her now infamous columns last September, Coulter wrote of airport screening practices, “It is preposterous to assume every passenger is a potential crazed homicidal maniac. We know who the homicidal maniacs are.” She then identified those “homicidal maniacs” as “suspicious- looking swarthy males” and called for a law to not only deny them access to US commercial flights, but to deport all immigrants who originate from Arab countries. (1)

Typical Coulter. But this time, more moderate voices piped up in agreement. Chris Mooney, online editor of the Left-leaning American Prospect Magazine, wrote in his Jan 15 column, “Ann Coulter is often out of control, but this isn’t one of those times… The fact that [Coulter’s support for racial profiling] is politically charged is the real problem.” (2)

Recently, journalist friends whom I would normally consider to be reasonable people echoed this sentiment. Their affirmative position on airport racial profiling is summarized by Newsweek contributing editor Stuart Taylor Jr., writing for the National Journal: “the mathematical probability that a randomly chosen Arab passenger might attempt a mass-murder-suicide hijacking –while tiny– is considerably higher than the probability that a randomly chosen White, Black, Hispanic, or Asian passenger might do the same.” (3) It’s ironic that the best and most public disavowment of racial profiling in airports is offered by John Ashcroft, though one assumes disingenuously: “I’m against using race as a profiling component,” he said in a television interview last year.(4)

It’s worth pointing out that everyone so far cited on the pro-profiling side of the argument — Coulter, Mooney, Taylor and my journalist friends– are all as White as the driven snow, and suffer only inconvenience, not slit-eyed scrutiny, from airport security personnel. Many of we “swarthy looking men” take exception to the practice, however, not because it is inconvenient, but because it is unfair, inefficient and not based upon any sound logical principles. Just ask Vahid Zohrehvandi, a US citizen of Iranian birth, who was removed from a commercial flight and interrogated by police because, in the words of a flight attendant, the pilot “did not like how he looked.” (5) Of course the only thing Zohrehvandi was guilty of was being a “swarthy” Muslim trying to get home to Dallas. By all accounts, none of his behaviours or possessions were out of the ordinary.

While security providers insist that profiling is not being undertaken, it’s difficult to believe that the practice is not embraced in an unofficial or even clandestine manner. Indeed, a civil suit is being filed against four US airlines for illegal racial profiling (6). In Zohrehvandi’s case, unofficial profiling was employed to target him for persecution; the process may not have been systematic or sanctioned, but it was nonetheless initiated, irrationally and emotionally, by the pilot. Since a pilot has near absolute discretion onboard his craft, few civil rights precepts are enforceable.

When looking at airport security, one must consider the goal. Is it to prevent Al-Qaeda operatives from performing a “mass-murder-suicide hijacking” (as Taylor and Coulter suggest), or is it rather to simply keep the passengers and crew safe? The former focuses on a specific threat, while the latter is more broad based. If the latter, then clearly racial profiling is not a viable option, since safety can be compromised in many ways by people of all races, nationalities and genders, with or without a political agenda. Indeed, a dedicated search of “swarthy looking” males will miss the Asian individual who ignorantly wishes to open a cabin door in mid-flight (as was attempted on a recent Air China flight) (7), as well as the White teenager who wishes to commit suicide by crashing the plane (as was done in Florida) (8). Arab terrorists are in vogue at the moment, but history has shown that hijackers and others who threaten commercial airplanes can originate from any nation, religion or gene pool.

But if the goal of airport security is the former –to prevent Al Qaeda operatives from hijacking and/or destroying the plane– well, racial profiling still accomplishes nothing. Richard Reid, the so-called “shoe bomber,” is so far the only person apprehended trying to destroy an American plane in the post-9/11 world. Racial profiling would not (and did not) catch Reid because he is three quarters White and one quarter Black, and thus does not set off the well-calibrated swarthiness meter.

This is a point worth drilling home: Al Qaeda is an international pan-ethnic organization. Many of its members may share a physical resemblance (though even this is an assumption), but many do not. In a July 30 report, the strategic intelligence corporation, Stratfor Strategic Forecasting, pointed out that Al Qaeda is comprised of many races, including Caucasians from the West and Asians from Japan and China. In Stratfor’s tempered language, they note that this multi- ethnicity makes security screening based on racial profiling, “problematic.” More accurately, it makes the practice worthless.

Supporters of racial profiling balk at the objections of civil libertarians and claim to embrace the logic of efficiency above the luxury of sensitivity. Their sanguineness is brought into question, however, when one examines other profiling opportunities gone unexplored. For instance, to use Taylor’s above cited verbiage, the mathematical probability that a randomly chosen White person might attempt a child kidnaping –while tiny– is considerably higher than the probability that a randomly chosen Middle Eastern, Black, Hispanic, or Asian person might do the same. Yet, are parents more or less cautious when White men, as opposed to non-White men, frequent their children’s playgrounds? The answer is that most parents and security personnel would observe the behaviour of the individual in question more so than his skin colour. The act of skulking about the playground in a long trenchcoat is far more pertinent than whether the individual in question belongs to an ethnic group with a perceived higher statistical probability of criminal involvement. Similar examples can be drawn for a host of crimes that Whites are statistically more liable to commit, such as sexual assaults and hate crimes. Yet security measures designed to protect against such violations rarely if ever employ racial profiling, officially or otherwise.

Why is this same reasoning not employed when dealing with airline security? Obviously, it’s because of the logic-draining legacy of September 11. This nation is presently gripped with an irrational fear of all things vaguely Middle Eastern or Muslim, despite the fact that such groups constitute up to 20% of the global population, including a very large homegrown citizenry. Is it truly rational to fear, and thus persecute, a billion people? The denuding of all things Islamic and Islamic-resembling is so fashionable now that syndicated columnists like Mark Steyn can get away with such asinine and unfounded declarations as, “the Muslim world is economically, militarily, scientifically and artistically irrelevant.” (9)

Increasingly, due to terrorism paranoia, this is an America that retreats to its self-conception as a monochromatic nation: the only true Americans are White and uniformly Christian. I am reminded of a White woman overheard at a recent office cocktail party giggling, “I would never date a non-White man. I guess I’m just an All-American kind of girl.” In her view, one shared unconsciously by many others, “All-American” is equated with “White,” and, by extension, anything not of the appropriate colour is to be distrusted.

Racial profiling in airports will not result in the apprehension of Al-Qaeda or any other kind of terrorist. Rather, it serves only to further persecute groups who are already suffering the irrational wrath of a national mob mentality, and to lay bare the hate-filled and hypocritical xenophobia that lies at the heart of America’s drive for greater security.

 

References:

  1. http://www.jewishworldreview.com/cols/coulter.html
    http://www.anncoulter.org/columns/2001/091301.htm
  2. http://www.prospect.org/webfeatures/2002/01/mooney-c-01-15.html
  3. http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/nj/taylor2001-09-25.htm
  4. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/abc091601.html
  5. http://www.cnn.com/2001/TRAVEL/NEWS/10/03/rec.airlines.profiling/index.html
  6. http://www.cnn.com/2002/LAW/06/04/airlines.discrimination/index.html
  7. http://www.ananova.com/news/story/sm_618442.html?menu=news.quirkies
  8. http://www.cnn.com/2002/US/01/05/tampa.crash/
  9. http://www.jewishworldreview.com/0802/steyn.html

Raywat Deonandan is an owner of The Podium. His personal website may be found at www.deonandan.com.

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Review of The Second City: Backstage at the Worlds Greatest Comedy Theater

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Review of Sheldon Patinkin’s The Second City: Backstage at the Worlds Greatest Comedy Theater

by Rolf Achim Kanjilal
September 8, 2002


As we grow older, from our innocent teens to our restless college years and onward to our staid married years and then into our thirties and parenthood, we see trends and fads come and go, and we become more experienced, more intelligent and more mature individuals.

Sometimes, we need someone or some group of people to help us through the hard and difficult times, to help us understand just whats going on in our lives and in the lives of those around us. The comedy cabaret, a cultural mainstay, is such a place a place of persons and of special people, who help interpret the thoughts, feelings and trends of the day. In particular, theres The Second City, with its rich Chicago heritage and established cadre of alumni.

The Second City, perhaps above all other comedy cabaret franchises or improv stages in North America, is the lifeline of North American comedy / satire for the younger generation (of persons 20 to 35 years old). It is also the cultural milieu for the older and more seasoned performers associated with it (now writers, producers, directors, television stars and movie stars), to battle with ideas and with each other. The mandate is to work with one another to come up with some ad-hoc expression of the topic under review during a skit or play. Something not always possible or easy.

The book (essentially a photographic history) opens up with the history of The Second City during the 1960s and with history of its predecessor, The Compass (1950s). The reader is introduced to the humble and impoverished beginnings of both cabarets and given brief individual synopses by Dan Aykroyd and Alan Arkin and others about the state of SC afterward. There are plenty of pictures, black-and-white and colour, and the pace of Patinkins writing is lively and to the point. He is an authority we can give credence to and trust. We are taken through the evolution of the Second City, from its Compass origins in the 1950s onto the SCTV television screen of the 1970s and further onward to the improvisation schools of the 1990s.

The CDs are well-paced and make for entertaining listening, ranging from the Brest Litvosk skit with political satire about China-Russia relations to an interview with potential football players at Chicago University to closing Canada off to crossborder traffic to early work done about IQ-testing during performance reviews in corporations. Included, is rare footage and the actual audience response and applause from the performances.

As far as coffee-table style books go, the size and length of the book are appealing. Photographs are interspersed with commentary on nearly every page, showing the artist grappling with the essence of his art improvised comedy. One can see the tension and suffering among the Second City hopeful, right from the 1950s conservative to the 1970s hippy to the 1980s yuppie and so on Some of the persons associated with SCTV and SC are perhaps given short shrift, but the main players and the founding fathers are in the spotlight and receive their fair measure of attention. Theres the legendary Paul Sills, hard at work, banging out script on his trusty typewriter against all odds seemingly, theres the iconoclastic Del Close gazing hypnotically ahead full of energy and at the top of his acting game, and theres more current alumni like the dearly departed John Belushi, lampooning the focal figures of their day such as Mayor Richard Daley of 1970s Chicago, Page after page of upfront comedy, photo after photo of the best of Second City alumni in action, giving the reader a quick, vivid and accurate overall picture of what went on in The Second City. Not just in Chicago and at its founding, but also during each decade since, and in Toronto, and in modern Chicago, in New York and in Detroit and on television (SCTV). Even across the pond in London, England! Where The Second City enjoyed a 9-year run among the tough and demanding British audience.

For those of us who see the Second City players close up, in their private moments or even on stage: auditioning or rehearsing or performing, we can benefit from a reading of The Second City: Backstage, and get a better view of whats going on to understand the sometimes bitter and fragile world of comedy. For others who have grown up with The Second City and its players, this is fine souvenir of the comedy cabaret of our day and days gone by. For the reader new to improv-based comedy, this is a good and thorough (for a coffee-table book, at least) eye-opening introduction to the cultural phenomenon known as The Second City and the medium of expression called improv-based theatre. Its a good photo-biography and overview. Its a good book.

Some of the players are no longer with us. Some have not lived up to expectations. However, more, are successes in the theatre and television. More still, are respected for their dedication, resourcefulness, talent, knowledge and professionalism in North American theatre. The whole roster up to and including 2000 is here for you to see, along with detailed credits and acknowledgements to all concerned with The Second City improvised theatre.

Long live an improv that seeks to break down the misunderstanding of modern life , the coldness of the technological age, and the immorality of our information age!


Rolf Kanjilal lives in Toronto.

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Mixing Chemicals In The Ring

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Mixing Chemicals In The Ring

…What constitutes good chemistry in wrestling?

by Raywat Deonandan
August 9, 2002

 

This column is a regular feature on 411wrestling.com. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

According to a gossip website oft pimped by Hyatte, Alyson Hannigan likes threesomes. Not sure if that makes her more or less attractive to me. I suppose it will depend on whether it’s two girls or… Oh, never mind. Continue reading

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Charisma Is The Greek Word For Ham

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Charisma Is The Greek Word For Ham

…”What determines a charismatic wrestler?”

by Raywat Deonandan
June 28, 2002

This column is a regular feature on 411wrestling.com. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

My apologies for having been away for so long. Once again, I take a hiatus and return to a wrestling world chock full of change: Steve Austin on the lam, Davey Boy dead and Russo back in the WWE. Man, Ive got to stop going away! Continue reading

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The wrestling hero seeks the ritual death of the heel… all in the name of love.

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“The wrestling hero seeks the ritual death of the heel… all in the name of love.”

by Raywat Deonandan
April 18, 2002

This column is a regular feature on 411wrestling.com. It is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

Thanks for all the great feedback from my debut column last week. You know, in my professional writing career, I’ve written two books and over 100 newspaper and magazine articles –yet that was the most feedback I’ve ever received for any single piece of work. I think that’s an indicator of the unique interactivity of this particular subculture. Continue reading

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Tournament of Shadows

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Review of Meyer and Brysac’s Tournament of Shadows

by Raywat Deonandan
April 10, 2002

This article was published in the May 2002 issue of India Currents Magazine, under the title, “The Great Game.” It appears here with the author’s permission.

The political science journal Foreign Affairs calls Tournament of Shadows a “tour de force,” while Kirkus Reviews describes it as “swashbuckling.” Universally, it seems that reviewers are drawn to this book’s adventurous tone and its mind-boggling scope. As an historical treatment of the “Great Game” –the battle for influence over South and Central Asia by Russian (then Soviet) and British (then American) powers– Tournament of Shadows is a remarkable achievement thick with validating reference and analytical context. As a curl-up-by-the-fireside escapist read, this non-fiction account of the adventures of Western and Asian explorers covers 200 years of real-life Indiana Jones escapades. This combination of political science and romantic yarn is quite a feat. Continue reading

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Review of Tamarind Mem

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Anita Rau Badami’s Tamarind Mem

by Nalini Warriar

March 13, 2002

 

Badamis first novel, Tamarind Mem, is a short but sweet read. It is separated into two parts: one narrated by Kamini; the other by her mother. As the story unfolds, Kamini, who has just recently moved to Canada from India, calls her mother from the silence of her basement apartment. The words of the mother, Saroja, reach across the oceans and stir up memories in the daughters mind.

Kamini is of an indefinable age when her sister, Roopa is born. She looks like a sweeper-caste child, the grandmother proclaims, laying down the childs destiny in a society where black is not beautiful. Kaminis Ma pushes her to studystudystudy even though all she wants to do is to read Mills and Boon romances. Her Ma wants her to be a doctor or an engineer like she herself was not able to. Constantly trying to divert Mas attention from Roopa, Kamini gets very adept at playing Dadda against Ma knowing that a chasm gaped between my parents, a hole so deep that even Dadda with his engineers hands could not build a bridge to span it. At first Ma talks while Dadda locks himself into a tight box of silence. This changes over the years. Ma in turn builds her own abyss of silence that grows around her with each year of marriage. With her childish intuition, Kamini is aware of the threat hovering over her: Ma might leave her marriage and with it, Kamini, behind.

Roopa, the sister with no imagination, has made her destiny happen. We see little of Roopa who does the unspeakable and marries a meat-eater and runs away to the USA. Kamini herself wishes to go to a university as far away from Madras as possible for Mas constant unhappiness runs like a dark thread through our lives.

In the second part of Tamarind Mem, Saroja brings into her marriage her tamarind sharp tongue. Theres something wrong with the women in this family, she tells her grandfather. When called upon to explain, she says, all they did was to have children and gossip. They are like cows. Saroja narrates her life to her travelling companions, weaving in and out of the present.

That first night with a husband who is only 6 years younger than her father, Saroja wonders if he notices how soft her skin is. She holds her breath while he fumbles with the hooks on her blouse. Once, his voice cracks open a command and then it is silence. And even though Saroja is brought up in a society where you never tell your child how clever or pretty she is because such a blatant admission would surely summon up the worst of imps and goblins, she waits for her husband to stroke her face, to tell her how beautiful she is. She believes it is his duty towards her, his wife, for hadnt she kept her skin soft and hair fragrant for him, this faceless man in her dreams? He calls her Ay and before the birth of the children, she never uses his either. After the birth of Kamini, Saroja calls him Dadda, a word she can utter without feeling discomfort. Now marriage is not escaping from one locked room into another, wandering in a maze forever and hitting my nose against closed doors. Now marriage is a silent war, for Saroja holds her tamarind tongue. And the silence fills the empty house.

With the death of Dadda, Saroja escapes her prison. With her daughters gone, she doesnt belong to anyone, for she too has reached that stage in her life where she can only turn the pages of a book already written, she does not write. Paul da Costa plays a brief role although he does a terriblehorrible thing from Kaminis point of view. From Saroja we learn that she wants him. But she remains the perfect memsahib. And the few paltry sentences that tantalize the reader do little to quench the thirst.


Nalini Warriar is a molecular biologist and author from Quebec City. Her first book of short stories, Blues from the Malabar Coast, will be published in April 2002 by TSAR Publications.
 

 

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