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Remembering Rafique Jul. 10th, 2012 @ 03:47 pm
Woke up this morning to the most terrible news. 6:30 am and I was woken up by Matu's phone call from Dhaka - Rafique died last night of a heart attack in the US.

It was difficult, it was impossible to process this news in the moment, even as it is now, 6 hours later. Rafique was the gentlest, the sweetest of kids in our A-level class, the kid with the nicest smile, never a harsh word to anyone, never a voice raised in anger. Simply never. My enduring memory of him, even though I had not seen him these last 18 years, is that sweet sweet smile, as if he would happily take on all the world's cares to make other people's lives a little smoother, a little easier.

Kring! kring! at 6.30 am - and then the news. Immediately went on Facebook, which is where we all share our griefs and joys these days, the collective village square of the digital mind in the globalized world of 2012. Asif had shared the news on the Willes site, and AIA, Mou, BD etc were all posting their updates. The Dhaka folks obviously all knew by now - Saiful, etc - and I spoke to Asif on Skype for a few minutes, he was trying to get updates from a common friend/boro bhai about Rafique. Zia (Renaad's cousin) chimed in on FB asking what had happened to Rafique and I had to break the news. So down, such low news - how can a guy of 37 die of a heart attack? I called BD - she's the one who'd last seen Rafique among our friends, AIA and BD at BD's Uttara flat when Shabbir and Rafique visited in December - and she said it wasn't as if Rafique was particularly overweight or anything either, he just seemed like a normal regular guy approaching middle age.


In the middle of this I saw a picture of Rafique back in high school days - this time with Rajib Rashid, Ferdous and Zia, among others. Didn't realize there was that crowd too in the background. Realize now it was a Paper Chase picture.


Desperately sad news for all of us. The thought kept coming back to my head that none of my dear friends - my classmates, my brothers - who left for that benighted land ever came to any good, or brought anything positive or gainful out of that existence. Not Asif, not Saiful, not Rafique, not Shabbir, not Imrul. No, not even that unreformed loser/fraud Jazeb who now spends his days and nights playing online poker in Dallas while his wife earns the family bread. Once they boarded that plane, none of those kids ever stood a chance.

Was this the promised land? The land of dreams? "Shopner Desh" America? No. It was more like the land of nightmares, the land that killed all hope. The land that killed their youth and optimism. The land that laid waste to my generation, their bright-eyed plans for the future. Ruined their lives and turned them into bitter, lonely cynics.

What happened to you, my friends? What happened to you, Shabbir, always wisecracking wryly in school? What happened to you, Saiful, and your indomitable soul? What happened to you, Asif, the brightest spark in our universe? What happened to you, Rafique? What happened to your sweet innocence, your quiet romantic spirit?

What happened to you all, my brothers? If I were granted just one wish today, it would be this - I would go back to that time in 1993-94, and I would beg and plead with each one of them - don't board that plane, bondhu, stay back, stay here, stay with us, we'll make our lives as best we can. Stay, don't go. Shabbir stay, Rupam stay, Rafique stay, Saiful stay, Asif stay. Why such waste? Why such wanton waste of unlimited potential?

No answers today, 18 years later. Instead, all I can remember are those bittersweet trips to the airport, that emptiness, that envy, that light-headed longing that marked every time a plane took off from ZIA with a friend inside it, took off for a distant land where they would all (unknown to us) become just so much grease for the insatiable machine. They went in whole human beings, came out as mincemeat, unrecognizable. But how was I to know that then? How were any of us meant to know that? My age has multiplied by two since then, and I can just about or no longer remember that airport feeling - that terrible mix of sadness, nostalgia, and desperate, hopeless jealousy at being left behind, like the last survivors left to grapple it out in a nuclear wasteland, while they the lucky ones were going away to cavort and eat lilies all the livelong day.

They were flying away to America. In the early 1990s in Bangladesh, that was the entire purpose of being born, as far as we could tell.

How differently it all turned out. How so very differently. Those of us, the left-behinds, cobbled together lives that ended up taking some shape, direction, form - some meaning. But what about my comrades? What about my brothers? What did they do wrong? What was their fault? If they had known what was about to happen, if they could foresee the future, would they still have gone?

Last month, I was in Chicago, in Nandita's living room, talking to her about Rafique and that bright flame that he lit for her, that poor little 18-year-old boy whose heart was about to be ripped into shreds, whose life was about to be turned inside out like a sock by the shock of the breakup round the corner. That was when that kid was thrown into the churn. Nandita protested innocence, naturally - said she never knew, never expected or wanted what happened in the end. Maybe, maybe not. But did that rejection kill a little bit of Rafique inside? Did it change him much, at all? So that when he went to the States, he never even came home until almost half a lifetime - his shortened, abbreviated lifetime - had passed?

I called Nandita a little while ago. It fell to me, my sad task, to break the news of Rafique's death to her. She can say what she likes - but deep down they had something deep for each other, the first innocent tendrils of teenage love reaching out across the chasms of awkwardness and fear, reaching out to each other over and above barriers of religion even, reaching out in those endless sunny days in a place called Kakrail in a city called Dhaka. Two people in one time, one place, beating for a while with one heart. One of them dead today, lonely to the end, the other one a couple of thousand miles to the north, surrounded by husband, baby, mother, father. Ensconced in love and warmth and security - things that were denied to poor Rafique these last many years.

Nandita broke down in tears. What else could one do, when faced with the death of someone you liked, someone you loved when you were young and hopeful? Poor girl, she remembers even now Rafique's birthday - 24th of July, just 2 weeks from today. He will always be ageless now, frozen in time while we grow old, wrinkled, grey.


Rafique, who gave me a Bangla book for my birthday in 1992 or was it 1993 - Doorbin by Shirshendu. Rafique the gentlest sweetest kid in our world. The boy who never harmed a fly, never wanted to, would not even know where to begin. When was the last time I spoke to him, or heard his voice? Rafique, when was it I spoke to you last, buddy? I remember one conversation most clearly - in Denton, TX, in my first flat there, that poky hole in Chaparral Apartments behind the EZ9 store, a conversation with him in Atlanta, him sounding broken by the struggle, the struggle of completing a degree after seven years, the struggle of working full-time that entire time, the struggle of trying to make ends meet. The struggle and the disillusion, having the scales fall off your eyes to see the innards of the monster in all its red, raw, bloodthirsty reality.

If I spoke to you again Kacha after that, I don't remember. Forgive me.

Kacha... why Kacha? That was somebody, probably Asif's attempt at teenage punning: Rafique = Raw F*ck = Kacha Ch*da. And that was how an enduring, endearing nickname was born.

So many pictures. So few memories left now. Interspersed thinly across the months and years. What will I remember in 30 years' time? Will I even be alive then? Who amongst us will be left in 2042? Who will be the next to go? Who will be the last one to leave this earth, taking with us forever the memory of sunny afternoons in the early 1990s in Kakrail in Dhaka? Who? Not you, Rafique, old friend. Tui keno choley geli eto aagey, koi choley geli? Koi achhish ekhon, aager theke bhalo achhish to dosto...


Spoke to Saiful in the morning, spoke to Mou in Saudi and Rusputtin in Atlanta in the afternoon. Saiful it was who gave a hint of the howling loneliness of Rafique's last years, when the girl called Snigdha was long gone, the girl Saiful branded a user. Saiful read out the transcript of an FB chat Rafique had with Ahad's cuz Sujan - wherein Rafique said things like "I don't have a life, I have an existence" or "Girls don't seem to like me... every time I mention marriage, they run away".. or saddest of all, "when I see my colleagues playing with their children, I feel like I missed that boat"..

To me those sounded like the words of a single man in his late 30s plumbing the depths of his soul and coming up empty-handed. As soon as I heard the news in the morning, that was the refrain running through my head - risk factors, single male, approaching middle age, living alone, risk factors glowing red, longevity diminished right there by a decade or more? How long would I live if I made a runner from my marriage now? Just how long?

Do I make him out to be a more tragic figure than he really was? Given how things turned out, how can I even reach that conclusion?

Rafique dosto, you should have given yourself a chance. When Saiful read out your lines, all I could think, all I could speak was my deep desperate desire to hold on to all of you, to hold you back, tie you back in Dhaka, prevent you physically from going to the land of death - death of hope, death of the spirit, and Rafique, tor jonno death now in the most literal, unforgivable, irreversible sense.

Who will be the last one of us to remember that there was once a sweet dear little boy called Rafique who was inwardly drawn, quiet and thoughtful, gentlemanly to a fault? Who will remember that the sad sweet boy once fell in love with a girl, that he used to ride on a bike around town with his friends, boys with the name of Asif and Saiful and Ahad and Mahatab? All of which happened twenty years ago in a place called Dhaka?

The tributes flow in to Facebook. People are waking up to the fact of the loss, especially in America - Shahreen and Humi, Nandi and Munaiza. But the boy is gone.

Rafique, that beautiful friend of our long ago years, is dead. We miss you already, buddy, I miss you, even I did not know the second detail of your life. Facebook makes complacent friends of us all.. for me, it is time to care a little more, a little more actively, for friends that are still here.

I feel a pain in my chest. Whether it is metaphorical or physical I no longer know.

(Written in a trance all day yesterday)

drinks w the new team Mar. 27th, 2012 @ 01:51 am
So I was invited to a drinks event by BK, my new boss - basically to hang out with my new colleagues and get to know them better. So after leaving work at 4, and after seeing the GP at 5, I made my way to Marylebone, getting to the pub a little after 7.

Diverse crew - there's BK of course, Chicagoan of German descent, there was RR the big boss of London office, and here's a sampler of the rest - RK, Armenian-American, Svetla from Bulgaria, Vicka from Ukraine, Arnaud from France, Henryk from Germany, Calum/Colum from England, and Gyongyi (not Papai!) from Hungary. Any others? Think not, that's it. So anyway, the next three hours was chatting politics with BK and RK, and catching up on our backgrounds and histories with Arnaud, Henryk, Vicka etc. They all seem very nice, very hair-let-down kinda people, swearing all the time, high-fiving, fist-bumping!

The really interesting stuff? I already knew BK was an Obama supporter - I'd done my homework. What I didn't know is that he used the same gym in Chicago as Obama himself, had spoken to him a few times when Obama was senator, had even met Michelle once! More? BK's boss Mary L who I spoke to during the interview rounds lives, yes LIVES in a Frank Lloyd Wright house in the Oak Park district of Chicago, FLW's old haunts. And apparently, there could even be a do at her place, the FLW house, this June. Just hearing those words made me giddy. These guys seem to have a lot of fun, but they also seem to work pretty hard - the first trick is fine, the second I'm resolved to pick up.

PS Oh, BK also swims in Clapham's public pool every morning, so I have until 9.30 to get in! Better and better...

Mar. 17th, 2012 @ 01:38 pm
Rainy morning. Took the CFA book along with me to Holborn - Level 2, Volume 6, Derivatives and Portfolio Management. (It fucking sucks - 77 days to go!) Anyhow, got to the Novello just at 10 as box office was opening, got my ticket for the final show of Crazy for You, 7.30 tonight. Then got a bus back to Bank, from there to Wanstead where I stopped over at Belgique first to buy a "Pain d'Epices" I think it's called, basically pain with lots of fruit chunks and honey in it. Didn't figure it would be this sweet, but it's good.

Then to Wanstead library where the book sale was just gaining momentum. For the next couple of hours I just scrambled from table to table, box to box, stacking up my books all up one windowsill till they made three tottering towers, mutually supporting each other against a precipitous fall. After I was done with the grown-ups' books, I turned my attention to the kids' books and boy there were literally hundreds of those along the back end of the room. So I bought some of those too. Each book costs 20p, if you buy 5, you get a 6th for free. I ended up with 50 quids' worth.

So what I then had to do was fetch some more money from the Wanstead ATM, call up a taxi from Redbridge, all while the helpful staff at the library boxed up all the books, in the end it took seven of those. So piled them high inside the van that came along and chatted with the Sylheti driver on the way back home. An ex-insurance man, he's learning The Knowledge in order to become a black cab driver. His wife (cousin from Bangladesh) is training to be a teacher.

And so that is that. Home now. Very quiet. Living room is a mess, as per usual. Need to start sorting again. Also need to start boning up on the Lima to Nazca chapters of the Rough Guide, have a planning call with Rupam tomorrow. Speaking of old friends, Skyped with Asif yesterday - first proper convo in maybe 7-8 years. Saw his kid on Skype, spoke to his wife too. He is still a barrel of laughs, still the fizziest, most irrepressible and exuberant person I know. Also Sabir's Socotra cormorant research got a write-up in the UAE National.

Anyway, better wrap this up. Was thinking of a Tumblr account, but now thinking better of it. What's wrong with this place anyway? Nothing at all. Chicago and Poland trips coming up. Quietly excited about those.

The new LJ app for Android May. 24th, 2011 @ 11:08 pm

only had to wait 5 mths and it's here now

Posted via LiveJournal app for Android.


10 mins Apr. 18th, 2011 @ 03:52 pm
10 mins to the big meeting w TMcG. Will I have a job afterwards or won't I?

Posted via LjBeetle

in the entire City of London Apr. 13th, 2011 @ 11:08 pm
there can't be another worker who hates his job, who hates the financial sector with as much violent revulsion as me.. what I did in a previous life to deserve a profession so dire is an ineffable mystery to me.. like an octopus this job, this company, this boss wraps me with its grotesque tentacles every day for the last five and a half years, suffocates me until the very joy and colour has been wrung out of my life.

i am out of moves.. what do i do next?

Testing Dec. 30th, 2010 @ 01:48 pm
Posting from my android

Posted via LjBeetle

this fucker made me cry (almost) Dec. 9th, 2010 @ 10:27 pm

have never treated my parents right.. hopefully i still have time to make amends

Happy Birthday, Stephen Aug. 1st, 2010 @ 08:54 am

Is this the biggest miss of my theatre-going career? I think so. Last night while I was diddling about in fucking Kent, the Royal Albert Hall hosted a special prom to celebrate the 80th birthday of the one and only Stephen Sondheim. Packed to the rafters, starring a veritable galaxy of stars - Bryn Terfel, Judi Dench, Simon Russell Beale, Daniel Evans, Julian Ovenden - and at the very end, an appearance by the Master himself.

Just watching the footage now made me weep, everyone in the hall on their feet... I'm sure that if I'd known, if I'd bothered to find out, I could have queued up and got myself a ticket for the show fairly easily. I've queued all night thrice before and I couldn't have managed this? But I didn't know, I didn't bother, instead I was fucking about in Kent and now I've missed what I imagine will have been a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Feeling pretty guilty, pretty gutted about this.

Anyhow, happy birthday maestro! Wish you could live for 80 more! Here's Judi Dench singing THE song from A Little Night Music. Sondheim himself said when he saw her sing Send In The Clowns in 1995 - "it's yours now".

well whaddya know! Jul. 24th, 2010 @ 07:28 pm
How do you know that you have seen way more theatre than is good for you? The other day, I get in the tube, ending up standing next to a girl who is reading off photocopied pages of what looks very much like a playscript. Unable to suppress my curiosity, I glance over the page and within just a couple of seconds, something about the words on that page sets off bells jangling inside my head. And so I ask her - excuse me, is that Jesus Hopped the A Train?

And guess what - it was. Saw Stephen Guirgis's Jesus Hopped at the Trafalgar a few months ago. Whaddya know!


Played poker at Tahmima/Roland's last night. Me Roland Faisal and bikeman Oscar. I cleaned up, winning almost 30 quid off the other guys :-P It was good.

notes Jul. 16th, 2010 @ 01:13 pm
Yesterday, when I took B2P, Mithu and kid to Bath, turned out to be a sad day all around. News came through of Robin's dad's sudden death - spoke to him briefly, what does one say at times like these? Back home in the evening, the net told me that Bulbul Ahmed had died as well. One of the pillars of our growing-up years, we'd turn on the TV to see his face, his voice, his presence. When people like him or Kobori or Rajjak or Bobita die, something I think dies of us too. And then finally, Marrack Goulding who was warden of St Antony's when I was there in 03-04 is also dead. I remember that I got an drinks invite to his home once, he did it for all the college students, and it was there that I met the historian Robert Service and spoke to him for 10 mins or so. Adieu, Sir Marrack.


Yesterday was Thursday but I took the day off. First day off since getting back from Dhaka. Bath was cloudy, my third time there, I've had nicer visits esp the one with Mat-Bat-Annu, but this time the museum has been revamped into something really fine. Much better use of technology than before, as well as better pacing and use of space too I thought.. very informative and entertaining overall. Big improvement on my first trip with Renaad 3-4 yrs back.

Witness to bitter fight on the train back to London, not zesty. Went to Mangal from Paddington, but not sure that the food was to their taste either. Oh well. Wrapped it up with a late night visit to the Arcola for tea, and then home. Taxis n all, bleeding money I am.


I moved 2 weeks ago to Cobbetts Ave IG4 after 21 months in that tomb in Kebbell Terrace. I like the new place so far although it's costing me an incomprehensible 550 pounds more than what I was used to paying in Forest Gate (rent+tube). That's a really big sum of money, which I could have saved or spent travelling for example. All gone now. But the area IS nice, the flat is large and airy and roomy and sunny, and I can curl up on the couch or down on the floor to read whenever I like. There's acres of storage which I do need. And aesthetically it is a different universe entirely from the bogs of Forest Gate or Mile End. It even has a functioning shower, fuckme!

The music which I play all the time bugs no one, although I need some Creative speakers I think. I can entertain, bring over friends, people can stay with me if they like, as B2 et al are doing for three nights. Only Leggatt Rd Stratford let me do that before. Oh and of course Rosemary Dr IS right behind. What is there to say to that?

Negatives - there aren't many good shops around, so I'll probably have to go to Ilford or Stratford more and more often. The tenants upstairs - south african couple - moaned about my late-night shutting doors the very first day I think, which pissed me off. Also I can't get access to the garden, nor open my French-window doors which also pisses me off. But overall as B2P says, it's all part of growing up, this getting my own place business, although my personal opinion - growing up is vastly fucking overrated. I mean she grew up, didn't she and what did it get her? Bupkus that's what.

Broadband finally at the new place from yesterday, praise God - black engr came thru for me - after two long weeks of abstinence. No phone or TV for now though, but soon I'm sure.


Fun game with Ahona pichchi - the Hannah Montana game, basically call everything Montana, from baba montana and mama montana to ghonta montana, fanta montana, and hannah montana montana.

Also I've been paired up with Fergus from this week - he's come back to the company after 5 yrs, and his job is to teach me EViews apparently - god how I loathe it all!

mad weekend Jul. 5th, 2010 @ 12:24 pm
a weekend of real drama, started off with an epic two-hour battle on saturday morning, after which i went off to regency to sign the new lease and then went back to forest gate, loaded up the seven-seater taxi and then off to redbridge to the new digs.. i like the new digs although i don't know much about much else.

thought i'd catch the argie match in redbridge but there wasn't a pub with a tv so after kebab lunch in gants hill (not v good), went back to claremont road, tv in kamrul's room - argentina proceeded to lose to germany in what i can only describe as craven (and inevitable) fashion - i quit watching at 0-2... against germany, you can't NOT have a defence, even if maradona IS screaming from the sidelines, deutschers just don't deal in mercy. final score 0-4, klose on 14 goals, messi on 0.

henry winter has a very technical analysis in the telegraph - the guy knows his soccer. and apparently Mueller's got his revenge for Maradona snubbing him a few months ago.

next there was another vanload to shift, so called up some mauritian guy off the net, and that was trip 2.. spent a couple of hours' sorting out the flat, didn't watch the spain quarterfinal, pretty indifferent to the rest of this world cup.. went fairly late to nobo's place for dinner and adda, home late too

currently reading - philip short's bio of pol pot - still pretty innocuous so far but that will change

i'm bleeding money like a stuck pig - and there's some seriously vicious people in this world

part 2 soon

back Jun. 28th, 2010 @ 01:32 pm
So Argentina seems to be progressing, but not without giving serious cause for concern. Mexico could have exposed their defensive frailties yesterday, had it not been for Tevez's freak-offside goal which basically knocked the stuffing out of El Tri. Next stop, Germany and they look fucking frightening. Mesut Ozil and Thomas Mueller in full flight are a sight to behold.

Saw the Argie match in a bar in Victoria. Bitopi and fam are in town, and I met up with them yesterday in Embankment. Did the clipper ride with them in glorious sunshiney weather, all the way to Greenwich. After lunch at a Vietnamese, we hung about the parks and the Observatory, mean-times and east-west lines and planetariums, etc. It was while we were there that the England game got underway, before long they were down 2-0 to Germany. I didn't see the game live, but every time a goal was scored, we learnt of it through the anguished howls (many) and joyous yelps (few) that floated through the ether to us. Final score 4-1.

Then came drama as we had to rush to Earls Court to fetch luggage and then to Victoria Coach Station for their bus to Den Haag. The fault lies largely with me as I took a really twisty-roundabout route home, took us forever to get to Earls Court. Long story short, by the time we boarded the 6.43 tube at Earls Court, there were just 17 mins to coach departure and once the train reached Victoria, I literally ran out and ran ahead all the way to Vic Coach Station, panting like an animal, got there on the dot of 7 and begged the driver and check-in guy to hold their horses while Bitopi and Mithu and Ahona caught up. It was frantic and it was rough, and I was bushed and sweaty and totally winded by the end of it.

Caught the Argie match therefore in a pub opposite the coach station as there was no time to get to Matt's by then. I did go afterwards, once Tevez had made it 3-0 and I was getting into arguments with the weird Italian. At Matt's, dinner. Basman was there (and Josh gets here today in time for Wimbledon and Centre Court). We all chatted till about 12.30 or beyond, then I got up and got lost, got home after 2.

It was also my birthday yesterday, and a few people called texted and mailed to wish, Matu getting cake. I fucking hate my birthdays though.

Anyway, London is really jammed with guests this summer, Rupam is here and I went to Embankment/National/Waterloo with him the day of the USA-Ghana match. Nice to hang out. Dude's gotten a new lease of life. Jeims should also be passing through tonight on her way back to Canada. And Abeer is here all summer, writing and researching her dementia novel.

Finally, me. I am old now. And not all that happy with how life is turning out.

awesome Argentina Jun. 17th, 2010 @ 03:29 pm
Argentina killed South Korea 4-1 today, Higuain scoring a hat-trick, Messi still goalless though.

A delicious duo of articles:

- James Lawton on Maradona's crazy press conference yesterday.

- A funny one from the Telegraph: When will Pele and Maradona actually grow up?

And a pair of pictures that say it all:



uh oh Jun. 16th, 2010 @ 05:43 pm
so I've been told to fuck off from Sachal...


it's a bloody comedy is what it is

the best of long-form journalism Apr. 27th, 2010 @ 01:42 pm
Reading a feature-length article (several thousand words long) is one of the peculiar pleasures of life. Now there's a couple of websites that are devoted exclusively to finding the best works in this format and aggregating them. Thanks to Sullivan, I came across this Slate article about a pair of guys called Linsky and Lammer who have set up a website called longform.org. It seems to be jampacked with articles of great deliciousness. Equally useful is another site called givemesomethingtoread.com.

The World Wide Web - it's a beautiful thing.

P.S. The best magazine articles ever.

P.P.S. Conor F is also a longform junkie and has some very good links here. His favourite is John McPhee.

Cypresses Apr. 5th, 2010 @ 08:09 pm
Went to the Van Gogh exhibition today. Queued for an hour outside the Royal Academy and the crowds inside were crushing. And yet, and yet.. what an extraordinary show.

In the seven rooms of the gallery, there were plenty of paintings that didn't really speak to me, the early work for example or some of the portraits. But when you stood in front of Cypresses or Hospital at Saint Remy, The Olive Trees or Flowering Garden with Path or even Head of a Woman, you were simply standing in front of some of the most individual works of art ever created by the hand of man. This is what struck me time and again - that nothing is captured in reproductions, not even the finest colour prints can do justice to the sheer physicality of Van Gogh's canvases. The sculptural quality of the pigment lying almost half an inch thick in places! the violence of the strokes always superbly controlled whether a daub or a dot.

By the time I reached the final couple of rooms, it was clear even to a non-specialist like me that by the end of his life, Vincent had achieved near-total mastery of his medium. In those last paintings, there is no effect he cannot pull off, no mood he cannot capture, no style he cannot pursue to a swashbuckling conclusion. White sail of a boat, irises in a country garden, swirling petals of a rose, oranges in a bowl, shining fields of wheat, pair of poplar trees in Provence, those crazy whorls in those cypresses, and that mad unforgettable dark blue burning sky - it was all there. It was all there for me to see and soak in.

Van Gogh painted over 70 canvases in as many days just before his death. I stood in front of one of them - Ears of Wheat - and could not move. It was so intimate, in so many shades of green, as if Vincent had dived headfirst into the field and painted with vivid truth what he saw around him. It was one more amazing moment among many such today.

First Van Gogh exhibition in London in 40 years. I'm glad I did not miss it. What is obvious now of course is that I must visit those magical places one of these summers - Arles and Saint Remy and Auvers-sur-Oise...

Four profiles of Rahm-bo Mar. 29th, 2010 @ 02:45 pm
NYT - WaPo - TNR in March 2010. New Yorker in 2009.

healthcare reform passes Mar. 22nd, 2010 @ 12:43 pm
Since Obama got elected, my interest in US politics has dropped dramatically, for a number of reasons.
1) After all that emotional investment in Obama's election, to see it actually happen was an almighty relief and a much-needed opportunity to disengage from US politics for a while.
2) My attentions have been almost entirely focused on the worldwide recession/financial crisis over the past year, and to a smaller extent on the fascinating Asian stories now emerging. The obvious truth is that we are swinging back to a multipolar world and while what happens in America is still important, it is no longer the ONLY important thing. What happens in Delhi and Rio are no less important these days.
3) My huge frustration that Obama had focused his energies entirely on passing healthcare reform, to the exclusion of all else, especially financial reform, which in my view is a far more important goal for the safety and welfare of the world economy. I still believe that, and it was good to see Obama & Volcker cook up a package to nail the banks. There's still plenty more work to be done.

All the same, to see healthcare reform actually finally pass is to witness history in the making. The consensus view is that with this, Obama has already made his lasting mark on the American landscape. I don't see a reason to disagree with that. Even if he ends up being a one-term president, even if he gets nothing done in the time left to him, he will still always be the one who reformed healthcare. Few things will do more to make America a more decent, just and livable society. Sullivan rounds up some of the best reactions. Andrew Sprung has a great piece of analysis.

This was the passionate speech that Obama made to the House Dem Caucus on the eve of the voting. Add one more to that Greatest Hits collection. He couldn't have done it alone though; by all accounts Nancy Pelosi drove this one over the line through her sheer cussedness.


- Frank Rich invokes the spirit of Stieg Larsson (whose book I'm now reading) in the fight against big finance. Apparently Pretty Boy Geithner has been making the profile rounds at the New Yorker, the Atlantic and even Vogue!

nice marmot Mar. 8th, 2010 @ 03:57 pm
- Dude Lebowski wins an Oscar! Huzzah!
- All about BRICs.
- Greenspan defends himself in a big Brookings article. I guess this is his one shot at trying to redeem his soiled reputation. It will fail.
- Brittain argues for a nominal GDP target to replace inflation targetting.
- Eamonn Butler writes an article of beautiful lucidity - let risk-takers fail.
- Did killing female fetuses lead to the savings glut?
- The Google vs Facebook moment.

links Mar. 4th, 2010 @ 09:47 am
- Analysis - The commodities cycle.
- Analysis - European SMEs under the credit cosh.
- Analysis - How the mortgage bubble ended: cold-blooded walkaways by loanholders.
- Analysis - How Stuy Town became the biggest jingle-mail case of all time.
- Analysis - How Goldman fucked Greece too.
- Analysis - Argentina in trouble.
- Analysis - Google Buzz falls flat.
- Analysis - Why the investment bubble may not spell doom for China.
- Analysis - Europe tries to crack the growth puzzle.
- Analysis - Who is Kathy Bigelow?
- Analysis - Who is David Cameron?

far and away, the best thing you'll read this month Feb. 17th, 2010 @ 02:26 pm
- Don Peck in the Atlantic - How a New Jobless Era Will Transform America

By the time this recession is over, tens of millions of articles will have been written about it. But very few will have homed in on so many fundamentally frightening truths such as this one. Powerful and compelling, clear and eloquent, magnificent in its comprehensiveness and compassion, and deeply deeply terrifying and sad (even for me on a personal level) - this is mandatory reading for anyone interested in the benighted times we live in.


My economic education continues in other ways. Blanchard et al's IMF paper is now the hot topic in macroeconomic circles. The Economist has a Free Exchange debate around this paper. Meanwhile, Inflate Away the Debt, rises the cry from various circles.

IMF Lipsky tries to persuade the Indians that financial reform should continue, while the FT has a massive piece on why Canadian conservatism makes for an awesome financial sector.


Here in Britain, the battle of the letters has broken out - Sunday Times 1 followed today by FT 1 and FT 2. Combatants include heavyweights like Besley, Quah, Desai, Vickers, Muellbauer, Rogoff, Sargent and Bootle on one side and even heavier weights on the other side - Skidelsky, Blanchflower, DeLong, Stiglitz, Blinder, Hendry, Lomax, Solow, Wadhwani. I took classes under Paloni at Glasgow, and Hendry, Vines and Muellbauer at Oxford, although in all honesty, I managed to learn nothing from them which was more my failure than theirs.

links Feb. 15th, 2010 @ 04:48 pm
- van Duyn - The death of securitisation?
- Obit - The man behind Indiana Jones and James Bond.
- Munchau and Tony Barber at the FT are doing a sterling job of explaining the Greece crisis. Recommended.
- The big guns jump into the euro debate - Feldstein, Issing, Brittain, some dude called Padoa-Schioppa.
- Hair portraits of the US presidents.
- Analysis - Toyota in trouble.
- Analysis - Obama in trouble.
- Why is China so mad? FT and the Economist explore this puzzle.
- Wolf in good form looks at the two things that would get the world economy growing on a safe footing again.
- A Tory Who's Who.
- Israel, birth of an apartheid state.
- How America's separation of powers got fucked in the ass.
- All the FT's Greek opeds are being collected here.
- Felice Quinto, the original paparazzo.
- Plender apoplectic at the state of financial reform.

WOS awards Feb. 15th, 2010 @ 02:06 pm
The Whatsonstage awards have been announced, another good year when I managed to see almost everything on offer. But there are things I missed though, notably -

* Enjoy
* New Boy
* Public Property
* Been So Long
* When the Rain Stops Falling
* The Fastest Clock in the Universe
* Forbidden Broadway
* Kurt & Sid
* Adolf Hitler: My Part in His Downfall

All else that I missed was more or less voluntary.

links Feb. 12th, 2010 @ 05:46 pm
- Analysis - China's internet, still different.
- Analysis - Britain's tech sector, small but bright.
- Analysis - America's job market, fucked to pieces.
- Analysis - Scumbag banks.
- Analysis - Scuzzball Tom Geithner.
- Analysis - China and SEAsia: complicated, co-dependent, fractious.
- Analysis - China's grip on rare earths and metals.

links Feb. 8th, 2010 @ 02:57 pm
- The EU acts feckless over Greece.
- How Toyota lost its way.
- Why a minority govt could be a good thing.
- Wolf on China's renminbi policy.
- Subramaniam on China's renminbi policy.
- Garten - US has no leverage over China and should go multilateral.
- Elliott - Rehabilitate Narasimha Rao.
- Indian Express list of top 100 powerful Indians. Rahul Gandhi comes top.
- Peel - Germany hates bailing out Greece.
- Gordon Brown, still peddling bullshit.
- A major Faulkner discovery.
- Jacomb - singing safai for the banks.
- Pilling - piling on Toyota.
- Ferguson - Greece holds scary lessons for UK and US.
- Leinberger - A bleak future for McMansions.
- Stiglitz - no point waiting for 'global coordination'. Regulation now!
- Atkins - Nine problems (at least) for the eurozone.
- James Rickards is extremely harsh on Wall Street's periodic pinata parties, the latest target being Greece.

hindi fillums Feb. 5th, 2010 @ 12:00 pm
early in the year but i've already seen a large number of fantastic hindi films

**Very good**
Love Aaj Kal
Luck By Chance
Mr & Mrs Iyer
Rock On!
Traffic Signal

**Pretty good**
Cheeni Kum
3 Idiots
Hum Tum

**Not good**

**To buy**
Read more...Collapse )

links Feb. 3rd, 2010 @ 05:47 pm
- Man of the moment - Steve Jobs.
- Greece in trouble - ideas from Roubini/Das, Munchau and Pisani-Ferry/Sapir.
- Plender very intelligent on how north Europe-south Europe is basically China-America writ small.
- Civil servants in the UK have had enough of Labour.
- Martin Wolf takes lessons from Davos 2010. And here is Rachman's take.
- Jurek thinks triangulation can work for Obama.
- Hastings on the abject mess that is the 'special relationship'.
- Gladwell, useful idiot.
- Warsh and Kay are against too big to fail.
- Jurek pays homage to Robert B Parker. Evidently a fan!
- Book review: Steven Hill admires a great deal about Europe. Road speed humps, high-speed trains, wind turbines, siestas, works councils, two-button flush toilets, energy-saving light bulbs, universal voter registration, proportional representation, public broadcasting networks, low-cost university education, naked saunas, organic farming, the Slow Food movement and home-cooked meals: you name it, he praises it.
- Tony Judt of the NYRB is dying.
- Comebacks from two beautiful black women - Corinne Bailey Rae and Sade. Even Wes Bentley is back on the beat. More here.
- Corinne has a gig at the Shepherd's Bush Empire in two weeks' time. Methinx I'll go!

links Jan. 21st, 2010 @ 12:22 pm
- Analysis - China has a DIFFERENT internet.
- Analysis - Kynge writes a complex Google vs China piece.
- Analysis - In praise of gold.
- Analysis - why legacy airlines are hamstrung against younger rivals.
- Analysis - what are the Siloviki up to?
- Analysis - Financiers get God? I very much doubt it.
- Analysis - Bibi as peacemaker? Not if his crazy dad can help it.
- Analysis - Restive Iran. And a profile of Moussavi.
- Analysis - why fucking around with time is a bad idea.
- Analysis - a world awash in debt and 'innovation'.
- Analysis - Anthony Bolton goes to China. How will it all turn out?
- Analysis - Gadgets galore!
- Analysis - Asshole bankers threatening to leave London? We'll see.
- Gapper - why newspaper websites have to start charging soon.
- Jurek - is there ANY silver lining for Obama?
- Gapper - what foreign firms need to do to crack the BRICs.
- Pilling - is the China bubble about to blow? maybe not.
- Kroeber - why Google is right to get the fuck out of China.
- Brittan - keep the deficits for a while.
- Spence - stop obsessing about renminbi revaluation.
- Good math vs bad math.

links Jan. 19th, 2010 @ 02:20 pm
- Analysis - Bulgaria fucked it up for all EU aspirants.
- Analysis - Nigeria explores a new oil revenue distribution model.
- Fantastic piece by Boone and Johnson arguing that we need to stop tinkering with rules NOW in order to get out of the finance doom loop.
- Rachman says that a USA vs China showdown is becoming more and more inevitable.
- Skapinker, reviewing Ehrenreich, praises American optimism.
- Stephens: How big banks rigged the market. Crook has a different take though. Even Caldwell is angry!
- Heilemann and Halperin wrote terrific pieces all through the 08 campaign. Their book looks like a must-read!
- Building BRICS - a great new FT series.
- BRICS BRICS BRICS - Jim O'Neill who kicked off the term.
- Analysis - Research powerhouse India.
- PIMCO Erian gives qualified support to the bank levy.
- Weird article of the day - the stray dogs of Moscow.
- Ben Brantley is in London. If I ever leave London, this is what I'll have to do, spend a few days in town to catch up on the theatre!
- Cricinfo's review of a shabby, shabby decade.
- A Reagan aide supports banking taxes, calling the whole sector 'parasitic'.
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