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I first heard about Project Remix last year–or at least the collection of nascent ideas that would eventually become Remix–from one of the creators, who is also a good friend of mine. I was immediately sold on the idea, which was to create a site that provided resources and information to Desi (South-Asian) youth. A site created by the Indian youth for the Indian youth.
The official site launched recently, though it had already started generating buzz among our peers when it had made its first foray into the collective consciousness. Currently there are sections for cuts, cultural media, and articles. The cuts feature mixes used by various student groups and collegiate dance teams (bhangra, raas, Indian fusion, etc.) from across the country. Cultural media highlights video performances from various collegiate groups. The articles on Project Remix have been broken down into smaller categories and initiatives, devoted to everything from the arts to sports (currently I’m contributing to Team Innovate’s Neurobio series so be sure to check that out!). Examples of articles currently up on the website include my neurobio piece (an overview of neuroscience), a two-part series on biofuels, a review of Slumdog Millionaire, and a piece recounting a trip to Chennai to volunteer.
Project Remix is seeking new, fresh voices that can contribute to the site in any capacity. If you are a writer or blogger who is interested in appearing on the website, you can email projectremixny at gmail dot com. For any other questions, you can also send an email to the aforementioned address. The website is http://www.projectremix.org.
In addition, you can follow Project Remix on Twitter @ProjectRemix for updates.
The Recession was a major part of my life starting last year when I was a candidate for the United States Senate. Besides addressing it in speeches, I ran into people from all over Mississippi that were hurting and needed help and hope. It was a moving experience, especially talking with folks from our Gulf Coast, who had not recovered from Hurricane Katrina just yet.
Now as one of the unemployed, uninsured Americans, it has not been easy for me either, but fortunately, I have a support system that will get me through. I have been on the lecture circuit to gain some income, and job offers are starting to come, but I still can’t do the things with my six-year-old son that I normally would do, like rewarding him for good grades or taking him to Chucky Cheese.
When I have visited the Capitol to hang out with my former colleagues in the Mississippi House of Representatives, I see the frustration in their faces. Not only are they dealing with the Recession personally, but they have the weight of the state on their shoulders. Not only are they grappling with the financial limitations to provide basic government services, they have to also deal with the politics around the recently passed stimulus package.
It is not an easy time for us in Mississippi, but we will get through it. We always do.
Erik Robert Fleming is a former member of the Mississippi House of Representatives and had the distinction of being the Democratic nominee for the United States Senate twice, in 2006 and 2008. He is a father, husband and a Christian that lives in Raymond, Mississippi. He is a Chicago, Illinois native and has a BA degree in Political Science from Jackson State University.
Check out his blog: http://erikflemingsweblog.blogspot.com
Slumdog did, in fact, clean shop, bagging eight of the ten Oscars for which it was nominated. The audience seemed to really like the song and dance number with A.R. Rahman and John Legend (small shout-out here to Archana, Anie, Lisa, and the other girls in Yuva, you were awesome!). Does that mean the U.S. will open its arms to all things Bollywood?
Yet Indian culture is slowly finding its way into people’s awareness. My friend recently showed me an exercise video structured around Bollywood dance and bhangra (both dance forms, by the way, are fantastic workouts). Indian cooking styles and spices have been warmly embraced by chefs across the board. I think there’s even a commercial for Emergen-C that features a Bollywood-esque dance number. I just don’t think Indian movies will be embraced as readily.
Case in point, A.R. Rahman (yes the one who got 2 Oscars) enjoyed immense success in London’s West End for his collaborative work with Andrew Lloyd Webber for “Bombay Dreams.” The same show closed after only a few months on Broadway, a few years ago. Granted this was before Slumdog Millionaire took the nation by storm, I don’t think we’ll be seeing people flocking to see films like “Dostana” or “Kal Ho Na Ho” anytime soon, for the songs, or anything else. I won’t deny, though, that there will be some increased interest in Bollywood overall, just not a lot.
Maybe American films may incorporate some of the glitz and lightheartedness that tends to characterize Bollywood films, though sparingly. In a time where we just need a chance to smile or laugh, a little Bollywood levity can’t hurt. Bollywood seems to have stuck with the musical style that was more reminiscent of American cinema from the so-called Golden Age of Hollywood. Perhaps through Bollywood, American cinema may return to the styles of those times, if but a little bit. That’s just a guess.
Slumdog Millionaire more likely represents the well-publicized start of America’s love affair with Indian culture, though in actuality it has been simmering steadily for a while. In Indian culture, there lies an exotic appeal that has sometimes been welcomed (the seemingly ubiquitous appeal of kurta tops) and sometimes shunned (yoga has been a touchy subject for some Christian groups, though most people have taken to it quite favorably).
Britain has already integrated Indian culture seamlessly into its own, oftentimes yielding a wonderful mix of East and West (chicken tikka masala, for those who may not know, was created by a South Asian chef working in Britain). It’s probably not surprising that Britain was more acquainted (and attracted to) Indian culture longer than the U.S., considering that India was the crown jewel of the British Empire for a little over two centuries.
Indians probably only started emigrating to the U.S. in respectable numbers after World War II, unlike most of the other immigrant groups in this country. Our culture was still being understood for the last three or four decades. Indian characters were a rarity in film and on TV until probably the last decade (Parminder Nagra in ER comes to mind, as well as Naveen Andrews in Lost, and Sendhil Ramamurthy in Heroes).
Now, though, we’re officially on our way to adding Indian culture to the proverbial melting pot of our cultural understanding and awareness. All it took was a little indie film about a young boy from the slums with an extraordinary story.
I just think back to high school, the day after that abysmal election day in 2000. My global history teacher at the time was bemoaning the results of the election, a sentiment shared by most if not all of us in the room. Al Gore had been robbed, and he worried out loud about the future of the country. He was right to worry.
Eight years later, we are teetering on the verge of a large recession (if not an outright depression), involved in two unpopular wars abroad, and lagging behind most of the world in education and healthcare. To paraphrase a line Chris Rock used in a recent interview, “A president has two jobs: maintain peace and make money. Is that so much to ask?” Dubya’s predecessor, Bill Clinton, did both. Dubya did neither.
Did Dubya achieve anything? Yes, it would be silly to say he was completely useless as a leader. One can’t really blame Dubya entirely for the problems we are mired in now, but he can still be blamed. Is he a bad person? No, but he was easily manipulated by those who were close to him. Ultimately, though, he will bear most of the flak. Under him, regulations flew out the window, and the market operated of its own accord. Under him, defense spending ballooned at the expense of other, more necessary spending for domestic programs. Under him, we lost our respect in the eyes of the rest of the world.
Tomorrow, Barack Obama will be inaugurated, ushering in a new administration. I hope the change he promised will materialize into legislation and decisions that will lift our country out of the ditch into which it has sunk. Hopefully he will right the wrongs that have gone unchecked for the last eight years. Hopefully we will return to peace and prosperity. Hopefully.
I am not professing to know all the little nuances about the situation in Afghanistan, but this is what I’ve been able to conclude overall:
Barack Obama had mentioned during the campaign that attention would be turned towards Afghanistan, which in his eyes, represents the greater threat compared to Iraq. While I am tempted to agree with him, I can only hope he doesn’t mean an all-out war. It looks that way, though, since there is a plan in place to double the number of troops in the area.
War is probably the worst idea for the area now.
Here’s how I see it:
Afghanistan is starting to see a resurgence in the strength and size of the Taliban. The Taliban has started to encroach on Pakistani regions that lie close to the Afghani border, and have experienced little to no resistance from the government. Pakistan, itself, is a powder keg waiting to explode. Not only is Afghanistan slowly being eaten inside-out by newly-resurrected Taliban forces on its western border, India has increased the deployment of troops to Pakistan’s eastern border in light of the horrific attacks on Mumbai. Couple that with the fact that the government reeks of impotence and corruption, it is a disaster waiting to happen. War will just hasten the pace at which the fuse burns, if not blow up the powder keg outright.
So what should the plan be?
Pakistan, I think, has neglected the Afghani border in favor of keeping troops stationed near the LOC, as well as further south along its border with India. Given India’s accusations of Pakistan’s involvement with the terrorist attacks on Mumbai, war on that front is still highly likely. Ultimately (as far as I see it) this mostly stems from continued struggle for control over the region of Kashmir. Barack Obama’s original suggestion to somehow, solve that problem in order to reduce the need for troops being deployed to that front is smart in theory, but cumbersome to implement. India will not part with Kashmir, and Pakistan will not go away empty-handed. Nonetheless, there need to be steps taken diplomatically, to bring some sort of peace to the area. This battle has gone on for too long.
There is no easy way to explain the rise of the Taliban. It seems to be a combination of the Afghani government’s inability to protect itself effectively in conjunction with steadily-brewing anti-American sentiment, owing to its continued campaigns in the region. More troops will probably not help solve the latter. We must be seen as peace brokers, not war mongers.
Ultimately if we are to exert any further influence in the area, it should be more in a consulting and humanitarian capacity. Yet it shouldn’t be about designing a pure democracy, but about designing a government that best serves the needs of the people. This includes not stacking up the upper echelons of government with known drug lords and saying the opium production problem will be addressed. That should have been enough of a sign that there are major issues that needed to be addressed with regard to the current government.
Opium production continues to remain astonishingly high, with its largest crop (8,200 tons) being produced in 2007 (according to the Washington Times). The Taliban presence and resilience has been closely linked to the drug lords associated with the rich opium trade out of Afghanistan. Finding an effective way to end the opium trade will cut a major artery that serves the Taliban’s growth.
The Afghani people are still hurting, and there are still many thousands of refugees who need shelter, food, and healthcare. We need to be able to show the Afghanis, and the world as a whole, that we use our status to help others in need, not to encroach on other nations’ territories and meddle in other nations’ issues. Maybe once we do that, there won’t be as pressing a need to raise generations of people to hate us. We need to shed the cowboy mentality that has dictated the last eight years of foreign policy.
So imagine starting another war in an area that is still recovering from the last one, and borders a nation that is itself, in a virtual spiral downward.
We can’t afford a war in that part of the world. It would be a disaster. Let’s throw aside our weapons and try diplomacy for once.
Here is the link to a site compiling posts from bloggers from around the world who oppose the doubling of troops in Afghanistan.
Who do you think Obama will tap to fill the Commerce Secretary post?
I suspect this will be much easier said than done. Try taking away the marriage rights from 18K couples, they’re not going to (and shouldn’t ever) give up without a fight.
Everyone has the right to wed. I don’t care what your book says or my book says, we as people have the right to love, and the right to profess our love through the means of marriage, if we so choose. To deny that is to deny a fundamental human right, and isn’t this country all about equal rights for all?
So much for that theory…
I suppose it would have been more of a surprise if the Obama transition team had managed to actually keep this under wraps. Oh well, it’s still a good pick.
As much as I intensely dislike Rush Limbaugh, he did make a good point regarding the (at the time) imminent nomination of Senator Clinton. “You know the old phrase, ‘You keep your friends close and your enemies closer?’ How can she run for president in 2012? She’d have to run against the incumbent and be critical of him — the one who made her secretary of state.” While I don’t think that was the original intention behind the pick, it certainly doesn’t hurt Obama that it makes her seeking re-election (which I don’t think she was intending to do anyways) all the more difficult.
Hillary, as I said earlier, brings a lot of foreign policy experience to a world much in need of peace and good diplomatic relations. In light of the Mumbai attacks, Hillary could prove to be instrumental in orchestrating a reasonable solution to the conflict, and prevent both countries from going to war (which as this point, still seems likely). The Clintons are still loved worldwide, so it can’t hurt to have a Clinton as the face of American diplomacy.
Keeping Robert Gates on hand was I think, a wise decision. It will keep conservatives at ease, for one thing. Gates will be the check on Obama’s foreign policy decisions and keep the administration from reaching for things that may not be reasonably within reach. Yet he has made headway in correcting the grievous oversights that occurred under Donald Rumsfeld, notably the Walter Reed Army Medical Center neglect scandal. This should set everyone at ease, and hopefully he will continue to keep things in check.
Janet Napolitano was officially confirmed as Secretary of Homeland Security. Refer to my previous Obama appointments post for my analysis of that decision.
Eric Holder was confirmed as the new Attorney General nominee. Considering as he has, among other things, been Deputy Attorney General and , it seems like this a good fit. If confirmed, he will also be the first African American Attorney General. Pretty cool stuff.
Susan Rice is the next United States ambassador to the UN. She was Obama’s foreign policy adviser during the campaign and has served as Mike Dukakis’ foreign policy aide during his campaign as well as Assistant Secretary of State under Bill Clinton. Her father is also a Cornell professor, which is a big check in my book.
James L. Jones was named National Security Adviser. This wasn’t too much of a surprise since this was hinted even during the campaign by Obama. He has served in both Vietnam and the Gulf War, and is a decorated general, so his experience clearly will serve him well in this setting. Under the Bush administration, he has served as an envoy to the Middle East, primarily for the purpose of strengthening security for Israel and Palestine. Given that the Middle East is still a hotbed of activity, his expertise in that area should be a great asset to Obama’s security team.
More to come as the appointments roll in…