... in bombay

Pictures from Bombay cinema halls

26 Apr 2007 | 148 words | bombay india cinema photos architecture

Sarai independent fellow Zubin Pastakiais talking pictures of old-style Bombay cinema halls, and has started posting them to his blog:

I am currently photographing cinema halls in Bombay, India, the city in which I live. Here, we still have a mix of older, single-screen halls, and modern multiplexes. I am fascinated by the cinema hall – from its built architecture and physical surfaces to the people that come to watch films and the people that work there. The project seeks to photographically explore the cultural experience of different types of cinema halls in Bombay city.

There are some really beautifully shots on the blog already and he promises that there are much more to come. I really like the ones showing projectionists next to those ancient projectors so common in indian cinema halls. I took some very similar shots two years ago in Bangalore.

Photo by Zubin Pastakiais

Mike Davis: Fear and Money in Dubai

15 Dec 2006 | 550 words | dubai emirates bombay india terrorism cities

Coming back to the Waag i found the printout of Fear and Money in Dubai by Mike Davis on my table (placed there by the invaluable Patrice, who seems to have never heard of such things as emails and hyperlinks, but then you can read printouts in your bathtub, which is not a bad thing either). The article turns out to be an excellent piece about the state of affairs in Dubai, with a number of interesting observations about piracy/smuggling/terrorism/falcon-hunting:

The platform for Dubai’s extraordinary ambitions has been its long history as a haven for smugglers, gold dealers and pirates. […] Pearl fishing and smuggling were the mainstays until oil wealth began to generate increased demand for Dubai’s commercial savvy and port services. Up to 1956, when the first concrete building was constructed, the entire population lived in traditional ‘barastri’ homes made from palm fronds, drawing water from communal wells and tethering their goats in the narrow streets. […]

Following Khomeini’s revolution in 1979, it also became the Persian Gulf’s Miami, providing refuge to a large community of Iranian exiles, many of whom specialized in smuggling gold, untaxed cigarettes and liquor to their puritanical homeland, and to India. More recently, Dubai under the tolerant gaze of Tehran has attracted large numbers of wealthy Iranians who use the city “more like Hong Kong than Miami” as a base for trade and bi-national life-styles. […] Building on such clandestine connections, Dubai in the 1980s and early 1990s became the Gulf’s principal dirty-money laundry as well as a bolthole for some of the region’s most notorious gangsters and terrorists. […]

Indeed, since 9/11 a huge investigative literature has explored Dubai’s role as ‘the financial hub for Islamic militant groups’, especially al-Qaeda and the Taliban: ‘all roads lead to Dubai when it comes to [terrorist] money’, claims a former high-ranking us Treasury official. Bin Laden reportedly transferred large sums through the government-owned Dubai Islamic Bank, while the Taliban used the city’s unregulated gold markets to transform their opium taxes, paid in gold bullion, into laundered dollars. In his best-selling Ghost Wars, Steve Coll claims that after the catastrophic al-Qaeda bombings of the us embassies in Nairobi and Dar es Salaam, a cia scheme to target bin Laden with cruise missiles while he was falcon hunting in southern Afghanistan had to be aborted because he was in the company of unnamed Emirati royalty. […]

In addition, al-Maktoum for almost a decade provided luxurious sanctuary for Bombay’s Al Capone, the legendary gangster Dawood Ibrahim. His presence in the sheikhdom in the late 1980s was hardly low-key. ‘Dubai’, writes Suketu Mehta, ‘suited Dawood; he re-created Bombay in lavish parties, flying in scores of the city’s top film stars and cricketers as guests, and took a film starlet, Mandakini, as his mistress’. In early 1993, according to the Indian government, Dawood, working with Pakistani intelligence officials, used Dubai as a base for organizing the infamous ‘Black Friday’ bombings in Bombay that killed 257 people. Although India immediately requested Dubai to arrest Dawood, he was allowed to flee to Karachi, where he is still sheltered by the Pakistani government […]

Read the full article here. Also 2 clicks away from endnote 48 is one of the most deadly restaurant critiques i have ever read (especially if you are british!)

Lille 3000

Absolutely no idea why it is called lille 3000 and not some other arbitrary number, but apparently the local government decided that 3000 sounds mighty futuristic (and 2006 would be so last year in three months anyway) and here we go… I am also not sure if lille 3000 is the same as the ‘Bombaysers de Lille’ (the sexual pun is apparently intended) exhibition that was opened with much French pompousness this weekend. Like the city of lille the exhibition is definitely worth a visit: Ashok has a great piece (called GPS) installed on the Place du Theatre and the ‘Maximum City’ exposition (after Suketu Mehta’s must-read book with the same title) is pretty impressive (although it contains too many pictures of black and yellow taxis, but then it is about Bombay so i guess you can’t avoid them..) and there is other gems hidden across the city (try to find the tourism office, without getting misdirected by the signage).

My favorite piece is the photo series ‘Monrachs of the East End’ by Gavin Fernandez, which is part of the ‘rich mix‘ group exhibition in the Maison de Follies de Wazemmes. I want some of of those, badly!

But back to the lille 3000 business: the whole exhibition (which in a sense is the continuation of the the cultural capital activities of 2004 by other means but with the same esthetic and conceptual drive) seems to be part of an aggressive attempt to re-position Lille as a city of the future (the past can be seen in the extensive ruins of its former industrial glory around the northern suburb Tourcoing on the border with Belgium – a small scale version of Bombay’s mill lands that occupy much of central parts of the city).

Exhibitions and impressive architecture aside the fact, that lille is indeed about the future is most evident when one looks at the local population: This weekend it looked like two thirds of the people in the streets are teenagers, which makes me wonder what they do to the old people (they probably ship them to the Belgian coast, but that is something for the next post). Maybe this abundance of kids is the result of the city actively collecting kids that can be deposited at designated locations:

Even more futuristic are the public spaces (and i am not speaking of that but ugly Euralille complex, which shows once more that Mr Koollhaas should stop actually realizing buildings and continue to publish books instead) but the public parks. It is well-known that the french are nazis when it come to their parks: (‘no walking on the grass’ and closing them at 5 in the afternoon for no good reason other than to piss of park-goers) but encircling a park by 4 meter high, red, state-of-the-art prison fence (complete with diagonal supporting poles, so that the fence cant be pushed down), is quite an extreme measure, to keep the kids from lying in the grass and smoking a joint after 8 pm if you ask me (but then fences are fashionably european these days, so it might just be an esthetic statement):

Comes with built in bench! (tres chique!)

I am sick of it...

Actually i am sick of a number of things at the moment. Has a lot today with what the media reporting, but this evening i am particularly sick of how the media are reporting. Around 2000h yesterday evening the germen news-portal spiegel online had a breaking news alert on top of their frontpage:

Why is that important? Even the most stupid intern doing a sunday afternoon shift in the news room while it is summer outside must have noticed that up until now more than 150 people have been killed in Lebanon by the Israelis and at least 20 have been killed in Israel by Hezbollha. So what is the point of pointing out that 8 Canadians have been killed? I mean dead people are dead people and it does not really matter which passport they had (o.k sometimes it does matter, but that is another story and i cant find the link right now) even if the idiots who are running most media outlets and wire services seem to think otherwise.

Are we supposed to pay more attention to the death of Canadians just because they are mostly white, better educated and issue pointless statements for restraint through the same international organizations (G8/NATO/OECD/…) as ‘we’ are?

Or is it because canadians are so healthy and live in such a safe place that their live expectancy is slightly higher than that of the average Lebanese person and as a result their unexpected death weights more than that of a non-western person?

Now don’t expect an answer from spiegel online, as their breaking news alert linked to an absolute non-story. i do not even know why i still have this crap news-site as my start up page in my browser. Guess i have to change that.

This whole episode also reminds me of how pissed i was with all the western media last week for the amount of attention they paid to the Bombay train bombings. given that these attacks where almost exactly one year after the 7/7 London bombings and killed almost 4 times as many people the media attention was extremely sparse. No interactive flash graphics or interviews with distressed emergency responders when it comes to non-westerners being the victims of terrorist attacks (but then interactive flash graphics and interviews with distressed emergency responders are highly annoying things so maybe one should plead for less media attention to terrorist attacks in the west).

Update [23.jul]: Here is a little bit of background on the dead Canadians by Jim Quilty writing for the Canadian website straight.com.

Not safe in first class either

14 Jul 2006 | 31 words | terrorism bombay airtravel

Looks like the bombay train bombers specifically targeted first class passengers. Not that this really makes a difference, but it reminded me of this screen-saver i came across a while back:

Women empowerment

16 Dec 2005 | 94 words | politics public transport bombay india

So apparently the government of Maharashtra (the same idiots who came up with the brilliant idea to rename Bombay into Mumbai) thinks it can improve the position of women by stenciling ‘women empowerment’ on the back of every second rickshaw in the state (the other half has ‘if a girl studies progress will happen’ stenciled on them in Marathi). To me it is not really clear how this is going to work, and most of the time the inside of the rickshaw makes it even harder to believe in this kind of symbolic politics:

Robot astrologers...

16 Dec 2005 | 310 words | india bombay technology robots

… is what time-out bombay calls the fortune telling robots that i had blogged a three weeks ago. They have a little piece on one of the robot operators in todays edition and their robot apparently does speak english or at least they were able to translate it:

It looks like something out of a low-budget sci-fi movie. On Juhu Beach stands a small illuminated robot with four cables and headphones coming out of its base. Put on the illuminated headphones and the lights pulse as the robot tells you your fortune. “You are spending too much money on people who are not trustworthy,” gabbles the robot in a tinny accent. “You should rather save for a rainy day. You have also been eating recklessly. This will be harmfull for your health and your family. One more thing, whatever you wish to happen will happen this sunday. Don’t tell anybody.” Total charge: 5 rupees (€0,10).

“this life is not what i want,” sighs Anil Kumar Gupta from Bihar, who runs the robo-seer, pays off local thugs for the pitch and keeps the robot tugged up with battery power. “But my brother really needs help with this. He manages three such robots. Two in Girgaum and one here.” His brother Rajiv is the brains and has been adapting toy robots into beachfront astrologers for the last 12 years. The base contains four cassette-players so that up to four people can listen to different horoscopes simultaneously. Despite his disenchantment with robot astrology, Anil makes up to Rs. 1200 (€22) a day and likes and likes making people think he is doing them a good deed. “It would do them no good knowing that it is not true. SO let them believe what they hear and stay content. It is only good advice on family, health and money. Those are the important things.”

Polite pirates

12 Nov 2005 | 160 words | india movies piracy bombay film

There is fantastic quote in todays Times of India. In an article outlining the practices of Bombay underworld don Abu Salem there there is an description of a phone call he made to Bombay based movie producer Subash Ghai in order to get the overseas distribution rights for the movie Pardes:

Though he terrorised the film world, he was also an incorrigible fan who was taken in by the skin and glamour of the industry. Subash Ghai, in an interview with this reporter a few years ago said while admitting that Salem had called him up asking for overseas rights of the film Pardes, “He actually started the conversation this way, ‘Sir, I want the rights for Pardes. Don’t mistake me. I have been your fan ever since I saw Karz.” When Ghai told Salem that the matter of overseas rights was already settled, Salem very respectfully asked for a print of the film so that he could pirate it.

Big in Bombay / MIR

14 Aug 2005 | 159 words | dance theatre dorky park bombay

I have just posted two new photo sets to my flicker page. Both of them contain pictures that i have taken at performances of my girlfriend’s (Constanza Macras) dance/theatre company ‘dorky park‘. The first one contains pictures of a performance of her latest production ‘Big in Bombay’ last february at the Schaubühne in berlin. The second set contains pictures taken from an performance of the third part of her MIR trilogy, ‘MIR #3 endurance’. the pictures were taken at a performance in april in Bordeaux, this was the first time the piece was performed in three years. MIR #3 is probably my favorite piece from Constanza but that is probably also due to the fact that it was created when i did not know her yet. Suddenly seeing the piece (as opposed to witness the process of a piece evolving from scratch) in Bordeaux pretty much blew me away.

Shot from the final scene of ‘Big in Bombay’


What the rain

30 Jul 2005 | 93 words | bombay india rain

Alright we might have a little rain problem here at what the hack, but i think we should put it into perspective. Just read a really impressive first hand account by Prashant Pandey from monsoon-struck Bombay on the reader-list. it ends with the following sentences:

[…] I want to get out of this gorgonic jam. I tell him all these are middle class losers who are stuck with their cars with their fat wives and we don’t have any (cars and wives).

Read the rest (beginning) of it here.

Picture by Grey Area

meanwhile... is the personal weblog of Paul Keller. I am currently policy director at Open Future and President of the COMMUNIA Association for the Public Domain. This weblog is largely inactive but contains an archive of posts (mixing both work and personal) going back to 2005.

I also maintain a collection of cards from African mediums (which is the reason for the domain name), a collection of photos on flickr and a website collecting my professional writings and appearances.

Other things that i have made online: