Friday, August 01, 2008



TRIM - Taliban

WILEY - Taliban

Just to see a different image on the site I've posted something.

It's been a strange couple of months.

Feeling unmoored. That's rich and rewarding too. But I haven't settled into a routine for over a month. Mainly poor health, travel, visitors, moving offices, storms and a new semester.

The back injury due to too much laptop time has loomed large over the period, thanks to an unexperienced physiotherapist yanking my neck-back and enhancing the referred nerve pain down my left arm.

He even said, 'I've got to warn you that it might not help. You might feel worse after we've done this'.

I said a little jokingly, 'Are you telling me that so I can't sue you?'.

He mumbled in North Shore and continued. Click Kerthump. Weeks of pain.

Then a throat infection because the pain killers reduced my immunity. Sounded like Brando in his last few moments of The Godfather.

Late June: finished semester duties with marking and examiners meetings, flew to LA and stayed there and San Diego for a couple of days hoping to fly to a cultural studies conference in Kingston, Jamaica. Failed to make it.

A doctor friend in California advised not travelling and prescribed a blitz of antibiotics. I was laid up for three days in Cali before enjoying a few more days hanging out with friends, Scrabble-ing, and shopping at malls. Not exactly what I'd hoped for (meeting friends in JA, academic dialogue, sound systems and music sites) but the compensations of close friends, lots of tunes and sunshine partly made up for it. Some Karachi research leads too.

Then came back on 9 July and my entire Department was moved to an adjacent building with confusing zigzagging corridors. A lot hasn't happened on time and we are still without shelves and working among boxes at the beginning of another semester. Sub-contraction rules.

A public service announcement has not been made yet, but the higher-ups seem to want to merge us with an 'under-performing' department, now in the same building (aha!). Hardly anyone wants to become the Department of Pictures or whatever. But there's ignorance of our fields, suspicion of interdisciplinarity and cultural studies, the 19th century disciplines rule. Like post-structuralism never happened too.

No persecution complex, honest, but I think we're still considered a bit Mickey Mouse (making movies, film appreciation, TV trash, and that linguistic continental theory) though we publish a fair bit around the globe and have pretty good organizational processes. We may also not be the ideal sized economic unit for the model NZ university at present.

Decide a change, tell people it's a process, then use that process to smooth over and rationalize the decision you already made before the beginning of the process. You make people think that they are contributing to the organizational change that way. Secondary power after an apparent fait àccomplis.

It's really hard to stave off the grumpiness about the big institution in the first couple of weeks of semester when we are signing a lot of forms, worried about economic full-time student units, opening up courses and new research supervisions.

God, I never write about work this much.

But this week, my
first lecture withered into a non-technological monologue once the e-lectern froze and melted down. No powerpoint, no DVD, and then no lights. The next day the tutorial students and I were assigned a room that was being renovated. Blame it all on someone else. Then my mac had to be replaced and all the new software is on the new one, though it doesn't all work, and all the old one is on my laptop. And it's a hassle to make it compatible. Technical support is also grumpy of course.

The excellent third season of the US version of The Office has reminded me that I could be selling paper. I think the US version is better than the English one, by the way. Longer time to develop characters and multiple plot lines which is their greater skill and resource.

Anyhow, I'm amazed at the resilience, spirit and continued enthusiasm of colleagues who have to go through these infrastructural problems and labour on. Washing up glasses after a seminar can have its pleasant moments.

Workwise, I've named no names and disrespected no one in particular, so I should be safe, touch wood.

I'll confess that I am often in a battle with my inner Babu, which is what the Indians called the civil service bods who became Macaulay's 'brown Englishmen' for the Brits in Raj time. On top of that is that girmitya consciousness that Vijays Mishra and Prashad have pointed to as a 'structure of feeling' in the desi diaspora and the immigrant: I'm so grateful I have a salaried job. It could all go kaput at any time. Must not upset the boss whatever. Pass me the machete and let's take the plantation!

I'll tell you if the intellectual buzz wasn't there and I didn't need the money and I could do something else....

I really believe we can be more efficient administrators with better processes, information gathering...

The critical conscience of society, said like Bruce Forsyth in the theme for The Generation Game or 'Here's Johnny' in the Tonight Show...

Oh well, on the bright side: back to exercise, and regular stretches for the radial nerve these days, thanks to a superior physiotherapist.

The NZ International Film Festival opened with Apron Strings, a feature Shuchi (Kothari) and Dianne Taylor wrote. I'm so proud. I did get to see some good films: Arthur Russell, Stax, Albert Ayler, and the fantastic Waltz with Bashir. Loved the scene with the soldiers on a boat with OMD's 'Enola Gay'.

The 50,000 word manuscript by 31 August is spluttering along like an auto rickshaw, hence the Flying Lotus track. Loving his album too. Best of 2008 for me so far.

Blogwise of note: Check out Wayne & Wax with some detail on the signifying chains and networks of the R & B Desi crossover. Thank you EPMD.

And with Pakistan's northwestern territories and the Taliban still high profile in the news, the image above might be the Helmand Beauty shop, not the one in Kabul. I guess like Ted Swedenburg, I'm interested in the resonances of the War on Terror, Islamophobia and Islamophilia in pop culture. I found Trim's mixtape track Taliban online, and then Simon Barber, an Honours student, whose essay on Grime I supervised last semester, put me on to Wiley's version. Seems that a lot of Grimeheads are using Taliban as a metaphor for the changing politics of culture in Londonistan, with the police, the drug trade, crime and East London Muslims 'round the way. The occupation south of the river. Haven't found much in the Grime forums yet or transcribed the rhymes, but looking forward to exploring this more.

Back to that 50,000-word manuscript. Yikes.


w&w said...

I'm not sure whether your reading of the grime use of Taliban is a bit generous or not. I'll have to listen to these myself.

I do know, tho, that grime MCs pretty routinely adopt JA slang wholesale, and since the US invasion of Afghanistan the term "Taliban" is used in JA as a simple (ignant) shorthand for someone from the Middle East.

nabeel said...

Hmm, maybe, though the rhymes do seem a little more like they're dealing with conversions and discipline. Some names are mentioned so it's a 'Taliban', or Muslim engaged in war against the British. Calling yourself a Taliban in the UK, like Trim and Wiley do in these tracks, is probably not going to go down to well in mainstream UK society so I don't think it's the same as the Jamaicans version of 'towelhead' or whatever.