Moth Smoke

Moth Smoke : A Novel is, I think, Mohsin Hamid’s first book. It is a tale of an educated middle-class guy Dara Shikoh1 who goes from a banker to a drug addict and criminal. It is a story about drugs, sex, corruption and betrayal.

Mohsin Hamid writes well and could become a great Pakistani author of fiction in English. However, in Moth Smoke, his characters lack some complexity. They are more one-dimensional than I would like. Mohsin does present parts of the story from the point of view of the different characters, but that doesn’t work as well as it should.

What this novel is not is a documentary of Pakistani urban life. Some reviewers on Amazon think this novel will provide them an insight into Pakistan. No single book, fiction, or non-fiction, can do that. The book certainly does show a side of Pakistan: drugs, sex and corruption among the elite, for example. However, it is a work of fiction and should be taken as such.

Here are a few other reviews:

Continue reading “Moth Smoke”

Saddam Captured

It is definitely good news for the Iraqis. Their future is still uncertain, but a brutal thug of a dictator is now completely out of the picture. Like I said before, one of the positive outcomes of this war was the removal of Saddam. I started out as anti-war because that’s my default position. I believe war is rarely justified and always the last option. However, just before the war started, I flirted with the idea of supporting it because of Saddam. In the end, I couldn’t bring myself to trust the Bush administration on this.

Brian Ulrich captures my sentiments on the news of Saddam’s capture.

Today, the United States military captured one of the worst dictators of the 20th century. He was dug out of a pit on a farm near Tikrit. So much for the man who killed hundreds of thousands of Iraqis to stay in power, not to mention starting wars of aggression that killed hundreds of thousands more. Say what you will about President Bush’s ultimate intentions in Iraq, but no regime we install will be as bad as Saddam Hussein, and if we play our cards right, when future generations look back they will see this as another example of the U.S. acting in the world as a force for good.

Juan Cole recounts Saddam Hussein’s many atrocities.

I remembered the innocent Jews brutally hung in downtown Baghdad when the Baath came to power in 1968; the fencing with the Shah and the Kurds in the early 1970s; the vicious repression of the Shiites of East Baghdad, Najaf and Karbala in 1977-1980; the internal Baath putsch of 1979, when perhaps a third of the party’s high officials were taken out and shot, so that Saddam could become president; the bloody invasion of Iran in 1980 and the destruction of a whole generation of Iraqi and Iranian young men in the 1980s (at least 500,000 dead, perhaps even more); the Anfal poison gas campaign against the Kurds in 1987-88; Halabja, a city of 70,000 where 5,000 died where they stood, their blood boiling with toxic gases, little children lying in heaps in the street; the rape of Kuwait in 1990-91; the genocide against the Shiites that began in spring of 1991 and continued intermittently thereafter; the destruction of the Marsh Arabs; the assassinations, the black marias, the Fedayee Saddam.

I hope that Saddam is tried by an Iraqi or international court and given the worst possible sentence for his crimes.

Patisserie Recommendations

It’s snowing here and all I can think of is some nice French pastry.

I am looking for some real good patisserie recommendations in New York city. Something to remind us of our trip to France last year.

POSTSCRIPT: I am looking for a patisserie, not a French restaurant with good dessert, preferably in Manhattan. Can any New York city bloggers help?

No LOTR Marathon

I am forgetful. I got busy and totally forgot about the Lord of the Rings trilogy screening. I should have gotten tickets for it a long time ago. It’s actually showing in a number of theaters in the area, one in New Brunswick really close by. But I forgot and what a big mistake it was. Last night, I tried to find any theater within 300 miles which wasn’t sold out but found zero, zilch, none.

So now on to my backup plan. The Fellowship of the Ring: Extended Edition is out of the theaters now. So we’ll try to rent it tonight and watch it at home. Then tomorrow we plan to watch the extended edition of The Two Towers in a theater. The last movie, The Return of the King comes out on Wednesday. We are still mulling over whether we should watch it in a neighborhood theater or drive more than an hour to a “Giant screen” showing at an IMAX.

Going Home

I am going home (New Jersey) for the holidays. I’ll be there for 3 weeks. Blogging will continue regularly on weekdays while weekends will be spent away from the computer with Amber.

Asia Weblog Awards

Asia Weblog Awards

Flying Chairs is hosting the first Asia Weblog Awards. Categories include best weblogs from a number of Asian countries and also by subject. You can nominate weblogs as well as vote for existing nominations. Phil has put in a lot of effort and is doing a great job organizing this. So, thanks, Phil.

One of the categories is the Best Pakistan Blog. Someone has nominated my weblog in that category. Thank you, stranger. I am not sure I qualify. Yes, I am a Pakistani and lived for more than 20 years in Pakistan. However, I am now living in the US for the last 6 years. I do write about Pakistan from time to time but that is not the main focus of my blog. So I am not sure whether I should ask people to go vote for me or should ask Phil to remove my blog from the list. According to Phil,

Those of you who have Weblogs either in or about Asia (it is the subject matter that counts, not your precise location so people should use their best judgement) please tell everyone to vote/nominate or at least vote for you.

I guess I’ll leave it up to you guys. If you think I don’t qualify, please leave a comment here. If I do, go to Phil’s site and vote for me.

Blog Milestones

Congratulations to Conrad Barwa for the 1500th comment.

Also, my weblog now has had visitors from 100 countries. (Probably not technically accurate since I determined that by the top-level domains in DNS lookups of the IP addresses.) The latest two countries: Guyana and Sri Lanka.

Some time in the last month or so, I also passed a total of 50,000 visits according to Sitemeter. As an aside, Sitemeter consistently undercounts my visitors. There have been times when I am chatting with Amber or my sister and even though they are visiting my blog at the time, Sitemeter does not show any visit. However, the Apache logs on my server confirm their visit.