Saturday, December 31, 2005

ON BASEBALL: Bob had been maced and mugged in Red Hook the night before. But he gamely made it to the Cafe La Fortuna. I didn't know John and Yoko hung out there. Charming that they sat there writing under the framed pictures of opera stars.

First time I had actually thought through the baseball ballpark idea. Out loud. My baseball folks probably won’t get it or find it very interesting but Bob followed me I think. That I am for creating a new framework I find a better fit; activation not preservation, the use of information and media technology. For me, tthe ballpark is much more than a chain link fence around a playing green; I want to create a new architecture. The elements are all there: the shaman rituals, the geomancy, the materials, the need, and the use. All we need to do it to chart and shepherd an organic process.

Bob's work has mostly been in unbuilt architectural competitions. Interesting work in Hungary, NYC, Barcelona. He has ideas and works solo. But the more we talked the less the idea of an architectural competition like May suggested seemed the way to go. I should find a way to retain the PR value.

Perhaps a multidisciplinary approach based in an educational institution? Language, Literature, Religion, Anthropology, Engineering, Environmental Studies, Bob seemed to like the idea. But perhaps more Middlebury rather than Cooper Union? I like the idea of Middlebury, esp. with World Learning being nearby too.

If not Vermont, then who?

Sunday, November 06, 2005

M&M: I wore my Macedonian flag scarf to the airport. Bibi thanked me. Everyone should be a nationalist for a country other than his own.

Friday, November 04, 2005

M&M: Some German dance authority decreed that at 2 million, Macedonians do not have the critical mass for a national dance form, Bibi said. That he was German seemed to add to the authority, her tone implied.

But Manipur has less than that yet has a dance form. And 15 films a year to Macedonia’s one or two. Sure, they are junk. But genius can spring anywhere; only a discrete culture can produce junk.

I realized during my travels that Manipur is an extraordinary place. I know of no smaller culture that has all the defining expressions of a culture. I tried saying it is culture that keeps people going in hard times but it sounds too sentimental, though it may have some truth to it.

Manipur has a culture of culture.

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

M&M: Nicola’s Tour

The City Castle's open air stage is dramatic, with a picturesque ruin as the back drop just so. Wonder if it might make too much of a visual statement for Yoshiko. A stray dog with a cataract in one eye befriends us. He hungers for affection but the guide books warn us against petting him. He looks much too dirty anyway.

We walk down back towards the Old Bazar, drop into a generations old shop where they still make guitars by hand. Then to the national gallery and to an old courtyard house that had become the city’s art school. The old nude model was a bit startled and I definitely crossed a line there with my video camera. But I have started my documentation of Yoshiko’s journey.

Not sure what Yoshiko is thinking. Her thought process is different. I worry how far this project will take her art as I think I am more ambitious in my goals. It is just as well she does not quite understand it anyway; it is evident she has not read my articles on re-mapping.

I would like her to develop her own creative process without getting a lot of my inchoate ideas. I guess what I am seeking is a collaborative process than the artist/producer one she has with Bonnie. I keep asking her where she thinks she is in her career as an artist.

On one hand, her integrity as an artist must be preserved; on the other, On some level I feel she needs to find her own way to appeal to a larger audience, a mature one that goes beyond the heroic challenge that artists necessarily make to established art forms. That by itself is more becoming to youth. Maturity comes down more to craft and having something specific to say, Too often is the modern artist either a propagandist or a navel-gazer. Where is the delight, wit and beauty?

I thank the Intelligent Designer (whom I’ll call Bob) I am not an artist.
M&M: To the Old Bazar with Maria

Maria and I crossed the old stone bridge into the poorer Albanian part of town. Gypsies strewn along the way. Smoky kebab stalls on either side of the twisty, cobbled streets. Not quite yet the tourist haunt this may well become. I suppose it depends on how the Islamic schools do their job. Money comes in from the Arab countries I am told and trouble is brewing. But for now, there is mere suspicion and hostility but at (the contested) 35% of the population, the Albanian problem has spilled into Skopje from Kosovo, from Greece and of course from Albania itself.

Bought a Tito-era army surplus jacket whose multiple pockets, if not the cartridge holders, will come in useful on the flight back. And a woven leather bracelet that looks like a cock-ring for Kieran.

Monday, October 31, 2005

M&M: Jazz @ the Jukebox Café

Of course Olivier the French violinist had lived in Williamsburg, where he met the Macedonian NYU film student who became his wife. Of course the guitarist Toni had lived in Boston. Even here in Skopje, in the surprisingly unknown Macedonia, does the world come crowding in. The jazz trio was great. Watched the table next to us fill, empty and refill a few times over. Jovica was a charismatic host, a bon vivant in his own way. Drank too much, smoked too much and closed the place down.
M&M: Bibi Takes up to the Mountains

The monastery to St. Pantalemion is closed. It is a Monday. So we miss seeing the pre-Giotto frescoes, especially of the nude Jesus, or rather of him wearing transparent clothes. We sit in the large empty restaurant overlooking the darkening city. The pita pie with stuffed sheep cheese id delicious. The rakia is excellent and the Macedonian wine is better today.

Bibi is a wonderful and knowledgeable hostess. I am slowly disentangling the information about Kosovo, the Albanians, the bombing of Belgrade, the siege of Sarajevo. Macedonians are very into their own problems, and they do have more than their share. There is not much lay curiosity about the outside world and I am past being an exotic foreigner. Yoshiko and I are the only two Asians we have encountered in Skopje so far.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005


A note I wrote today:


I've been thinking a bit more about the idea I tossed out to you earler today. The Manipuri-American IT get-together. I think we should do it, with all the various IT people attending to discuss how we can connect and interact and see what comes of it. Connectivity and network can play a special role for the future of small cultures. I would like to explore that.

How many IT people do you think there are here in the US and Canada from Manipur?

Let's you, Nick and I sit down sometime.

BTW thanks for the software handholding. I upgraded to OS X Tiger!

Tamo Somi

Friday, August 12, 2005


Hot again on Fifth Avenue yesterday, even tho it was 7 when we started. Dusk over here, dawn over there; HD crew here, miniDV over there. There were joggers round the reservoir - at eye level, through the trees. Wondered if this is where Kieran runs.

Mirra thinks the dawn breaking over there will be nice. i agree. Always astonished how she (and other filmmakers) can keep that artistic eye in the middle of all that techno-logistical stuff.

I hope the footage will match if Mirra decides to us this in the final film. First time I have actually be the subject of a filmshoot. I had so much work to do really, I forgot about the camera. But I even went Jewish with an few "Oy vey"s trying to get thru on Ragini's cell phone. Mirra thinks my frustration looked good in the shot - hah, I could've done without it.

Anyway, went over the whole meeting planned with the US Consular team. Logistics and possibilities apart, my main concern was to make sure they don't request, they conduct themselves as equals, realize both sides gain and not just simply as Giver and Receiver. Happily Ragini is like me. She gets it immediately, as I knew she would. After all, it was Pabung Gambhi and Imasi Radha's style too.

Took almost 2 hours for something that might not even be in thr final cut.

Thursday, August 11, 2005


HAT: i loved pee wee
AA: loved? LOVED?
HAT: adored
HAT: worshipped
AA: why in the past?
AA: i still fucking do
HAT he’s no longer around is he?
AA: but thanks to the magic of dvd technology he'll be with us forever
HAT: tee hee
AA: and for the rest of my life, whenever i hear the secret word (zyzzybaloobah) i'll scream it loud!
HAT: i'm sure you liked cowboy curtis
AA: and ricardo
AA: such a hunk
HAT: if cowboy curtis were to ride the nyc subways today he’d get arrested
AA: for?
HAT: he always has a suspiciously large package
HAT: ba-da-bing!
HAT: you there?
AA: i thought it was for playing in matrix 2 and 3
HAT: oh i guess you’d have to a newyorker for that one
AA: explain, you snob
HAT: there are posters in all the subway cars now since 9/11
HAT: asking you to call the police if you see any suspiciously large packages
AA: oh, very good
HAT: i thought so too
AA: sorry i missed it
AA: ok, i'm hungry
HAT: order in chinese
AA: and this friend is waiting for me to watch a movie
HAT: which
AA: the towering inferno
HAT: lol
AA: been wanting to see it again since sept. 12, 2001
HAT: hehe
AA: btw, that joke about ordering in chinese was uncalled for
AA: i tried for an hour
AA: in vain
HAT: and you think sept. 12 was?
HAT: ok ok that was um a little below the belt
AA: it's almost true, though
HAT: oh yeah?
AA: on sept. 9 or so of that year
AA: some friends and i
AA: were talking about these old disaster movies
AA: and having a blast
HAT: best is poseidon adventure
AA: so to speak
HAT: lol
AA: oh yeah! with shelley winter swimming underwater in that brown chiffon dress
AA: a classic
HAT: when her arse is pushed thru the porthole
AA: arse? you a brit now?
HAT: i thought it sounded funnier with an accent
AA: 2 days later, bang!
HAT: i hope you were contrite
AA: and i lived on 4th st. between 2nd and 1st
AA: we were cut off for several days
AA: illegal sublet
HAT: i lived on 5th between 3 and 2nd
AA: no id with address
AA: really?
HAT: not on 9/11
AA: oh
AA: i was gonna say, we must have met at the boiler room
HAT: i lived on south street then
HAT: office on john
AA: where is that?
AA: soho?
HAT: john is one block from wtc
HAT: south like 10 blocks
AA: oh my
AA: front row center
HAT: didn’t hang at the boiler room much
AA: must have been awful
AA: 9/11 i mean
HAT: i didn’t see anything
AA: weren't you there?
AA: wtc i mean
HAT: yes but…
AA: oh my god, you're blind
HAT: my assistant was trapped in the office
AA: you have an assistant?
AA: cool
HAT: and my exroomie was in tower one
AA: did he die?
HAT: yes
AA: shit
AA: sorry
HAT: it’s ok
HAT: assistant went in early and got blocked in
AA: and died?
HAT: no
AA: oh, blocked in your office
HAT: there was one building between my office building and wtc
HAT: we don’t know this much but it was a blackout
AA: honestly, i don't think i'm over 9/11 yet
HAT: lose anyone?
AA: no
AA: but being there was so strange
AA: the fliers
AA: everywhere
HAT: mine is still up at st. vincent's
AA: for whom?
AA: your ex roomie?
HAT: my friend

AA: all these happy pictures of dead people
AA: wedding pics
AA: vacations
HAT: it was stupid
AA: it moved me
HAT: but it was all one could do
AA: yes
HAT: he was the only guy in nyc i spoke my language with
AA: oh
HAT: it was as if i was struck dumb
AA: of course
HAT: his dad and my dad were in grade school together
AA: known him all your life?
HAT: yes
AA: shit
AA: i'm sorry i brought that up
HAT: only person here who knew my previous life
HAT: it’s ok
AA: not really
AA: i'm ruining your evening
HAT: yes
AA: i'm so sorry
HAT: he was with me on 5th street
AA: can we talk about something else?
HAT: sure
HAT: i've actually talked it all out
AA: therapy?
HAT: i gave 6 hours of testimony for columbia's 9/11 oral history project
AA: oh wow
AA: that must have been tough
HAT: yeah
HAT: but a good thing to do
AA: both for you and for the rest of us
AA: like holocaust testimonies
AA: perhaps
AA: things that need to be preserved
HAT: yes
HAT: his was one few bodies actually found
AA: that's good
HAT: oh i don’t know
HAT: only parts
AA: this is horrible
HAT: i'm sorry
HAT: now i've ruined YOUR evening
AA: no, i am
AA: i always authorize myself to joke about this
AA: because i was there
HAT: theres lots more but i wont go into it :)
AA: and very affected by it
HAT: oh yeah i understand that
AA: (thanks)
AA: but the way i was affected was nothing
AA: compared to actually losing someone
AA: all i lost was a 14-year relationship
HAT: how?
AA: we all got crazy after 9/11
HAT: hehe i remember
HAT: i lost my job and apartment too
AA: the whole fucking world's been crazy since then
AA: now more than ever

HAT: one day that week...
HAT: i woke up in my loft...
HAT: no power still but i used to sneak back...
HAT: and i looked up the phone book...
HAT: and called my first bf after 10+ years...
HAT: he said ... he died?... and i said yes...
HAT: you see we used to hang together in ny
AA: your friend
AA: roomie
HAT: even before he met his wife
HAT: him, me, my bf, his then gf
HAT: so the only one i wanted to talk to was my ex
AA: makes sense
HAT: so he said. how did you know i was here?
HAT: i said, i didn’t... i just looked you up...
HAT: he’d just come back two weeks before...he lives in asia now
HAT: then i cried… the first time i cried
HAT: until then it was dna samples, st. vincent's, posters... all that shit,
AA: then all breaks down all of a sudden
HAT: and of course his family calling me
HAT: my cellphone bill that month was over 2000
AA: that whole autumn in new your was just insane
AA: so intense
AA: the fun we were having was weird
HAT: funny thing was no one uptown had an idea what it was like
AA: i remember 2nd avenue totally empty
AA: in the middle of the day and week
AA: the bars and restaurant emptying their stock
AA: the night of the 11 everybody was insanely drunk
AA: i had never seen that in ny
HAT: i'm actually still in trauma
AA: of course
HAT: only my closest friends know this
AA: and your farthest in my case
HAT: lol
AA: heh, i made you laugh!
HAT: now anyone can listen on columbia's website lol
AA: yeah
AA: it is up?
HAT: read sons and lovers?
HAT: no it has to be transcribed first and then i want to take a few things out
HAT: i just did it in june
AA: no i haven't
AA: oh, very recent
HAT: there is a scene where the protagonist shares his closest innermost with a complete stranger
HAT: lawrence writes that section beautifully
HAT: i mean i didn’t lose my wife or child or anything like that
AA: still, i think i'm gonna watch earthquake instead
AA: friends are our wives and children
HAT: theres a group of waiters and busboys in nyc
HAT: who meet in jackson heights
HAT: all immigrants: latinos, bangladeshis, etc
HAT: and they talk of 9/11 and the friends they lost
AA: all the time?
AA: geez
HAT: like once a month I think
AA: that doesn't surprise me actually
HAT: they don’t have to testify in washington lol
AA: lol

Sunday, August 07, 2005


Greetings Peter (and Hi Richard):

I imagine you are in China right now. Richard forwarded me your thoughts after our meeting. I took some time to think it over.

Peter, I am most impressed with what you are doing in Chiangmai and the concise encapsulation of our meeting. So thank you very much and we would love to have you join us at one of our meetings to discuss some of the ideas we batted around.

I like the democratic way of discussion and interaction you propose. Perhaps this is the time to see the community as the active unit rather than the person. It is the established traditional way of doing things in Asia as I am sure you are well aware, but one that is once again gaining some universal relevance in the IT era. We are also probably aware, sad irony here, that it is often not seen by policy makers and entrenched professionals.

When we think our Strength Initiative - "Fitness" conjures up too many images of spandex on ESPN2, "Power" might bristle some mustaches, and "Wellness" sounds good for you but rather awful tasting - we do want to keep baseball in the forefront. We don't want to get it lost among the many health initiatives in this part of the world, but we do want to leverage it in a holistic way. After all, we think of First Pitch as serious fun, on the premise that without fun, nothing serious can be achieved.

Peter, Manipur is a last frontier of a sort. I have yet to come across a civilization with its degree of doll-house minitiarization of culture. Its isolation offers intriguing possibilities in an Asian variant of a post-1989 Estonia for example.

There is naturally a part of me that loves my country and my people. But what jazzes me, is not 20th century nationalism. I say this because there is a nationalist conflict there as we discussed, that is tied in with the HIV/heroin problem and other health issues.

What I see is the the sliver of opportunity to play with ideas of 21st century interconnectivity and distributive potential. How can we use this for the re-purposing and re-envisioning of a culture? What you picked up on the functioning of the leikai, the traditional neighborhood, is very much the case in point. It will make people there "get" it, talk a language and use and revive deeply-embedded symbols. Without this, the culture dies. Now nothing lasts forever and we have no business being sentimental. But diversity is healthy and enriching so I do not see this venture as one for Manipur only. It is a lab with a somewhat different kind of culture if you will.

I would like the Strength Initiative to be as important in its process of becoming as in its product. Otherwise we bifurcate into the giver and the receiver - a somewhat heavy demand of legerdemain on someone already bifurcated like me. Our approach is two-faced: what is the best way to give? And the best way to receive? it has lessons for both sides I think, so it is not merely top-down.

We are thinking along the same lines for our ballpark too, hopefully a project in vernacular architecture that may, for instance, start with revisiting the local shaman's construction-manual-ritual. I would like the process of building the ballpark to result in more than just a nice field to play in. Because if it doesn't, the field won't stay nice for very long.

Perhaps the Strength initiative too will deliver much more along the way to good health.

Peter, we have some equipment donated to us. We have a team from the US Consulate making a trip next week to look into baseball in Manipur. What we are working towards is a one-week All-Stars Tournament within the next 12 months, preceded by a month-long training camp for about 50 players. We are working on a US coach going to observe, maybe train if we swing month-long visas. We shoot our film then too of course.

So how can we make some of the Big Over-Arching Ideas we have talked about work here? How can we start putting some pieces in place and begin our learning process? Can we use the coach, the camp? That's what I would like to think about with you.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

(Note: I rather prefer my article before The Statesman published it July 30. So here goes....)

"Looks like you've brought a bit of India already," a gentleman said gamely, loosening his tie. Bright, hot sunlight filtered through the trees of Central Park and streamed into the elegant Fifth Avenue drawing rooms of Mrs. Elizabeth Brockman.

That humid June evening, about 100 New Yorkers with a passion for the Great American Pastime of baseball gathered to launch First Pitch: The US Manipur Baseball Project. Baseball stars, sportswriters, artists, playwrights, filmmakers, doctors, psychiatrists, lawyers, fashion designers, an Ambassador and a Maharaja gathered over hotdogs and Manipuri style canapés made of lotus-root fritters, and stumbled sportingly through America’s baseball anthem, “Take Me Out to the Ball Game” in Manipuri. The award-winning filmmaker Mirra Bank, and Vic Losick, her cameraman, began shooting their full-length documentary on Manipuri baseball.

Their questions seemed to hang in the air: Baseball in the Eastern Himalayas? 26 teams? How? But wait, just WHERE is Manipur?

Ever since 2002 when my cousin Ragini Salam, a city councilor, surprised me with a request for a few bats for a baseball team, I have had to answer these questions over and over again in the US. Of course, I could simply have sent over a few bats and balls. But being acutely aware, of the deep and corrosive desire of material goods from the West in the rest of the world, I had no desire to be just a conduit for American products.

But perhaps there might be another more meaningful way, I thought. After all, ever since my visit to Manipur in 2000 after an absence of about 15 years, as an independent media arts curator, I had been searching for a project that would bring together my love of my native Manipur, my experience in America, my adopted home, and my professional interest in cultural interaction.

I am not a great fan of baseball but I had always enjoyed the game as a dramatic, almost mythic, celebration and expression of America. Encouraged by a remark from a producer at a television channel, I approached my friend Muriel (Mike) Peters, a film producer and a diehard New York Mets fan with whom I had spent many summer afternoons at the team's Shea Stadium.

A long-time friend of India, Mike was delighted and fascinated to hear of a place in India where they played baseball instead of cricket. But what impressed her most was that the game had taken root and survived against staggering odds, in a poor, isolated border state riddled with conflict. Here was the game played for the sheer love of it, unscarred by multi-million dollar salaries and steroid scandals. It was my conversations with Mike that sowed the seeds of First Pitch.

The real challenge was the construction of an interface between the American and Manipuri passion for baseball. One was a Superpower whose track record of interactions with other cultures has unfortunately often been blundering and plundering. The other was the remarkable but poverty-stricken 1.5 million Manipuri Meiteis, a proud people locked in 45-year old secessionist conflict with a country 1 billion-strong in one of the most inaccessible and closed-off regions in the world today.

With travel restrictions for foreign nationals, no tourism, sweatshops or outsourced jobs, globalization comes to Manipur primarily through the ether, via film, television and the Internet. Manipuri civilization prizes physical culture giving birth to polo and acrobatic dancer drummers who cannot sit still. So how might the isolated Manipuri Meitei respond to an American overture based on an appreciation of his athletic prowess, I wondered?

What would Manipuri Meiteis make of foreign aid that did not first diminish them by saying something was wrong and try to save them? How would it help this ancient civilization of this mountain corridor represent and repurpose itself, as it surely must, as the rising powers of India and China compete once again in Southeast Asia?

Perhaps it was possible to have an exchange that played to the decent and the strong in the two remarkable cultures that I had grown to love. What if we put aside the insensitive Ugly American and the warring Manipuri Meitei, for an alternate post- and transnational exchange fit for the 21st century, one that uses globalization for the empowerment of smaller cultures?

On the other side of the globe, the problem was the stunning void of information about Manipur even among Americans with a first-hand or academic familiarity with India. And what little they knew reflected the confining, exoticized Manipur-land-of-dances-and-green-hills image that Manipuri Meiteis have lived with in India. The vast New York Public Library system carries a mere 148 entries on Manipur. So I decided the first step towards a baseball project in Manipur would be to take Mike there.

Mike and I went to Manipur in the fall of 2004. We were part of a group of 7 artists and arts producers that undertook a cultural-immersion week that I organized with the support of the Asian Cultural Council in New York and the Manipur State Government. With a foot firmly planted in both cultures, I presented Manipur to my American friends, and America to my Manipuri Meitei friends. Mike brought two baseball rulebooks to replace the Xeroxed copy the players had been using, a dozen balls, and training DVDs. We screened Ken Burns’ celebrated television series on baseball and Field of Dreams, the baseball film starring Kevin Costner. We surveyed a lovely field that the Sagolband Leikai’s Western Star Club had pledged to us for a ballpark. The ball players for their part organized an exhibition match on American Thanksgiving Day followed by a burger-and-coke picnic-lunch.

We established First Pitch upon our return. As the Chairman of the organization, she pulled together a generous and amusingly diverse Board of baseball enthusiasts – a writer who played short-stop, a urologist who was a diehard Yankees fan, a sports marketing consultant, a lawyer married to the premier singer of baseball songs in the country, and an artist who rendered his own Irish American representation of Pakhangba, the Manipuri uroboros deity catching a baseball. We garnered the support of the Louisville Slugger Museum and the Spalding, the manufacturer of baseball equipment. We made Baseball Dreams, a short promotional film, put together by Dave Thoudam, a young Manipuri Meitei filmmaker.

A non-profit initiative, with a local chapter forming in Imphal, First Pitch plans to work with Manipur's 18 leikai, or neighborhood, sports clubs that have between them an astonishing 26 baseball teams and 4 women's teams. It will provide equipment, professional coaching, and build South Asia's first baseball park in Imphal, to be named after Maharaja Churachand, the founder of modern sports in Manipur.

Strategically, First Pitch's goal is to establish India's baseball center in Manipur, in the only place in India where the game does not languish in the shadow of cricket. It also recognizes that Manipur’s historical role is once again re-emerging with globalization and sees the baseball center as the link between South and Southeast Asian baseball.

We have quite a ways to go for we have only just begun. In the meantime we go to ball games. And sign our emails, “Yours in Baseball.…”

Monday, July 18, 2005

LAINE and I had coffee at the former Le Gamin in Chelsea. She's lovely. And I like Cham too. Turns out she had not discussed the television project with her agent (Nellie's agent). But now she will - plus the feature idea. Nellie is important for that. She can package ideas very well as she did that time we met.

Told Laine I was very happy she is on the production team and we should draw up contracts. The relationship of FP the org and FP the film and the partners within is getting complex. I dont want to get screwed over. Vit had expressed his concern to Bonnie. Sweetheart that he is.

Anyway she thinks Richard can write a treatment as anyone else as long as we can say no. Good idea. Nice way of putting it. I told her I had asked my mother to keep her ears open for a good story. Of course I am happy with variations on any of the 36 plot lines in Hollywood, as the backdrop will take care of much.

Laine will talk to Night's friend. Seems they are both baseball fans. I gave her the lowdown on the political angle. Manipur must not be compromised.

MARK MORRIS wants to see my WTC. Sent it to him. Bruce says he had nothing to do with it. Must've been Joe. Hmmm. But I do like Bruce's idea of doing it as an American production of a shumang leela. Would be a great way to get Al back in. Not sure how that NYU meeting really went. We will wait and see.

Sunday, July 10, 2005


Saturday, July 09, 2005


Mike, Richard Mirra and I went to the Bryan Adams' concert. Paired with Def Leppard, no less. Hoo hah.

Of course we thought there would be a ball game. The Cyclones rag was not very clear. And none of us knew that stadiums were where rockers played during the summer. Bryam Adams still looked hot and he must be my age. The first MTV generation. Had lots of dogs and Mirra looked great in her KhadiiShop shirt. The crowd was all Brooklynites, dating couples mostly. I was surprised how many of Brayan's songs I knew. Great ambiance. Perfect day.

Didn't stay for Def Leppard. Richard couldn't take the noise already, heavy metal would surely have done him in.

The last time I went, a few weeks earlier with Mike and Dick, I discovered Coney Island really is an island. The garrulous limo driver took us over a tiny bridge over some questionable body of water.

Mike had not been there in 50 years! Dick was so cool to get us tickets to the Cyclones game. Been wanting to go forever. And me, what with my infatuation with Brooklyn and all, I was always drawn more to the farm teams than to the major leagues for First Pitch.

The Cyclones were playiong the Cardinals. Both AAA. It was the 7th inning when we got there and we were on time. Some consternation until we learned it was the previous game, The proximity of the game and players was so refreshing after the huge stadiums. They have 900 seats compared to 56,000 at Shea. One raked level, one office building, two covered wings where all the hot dog stands were. Otherwise open skies and what Richard humorously calls Brooklyn's Eiffel Tower in the background.

Maybe some vernacular version of this for FP? I am dreaming...

The game kept getting washed out. But we had beer. And man, I got carded! I mean the sign said if one looked like under 30 one might get carded. But me? Flattering perhaps, but more like just a bored, young girl at the counter who didn't know any better.

We didn't stay for thw hole game but retired to another place for more bad fun food to talk about FP and then a long subway ride home.

Thursday, May 19, 2005


Richard didn't know until today that I was from Manipur. My entire first decade in NYC I didn't get into my own heritage and identity. Ironic since I was so into Asian American cultural representation. I think I wanted to make it on my own and to let people know that what I was doing should be judged on its own cultural merits.

The Rockefeller offices are a museum in their own right. Rothko, Rauschenberg, Picasso, all hung oh so casually like posters in a school dorm.

So it looks like the Macedonia leg of our project is taking off. When Yoshiko said she wanted to do something in Manipur, I was clear I did not necessarily have to be involved. But she did want to work with me and its a bit humbling because I have done so little work in performance. The media installation aspect is my connection to it. I proposed adding a European segment, dropping Laos, identifying partners in each city and then setting up the theme of conflict as it plays out in each culture.

Richard seemed to like it. Yoshiko's DVD of her performance in the Kalimai Temple did the trick. Oh what would I do without my iBook!

Its fascinating how artists' talk makes its own impact. Yoshiko's ideas in my word, if such a thing were possibel, would not have had half the impct it did on Richard.

So maybe we go to Skopje in the fall for the Balkan Platform..

Saturday, May 14, 2005


Funky and kinda hard to believe we did this in just 6 months. Lata is a real pro and fun to work with.

Zett'e pl;ace looked good. She tidied up. Tom laid out the clothes. Malcolm shot. We had Yoshiko and her dancers on hand. Peach ice tea.

Too bad the black garments are not here.

But most importantly, people LIKED the clothes and bought them! So not a bad start. I didn't know what to expect.

Wednesday, April 27, 2005


Harold Channer had me as a guest yesterday. Nice thing was, he has a wide-ranging and free-roaming mind. Fun to talk to. An hour or so, no hurries. I noted, to his pleasure, that his show was his take on New York and New Yorkers who interested him. So showed a clip from my WTC video, the baseball promo and pitched KhadiShop. Huckster that I am, I even wore a jacket. MNN is a nightmare of disorganization. The producer kept yelling and I am sure her impressive lungpower is somewhere on the soundtrack.

How did I feel about it? A few things:

One, I have a fat neck. Gotta do something about it. And I cock my head when I talk. I really must watch my TV/videotape appearances more often and get over this problem I have of watching myself. If it wasn't for watching the tape with Tom and Mike, I may not have seen the whole thing.

Next, Harold says, Your work is very political isn't it? Damn right it is, but nice to have someone like him see it.

And then, I botched up his question about my optimism for the future. I should have talked about my amazing friends doing amazing work. And the future as I see it in interconnectivity. But just as well, as I am getting to be a bore on the subject. In my defense, it was towards the end and I was a little eager to finish it. Talking for an hour is really quite a long time and the sound of my own voice was becoming grating.

Wednesday, April 13, 2005


Manuel says he can't believe I am actually getting a public program to show my home footage. I took that as a compliment.

But though I had tried to set it up with the folks at the Rubin Museum before I left, we never connected. They know so little about the region, they have no idea how little they know. Lisa actually smiled when I said noone was teaching Northeast india at any university nor had any museum made it a focus. I could only smile back when she suggested I check in with Gene their inhouse expert, as we had already talked.

So when Ralph suggested we expand the brown-bag lunch for the Rockefeller foundations into a public program, he had come to the same conclusion as I had. We just made it for arts professionals and boy, 100+ people showed up. Funders, Tibetologists, dance people, film folk, baseball fans. No academics. No Indians showed up inteerstingly.

The presentation yesterday was Rachel, Ralph, me, then Zette, Bonnie, Yoshiko and Mike. Cute that they all jockeyed for prime-time, so to speak. I would have too! They were all great.

Went well. Very well. I did PowerPoint, Zette did slides, as did Bonnie, Yoshiko her edited footage on DVD and, as piece de resistance, Mike showed the baseball trailer. Hot damn.

The first time a program on Manipur had been done at TAS. Went to a Burmese restaurant afterwarsd with TAS and Manipusri folks.

Tuesday, March 15, 2005



Craig needs suggestions for the mezzotint he will create for us to give to contributors.

I was thinking of Radha and Krishna playing baseball, or the little Krishna and his brother. Too hokey? too irreligious? Or we need to provide him with a proper dragon image from Manipur (not Chinese) to use with a baseball. Or what?


I think the dragon I based the Sha on was from California. It's an American dragon, not Chinese.

This is the logo on the letterhead right now. I made it up as a temp. Mike thinks the dragon looks unfriendly so we may change it when we have a graphics pro doing something decent for us.

The dragon is Chinesey but hails from California (a tattoo) but I added the horns as the Manipuri Sha has deer horns/antlers. One theory is that a local python swallowed a small brow-antlered or barking deer, horns and all, and then was found with the horns sticking out of him. Some lunch.


These dragons were at the entrance to the king's living quarters.. (Mike - we threw those red baseballs around there, Les, Sudarshan and I, that time we walked into the fort?)

They were called sha. the word for dragon creature, also for beast, both in Manipuri and Tibetan. These were blown up by the British in 1891 after they defeated the Manipuris in the Battle of Khonjom. So they are not longer there. The photograph - which i have with me - is therefore from 1891 or earlier. I can show you sometime.


These look more like lions. I don't think they like baseball, whereas the Oro might like to play.


Here is a gnostic oroburos. I have also seen versions of in Manipur - the circle. There are variants in India and Thailand too.

The other is a Pakhangba (my ancestor actually, so I am not supposed to eat snakes, eels and snakelike things). It has become a state symbol. All the people on the field trip got one as a gift from Dave's father, who is in the government. I don't know who designed this and when.


I like the Oro and your ancestor (whom you greatly resemble). Craig wants to do a Narasimha with bat, but I don't think Manipur goes in for Narasimha. What do you think?


You can find Narasimha on temple walls sometimes, as an avatar of Vishnu. But I agree, it does not connect very well with Manipur. Manipur is more about love, eros and Krishna and less about the more dramatic violence of Kali, Shiva or Narasimha. Some form of the dragon/sha kreecherthing might work better.

Maybe we can market First Pitch Oro-cookies?


The first two are the most complex rep of the oroburos as Pakhangba. This belongs to the ruling Ningthouja Clan. Maybe not usable for religious reasons.

The funky dragon with the blue background is a mystery to me. I found it at a fair. The inscription in Bengali script not the archaic Meitei Mayek says something like Pakhangba Gatherer of Souls.


I love these. why have you been hiding them?


Your ancestor was a Dragon! Mine was only a goat.

I'll do something with the oroborus, which appeals to my celtic gnosticism. It will be a horned dragon eating its tail, but my version.

Sunday, February 20, 2005


At Mike's. To introduce Dave to bagels and bagel holes. It reminded me of my first bagel at a Leo brunch when I too first arrived in NYC courtesy MoMA.

We talk about First Pitch of course. Who else: Mirra, Vic, Jan, Kathleen, Naomi, Craig, Sally, Emily. Before I know it Mike has turned into a film shoot. Good thing we got Dave's camera charging and nice to have a worldclass cinematographer like Vic to do some of it. Dave to start his B-Crew videography too. So how did baseball come to Manipur, really? Mirra wants to save that and have it unfold in the film. She is now the director all right. And what's the problem in these nether regions? A jawbreaker but I gave it the good college try, camera rolling.

So many good ideas, so much contribution: contacts at Sundance, possibilities for vernacular architecture, builders of ballparks. Scary, gratifying, frustrating, exciting to hear everyone thinks this project should be a winner. Emily sharply notes its angle on the conflict in the eastern Himalayas.

The film is on.

(Sheepish note: Locked myself out of the baseball blog. Forgot the friggin' password. So repasted the first and only entry there over here.)

Saturday, January 15, 2005


A lovely clear day. The view from Zette's loft was great.

It took some doing to get people all in one place but until we have a presentation more formally, this will have to do. Actually, more fun. Elaine, Roberto sans Kathy, Steven showed up.

Plus the local Manipuri boys: Nick, Rajeshwar, Babloo, and a new guy, Deepak - a thorough gentleman. I feel it an essential part of my projects to get the Manipuri guys here involved and kept abreast. I want their thoughts, their enthusiasm. Most importantly, I want them to know where I am coming from as I go about reframing Manipur. Is this egoistic and delusional I wonder? But I can't think of anything that interests me more. I realize this is going to be a slow process but it sure helps to have smart guys to talk to.

Yoshiko whipped up a wonderful Japanese lunch. I saw her unedited footage of Manipur. Fascinating. Her take is always unconventional but it invariably leaves me with a new, richer point of view. I meet few people who do that to me.

I showed the baseball film. Big hit.

Yoshiko says she does not like that kind of structured filmmaking. I see her point. Not being an artist who need a safe, secure place for creative exploration, I can appreciate both approaches.

Mike comes late. Downtown is always a bit of a problem for her to get to.

Thursday, January 13, 2005

ZETTE: Yes, Motcha is such a good writer - we need to get him something better to read than Jackie Collins .  He was so serious at Thanksgiving, and looked so nice in his suit - he obviously paid close attention to everything we were saying; hope we said the right things.

BONNIE: Touching. and nicely written.  He was moved, obviously... we cannot even begin to understand OUR impact on THEM.  We need to think about this angle, and this angel.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005


By Heisnam Motcha

I was a stout young man of 23 when I joined Hula Sindamsang in 2001. Since then, I have been learning thang-ta, the Manipuri martial arts form, from Oja Devabratra. Many students joined and many have left but I am still continuing.

I was flummoxed when my Oja Devabratra told me that I had to accompany an American lady, who wanted to learn some movements of ‘thang-ta’. So two of my colleagues and I went to visit M.K. Binodini (or Emasi as she is known to is all) to discuss it. The contact had been made through her son Somi Roy who lives in New York. We were told that there were six Americans and they would arrive on November 18. The lady who wants to learn ‘thang-ta’ was Erin Mee. We were asked if any of us could accompany her every morning to our school, Hula Sindamsang. Somi was very conscious about the security of the persons who were arriving here. And I was chosen for the job. Then he asked me if I would be available on the evening of 18th as Somi wanted to introduce me to Erin. I agreed.

On 18th I was at Emasi’s at the appointed hour. There were some other people who were going to perform some traditional music for the visitors. While I was waiting, I met someone I knew - Sudersan, whose brother is a friend of my cousin.

Finally, the wait was over. The visitors arrived, one gentleman and four ladies. I was introduced to them. The youngest of them, whom I thought to be a little over twenty-eight - my age -, was Erin Mee. I guessed she must be around 5 feet 9 inches tall as she was about my own height. She wore glasses. She was blonde and very fair complexioned. Her other companions too had the same complexion. This was the first time I had come into close contact with Westerners. I had known Americans only from movies and television so this encounter was different and real. I asked Erin about the duration of her stay and how she felt after reaching Imphal. From the very first meeting Erin, like all the others, seemed very friendly.

Erin's "boriba", a ceremony of initiation at the beginning of learning an art form, was then fixed for the evening of the 20th. This was to be done with a prayer offering to the God Pakhangba, a compulsory ritual for every martial arts student.

Around 2 o'clock on the afternoon of the 20th, I reached at Somi’s place. Erin was getting various articles ready for the ceremony. She was wearing a black T-shirt, black slacks and slippers. Sudersan was also ready with a video camera as, I was beginning to see, he was always going to be documenting. We three went together to Hula Sindamsang. As soon as we reached, Oja Khelchandra arrived. Oja is the honorific term we use to call our masters. Oja Khelchandra is an eminent scholar and the president of our institute and Oja Devabratra was its principal.

As a rule, the head of the school always conducts the "boriba" ceremony, and so it was with Erin’s "boriba" as well. On a raised citadel in front of an idol of Pakhangba, there were some swords, sticks, and charcoal burners. Two spears and two long sticks formed crosses on either side of the citadel. There were two shields in front. The offerings for the "boriba" included a bunch of bananas, some oranges and a few gifts for the Oja.

A small area in front of the citadel was wiped clean. I put Erin’s gifts there. Then I lit three candles and three incense sticks. After I was finished making the arrangement, Oja Khelchandra recited a hymn to evoke the Inner Spirit to guide us in the process of learning. Erin and I knelt down. I was there beside her so as to help her follow the rules of the ritual.

To purify us, we were sprinkled with holy water with the aid of a sprig of leaves from the Tairel, a tree we hold sacred. After the prayer was over, Oja Khelchandra sat on a "mora", a stool of woven cane, and Erin kowtowed to him, presenting her gifts that included a white shawl and a pen. Oja blessed her, stroking her head.

Then Oja Khelchandra showed her a movement using a "cheibee", a leather-covered stick in the form of a sword. This particular movement, using the wrists, is the basic form of thang-ta. It is difficult for everyone. But to my surprise, Erin could repeat the performance in just a few seconds. It was not just I, but also others who were present, who was surprised at her skilful maneuvering of the sticks. Her performance gave me the impression that she was not only attentive but also had the aptitude for learning this oriental martial art form. If she continued learning, I felt she would surpass the students who had joined the institute even before she did. This particular impression will be an everlasting one to me as long as I live.

After Oja Khelchandra had left, Erin continued to practice for a while. Then we went inside the house to meet Oja Devabratra, as he had been bed-ridden for more than a month. From their conversation I learnt that Erin, being a theater personality, thought she would incorporate thang-ta properly in her work by learning it herself.

It was almost dark when we left Hula Sindamsang. I told Emasi and Somi about Erin’s performance. They were delighted to hear the news. I told Erin that I would come pick her up at 6:15 a.m. the next day and left.

But I kept thinking about what had happened that day; the way Erin had performed. I just couldn't get over the fact that a lady from a far-off place had just executed an art form supposedly reserved for men only. Of course we do have girl students too. Our institute had produced many female students and we currently had only one left, a girl named is Chitralekha. She had received a scholarship from the Government of India. But Erin’s case was different. Her habits and her way of life were totally different from ours, and yet, she could do it.

The class at Hula starts at 6:30 in the morning. So at 6:15 I reached Emasi’s place where Erin was staying with Zette Emmons, an American colleague of hers.. She was already ready. I rode my bicycle and Erin rode pillion. At the institute she continued with the lesson from the day before as she needed to perfect it. We also taught her some warm-up exercises developed in our institute. This was a unique form of exercise practiced by no other institution. At first she had some difficulty but later she seemed to cope well enough. At Hula we have a percept that anyone, boy or girl, who comes to learn this art form must comply with our method of teaching. We want every student to achieve perfection in this art. If someone is neglectful or just cannot stick to our rules, he just distances himself from the scene. This, I think, Erin recognized well, as she stated in her television interview later.

When we talked about our personal lives she spoke about her four-year- old daughter, her mother and her theater work. It was apparent that these things were a core part of her life. I also told her about my parents: about how my father became engaged in theater and how my mother also worked in theater. We also talked about the 9/11 tragedy in which the World Trade Center collapsed. I had seen that on television but hearing about it from the mouth of a New Yorker was very touching.

It was clear Erin was very much dedicated to her work and that she had left her child and mother to come to a distant land that most of her people had not heard about. This had an important impact to us all, especially about their women. I had gotten first-hand information about the freedom women have in her country. I had learned something about the freedom of women or feminism from novels by Sidney Sheldon and Jackie Collins. To this I had added information from television, magazines and movies.

One day our American friends gave a dinner party at Emasi’s residence. I was invited too. They called it Thanksgiving Dinner. They informed us that Thanksgiving is a major festival in the U.S., and that it was based on a story involving American Indians. They also said that it was a national holiday in U.S that people from all different walks of life celebrate, regardless of caste or creed. They said they no longer have holidays based on religion. Their practice stayed in my mind and I thought that if our government were to follow this too, communalism could be abolished from our society.

Our American friends offered us cranberry sauce and apple juice that they brought all the way from the U.S. Their attitudes gave me a sudden liking for all Americans. They made turkey for us, Western style, something I think nobody here had ever tasted before, though they may have known of it. While we ate, Erin conveyed her desire to send some more students from her school to learn thang-ta and drama in Manipur. I liked the idea too but then she said she didn't think she could get by Somi's security restrictions. She said Somi wouldn't even let her go alone to answer a call of nature!

I think she had good reason to think so because we simply cannot provide security and assist people for as long as a month. But we thought perhaps there might be some other arrangement that might satisfy both sides.

It was now getting a little late and I left early because I had to come back in the morning again.

On the last day at Hula, Erin wore our traditional attire for thang-ta. It consists of a "khudei", a loin cloth; a shirt-resembling the modern T-shirt; wrist guards called "khudang yai"; and shin-guards that we call "khubom yai". The color of attire was mainly black. Together we showed a performance to the spectators that included Oja Devabratra, Emasi, Zette, Somi and some others. Erin impressed everybody as she could follow the movements easily.

It was time for her to say goodbye to Hula. Oja Devabratra gave Erin four cane sticks as a token of memory and so that she could continue practising after she returned to the U.S. She kowtowed to Oja when she received the sticks.

It was November 27; a Saturday morning. Erin was busy packing. I went up to her and gave a shawl and a pen-stand as a gift. I also received a present in return. A friend of mine had brought some people from the local cable TV network to interview her. In that interview, she thanked all the people who helped her during the trip. She gave her warmest regards to all the Ojas of Hula Sindamsang and the students as well who gave her so much cooperation. She also expressed her desire to come back again.

Then came the time to say goodbye. We exchanged addresses and emails. My heart felt so heavy that I could not hide the feelings. I could not hide my eyes from the others present there. I rushed away from the crowd to hide my tear-soaked eyes. The memory of those days, with our American friends in this remote corner of the world will stay with me forever.