The British Toast Rack Society

Karim Ajania
Chairman of the Bored
The British Toast Rack Society

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Karim is a former school teacher and headmaster of a Massachusetts state charter middle school.

He has also taught at New York inner-city schools in Harlem and the South Bronx and taught at schools in Zimbabwe, England, Lithuania, and several other countries. This includes a stint teaching at The Doon School in the lovely hill station of Dehru Dun in northern India, which is the old school of the Indian Prince Jayasinhji Jhala, the Vice Chairman of the Bored.

Karim is Executive Director of The Educationalist which is an international speaker series.

He is also the Founder and Editor of The Brick Project, a multicultural forum for teachers and students, which was the subject of his doctoral thesis at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. He is also the Founder and Director of a middle school program in the San Francisco Bay Area which builds community with children in Africa called Pencils for Africa.

He is also the Co-Founder, together with Noble Peace Prize Recipient Desmond Tutu, and the Editor-in-Chief of the African Peace Journal which is headquartered in Geneva, Switzerland. African Peace Journal is currently working on a series on the plight of African land and boat refugees with the United Nations High Commission for Refugees (UNHCR) in Geneva.

Together with Founder and Director, Prince Jayasinhji Jhala, Karim is Director of The Halvad Revitalization Initiative, which works to reinvigorate a 15th Century citadel in Gujarat, India.

In the great British tradition Karim is also a keen and avid colonizer. Karim oversees a colony of authors and scholars as Editor of the Café Philosophie, a colony of artists and artisans as Editor of Salon de Refusé, and a colony of inventors and engineers as Editor of Frugalis Creativus (‘frugality and creativity’ from Latin) which includes patented education technology applications.

He was born in Nairobi, Kenya and was sent off to school at age 7 to London, England where he attended Chiswick and Bedford Park Preparatory School. After moving back to Africa for several years he returned to London at age 13 to attended Drayton Manor Grammar School in Hanwell.

Karim holds advanced graduate degrees from MIT and from Harvard University.

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Prince Jayasinhji Jhala, Vice Chairman of the Bored 
The British Toast Rack Society

 

A note from Karim Ajania, The Society’s Founder:

Prince Jayasinhji Jhala and I were fellow graduate students together at the Media Lab at MIT where we both received our Master of Science degrees. He now teaches at both Harvard University and Temple University where he is an Associate Professor. As a traditional Hindu, one would expect nothing less than for him to end up at Temple. In his own words…

I am the director of Temple’s graduate and undergraduate tracks in the anthropology of visual communication, and of our visual communication media lab. I have been involved in interpreting culture on film and video for the past thirty years.

I was educated at St. Stephens College, Delhi, India, where I received a BA in English Literature (1968); Massachusetts Institute of Technology, where I received an MVS (1983); and at Harvard University, where I received a PhD (1991).

I have produced, directed, filmed and edited over fifteen well-received ethnographic films which illustrate the cultures of India, the USA and Vietnam and speak to various issues in visual anthropology. My films A Zenana and Tragada Bhavai: A Rural Theater Troupe of Gujarat (1981), Bharvad Predicament and Journey with Ganapati (1983), Forgotten Headhunters and Apatani Sacrifice (1978), Whose Paintings? (1995), Morning with Asch (1997), Conversation with a Collector: Dialogue with a Docent (1998), Close Encounters of No Kind (2002),  ShaktiMa no Veh (2006), The Last Rites of the Honourable Mr. Rai (2009), and Rejuvenating the Land, Uniting the People (2009) have been seen by national and international audiences. Information about several of my films is available from Documentary Educational Resources.

My written publications address issues of art and anthropology, nomadism, religious worship, indigenous interpretations of local culture, ethnographic filmmaking and its reception, photography, Hindu marriage, Rajput ideology and politics and Vietnamese rituals. My research is concerned with the interpretation of culture on various audio, visual and audio-visual media. In addition, I am concerned with visual ethnographers, their biographies and their practice. At the present time I am working on several ethnographic films that address themes of transhumance, Hindu domestic worship, Rajput ideology and biography. Much of this material has been gathered and structured in collaborations with Temple graduate students and undergraduate students in field research and media lab participation in the USA, India and Vietnam, and in collaboration with individuals and institutions in these countries.

Mission Statement
The mission of The British Toast Rack Society is to keenly and studiously observe toast racks.

A personal message from our president

‘Welcome’, I suppose, to The British Toast Rack Society.

The founder of The British Toast Rack Society, Karim Ajania, has modeled it upon The British Snail-Watching Society originally founded by renowned US diplomat-journalist and compleat conchophilist, Peter J. Henniker-Heaton.

Click here to read the Time Magazine article about Peter J. Henniker-Heaton’s British Snail-Watching Society.

Our British Toast Rack Society founder, Mr. Ajania, seems to think that observing toast racks is on a par with observing snails. Well, I am not so sure about that.

I have often observed snails and find them far more riveting than toast racks. Snails, at least, move…

Toast racks, well, they just sit there, don’t they? Motionless. Inanimate. Boring. I don’t know about you but I find toast racks spectacularly boring. There are few activities more boring than to “keenly and studiously observe” a toast rack. Consequently, in my capacity as president I have duly delegated the observance of toast racks to the bored.

Personally, I would much rather go fishing than observe toast racks.

Rory Veevers-Carter, our President

Click here to read an article by The British Toast Rack Society president entitled ‘The Toast Master‘.

Professor Robert Calder, Member of the Bored 

Emeritus Professor of English of the University of Saskatchewan, Robert Calder is the author and editor of ten books. Among his volumes published internationally are W. Somerset Maugham and the Quest for Freedom (Heinemann, UK, 1972; Doubleday, USA; Hokuseido Press, Tokyo) and Willie: The Life of W. Somerset Maugham (Heinemann, UK, 1989; St. Martin’s Press, USA; Interdialect, Russia). The latter won the 1989 Governor General’s Literary Award for Non-Fiction in Canada. He has also written the introductions and explanatory notes to four Maugham novels – Of Human BondageThe Moon and SixpenceThe Magician, and Mrs Craddock – for the New York Penguin Classics series.

Professor Calder is also the author of Beware the British Serpent: The Role of Writers in British Propaganda in the United States, 1939-1945 (2004), for which he won two Saskatchewan Book Awards, and A Richer Dust: Family, Memory and the Second World War (2004). For these books and numerous articles, essays, and reviews, Calder was given the University of Saskatchewan’s Distinguished Researcher Award in 2005.

He continues to publish eclectically, working on a book about the first contact between the Maya and the Spanish in sixteenth-century Yucatán, and researching a book about film adaptations of the works of W. Somerset Maugham.

Click here to read Professor Calder’s interview entitled Reflections on the Two Fisherman.

Marisa Marsey, Member of the Bored 

Marisa’s love affair with food started early in her hometown of Cinnaminson, New Jersey (U.S.), when, at 11 months, she walked for a Mounds bar. She went on to graduate from Georgetown University with a double major in Marketing and International Management (spending her junior year abroad at Stichting Nijenrode, The Netherlands School of Business, where she had the great fortune of being classmates with the Society’s founder, Karim) and launched her career in the fashion industry in New York City. She then heeded the siren call of the sea and moved to Virginia Beach, Virginia, where she currently resides with her husband Steve, her personal boulanger.

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Marisa travels frequently, has broken bread with bedouins in desert tents and feasted with royals on castle grounds.

A recruiter for Johnson & Wales University, she has written about food and travel for two decades in Port Folio Weekly (originally under the nom de plume Alma Cianelli), the Virginian-Pilot, VEER, Gayot dot com (Guide to the Good Life) and other publications. Wolfgang Puck, Patrick O’Connell, Edna Lewis, and Jean-Louis Palladin are among the top chefs she has interviewed. She has thrice been recognized by the Virginia Press Association for critical, feature writing and food writing. Click here to read Marisa Marsey’s ‘Toast Rack Ode.

Rick Fitzgerald, Member of the Bored

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Rick (Richard Patrick) Fitzgerald has been a school of head of three very different independent schools and one unique charter school. He currently serves as Associate Dean at the School of Design at the University of Pennsylvania where he communes daily with the ghosts of Louis Kahn, Ian McHarg, Julian Abele, Ed Bacon, Ann Tyng, and Frank Furness.

James Capon, Member of the Bored 

Englishman James Capon brings a much needed commercial mind to The British Toast Rack Society.

After a successful career in advertising with McCann Erickson in various countries, he switched sides and became Marketing Manager for Levi’s jeans, first in Germany and then for Europe. Under his management, the ad agency BBH were appointed and they successfully developed the Launderette commercial – voted best TV commercial of the 80’s by the Art Directors Club.

He went on to become President of the US division of Levi’s and of their international casual clothing line, Dockers.

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An acknowledged expert in the field of neuromarketing and communication with an MBA from the Solvay Business School in Brussels, he considers himself European first and an Englishman second. (But not when it comes to toast racks. There his taste is very traditional, his own personal specimen being made of porcelain and pinkish in color). He is proud of being a founder member of The Brick Project, an educational project which was the subject of Karim’s doctoral thesis at Harvard, and a founder member of gapdaemon.com which all purport to help young people’s international cultural dialogue but in reality promote world peace.

Anne Cutler, Member of the Bored

Anne Cutler is British and was born in British East Africa during the Second World War.

A school teacher by profession, Anne taught at Hospital Hill School in Nairobi, Kenya.

To read about Anne’s experiences growing up in Kenya and teaching school in Nairobi, kindly click on this article entitled A School in Kenya.

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School Teacher Anne Cutler and students in Nairobi, 1970′s

Professor Richard Gombrich, Member of the Bored

Professor Richard Gombrich was born in London just prior to the second World War.

His father, Sir Ernst Gombrich, was an historian whose book - The Story of Arthas been translated into more than 30 languages and made the family fortune.

After two years of compulsory military service, spent mostly in Germany, he progressed from St. Paul’s School to Magdalen College, Oxford. Half way through his four-year course he changed from Classics (Latin and Greek) to Oriental Languages – Sanskrit and Pali.

In 1961, he won a Harkness Fellowship to Harvard University where he received a masters in Sanskrit literature. However, his interest in Buddhism was even greater than that in Sanskrit, and he wrote his Oxford doctoral thesis on the practice of Buddhism in Sri Lanka. For this he studied some anthropology and did a year’s fieldwork in a Sinhalese village.

At Oxford, Richard worked as a University Lecturer until 1976, and then was chosen as the Boden Professor of Sanskrit. With this went a Fellowship in Balliol College. Richard held office in the Pali Text Society for about 15 years, ending as its President. He is also President of the UK Association of Buddhist Studies, and an honorary life member of the International Association of Buddhist Studies. He also founded the Oxford Centre for Buddhist Studies and is the editor of its Journal.

Click here to read Professor Gombrich’s interview (Buddha’s Thoughts) with the founder of The Society.

The Hon. Lady Arabella Plumer-Erskine, Member of the Bored

Lady Plumer-Erskine

The Hon. Lady Arabella Plumer-Erskine belongs to generations of toast rack deployers. She is a descendent of 19th Century theatre producer Jane Plumer-Erskine (1846 – 1923).

Lady Jane deployed toast racks at breakfast at Inveraray Castle with her husband, Lord Archibald, the 9th Duke of Argyll. Lady Arabella family deploy toast racks at breakfast at their country estate in Sussex, where she churns her own butter and makes strawberry jam.

At left, a portrait of Lady Jane by the painter James Abbott McNeill Whistler. At right, is the official Plumer-Erskine family coat-of-arms:

Click here for Lady Plumer-Erskine’s article, Downton Abbey’s New Toaster.

Jeremy Geidt, Chairman of the Bored Emeritus

Jeremy was Senior Actor at the American Repertory Theatre at Harvard (A.R.T.), and founding member of the Yale Repertory Theatre and A.R.T.

Jeremy was in more than 40 productions at Yale (including The Seagull). At the A.R.T. He has been in over 100 productions including The Seagull (three turns as Sorin), Julius Caesar, Three Sisters, The Onion Cellar, Major Barbara (Undershaft), Heartbreak House (Shotover), A Midsummer Night’s Dream (Quince four times, Snug once), Henry IV (Falstaff), Twelfth Night (Toby Belch), The Caretaker (Davies), The Homecoming (Max), Loot (Truscott), Man and Superman (Mendoza/Devil), Waiting for Godot (Vladimir), The Threepenny Opera (Peacham/Petey), Ivanov (Lebedev), Three Sisters (Chebutkin), Buried Child (Dodge), The Cherry Orchard (Gaev) and The King Stag (Pantelone).

Jeremy taught at Harvard College. He also taught Shakespeare in India at the Doon School for The Brick Project.

He was trained at the Old Vic Theatre School and subsequently taught there. He acted at the Old Vic, Young Vic, The Royal Court, in the West End, in films and television and has been hosting his own show “The Caravan” for the BBC for five years. He came to the U.S. with the satirical revue The Establishment and acted on and off Broadway, at the Stratford Shakespeare Festival and at the Lincoln Center Festival. Jeremy received the Elliot Norton Award for Outstanding Boston Actor and the Jason Robards Award for Dedication to the Theatre.

Jeremy was educated at the same school in England, Wellington College, as our current Chairman, Alasdair Ogilvy.

Click here to read the Society founder’s tribute to our Chairman of the Bored Emeritus, Jeremy Geidt