Friday, March 30, 2007

The Million Dollar Homepage - Own a piece of internet history!

Read about the guy named Alex Tew who made a million dollar but putting up a page with a million pixels and asked companies to buy 100 pixels at a time. All because he is too lazy to work and needed money to go to college. And, and, his socks had holes and stank.The Million Dollar Homepage - Own a piece of internet history!

Must say, nice idea though!

Thursday, March 29, 2007

Surely, this isn't cricket!

Been a bit busy with work and the Cricket World Cup. So no blog posts the last few days. Sorry, and all that. There is no excuse for India’s sorry performance, I think. Disgusting. What’s this I feel about our team, one of the most lionized, wined, and spoiled teams ever in any sport? Mama’s boys not fit for the big world of competitive sport, petulant, conscious of themselves and emotional in the extreme. To this add “unprofessional.”

What’s wrong with cricket is what’s wrong with India. Too many opinionated people interfering, too many ego trips, in short, too many prima donnas. Look at Sachin, Saurav, Dravid on the field. They don’t seem to be speaking to each other. Even the Bangla Desh “minnows” looked more like a cohesive team, with something called “team spirit.” Now, our boys would ask, what’s that? They looked disoriented with their designer glasses, hairdos and their auras. Nothing looked right with the Sri Lankans, nothing ever looked right against the Bangla Deshis. Defeat was written on their faces.

Is it ethical to have a bunch highly paid losers hold the country to ransom, become subject of hours of wasted discussions? Is it ethical to make them brand ambassadors to promote products? Our performance just proves that it isn’t. And those disappointed geezers such as yours truly, wallowing in the mire of their defeat, even killing themselves. Surely we take cricket too seriously.

Friday, March 23, 2007

Gabriel García Márquez Shuns Birthday to Meet with Fidel!

Fidel Castro, the ailing Cuban leader, according to the article below was out of his sick bed for a long walk and reportedly was back to his old self, passionately discussing Latin American politics and global warming. The other surprise was his companion: Gabriel García Márquez, the Nobel prize-winning novelist who vanished last week when the literary world wanted to celebrate his 80th birthday." One a revolutionary writer, and the other a revolutionary leader, interesting. Read more this article

Saturday, March 17, 2007

THE SHRINKING ETHICAL WORLD

I must write about this… I think… it has been bothering me for some time.

Jeremy Harding at The Nation, in a review about “Same Time” a collection of posthumous writings by Susan Sontag writes:

“The picture she paints is extraordinarily bleak. Far from widening our horizons, the spread of information technology has shrunk our "ethical" world to the size of a mouse hole, while the grandeur of "modernity"–which she'd earlier identified as Al Qaeda's principal target–has been hollowed out by consumerism, voyeurism, "fantasies of Eros and violence" and "demagogic appeals to cultural democracy that accompany…the ever-tightening grip of plutocratic capitalism." If fiction has a duty to "enlarge and complicate," she can't see it surviving for much longer. And a world without literature–"criticism of one's own reality"–is sure to lose what's left of its moral bearings.”

Far from widening our horizons, the spread of information technology has shrunk our “ethical” world to the size of a mouse hole. This is what I feel is a truism in today’s world. Living and working in the world of information technology I feel it even more, the frustration of the common alienated man. For example peruse the following:

I have been trying for a home improvement loan with a big banking group (my house in Artist Village needs immediate repairs) and I was told that since I live in CBD Belapur I don’t have a chance as the entire area has been blacklisted. A friend (a police inspector) tells me that it is impossible to get a loan if you are a policeman, lawyer, writer or an artist (the much despised dregs of society, I guess). He got a loan, through an agent paying a two per cent commission. I am aghast. Is it some Nazi propaganda and do I live in some Jewish Ghetto to be treated this way?

Today I went to that very bank. My ATM debit card has been retained by the ATM machine one day, without any warning of any sort. I went to the bank to enquire and was told I have to make a fresh application for an ATM card. I did.

It’s now more than two months and I still haven’t got my ATM card. I can neither withdraw my money, nor perform remote operations at ATMs. I went there to enquire.

“Your card hasn’t been deactivated, that’s the problem.”

“But I gave you an application for a new card, so naturally they should deactivate it.”

“No, they didn’t, they must have rejected your application because you didn’t deactivate it.”

“Then why didn’t they get back to me saying my application has been rejected? Why didn’t your call center that pesters me for instant loans I don’t want give me a call and let me know?”

She is silent. I guess I know how helpless she is. With their call centers and Customer Relationship Management centers they are helpless when it comes to finer details like this. I give her an earful, I rant, and I couldn’t help it.

What Jermy Harding refers to as “information technology has shrunk our "ethical" world to the size of a mouse hole” is true and it’s happening. She and I know it is unethical but do the men who program their information systems to handle millions of queries know this? No. What if I feel ignored, let down, depressed that I am not getting a loan, or, access to my own funds?

The questions Jermy Harding raises about “ethical world” and a “moral world” is a fading dreaming, the more I see literature giving into sensationalization I become sceptical about whether literature can any longer act as the firm critic of society, bring it back to it “ethical” moorings.

Here I will end my rant, because there is no point going on. I have made my point. Or, have I?

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Warren Buffet's riches!


This is the website ofBERKSHIRE HATHAWAY INC., Warren Buffet's company's website. Hmm... looking at it one would never imagine you are looking at the website of a man who is the second richest man in the world with assets worth $ 52 billion.

That's because according to this article Buffet is known for his unpretentious and frugal lifestyle and draws an annual salary of $ 100,000. Paul Getty, one of the richest men in the world used to live in hotel rooms, and once installed a pay phone in his house. Apparently the staff were so awed to be in the richest man's house that they began calling up cousin's step-mother's sister's children spread around the world.

Strange are the ways of rich men.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Lost Souls in the Sunset!

A glorious sunset at Ganpatipule, one of Maharashtra's many undiscovered beaches, where the sand is a powdery white and the sea is a blueish-green. Wait to read my full-fledged article, right here on my blog.
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Thursday, March 08, 2007

Another Fairy Tale Wedding?

The couple has had a fairy tale church wedding. There is Bollywood style dancing, there is Elton John singing "Your Song." "It's a little bit funny, this feeling inside," goes the lyrics of an all too familiar song, my favorite. Yes, love is a bit funny feeling. He is married and divorced and so is she. The Bollywood dancing, which means hip thrusting and hip wiggling, has been perfected over days of practice and it seems they carried it off. A two million pound wedding is in the grind. Hope over experience, did you say?

The couple and their hundred cohorts arrive in India and are picked up by the general manager of number one hotel chain in India at the airport. They go to the hotel, which will also cater to the party thrown by a socialite. It is a question of prestige, you see.

An industrial big wig throws a party on his yacht, and the gitterati attend. The chatterati chatters. The papers, the channels are full of it. She is in a mini showing a lot of leg, he is the, as always, the flamboyant playboy.

They are wined and dined by industrialists, liquor tycoons, and movie moghuls. Socialites with nothing much to do over the weekend, considering all other events pale in insignificance compared to this one, hanker to be invited. They want to be seen, photographed, need to get their mugs on page three of every newspapers. They aren't anybody in high society otherwise.

Some guy named Arun Nayar is marrying a lass named Liz Hurley. He owns a software company and she models for Estee Lauder, owns a clothing line and is an actress. They say it is a two million pound wedding, around 17 crores (which is roughly the amount spent on women's health in India). The coverage of the wedding was contracted to Hello Magazine for a reported pound two to five million. Hello?

Traffic is stopped at a socialite and her industrialist husband's bungalow on the beachfront where they are arranging a party for the couple who have taken the vows to look after each other till death do them part. Oh, really? People arrive in hordes to gawp at the tamasha. They are people like you and me. Neighbors, again people like you and me, complain. An illegal encroachment is made into the beach, and there are exhortations to get them demolished. The municipality is no respecter of socialites and they demolish the structure.

Then there is the party of parties in a palace, attended by the country's top elite, the real movers and shakes, even politicians. Wine will flow, dances will be danced, hips will gyrate to "hips don't lie," and Elton John (Ah, my favorite singer, do you have to be a part of this jamboree, this orgy?) will sing, "Crocodile Rock," may be, or, will it be, "Rocket Man." That song seems apt.

Do people make that kind of profits on their wedding? What if Liz re-marries? Does she get to make that kind of money once again? Dour thoughts, eh?

Come to think of it how can the media sink so low? A magazine sponsors the wedding cost for the chance to cover it? Where are all those hyped ideals of responsible journalism, if what you are doing is journalism at all?

Hundreds of journalists and photographers, staff members of publications (paid from subscribers' money), are at this very minute wasting their time at the gates of these celebrities while they should be reporting on famines, global warming and farmers killing themselves in India. What a waste this is Meester Arun Nayar? Instead why didn't you persuade your glamorous wife Meez Hurley soon to be Missus Nayar to spend that pound two million to give electricity to an Indian village, or, give the poor peasants displaced by the huge dams on the Narmada river a decent livelihood?

Instead you wasted it all on the already famous because you wanted the media to be full of your romantic relationship? How cruel, how confused can you be? Why didn't you persuade the champagne set in Bombay and Jodhpur to give you their ill-gotten wealth and spend it on the poor in the slums you passed on your way to the airport. Ah, well, you won't believe this: they don't even have a place to shit every morning.

And did you realize where these celebrity weddings are going? What about Britney and her husband? What about Imran and Jemima who are your friends? Will it last? I give you one year to prove it does. After all the subscribers of Hello magazine have paid for it. Hello? Are you listening?

And for all those die hard critics of mine who like to thumb their nose at my blogposts, I am raving because I don't have a mustard seed of a chance to be invited to the wedding, and it left me dizzy, something like the kick one gets after too much champagne. It goes to the brain so smoothly that one doesn't realize one is drunk. Then I muse about the extent to which this country has been invaded by this empty celebrity culture: reality shows, Miss this and that, celebrity endorsements, a purposeless media over-hyping everything celebrities do, and the hungry media actually paying to cover an event (while some media do it the other way over here), as if they have been bankrut of ideas.

Sunday, March 04, 2007

Panorama view of Victoria Terminus (click on picture for an enlarged view)

This is my first panorama photograph of the amazingly beautiful Victoria Terminus. You can see the architectural beauty of British builders and architects, splendidly displayed in the dome, the towers, and arches. The architecture is Victorian Gothic but has many permutations exists with Indian styles, especially the arches. There are gargoyles, frescoes, cornices, and beautiful Mughal style windows everywhere. It was crafted by architect Fredrick William Stevens in 1887-1888. It is not one genre of architecture, but a mixture of many. The imposing central dome had Queen Victoria's statue, which was replaced by something of no certain provenance.
My brother-in-law used to work here and I have memories of visiting him in a cavernous hall with arched ceilings, that leaked during monsoon. The roof is paved with tiles and being very old, I don't remeber how old, the structure is succeptible to water seepage during rains. Extensive renovation has been carried out recently.

The structure is made from sandstone imported from Rajasthan and the workers who toiled on the structure were mainly Indian. Go here to read more about Victorial Terminus' history. This was clicked on my Nikon Coolpix L3 using its Panorama maker interface and put together using Arcsoft's Panorama Maker.
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Thursday, March 01, 2007

Terrorist or Freedom Fighter? How a Moderator was Terrorised.

How does the world see us? Can a panel member talk back to the discussion moderator? Can anyone be racist here in our own country, our own city? All this struck me during the discussion on “Terrorist or Freedom Fighter.” The media, or, whatever media covered this event, of course, dumbed down the play of emotions that were let loose in this discussion of the Kitab Festival.

In the panel were Peter Gordon, John Kampfner, Fatima Bhutto (writer), Philip Hensher (writer) and George Brock, and wielding the moderator’s mike was journalist Indrani Bagchi. The discussion veered to how stated sponsored terrorism or “Crime against humanity” was termed “strategic combat” “military force” “campaign” etc and terror acts by people acting in concert for their alleged freedom was termed “bomb attack” “threat” “plot” etc. A matter of semantics but important nonetheless to the discussion.

Somewhere down the line Indrani Bagchi mentioned that Britain had more potential Islamic fundamentalists than any other country in Europe. Philip Hershner jumped to the defense of his country and said where she had heard or read this. Immediately he was joined by Fatima Bhutto, while Indrani (seated on the floor of the dais) tried to valiantly defend her point. Peter, an American, and George were meaningfully silent. Indrani from lower down, or, from the orchestra pit so to speak, realized she was a minority of one against the majority of four imposingly seated experts on proper seats and a table, all a bit superior about their colour and what not.

Goodness gracious me, the tension could be cut with a knife at that point while Philip Hershner glared at Indrani and went into an ill-humoured sulk – which he maintained through most of the seminar - Indrani tried to stick to her statement and made valiant efforts to justify it. Fatima Bhutto meanwhile went into the defense of Her Majesty’s Kingdom, her country of adoption. I could almost see a replay of my Jeddah experience where I worked with a British multinational. The Brits treated the Pakistanis as bonafide Brits while Indians were kept at arms length as if they were a treacherous lot.

Oh, my God! I screamed silently. Doesn’t this smack of racism and parochialism combined, here in our own soil? Don’t we Indians have any friends left in the world? This is open hostility; can’t people be more accommodating in a public discussion at least? Can a moderator be talked back to like this? Or is this pugnacity what characterizes international discussion?

It was left to an NRI type with a blackberry to jump to the rescue of Indrani as most in the audience didn’t even recognize that there was a subtle battle taking place on stage. NRIs are familiar with such battles as they live with it all the time. He “googled” he said. And the bright guy mercifully read out one report that stated that yes indeed Indrani was probably, well, um, right. I sighed. And he said that there were a thousand documents to prove that he was right.

“Can you prove this is not the case? I mean, provide documents like a thousand search results,” he said waving his blackberry.

Given this barrage of statistics the Brits and their collaborators were shut up rather nicely.

But what exactly did this smart and tech-savvy Indian google, is anybody’s guess. If I google for the search phrase “fundamentalism high in UK” I will have millions of references thrown up which would even include “fundamentalism not high in UK.” Do the Brits know this? Did they even suspect? I guess not.

Hahahaha

They didn’t. They assumed that Indians being the computer savvy, geeky, brainy techno-wizards they were known to be, the man was right. They kept quiet. Thank God for Blackberries and their inventors. Come to think of it, “It (The Blackberry) must have been invented by an Indian,” which is the line of thinking followed by Prince Charles when he was embroiled in the scandal of his wife’s death.