Thursday, November 29, 2007

Genius in Death and Shakira’s Hips Don’t Lie

After Jaron Lanier and “Digital Maoism” I need a lighter subject to hyperventilate on. Lanier is seen as some kind of oracle in the digital world, because he is a computer guru, a CEO, a performer, a musician and somebody said, “Fifty years from now Lanier will be seen as the wise man who showed us the direction to proceed. But, right now, we don’t know we have a genius in our midst.” (I am making this up, because I can’t remember the exact words.) That’s what genius is, we don’t know when literary and other geniuses are in our midst, we only realize when they have faded into the night.

Take for example: Jim Morison, John Lennon, Elvis, Jimi Hendrix, etc. I would have very much liked to see these geniuses in their fifties, a little wrinkled, a bit jaded, trying to ape their adrenaline-sloshed selves of youth. Imagine Jim Morison doing his stage antics at age fifty, or, Lennon singing his elegant compositions in a rheumy voice, or Elvis thrusting his arthritic pelvis. Why did they have to go and die of drug overdoses and other obsessions? They disappointed their fans in death!

The bitch goddess success is a vile female indeed. She first makes you pant after her, tongue out, drool oozing out of lip corners, and then she makes love to you to the extremes. So, after she bestows her favors, you are a trembling bundle of nerves, cornered, and unable to satisfy the mistress who makes too many demands.

Sorry, folks, hehe, I got carried away!

I call a woman friend of mine and imagine what I hear on her mobile phone:

“Oh baby when you talk like that
You make a woman go mad
So be wise and keep on
Reading the signs of my body

“And I'm on tonight
You know my hips don't lie
And I'm starting to feel it's right
All the attraction, the tension
Don't you see baby, this is perfection”

Oh, God! I am glad I didn’t connect. (Draws sign of the cross!) Guess I would have sounded like a blubbering idiot after that sexy number by Shakira.

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Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Edge; Digital Maoism: The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism

Here's more about what Jaron Lanier referred to "Digital Maoism" (The Hazards of the New Online Collectivism. I guess the seeds have been sown by the success of Yahoo and Google. Consider this: a group of teenagers start a directory from their garage and become millionaires overnight. This has corporates panting with tongues out like dobermans, ready to jump into the collectivist philosopy. The management gurus suggests that what you don't like to do - such as attending calls, filling forms, in short grunge work - can be outsourced to low-paid people in developing countries, as a way of conserving resources. What happens? Outsourcing is born and there are even BPOs around every street corner in far away Lucknow. Excerpts:

"What we are witnessing today is the alarming rise of the fallacy of the infallible collective. Numerous elite organizations have been swept off their feet by the idea. They are inspired by the rise of the Wikipedia, by the wealth of Google, and by the rush of entrepreneurs to be the most Meta. Government agencies, top corporate planning departments, and major universities have all gotten the bug.

"As a consultant, I used to be asked to test an idea or propose a new one to solve a problem. In the last couple of years I've often been asked to work quite differently. You might find me and the other consultants filling out survey forms or tweaking edits to a collective essay. I'm saying and doing much less than I used to, even though I'm still being paid the same amount. Maybe I shouldn't complain, but the actions of big institutions do matter, and it's time to speak out against the collectivity fad that is upon us. It's not hard to see why the fallacy of collectivism has become so popular in big organizations: If the principle is correct, then individuals should not be required to take on risks or responsibilities. We live in times of tremendous uncertainties coupled with infinite liability phobia, and we must function within institutions that are loyal to no executive...."

That's what I mean. What Lanier refers as collectivism is being implemented in outsourcing units throughout the world. The idea is to farm out work to a collective, with the result that quality and accountability, not to speak of responsibility becomes a casualty. Once the work has been outsourced, the outsourced worker is not loyal to the originator of the outsourcing work. He only works according to the whims of the executive above him, who is motivated only by his own profitability. Go read the article above.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason, "Digital Maoism," etcetera, etcetera

Interesting article by Michael Gorman on the Britannica Blog (Web 2.0: The Sleep of Reason). When everyone is talking Web 2.0, I was curious to learn what this earth-shaking new technology is going to be. I don't find answers anywhere. Articles online just confuse and befuddle poor me, instead of giving information about what this new technology would entail, there's a lot of drivel about what its impact would be. Gorman has a point in that earlier the world had depended on individual experts (you know,the learned professorial types) whose findings were published in scholarly journals and books, which had editors, fact-checkers, proof-readers, etc. who acted as the gatekeepers to knowledge and learning. Let's call this the scientific method of disseminating learning.

No longer! In the wired world the Internet is acting on collective information gathering, and publishing online in media such as Wikipedia. Anyone can post/edit an article on Wikipedia as if he'she is an authority on the subject. Gorman quotes Jaron Lanier who called this "digital Maoism," or the communist idea of collectivism. But didn't collectivism fail? It must be recollected that Mao led his peasants to revolution promising them something as revolutionary as Web 2.0, but look how China has turned to capitalism to bale it out of crushing poverty. Excerpts from Gorman's article:

"Expertise and high standards in scholarship and publishing are certainly translatable into the digital age, but there are many obstacles blocking the transition. One chief obstacle is the notion that Jaron Lanier has called “digital Maoism” (in his May 2006 essay of that name on the Edge website). He defines this “new online collectivism” as “nothing less than a resurgence of the idea that the collective is all-wise, that it is desirable to have influence concentrated in a bottleneck that can channel the collective with the most verity and force.” This “wisdom of the crowds” and “hive mind” mentality is a direct assault on the tradition of individualism in scholarship that has been paramount in Western societies at least since the Renaissance and, before then, can be seen in the Church Fathers and the Greek philosophers, among others. Digital Maoism is an unholy brew made up of the digital utopianism that hailed the Internet as the second coming of Haight-Ashbury — everyone’s tripping and it’s all free; pop sociology derived from misreading books such as James Surowiecki’s 2004 The Wisdom of Crowds: Why the Many are Smarter Than the Few and How Collective Wisdom Shapes Business, Economies, Societies, and Nations; a desire to...."

I agree with Gorman that when attempt is made to distill wisdom through the funnel of collectivism - as for example in the Wikipedia - it is difficult to prove the expertise of the person who is writing it, and one doesn't know if one's leg is being pulled. For example Jaron Lanier mentions that his Wikipedia entry identifies him as a film maker though he has made one unsuccessful documentary long ago. As another book argues, the gatekeepers are not the editors at the publishing end of knowledge and wisdom but at the receiving end, i.e., the readers. That's what we are witnessing of late.

Publishing companies are no longer the gate-keepers of what should be published. They are more worried about the business of selling books, rather than looking at the scientific dissemination of organizing learning, knowledge or literature. The onus of doing all the aforementioned now rests with literary agents, who are/were: copyright lawyers, graduate school dropouts, failed writers/editors, and the like. And they have very little time to vett the huge quantities of literature they get because they are running after the few celebrities who are already authors. Get the point? Grumble, mumble! Gorman, I am with you on this!

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Political Labels: Are a You Right-Wing or a Left-Wing?

I didn't know it till now that the political "Right" and "Left" comes in a wide array of ideological differences until I read this article on the Britannica blog (Political Labels).

"Various other labels have been introduced into the political sphere from time to time, but they tend only to confuse. Thus, for example, the word “liberal,” which originally arose in English politics and was meant to be the same as “left.” But then the particular ideas that comprised liberalism, such things as personal liberty, free markets, and limited government, came to America and gradually became identified with “right.” Then some people in one party that liked to think of itself as right started shouting “Liberal! Boo!” at people in the other party who were generally thought to be “left.” Now nobody knows what “liberal” means but everybody is quite sure he doesn’t want to be thought one."

In India we are used to labeling the Hindutva brigade as the "Right" and the Communists as "Left" and the Congress as the "Centrist." However, there are major differences in their interpretation in the US, UK, and France. To someone as apolitical as me (I never voted except once or twice), it all sounds like a lot of Greek mumbo-jumbo.

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Monday, November 26, 2007

What Do People Search Most in Wikipedia?

Are people obsessed with sex or what? The following is the ranking of the phrases searched on Wikipedia. As a matter of fact, it is a reflection of what the world is coming to, or already has come to. Comments below in red are mine.

Of the fifty odd phrases listed below, five refer to sex (10 per cent isn’t a small figure, which shows people are thinking of sex, um, at least 10 per cent of the time. Yes, if they think about it, they would search for it online, wouldn’t they?). Next in the list is Harry Potter, the boy wizard, and then Naruto, the Japanese cartoon Ninja. The rest are all computer games, rappers, or, WWF. And the whole gamut of writing, reading, criticism, journalism, blogging, reportage and literature doesn’t even find a mention within the top fifty? What a shame!

So what people are looking online are crap and crassness. But I hadn’t imagined in my wildest dreams that the results would be so depraved.

1. Main Page
2. Wiki
3. Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows [Such adulation for a practitioner of the occult?]
4. Naruto [comic book hero: Manga Comics]
5. Guitar Hero III: Legends of Rock [computer game]
6. Wikipedia [of course!]
7. United States [of course!]
8. Deaths in 2007
9. Heroes [TV series]
10. Transformers (film) [science fiction film]
11. Halo 3 [computer game]
12. Harry Potter [again?]
13. Vanessa Anne Hudgens [actress]
14. Luciano Pavarotti [opera singer who died]
15. Hypertext Transfer Protocol
16. Bleach (manga) [comics again?]
17. List of sex positions [sex obsession!]
18. Sex [why below sex positions?]
19. 50 Cent [rap singer]
20. World War II
21. World Wrestling Entertainment [stage-managed wrestling]
22. YouTube
23. America's Next Top Model
24. Akatsuki (Naruto) [comic book character]
25. September 11, 2001 attacks [terror attack on Twin Tower, NY]
26. Adolf Hitler [Man who killed 6 million people to satisfy his ego]
7. Britney Spears [saw her on Jay Leno Show. Absolutely brain dead!]
28. Kanye West [rapper]
29. Masturbation [uh oh!]
30. New York City
31. The Simpsons [cartoon character, again?]
32. WWE SmackDown vs. Raw 2008 [stage managed wrestling]
33. Sexual intercourse [sex obsession, redux]
34. Graduation (album)
35. Family Guy [television series]
36. Wii
37. PlayStation 3 [computer game]
38. Halloween
39. MySpace [social networking]
40. United Kingdom
41. Xbox 360 [game]
42. Germany
43. Zac Efron [American actor]
44. Anal sex [just before India?]
45. India
46. List of Naruto: Shippūden episodes
47. List of Naruto characters
48. World Wrestling Entertainment roster
49. France
50. Curtis (50 Cent album)
51. List of Konoha ninja
52. Lil Wayne [rapper]
53. Eminem [rapper, singer and songwriter]
54. World War I

Hat tips: Amit Varma of Indiauncut.

Friday, November 23, 2007

Bombay Fort, Redux

Someone, more worthy than this blogger said change is the only constant. Yes, it is. And how things change, but still remain the same. When you walk down a familiar street and see that your favorite cinema has closed, another cinema has become a multiplex (the sort with fast food joints), your biryani joint now houses the Café Coffee Day outlet, you get a funny feeling, as if life has passed you by, and you have become something of an old relic.

Exactly the same feeling came over me when I visited Bombay’s Fort area where I started working a neophyte in 1980. The Asiatic library has a new coat of paint, and looks, sort of jaunty. But this notice jars, “In this library talking, eating, sleeping and smoking strictly prohibited.” Here’s another one, “Talking and laughing strictly prohibited.” Looks like we are in the era of prohibition. Times were when I used to sit on its narrow reading tables with a wooden screen between me and my neighbor. The screen is still there but the aura has changed. There are the usual newspaper junkies reading newspaper after newspaper standing in the newspaper section.

Sterling cinema is now a multiplex. The Café Noor where I used to enjoy my biryanis houses the Café Coffee Day outlet. Opposite it, Empire Restaurant is now a big Mac complete with Ronnie seated leg over leg. Sterling is where I whetted my appetite for movies right from the Beatles and Elvis movies in morning shows of the seventies, to the horror (Omen, Exorcist) and musical movies (how can I forget: Flash Dance, Grease, My Fair Lady, Sound of Music) of the eighties. The steps of Sterling were where the cool crowd of Bombay met then, and still is, except that two ugly dividers now divide it into gullies to control the booking crowd. The girls were beautiful then; don’t know in which corner of the world they are now. New Empire beside it has become decrepit and is going to seed. Would someone do something? This is where I saw unforgettable movies like Friends, Hustle, Chinatown, etc, memory fails me.

One restaurant has not changed, and I like it for it. Its survival is legendary, the sort of South Indian zeal that made Udupi hotels a rage in Bombay. Their menu is also the same: vegetable biryani, idli, dosa, shahi biryani, chole puri, etc. What’s odd is when I look out I see a tall, well-built man banging his head against the wall and laughing. Now that’s something new. The city frustrates! My friend Mahmood still runs his camera shop, but he has a shop instead of a roadside wooden box.

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Thursday, November 22, 2007

My Latest Short Story - The Cobbler

Raman sat on a small wooden bench in the tiny hovel while the cobbler was replacing the soles of his shoes. His footwear tended to chafe fast and this one had developed cracks, and the sides had given way to expose socks. He had used the pair for close to ten years, and it was full of stitches and leather patches. He decided it was time to give it new soles, in which case it would last another five years. This man was his favorite cobbler, sitting by the intersection of the two main roads of Belapur, and he opened early and closed late. The other cobblers in the locality were all lazy and opened at 10 a.m. and closed at 6 p.m. for their nightly drink of bewda.

On previous occasions their exchanges had revealed that he was from Uttar Pradesh, and he was a farmer too. Twice every year he would go to his village to look after his crop.

“Bhai-saab Make it majbooth, so that it will last me a life time,” Raman said to the cobbler.

“Yes I will.”

Go here to read "The Cobbler" on my Short Story Blog.

Uses and Abuses of the Word "Ass"

I am feeling a bit churlish today, so a light note on the abusage of Hindi, my national language. More refined readers of this blog may please read thus far and move on to other posts below.

I concede with head bowed and a diffident smirk that the “ass” is the most abused word in the world. In English I don’t know any insults except the following:

Asshole

Nice Ass (which is praise not an insult)

Ass Licker

Ass Kisser

But Hindi is a more potent language for insults and invective, and the following are some of the profanities that come to mind:

Gand masti – mischief

Gand ungli – to do "gand ungli" means to disrupt something, or throw a spanner in the works

Gand fati – to be afraid of something

Gand pe lath – to be rejected by some one, especially a girl

Gand mein lxxx – too profane for this blog

Gandu – too profane for this blog

Gand mein charbi – to be rash and take too many risks

Gand mein keeda – same as above

I know there are more, which I am not aware of. Do leave a comment. In fact, any and every insult in Hindi begins and ends with Gand (no pun intended).

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Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Who Would You Trust for News? Newspaper or Blog?

Came across this interesting discussion on longbets, recently, which made me sit up and take note (ulterior motive: I like trumpeting about the virtues of blogging). Dave Winer observed that in a Google search of five keywords or phrases representing the top five news stories of 2007, blogs written by rank amateur writers ranked higher than the stories written by paid journalists of the New York Times' Web site. Ahem, this is a common problem I face. When there’s an interesting story about which I want to do some research, I get more blogs in my search results than the biggies – the Times, and the Expresses.

The reason is obvious enough. Though the biggies have websites written by professional journalists, they are badly search engine optimized with the result that their stories may appear on page five to which I never bother to web surf. They frown when told that their website has to be optimized with meta tags and keywords. They say, to some effect: “Yeeeeeaaaahh, you know who we are? People know that we are number one. And they will definitely come.”

No, people don’t know that you are number one. No, really, they don’t visit because you are number one. In fact, they don’t even know who is number one because they may be searching the net from Transylvania. They are only bothered about finding the story and reading it, even if it is posted by a rank amateur writer who hardly knows grammar. (Confession: In the hurry of getting these posts on my blog I, too, gloss over finer aspects of grammar.)

Dave Winer’s argument:

“As with personal computing, the early days of Web publishing belonged to the hobbyists, reveling that it worked at all. But the Web is maturing, the tools are getting easy, as the understanding of the technology has become widespread. Serious professional journalists use the new tools, moonlighting, publishing the news they don't or can't sell to the big publications who employ them.

“At the same time, we're returning to what I call amateur journalism, people writing for the public for the love of writing, without any expectation of financial compensation. This process is fed by the changing economics of the publishing industry which is employing fewer reporters, editors and writers. But the Web has taught us to expect more information, not less, and that's the sea-change that the NY Times and other big publications face -- how to remain relevant in the face of a population that can do for themselves what the BigPubs won't.”

Here’s the counter argument by New York Times’ Nisenholtz:

“Readers need a source of information that is unbiased, accurate, and coherent. New organizations like the Times can provide that far more consistently than private parties can. Besides, the blog phenomenon does not represent anything fundamentally new in the news media: The New York Times has been publishing individual points of view on the Op Ed page for 100 years. In any case, nytimes.com and blogs are not mutually exclusive. We would like to extend our ability to act as a host for all sorts-of opinions, and blog technology might well be useful in doing so. After all, in countries whose citizens don't enjoy First Amendment protection, blogs are run by people who'd be considered professional journalists in the US. In its six years online, nytimes.com has been a center of innovation, and it'll continue to be, incorporating blogs and whatever else will enable our reporters and editors to present authoritative coverage of the most important events of the day, immediately and accurately.”

Who won? In the public voting, Dave Winer won! Yaaaaayyyy!

You can read the entire discussion and the voting pattern on longbets.


Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Pliss, pliss Don’t Call Sanjay "Sanjay-baba"

I love to take digs at the electronic media. Well, why shouldn’t I? They are the ones who put a lot of small magazines (such as the one I was working for) out of business, and made me into a mere content writer. So here’s the gripe, which as readers of these lines will testify is endless. Check my other blogposts.

I think Aaaj Tak should stop calling Sanjay Dutt, Sanjay-baba. Yes, they did the offensive thing yesterday, that too, in the news. Editors of Aaaj Tak pliss to note: Baba is an affectionate form of address, used in Bombay and thereabouts for a small child, which term is said out of affection. No way am I going to accept him as a Baba, anymore. No offense, Sanjay, considering I like you as an actor and you and I are almost of the same age, and nobody calls me Baba. Editor-saab, he is well past the age of being called baba, in fact, Shahid Kapoor who is the baby of the brat pack isn’t called baba, then why should Sanjay be, please explain.

Sanjay is a convicted felon and a father of a grown up girl. All of which would place him squarely, I think, out of the purview of baba-dom. हैं न? So why this mollycoddling? I would give more credit to electronic channels if they refrained from being too personal with the people about whom they report. Whatever happened to objectivity in journalism?

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Sunday, November 18, 2007

State Sponsored Terrorist Tactics and Dire Need of a Witness Protection Program

While on the subject of state sponsored terrorism about which I have written in this post, what strikes me is that it’s a serious subject that demands immediate attention. Two states of India – one governed by the right and the other governed by the left – have unleashed terror on the very people they should have protected. How odd! Are we moving towards anarchy, or what?

While covert attacks by the goons of governing parties have always existed, these attacks seem blatant and lacking in scruples. I think immediate action has to be taken to gauge the depth of the government’s involvement in these two cases of state sponsored terrorism. We are not yet a fascist state to condone such attacks. The methods used by these two governments are unethical and a threat to any civil society. Therefore only a detailed enquiry into these incidents by an impartial judge of the Supreme Court under the guidance of the union Law Ministry can flush out the people behind these incidents. Inquiries conducted by local officials, me thinks, have not been very effective.

While there is enough evidence through Tehelka’s sting operation on the complicity of the Gujarat government of Narendra Modi, Buddhadev Bhattacharya has openly defended his men’s violent actions in this statement in this NDTV article:

''I stick to that. Some people are trying to project that the violence was started by CPI-M workers. Last 11 months, the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee, the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists were creating violence with arms. And last two-three days, CPI-M workers had paid them back in their own coin.''

While on the subject of terror, and, lest I forget, Gujarat, I wonder why India doesn’t have a witness protection program like in the US. The US has a Witness Protection Program through which witnesses in crucial cases against powerful people are given assistance, and aid and settled in separate localities in the country to prevent vendetta killings by the people against whom they have testified.


(Babu Bajrangi caught on candid camera. Courtesy: Tehelka)

The many retractions of statements by Zahira in the Best Bakery case and, recently, the retraction by a main accused in the gruesome Nithari killings may obviously originate from the use of intimidation by the powerful people behind these atrocities. If the witnesses were given protection under a “Witness Protection Program” and assured of financial help in settling in a different part of India, they would have come forward to testify the truth in court.

Something worth pondering, huh?

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Friday, November 16, 2007

Sawariya

They say the Hindi movie Saawariya is not doing well. I would definitely want to see it doing well, for a reason. It stars children of two Chembur boys – Rishi Kapoor and Anil Kapoor, who are cousins. Anil Kapoor’s father Surinder was Raj Kapoor’s cousin. Anil and I used to live in the same locality (Tilak Nagar, Chembur, where we grew up) and my friends were his class-mates. So when Anil made it big in films we were all proud that one of us has made it big. Rishi Kapoor also lived in Chembur at that time as RK Studios was situated there.

Many are the hours I and my friend Saswata Deb would spend outside RK Studio, Chembur. Babua, as I would call Saswata, nurtured dreams of stardom and, I was quite amused to learn that the purpose of hanging around the studio was to see if he would be picked up by some director, he was quite okay looking too! High hopes, but that was the stuff that teenage dreams are made of. Now Babua has abandoned his dreams of stardom and runs a successful coaching class in Chembur. Again, I can’t avoid the irony if it all, as I was the one who had coached Babua in chemistry and physics, at one time. Well, life is strange, especially when one looks back at it from the great distance of age.

I digress, apologies. Now when Anil’s daughter Sonam and Rishi’s son Ranbir (they are actually cousins) were paired in Saawariya, my heart went out to them as I am a big fan of all three parents – Rishi, Anil and Neetu. I haven’t gotten around to seeing Sawariya, but I will. Expect me to review it in my reviews blog.

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The Song of the Janadesh Marchers

This is the opening verses of my poem for the Janadesh Marchers.

"For our lands we walk this Marathon,
While you run Marathons for fun,
We live in a country, bereft of water,
You flush it daily down the gutter."

The rest of the poem appears on writer-poet-blogger John P Matthew's poetry blog. Do visit.

Cyclone Sidr: Blogger experiences and reactions

The cyclone Sidr has hit the coast of nearby Bangla Desh. I saw the devastation on television today, as I was having breakfast. Trees weaving dangerously in the rain over submerged streets, the rain lashing relentlessly, streets deserted, and the skies grey and filled with clouds. The following is an account by a blogger who typed the post in the weak light of his laptop battery. Guess, cyclones, tsunamis and deluges are here to stay Cyclone Sidr: Blogger experiences and reactions, excerpt:

"It felt like something out of a movie. I was in a car on the way home - it was fifteen minutes to midnight. There wasn’t a soul on the street and the only sounds you could hear were the rain beating down on the streets, the noise of the wind, and the car’s engine. It was pitch black too - every home, apartment, and building as far as the eye could see had no electricity. Then - all of a sudden - a blinding bright light and a roar erupts right next to the car - just outside of my side of the car. My window then gets showered in glowing sparks. I wasn’t in any danger - it was just a transformer exploding. But, for the first time in this whole time in Bangladesh - I was scared… I’m writing this on my battery’s laptop power. The glow of the screen is the only thing that is lighting up this room. Now, this isn’t the first time there’s been a blackout - but this time it’s different. This isn’t the first time its rained - but this it’s different. It’s different because, this time it’s caused by Cyclone Sidr."

Read the full account on the blog. It's touching!

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Thursday, November 15, 2007

Citizens for Peace : Statement on Nandigram

Citizens for Peace has protested against the high-handedness of the CPM government and it's hooligans who have taken law into their own hands at Nandigram. The Nandigram (a rural area in the district of Purba Medinpur in West Bengal) SEZ controversy, arose over the West Bengal government's permission to the Salim Group of Indonesia to set up a SEZ to handle chemicals in the area. Many people were killed in a protest organized by villagers who do not want the chemical complex in their village, for which land has been acquired from them.The ruling Communist Party (Marxist) instead of resorting to the rule of law launched it's lumpen elements (brandishing guns!) against the villagers who were protesting peacefully. I can't believe this, I just can't! Is this what democracy is meant to be? This seems more like a tinpot dictator's (Buddadev Bhattacharya's [I got confused here, I confused the chief minister's name with that of director Buddadev Dasgupta]) ploy to suppress dissent, to me.

The Bombay-based Citizens for Peace has issued a statement on Nandigram condemning the government of West Bengal, which, obviously has acted in haste, and in a loathsome manner (Statement on Nandigram). Excerpts:

"Citizens for Peace demands that the Government of West Bengal immediately act against CPM cadres who surrounded Nandigram and are refusing to allow the press and others to enter, who have assaulted local villagers in the area, who openly flaunt their weapons. We urge the National Human Rights Commission to investigate and report on the human rights abuses in Nandigram. And we appeal to all sides for sanity and dialogue, so that all that’s at stake in Nandigram, and by extension in the country, can be debated and resolved."

Guess Narendra Modi and Buddhadev Bhattacharya have a lot in common. They both have unleashed state sponsored terrorism on the people they govern. This is what Buddhadev said in a recent statement (quote courtesy Harini Calamur's Blog):

"”I stick to that. Some people are trying to project that the violence was started by CPI-M workers. Last 11 months, the Bhoomi Uchched Pratirodh Committee, the Trinamool Congress and the Maoists were creating violence with arms. And last two-three days, CPI-M workers had paid them back in their own coin."

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Wednesday, November 14, 2007

How Consumerism Is Gobbling Up Services!

Everywhere I turn there’s the specter of consumerism that is threatening to devour. What I find irritating is programs that show ads multiple times on television. Market pundits say that consumerism and the advertising that goes with it have lowered the price of goods and have made goods and services available to people, such as me. But I beg to be differing, only. It may have lowered the price of mobile phones but it hasn’t lowered the price of the service that should come with it – my mobile phone bill comes with a lot of add-ons I don’t remember having asked them to add-on in the first place.

To all advocates of consumerism (whoever said “Advertising reduces prices of products”) I will say this: services that are a part of consumerism is still very expensive in that there is no service available in some, oops, most cases. Low cost airlines may fly you to Kerala for Rs 3000 but there is no seat numbers, no food, and no cute lady to give you a boarding card. A tetra pack of a fruit juice costs Rs 20. The cheapness factor comes from cutting away a service that we were used to. No, I am not deploring the lack of cheerfulness on the faces of the airhostesses; poor things are, after all, paid a pittance compared to the call center employees. And look at the airport taxes, that’s a service tax and it burns a big hole in my pocket.

Sports and entertainment are two areas where a lot of money is being spent. Again successful sportsmen and film stars endorse products, with a view to sales, and with the adjunct of further boosting consumerism. If it continues this way a time may come when living will become unaffordable for the retired and the jobless.

And they have the guts to say “Advertising reduces prices of products.” What? Do those product/brand ambassadors (pretty Preity is endorsing Godrej Boyce) and long-legged models come cheap?

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Tuesday, November 13, 2007

A Writer's State of Mind!

Two book manuscripts lying unpublished in my writing bureau, and I have embarked on a third one. No, won't reveal what it is, am still in the iterative stage. But I guess, writing has become a habit, so I plod on, hoping something will click somewhere, hoping against hope that that single break will come some day. Publishers, are you listening?

Meanwhile, I found something that illustrates rather appropriately the writer's state of mind. Meanwhile, this blog has, unbeknownst to me, crossed the 15,000 visitor mark, and it's ranking on Alexa has also gone up to 681,593, which is based on Google rankings.

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Monday, November 12, 2007

Beautiful Skin Blog: Drink more water to get healthy skin

Well, hmm, something to break the monotony of all the serious stuff I post on this blog. The following is the wisdom from the Beautiful Skin Blog for those looking for that gori-chitti look. Excerpt from this article
Beautiful Skin Blog: Drink more water to get healthy skin follows:

"Maybe you've heard how important is water for your health, figure and well-being many times, but everything your body does it does better with a healthy supply of water, because every system in your body depends on water. Maybe if water was more expensive, people would pay more attention to drink enough of it on a daily basis, instead most of us prefer coffee, lots of soda, and alcohol, not to mention fruit juices and teas and milk and a bunch of other beverages."

So, fair maidens, not to speak of fairer mademoiselles, do visit this blog and cast a sidelong glance at this poor blogger for your glowing skin (when you get it), will you?

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My only appearance on television - alas, not to be!

The channels, I mean television channels, are becoming a little incestuous, me thinks. And I think this is a bad thing. Consider this: the other day Star Television was showing footage of the Great Indian Laughter Challenge before its news segment, as if laughter is news. This while farmers are committing suicide, and another bunch of species are saying goodbye to the earth for ever. There are stories out there crying to be reported and Star Television is showing re-runs of its laughter program, which consists of a celebrity judge who would laugh uproariously if I tell a joke such as the one about Santa saying to Banta: the moon is more important than the sun because it give light in the night when there is no light, but the sun gives light when there already is plenty of light. Yeaaaah, whatever!

Tomorrow there would be channels that would feature only news about what happened in the Virani family in their prime time news slots and even discussion panels about the saas-bahu happenings in that family. Cynical, yes, that’s what I am by nature.

That reminds me of the only time I was to appear on television, on a formal program, I mean. Yes, I thought, this is my finest hour. A literary group of which I am a member was being showcased on CNN IBN and we were all told to report for a shooting of a program where we will all read our stories, poems, articles, etc. So I dressed in my best Fab India churidar kurta, even taking the day off. The shooting took many hours with close-ups, long shots, individual takes of the writers.

I told everyone, I mean everyone, that I was being featured in a CNN IBN interview the following Friday, and even that day I took half day’s leave to sit before the television. Meanwhile, friends and colleagues also were fired up by the news of my television appearance and were glued to CNN IBN for hours to watch the program.

And then the big come down, let down, whatever. After so many, many hours we had wasted on preparing for shooting that program, and keeping a watch for its appearance on television, the program was dumped by the producer. That’s as close as I came to making a television appearance. These days I wonder how Shekhar Suman, Siddhu-paji, and Shahrukh Khan (he is giving interviews left, right, centre, up and down for Om Shanti Om) must be making these unending appearances on television.

Saturday, November 10, 2007

Another Deepavali Day!

Another quiet Deepavali day, but last night was bad, quite a big ruckus in my locality with fireworks going off in the dead of the night. When I went for a walk this morning the streets were full of burnt-out cracker paper, shells of firework that go up like a shower, burnt cylinders of rockets, sparklers that had sparkled so brightly the night before, now a forlorn grey of cindered gun powder. Every brightly lit party or event has a sad and inevitably depressing end, which I found in the litter scattered everywhere. I am a bit sad at another festival’s passing. First it was Navratri, then Dussehra, and now Deepavali.

A beggar came and sat outside our building crying plaintively for food. In fact, so persistent was she that several people came out and gave her something to eat just to get rid of her. Yesterday, we went to a mall where there was a huge mascot in the form of an elephant, and two clowns walking, nay, dancing on stilts. It was funny seeing them, and I imagined how hot it must have been inside the dress they wore.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Indian Techie Spends Fifty Days in Jail for No Fault of His. Is Information Technology Act 2000 Draconian?

Deepavali, the festival of lights is in full swing as crackers go off every now and then, deafening, making me jump sometimes. Had a quite day and read the shocking bits about a techie Lakshman being put in jail for a crime committed by someone else. He spent fifty days in jail before he was released. Apparently, the internet service provider had bungled, and provided a wrong Internet Protocol (IP) address.

The weight of the news sank in quite slowly. If the police don’t know the details of the basic technology, then it could be you or, even me. Then they should have cross checked the IP address before making the mistake of arresting the wrong person. To dismiss this as inevitable is to put at risk the very future of online connectivity and online communities in India.

But then what seems to be a draconian law (full text of the Information Technology Act 2000 is here) , one that gives the police rights to check on people and computers without a warrant. In the above case the investigators didn’t even check Lakshman’s computer. Evidence was gathered from the IP address given by the telecom carrier Bharti Airtel. It is a known fact that even IP addresses can be fudged, or, even proxies can be used by really smart techies to prevent their identities being known. According to the Act subsequently the police have to file a complaint with the Cyber Appellate Tribunal (CAT). The case will be decided by an adjudicating officer within six months from the date of appeal. What about Habeas Corpus Act and granting of bail to the offenders.

A major part of the above Act (which is based on the Model Law on Electronic Commerce passed by the United Nations) deals with electronic signatures and the violations of the conditions governing electronic signatures. Fact is that none of the companies/banks that conduct online business in India has yet implemented electronic signature interface so far. Reason? The public doesn’t trust any contractual obligation entered online, much less electronic signatures. Banks want you to take a print of a pdf document and sign it and mail to them. If the basic interface of online contracts and documentation is not accepted by the public, then what is the point in drafting the above Act in such a hurry and giving sweeping powers to the police?

Requires some deeper introspection from the government’s part, or, so I think.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

Happy Festival of Lights!

It’s Diwali tomorrow and all my female colleagues are wearing saris, with a lot of jewelry, which makes them look exotic and nice. Diwali for my international readers is the festival of lights. When the Hindu God Ram returned after his victory over Ravan, he was welcomed by his subjects by lighting millions of small wicker lamps, a sign of their joy.

Diwali is big in north India and isn’t very big in south India. But in Bombay which falls somewhere in between it is a big festival. There are crackers, rows of lighted bulbs that festoon buildings, millions of small wicker lamps, and the whole city glows with the light of a billion points of illumination over the city of Bombay. I wonder what it would be like when looked at from an aircraft.

I am off to three days of holidays, and a bit of rest and recuperation. HAPPY DIWALI!

Wednesday, November 07, 2007

How Religions Spread!



A interesting graphic display of how religions spread throughout the world. Enjoy! Thought this would be of interest.

The Emergency in Pakistan

Guess Pervez Musharraf is one desperate man. He is clinging to power like everything depends on how long he can be suspended over the cliff’s edge. Pakistan has again failed its people. An aborted election and, now, the emergency. An emergency has very unpleasant associations, especially in the sub-continent.

What I see are armed men guarding the roads and multitudes of people protesting on television. Common enough sights in an India wracked by the fever of emergency in the seventies; and which Pakistan is undergoing now. He justified his actions in a national address to the people of Pakistan, saying he was curbing a rise in extremism in Pakistan.

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Tuesday, November 06, 2007

More on the Blank Noise Project and Street Harassment!

This further to the Blank Noise Project in which I had participated some time ago. The project, if you do not already know, is about Street Harassment of women. Now, I work above a busy train station, and one of my favorite hobbies is to loll near the entrance/exit of Vashi with a cup of coffee and watch people. Hey, people, no ulterior motive, but this is what I like to do. There’s a smorgasbord of human beings in various moods, preoccupations, attitudes, clothes, states of mind, stages of life, etc. on view and I really like to look at them, being the writer I am.

I just returned from my coffee break. What I saw proves that the Indian male needs to re-look his sexual attitude towards women. (Even I may be at fault here, am in for a lot of introspection in this column here.) I mean there’s a lot wrong with his very sexuality. No, I won’t say depraved because the cause, I guess, lies deeper, in the very attitude of “Oh, I can get away with it, so why shouldn’t I?”

I was watching, sipping my coffee, as a buxom girl in a rather tight tee-shirt was walking with a music device in her ear. A man was walking behind her and suddenly he increased his pace, diverted the direction of his walk across her path, aimed one of his shoulders straight at her breast, caressed it with the outer edge of the musculature around the humerus bone, and walked on. As I was watching, he saw me and knew that I had found him out, and looked abashed. The girl didn’t even know what happened; she was too much into her music.

First of all, he didn’t have to break strides, and didn’t have to walk directly across her path, because a lot of space was available to him, but he did. And the girl didn’t even look at him, which means she is so used to this overtly-sexual behavior that it didn’t register. The man walked ahead, and lost himself in the crowd. (This is my response to the Blank Noise Project.) I don’t know if the tight round-neck tee-shirt was the provocation, or what?

I heard that close circuit television has been installed at stations like Victoria Terminus (VT, I prefer to call it by that name, as I think I would offend my childhood if I call it anything else). Have they caught anyone so far?

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Monday, November 05, 2007

The Consequences of Global Warming! Must See This Video!



A bit scary, but something we have to be forewarned about. The consequences if we take action on the many cassandra-like predictions on the global warming front, and if we don't. Most likely, we are headed for trouble, as can be seen by erratic weather patterns throughout the world. I am one of the ardent advocates of carbon trading and using public transport.

As a matter of fact, I always use public transport and this morning the crowd was more than a bit obliging. They softly and tenderly pushed me out on the platform at Vashi station using a lot of bhaiyaa, bhaisaab, uncle, and aap. Felt nice to be treated in such a gentlemanly manner, so to speak. But, must admit it was hot. Global warming, eh?

Delusion in the Indian Web World, Kya Karen

Delusion is a bad thing. When delusion happens in the web world, it is amusing, or, shall I say, sad. Really, and delusion on the Indian web world continues to prevail. People, especially Indians, are of the belief that all you need to be successful online is to make a website, fill it with lies, have flashy graphics and people would come to buy whatever shit they offer.

So you lie a lot about your capabilities in SCM, ERP, CRM, and SDLC, and what have you, and still people do not buy. Then you lie a little more. You also copy and paste white lies in your so-called “white papers”, not knowing that being found out could kill you.

And then what happens. You sit and lament after a few millions of your hard earned, or else, borrowed money goes down the drain. What happened? Where did we go wrong?

“Yaar, I had to scrounge, sell my property to raise that money, yaar. यह, कम्बक्त वेबसाइट थो चलता ही नही, कोई आता ही नही.” Common enough complaint, by the way.

What you are doing is basically begging people to buy you’re the concept of your website and your product. So, if you were a consumer would you buy from a store that is badly laid out, has badly trained salespeople, has cheap advertisements all over the wall, and even the owner is an obvious liar. It is an accepted tenet that all advertisements lie. (I know; I have been in that territory before. I was the executive secretary of the Advertising Standards Council of India, which is the regulator and controller for the truthfulness of Indian advertising.)

I digress. And what do these become-rich-overnight entrepreneurs do for content on websites. “Copy and paste, mere dost, who will know?” I think there is a basic dishonesty in every Indian that makes them say this. They have a very pervasive contempt for the creative types, and the creative process. As a fledgling content writer, keen to make my mark in the world, I was told this, and sadly, even now I am told this. No need for me to say that piracy is rampant in the Indian net world.

Friday, November 02, 2007

What Reading Novels Can Change

This is the answer to what I have been seeking for a long time. Why should people read novels, in fact, why should people read any fiction at all? What do they get by immersing themselves in what happens in other peoples' minds, their dreams, their aspirations, and, generally, what they go through in their lives. How does reading about other people touch us, like a good music score touches us, so does a good movie. Amos Oz, original name Amos Klausner, Israeli novelist, short-story writer, and essayist has a lot to say in this Britannica Blog article (What Reading Novels Can Change -Britannica Blog).

Do read and comment.

Thursday, November 01, 2007

This Blog Gets a Dmoz Listing!


Dmoz.org is the world's only human edited open directory. And, hmm, this blog has got a Dmoz listing recently (see picture above, bit hazy, but okay). Ask any search engine specialist and he/she will tell you that not every blog or website gets a Dmoz listing. The reason is that unlike Google that sends a robot to search the site, Dmoz sends human beings, i.e., men and women of the homo sapien species.

So, today I will uncork the bubblies, anyone wants to join in?

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