Thursday, December 13, 2007

Spotlight Series at Blogbharti

At Blogbharti, we have started a new thing! It is called the Spotlight Series where we invited some of the best writers in the blogosphere to write for us and almost everyone we invited enthusiastically accepted! The first post was by Dilip who wrote on being a liberal in contemporary India.

Tomorrow, we would post an article by Jack. And having seen it (the privilege of being part of something like BB), I have to say it is going to be good! Do not miss the series as it will continue for a month with a new post every other day.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

The power of headline and the morons behind it.

This is the headline of a news story I found in my feeds -

Man proves himself right, shows he didn't take dowry


Reading that headline, I thought this was a case where a woman has been proved in court to have made false claims on dowry harassment. But I wanted to know the details and I read the story. To my surprise, there is nothing in the story that indicates any such thing. If I interpret it correctly, the man filed an RTI application demanding the income tax returns of his ex-wife and the court has ordered the IT dept to disclose the returns in two weeks. In short, nothing has been proved! The man has not yet shown that he has not taken dowry. In fact, I wonder whether analysing the IT returns of his ex-wife would prove anything. But I am not a legal expert.

Whatever be the outcome of the case, what bugs me is the way the development was reported by the media. This is not a case where a big corporate is paying the media to spin the story in its favour and I doubt if the person who wrote that headline was related to the person concerned but a clear case where the biases of the individual seeped into his work. The headline for the story has changed. It is not as misleading as it was but it is still is pretty bad ("Man scores against ex-wife in dowry harassment case"). Isn't the media supposed to be unbiased?

The report itself focuses on the reaction of the man to the development. The ex-wife or her representative have been effectively silenced because there is no word from them and from the looks of it, no effort seems to have been made to contact them. If there was, wouldn't the reporter have put in "the lawyer for the ex-wife declined to make any comments". I really think that this is a biased report giving its readers just one version of the story.

Choices



Incontempt by Kevin Moore.

Thursday, November 29, 2007

Vote for Irom



Irom Sharmila has been nominated for the Indian of the Year award. It will be given by NDTV and LIC. The polling has already started. The last date being 1st December 2007.

You can vote here - Scroll down to unsung heroes category.

or

SMS in India : To vote for Irom Sharmila
sms I 29 to 56388

SMS in UK : To vote for Irom Sharmila
sms I 29 to 63880

SMS in UAE : To vote for Irom Sharmila
sms I 29 to 6388

Phone : Dial 5056388

Check out Manipur Freedom.org for updates on Sharmila's struggle

Plagiarised from Jo.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Rewriting history



It is comic #343 too. Leet... :D

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Tehelka's Gujarat

Tehelka's coverage is, if anything, courageous. The stings are no revelations but are definitely the best weapons against the Hindutva apologists and deniers of the genocide and the role of Modi's government in it. But to be fair, videos of people confessing to their crimes have existed. Rakesh Sharma's Final Solution was a hard hitting documentary on the Parivar and was _banned_ by the then Central Government! So, Modi banning the TV channels evoked more of a feeling of déjà vu than surprise. The modus operandi of any right wing patriarchal form of government (right or left) has always involved control of the media. So, is it a surprise that Modi responds in such a way? But I must admit that Tehleka has done one thing - it has brought the ghost of godhra back to popular memory and right now, it seems to be the most discussed topic in the blogosphere. But turn to any TV channel and Tehelka's sting is barely in the news and it is hardly a week old. Why? Is the media working for the Parivar or is it more sinister? [note: 11 people have been convicted in one case and 29 acquitted, as being reported today].

What shocked in 2002 was not only that Modi could conduct such a genocide and get away with it but also the incredible silence from the vast majority of students in my college. Students are supposed to be idealistic and are supposed to be more sensitive to such atrocities but somehow they seemed to be completely disinterested or incredibly cynical or amazingly right wing. There were some who did express their antipathy to what happened and there were some, who I knew were the silent type, who were as disturbed as I was but somehow they seemed to be too few. I realise now that it is apathy that is the most dangerous disease affecting, particularly, our youth. The screening of Final Solution much later was sparsely attended with a part of the crowd vocally supporting Modi! I thought it was an important documentary, one that hardly got much support from the media. The only reason why the government can ban a documentary and get away with this is because of lack public support for it.

Coming back to Tehelka, the reports are terse and factual. A lot of them are old stories and in my opinion, tehelka's coverage seems to be hurried. One other thing that I noticed about the coverage was these quotes:

Tarun Tejpal says "Read And Be Afraid"

Ashish Khetan, the journo behind it all, has moments of sheer terror while working on this.

Are you afraid now?

I found the on camera confessions in Final Solution far more chilling mainly because they did not use hidden cameras and the incredible amount of security one must feel to confess to heinous crimes without fear of punishment in front of a camera is chilling. What I find more frightening is the rest of India turning a blind eye to what is going on. What I find terrifying is those people on the comment thread of digg arguing that 1000 is not enough a number to call it a genocide.

Tehelka's enduring legacy will always be its sensationalism but it still is responsible jounalism. Pragmatic because sensationalism sells and what they have done with their stings is important in the context of our democracy.

But will this spur people to action? Does this signify the end of the Parivar? Hardly. Am I being excessively cynical? Only time will tell.

But I do hope that some TV channel has enough courage to show Rakesh Sharma's and Anand Patwardhan's documentaries.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

Look who is spamming me these days

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From: Sanjana K <...@yahoo.co.in>
Date: Oct 23, 2007 4:59 PM
Subject: Yahoo! Answers India
To: ...@gmail.com


Hi Madhat,

I was bloghopping the other day and I stumbled upon your blog – and I
must confess that I love it! Being an avid blog reader, I was kicked
about your passion about news and the state the world's in today. It's
always great to come across people who think alike and match your
enthusiasm!

Reading your blog, I thought to myself – "Here's someone who'd fit
right in with Answerers from all over the world." That's right, I'm
speaking about Yahoo! Answers, an online community that boasts of more
than 90 million users, (and counting…) spread across USA, Asia,
Australia, Europe, New Zealand, Canada and reaching more corners with
every passing day. It's a vibrant site with over 250 million answers
to questions about art, style, education, entertainment, cars, dating
and even society & culture, amongst other things. Ranging from the
super cool to the super geeky, it is all about sharing knowledge and
information with the world. There is one thing that is common to all
users – they all love letting the world know what they know.

Being so passionate about news and current events, you can reach out
to millions of likeminded people and let them know what YOU know! I'm
not stretching the truth one bit when I say you'll love interacting
with Answerers – they sure are one enthusiastic lot and they'll love
to have you on board!

Come check us out!

Sanjana
Yahoo! Answers Team


________________________________
Bring your gang together - do your thing. Start your group.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Talk To Me

What do you call a movie that is full of stereotypes and hasn't the courage nor the guts to deal with reality and hides behind the mask of "Inspired by a real story"?

A Hollywood movie.

Talk to me is a stereotypical movie about a black man from the 60s. I do not know much about the history of the United States but from the little I know, the 60s were perhaps the most tumultuous times in their history of this century. And if you are making a movie about a black man in the 60s, you just cannot ignore the era and the historical context. But in this movie, the history of the 60s comes up and lives on the screen for five minhttp://www.blogger.com/img/gl.link.gifutes, maybe less. Amazing! Truly incredible how they manage to do that.

Now I have never heard of Petey Greene before I saw the trailer for this movie and read a little about him on the internet. From the wikipedia page:

He also became a community activist, having joined United Planning Organization (UPO) immediately after his release from prison. He founded Efforts for Ex-Convicts, an organization devoted to helping former prisoners succeed in legitimate ways. He railed against poverty and racism on his shows and on the streets, participating in demonstrations during the height of his popularity. [Link]

But this aspect of him is never shown or mentioned in the entire movie. Without this knowledge, the guy's reason for fame, from the movie, would seem to be his trash talking, "man from DC" appeal and nothing else. It would just have seemed to be a story about a ex-con who became a popular radio host.

I expected the movie to be something that it actually turned out to be.

I haven't yet seen any of Spike Lee's movies but I do have one with me that I plan to watch sometime soon.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

World News

In a dramatic twist of sex scandal, a middle aged man who accused his sex partner of stealing his genital has now turned into an accused after the accused lady was forced by the police, on recommendation of a herbalist into another intercourse, in a bid to restore his manhood in Bassan Jiwa, Airport Village, Abuja.


and

"It is true that one woman herbalist was called to the station and she indicted the accused as the person who stole the man's organ. The herbalist said the accused lady used a mirror to take the man's organ away from him. However, in the laws of the land there is no provision for witchcraft and mysterious stealing of genitals. If such things happen, we normally forward the matter to the court. But in this case, I settled them out of the station to give peace a chance", he [edit: referring to Assistant Superintendent of Police, Peter Thazilza] said.


Yes, Nigeria is that country where most women's genetalia are mutilated as 'female circumcision'. But it just gets worse...

Friday, October 05, 2007

Tyranny in Myanmar



The picture tells the story...

No comment


Sink
Originally uploaded by krazykoreanbling

Jon Stewart takes an interview



Lovely! He really had it coming with a book called "Life is a campaign".

Friday, September 28, 2007

LOL

Gedo Senki - Tales from Earthsea

I Love Le Guin's works. Le Guin comes across as a very careful writer whose every word needs to be read with care as it is written with a lot of thought behind it. The Earthsea series is one of my favourites in fasntasy series, actually make that all of literature. I have enjoyed reading those books and I am currently reading "The Left Hand of Darkness" which so far has lived up to its expectations. I have read Le Guin's books at different times in my life and everytime, I have discovered something profound in her writings.

For people who know me, they know how big a fan I am of Miyazaki's works. Usually dismissed by people (who I consider to be idiots for stereotyping) as children's films, Miyazaki's animated films are brilliant and a rare breed of filmmaking and I rate his works right at the top of my list of great films. His movies usually deal with subjects very human and earthy but set in worlds that are fantastic, to say the least. He would have the been the perfect director for visualizing the world of Earthsea. And that almost happened. I say almost because the Earthsea series was filmed by his studio, Ghibli, but was directed by his son, another Miyazaki. I had to see it.

But the release of the film was followed by a lot of criticism that just did not suit the expectations I had. Ursula herself bashed the film with strong words -

"Both the American and the Japanese film-makers treated these books as mines for names and a few concepts, taking bits and pieces out of context, and replacing the story/ies with an entirely different plot, lacking in coherence and consistency. I wonder at the disrespect shown not only to the books but to their readers." [Link]

That sealed the fate of the film. I no longer seeked it as much I had.

Of course, that does not mean I would never see the film. Authors are notorious for hating the interpretations of their books. And after I watched it today, I had only one feeling left for it - I hated it. That is probably the worst handling of the series that one can imagine (I haven't seen the American series yet but I am sure that it cannot be worse than this). Le Guin's criticism which seemed harsh is actually bang on target and perhaps, a little lenient. None of the wisdom that I have come to love about Miyzaki's films was on display. In fact, it was a two hour film of pointless fantasy with an inane attempt to instill some aspects of spirituality into it by lifting ideas from the books out of context and making it almost religious. To say that I was disappointed would be an understatement. This really is a forgettable piece and is best not seen.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Sunday, September 09, 2007

A short life

I want to scream
They can make fun of me but I am better than them
You decide for me?
I am sleepwalking through my life
Who do I talk to?
One step closer to freedom
Is this love?
Fuck, I can't compete with that guy
I hate this place.
Finally, somebody understands

Money, money, money, it is no use
I want to do something.. not this but this
One. two. three. four. They said sorry
I get rejected and she's happy?
I need to move on, I need to dive in the deep end of the pool
I guess I am really on my own now.

A life
A short one indeed

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

Google busts my bubble...

Visitors to my photo blog might have noticed the nice little addon I put on every post - the little map of the place where I took the picture. Making it possible was tough. I had to hack html, javascript and the maps API together to ensure that each post could have its own little map and they would coexist. I was proud of this little thing that I considered to be unique to my little blog. But now, my blog's uniqueness is threatened. Now, any average Jo can do it.

<sarcasm>Thank you very much Google!</sarcasm>

Another Blogger tip

I have always wondered how many people were subscribed to my blog. Blogger has the feed option but it does not tell you anything about subscribers. Feedburner does but the problem is you have to burn your feed into a feedburner one and feedburner would give you stats on those who subscribe to the newly created feed.
Till recently, I had no way of knowing whether this blog was being regularly read by people or not (though I have had quite a number of people tell me that they read my blog and I have been plesantly surprised to know that :). As the beginning of the previous line suggests, I have been able to find a way get stats on the number of subscribers. I was messing around with my feed settings in blogger (my feed subscribers may have noticed those changes) and I found that blogger has introduced a new feature called feed redirect. I put in my feedburner feed in that box and overnight, I knew the number of subscribers to this blog...
If you want to exploit this feature, you can follow the steps in this tutorial.

Monday, August 20, 2007

The suspense is over..

Materazzi finally reveals what he said.

Quite frankly, I prefer the suspense that was your silence..

Well, he wasn't really silent. He did release a book after the world cup with all possible things he said to Zidane. :)

Saturday, August 18, 2007



Sigh.. Wish I was a kid again...

Thursday, August 09, 2007



Is there a way I can strangle an irritating software?

Ahem..



Can you tell me what this is? It is fairly obvious but it still took me a few seconds for it to sink in... What is the world coming to...

Link

Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Death claims another great artist...

Bergman is dead.

I cannot emphasise how influential his movies have been to me.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

LOL

A rant against the Americans

I know I have a few rants against the americans but one thing ZI hate is their toilets. The toilet stalls are created with the least concern for privacy but more than that, somebody taking a dump in one of them stinks up the entire toilet! I mean what is wrong with creating a more enclosed place which has its own exhaust system like we do in India? With all their extravgance, with pretty much everything, I refuse to believe that they are saving up on something...

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Futuristic comics

Head over to Boingboing

California summer

Now I know why people rave about California and its summers. The days are like the sunny winter days in North India, days that I always thought were best spent outdoors. Love the weather and have a car this time to roam around the nearby beaches.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Friday, July 06, 2007

"pursuit of hapiness [sic] is the distinct privilege of a few."

A new website called "New Avatars of Slavery"

Amardeep at Sepia Mutiny has more...

As I've said before, the cost of an extremely slow and unpredictable immigration system comes in people's lives: waiting 5-10 years for a Green Card without being certain of success is dispiriting at best, and soul-crushing at worst.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Quick Blogger Tip..

Do you like the "Recent comments" feature that worpress provides but blogger does not?
Do you like sharing things from google reader but absolutely hate that their widget does not match your page style and sticks out like a sour thumb? Have you used Yahoo! Pipes and created some feeds that you wish you could display on your blog?

If so, fear not. This is a little tip that you will find useful if you like adding snippets of your feeds to your blog.

First, you need to be on Blogger 2.0. If you are still on the antiquated blogger platform, this will not work.

If you are already there, you will also need to upgrade to the new layouts manager.

Ok, let us suppose you are already there and I am just wasting your time.

Now, click on the "Add new page element" that you can see there in the layout manager. This will open a popup. fear not, this is not an ad that will tell you that your system is infected with viruses and you need to download a software to clean the system! This is just blogger's way of presenting an UI to you to add a little box in your sidebar. Do not get overwhelmed by all those options in this little window. Stay calm and you might notice that there is one heading called "Feed" and it has a blue "Add to blog" button underneath it. Click that one! This will take you another page which would have a textbox in it. Now all you need to do is add the feed url that you want to share with your readers.
If you want the cool "Recent comments" box, just like the one you see on this blog, just put in "http://{your-blog}.blogspot.com/feeds/comments/default" in the box.
If you want to add your google reader share, find the link for rss feed for your shared items and key in that url in the text box. If you want both, repeat the process twice, once with your comments feed and once with your google reader share feed.

Have fun.

What is he doing?

Daily dose of laughter

Monday, July 02, 2007

Feisty Fawn

I finally got fed up with windows and installed Ubuntu on my laptop. The reason why I had windows was not because I have some special affinity to windows but because I had a lot of trouble installing linux distros on my laptop. Trusty RedHat could not detect and install the graphics card. Mandrake could not work out the sound cards drivers and suse just could not do anything... I spent days trying to fix the issues in each distro. I recompiled the kernels and tried manually installing the drivers but could not make any of the distros work properly. So, I had to turn to Windows XP.
Ubuntu has been making a lot of waves recently and the release of its latest version - "Feisty Fawn" - has been universally welcomed. Besides, I also went to their website and had them mail me a CD of the latest version. And I was already tired of crappy Windows. So, I installed Ubuntu yesterday and I was pleasantly surprised.
The installation was extremely breezy with minimum configuration and all my hardware got detected automatically! I had a little trouble with resolution (I have a widescreen LCD display and the resolution available were not for widescreen. fixed it using 915resolution) and had to hand configure the touchpad but besides that there were no other problems whatsoever. All the windows specific functions in the keyboard (for volume/brightness control, etc) work without any configuration! And it comes packaged with Firefox 2.0.0.3.
I think this distro of linux comes closest to challenging Windows on user friendliness. And needless to say, Windows is scared...

Friday, June 29, 2007

Monday, June 25, 2007

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

[Movie Review] Hot Fuzz

Hot Fuzz comes from the makers of the Shaun of the dead, which was an hilarious spoof of the zombie movies. I loved Shaun of the dead and when I heard that the same guys have made a spoof of those single-man-army action movies, I had to see it. Most filmmakers, after a fabulous debut, disappoint with their subsequent movies. I was hoping this wont be the case with these guys and after watching the movie, I can say confidently that they don't. Hot Fuzz is a hilarious spoof and one that is well acted too.
Catch Nicholas Angel who is so good at what being a London police constable that he is promoted to the position of Sergeant and... transferred to a small village called Sandford. How so? In the words of Chief Inspector Kenneth, "Yes, I can!" Sanford is a small village in the country which has won the Model Village of the Year award a lot of times with low crime rates and a police force (sorry, I mean police service) comprising of incompetent and bumbling fools, the chief of which is the lovably dumb constable Danny.
But Sandford is not as benign as it looks and Sergeant Angle (apologies, Angel) thinks that there the "accidents" that seem to happen with regularity are really murders but nobody believes him and it is all upto him to bring the criminal(s) to justice. Simple enough concept, isn't it? The movies follows the travails of Nicholas Angel, the one man army, and his sidekick as they pursue Sandford's most wanted. Also, the movie makes a case kicks the 'greater good' argument in a amusingly perfect manner and I had to say this way is much better than reading Roy's flowery prose. And their adventures are nothing but hilarious. One scene goes like this -
George Merchant: Thanks fellas! How much do I owe you?
Danny: 20 quid.
GR gives Danny the money. Nicholas snatches the money from Danny and gives it back to GR saying: And here's your change.
GR (accepting the money): Thanks.

This is just of the many funny moments in the movie brought about by some really straight faced dialogue delivery.

Tuesday, May 29, 2007

Representation

I ask you do a simple exercise. Take a look at the world around you and do a count. Choose any one of these ways of categorization - gender, race/caste and count the number of people who are part of these categories in different places - workplace, media (television, radio, magazines, etc), neighbourhood, etc.
This simple number count would tell you something. Something that might be important. You would find that certain members of the society are vastly over-represented than others. Why is that? A simplistic answer that it is because that those certain sections of the society are smarter/better/more hardworking is alluring but is it true? Is it to do with the genes? Are some races indeed superior to others? If yes, in what ways?
There are differences amongst people. How much of those differences are due to how they were brought up and how they were taught? That is the oldest debate in the world. Is it nature or nurture? A question that has been asked for many a generation and for which there are no definitive answers. It would be foolish to ignore the influences of nurture in the making of a person and likewise, it would be foolish to ignore nature's eccentricity. But is there a pattern? For example, there are very few women who do well in the field of mathematics but does that mean that they are genetically incapable of doing well in that particular subject?
I take the example of women because it is the most visible of all (and yet somehow people fail to notice them). I once went to a birthday party of a one year old girl and I could not fail to notice how clearly the baby was marked as being of a particular gender. It was almost as if I was looking at a colour-coded resistor. There could be no doubt as to what _she_ was. She was dressed in clothes that were meant for girls, in colours that are considered girly and also had the definitive feminine feature - a ponytail. The gifts could be construed as more or less neutral, though tending towards feminine but there were certainly no He-Mans. At the age of one, when the child is not even aware of what s/he is and is just getting to make sense of its environment, they are already fitted into a category of appearances and behaviour. Their training starts that young and is it that hard to imagine that they grow into the moulds meant for them. If you are a woman and you are told a million times while you were growing up that women are supposed to be good at this and that and not so good at that from several different sources, is it possible that you are subconsciously do bad at things like maths and rationalise it with the popular opinion?
In the case of women, it is quite obvious that nurture plays a huge role in their development but one cannot attribute some things to nurture. For example, why is the world record for 100m sprint run for women is 10.49 while men have managed to set a record of 9.77 seconds? Yes, there are differences but how much are they important in today's world? Thousands of years ago, when human beings used to live with animals of the forest, physical strength would have been a very important attribute because without it you might get killed in a tussle with an animal. In today's world, strength is no longer required to survive or do a modern task. Secondly, these few women who set the world record for 100 m sprint would outrun the vast majority of men! Thirdly, women are generally discouraged from getting into sports because it is seen as unfeminine and they grow up to be slight as that is seen to be feminine. This is the reason why nature vs nurture debate is so complicated.
Some time ago, Jack wrote a post on representation of non-white people in media. He recounts a heated discussion with a media person.

I said that people of color make up almost half, if not more, of the population in the Bay Area and that they don't get covered that much in the news by local mainstream news stations. I then said alluded to her that why wouldn't an issue in Hunters Point be an important Bay Area issue.

A fellow female student of mine chimed in and voiced my concern pretty well when she said that issues effecting Bay View Hunters Point are more important to her than some University of California Berkeley elites getting upset about environmentalists camping out in their university trees (a semi-big story here in the Bay Area).

I than said how the way the news is going about presenting the news is basically wrong. She's talking about how they need to appeal to a mass audience and yet she seems to be saying she's appealing to a white audience, which is not the majority demographic in the Bay Area. I said how issues effecting people of color are almost never covered, and if they are, they are only covered because of issues of gang violence or shootings, and that's the only thing people see on TV associated with these certain communities.

What Jack points out in his post is how representation of non-white people in the media is so one-dimensional which stereotypes them as violent and criminals (because that is majorly the way they are depicted).
During my brief stay in the Bay Area, I got to meet Jack and he gave a tour of the city of San Francisco. He showed me areas that were predominantly Black or Latino and these areas were invariably poor. The area where I was put up was completely white and there were hardly any Blacks. The Asians are doing better than them because there were a lot of Chinese and Indians in the area. In a country that abolished segregation forty years ago, people are still segregated.
Out of all the non-white races, Black people are probably the most well represented in media (relatively). But even so, a cursory look at their 'representation' would reveal significant information. Ads can be quite informative because they always target their customers and when the target audience were Black, the ads would have Black representation and these ads were primarily that of fast food chains and some instant personal loan (but they dont call that a loan, the ad shows a Black man saying he has 'somebody' to pay the bills). When Jack showed me around, he mentioned how there were always more fast food joints in the poor areas (because they are cheap) and there are more of these money-lenders (I forgot what they were called) in those areas. These ads are targeted and Jack called it targeted racism. I tend to agree. I observed the way a Black man is represented and it seems weird to me that they are almost always bald (or have extremely short hair). The ones who are shown with their natural hair in movies or TV are usually intended to be silly or ridiculous ala Daffy Duck. For a Black character to be positive, he has to be bald or have insanely close cut hair. They just are not represented as positive with their natural hair. This is the kind of negative body image that leads to things like this or this. This is also the reason why people look at some people as 'unnatural' because their conventions have been set by the media representations.

Representation is not about putting more Black (or Latino or Asian) faces on the cover of a magazine (though that is connected) but is concerned with how conventions are set. If conventions are set on the basis of one community and 'good' is defined on the basis of that community, we have a representation problem. The case of media is perhaps more straighforward but this idea can be extended to others too. Representation is not just about numbers but far more than that.

PS. This is a retrieved post. Means that I wrote part of it a long time ago and shelved it to continue later. Finally managed to piece it together.

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Honesty?

The last few days, an opinion page from CNN-IBN is making the rounds. People have expressed such opinions as nauseating and disgusting.
Shivam calls it "quite extraordinary and laudatory for a yuppie to admit his distance from the political rise of the 'low-class, neo-literate, village-bred, government school-raised, middle aged'".
I was surprised by this article. Not because it expressed something new or unknown, but because it said it like it was. It bared the soul of the writer who speaks for the 'non vote-bank' and their disgust over 'unsophisticated' Mayawatis and Mulayams who 'do not speak his (and his group's) language'. The great disconnect between the Youth of India who ostensibly stand for Equality and those they do not consider to be their equals has never been expressed in more clearer terms than this statement - "I am aware that were a Lalu or a Mayawati were ever to become PM, I would have to choose to leave the country". He wants his leader (whoever that may be, maybe Rahul 'foot-in-mouth-syndrome' Gandhi?) to lead the country and mould it in his vision because somehow his sophisticated 'education' that enables him to love 'british poetry' is more important.
The opinion that the article expresses is disgusting, elitist, stupid and absolutely undemocratic but more Youth would agree with it than see the crass classism and inequality it exhibits and they will yet, in their delusion, assert that they stand for equality. I believe the country would be better off without them. I call for them to leave the country and go after those opportunites abroad. Bugger off and leave us in peace.

Saturday, May 12, 2007

My pick for the next US president.

This guy -



LOL. Think of the fun we would have. Methinks he would be a better entertainer than Bush jr ever was! :D
John McCain... wait.. why does the name sound so familiar? John McCain. John McCain. John McClane. Oh!

I know they are releasing a new Die Hard movie but if this guy becomes the president, Osama better watch out! He will kick his ass. Reminds me of a classic scene from the movie...


Makes me want to watch Die Hard again. Live Free or D'oh!

Friday, May 11, 2007

Does God exist?

The original:


The description of this video is self-explanatory!


And the responses:




And we have an article in Slate that argues that most of us peel the banana the wrong way! Wait till I tell my pet monkey that he was right all along...

You make your own decision!

Link thanks to: Feministe

You don't see this everyday...

Sunday, May 06, 2007

USA or India?

On the contrary, we should not try to look for reasons beyond us - like mouthing 'the vegetable markets in India are horrible' - instead, we should actually look for reasons *within* ourselves. If we are comfortable with our environs either alien or native - why do we even need to crib? On the contrary, if we crib, shouldn't we at least try do something about this?? [Emphasis mine]

I got this through email from my brother-in-law. I do not agree with a lot of what this guy says. He falls into the same trap of stereotyping that he accuses others of doing and his analysis is simplistic and leaves a lot to be desired. But he does make some nice points, like the one above, from time to time. Suggested reading to all people considering coming back to India from the US.

Friday, May 04, 2007

Class and Language

Today, I went with a friend to see a play performed by a theatre group from Chennai in Chowdiah Hall. The proceeds of this event would go to a school called Round Table 44. This is a school for underprivileged kids and I am sure that this money would be put to a great cause, that of educating kids who otherwise would not get educated.
Before the play started, they showed us a video about the school and the people behind it. It started with a message "we have a dream". But I noticed something interesting in the video. The founder and some other people who looked to be members of the board (they were mostly businessmen) spoke to the camera in English but the testimonials of the kids were in Kannada with English subtitles! Now why is that? Is it because the kids' english is not that good? Clearly that could be the reason as one of the members had difficulty stringing together a proper english sentence. I wondered whether not even one of those kids (one of whom said that she is studying in a college and had 76% in her 10th exams and a distinction in her 7th standard exams) could speak english, even as bad as the member I mentioned in the previous sentence? Could it be possible that the school is a kannada medium one? I checked their website and this picture seems to tell a different story -

I should probably check with the school but their contact form gives me a HTTP 500 error (Internal Server Error) everytime I try posting my query. For some reason, they do not have an email id I could mail to and the 'Zip' code field accepts just 5 digits!
So, I wonder whether this video and website is mainly targeted to western (read, US) audience and this would explain the reason why the children (and their parents) spoke in Kannnada - to give the primitive, destitute, 'native' feel to the children.
If my suspicion is right and the language in which the testimonials were given were indeed intentionally so, I am mad. I am mad not because the school is a fraud and not doing a public service but I am mad at this classist nature of this video and the message it gave me was one of strong repulsion to the organisation.

The video also reveals how language is being used to demarcate and signify class. The elite, the rich and the upper class are the ones who have access to good english education and the lower class can converse only in the local language. Balraj Sahni was right. English is the new Sanskrit.

Update: I found that they do have a page with email addresses after all. My mistake.

QOTD

"You’d rather see Digg go down fighting than bow down to a bigger company."

If Digg wins this round, it would mean a giant victory for web 2.0 and the internet, in general. Kudo to Kevin for taking such a brave stand.

Tuesday, May 01, 2007

Stiff upper lip



AC/DC. Nope. It's the firebrand reporter from Tehelka.

Cross posted at PixSurf

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Another one of those days..

Scott Adams bugs me sometimes but never have I been bugged so much before..

Sunday, April 15, 2007

Kufr on 'reality' check.

For those who have been following the debate on reservations, Reality Check needs no introduction. A darling of the anti-reservationists, he has served nothing but disinformation and hatred. Though it has been pointed out several times, he is still considered 'objective' by many. What nonsense! He is just a bigot hiding under a cloak of rationality.

Well, here is somebody who finally decided to put an end to all such debate..

PS. As I read this post again, I realise that I do not do justice to Kufr's post. It is not just a rant or bigot-bashing but a post that tackles the most common misconceptions and misinformation that are spread by people like reality check.

Thursday, April 05, 2007

Familiarity

"Look, the days of that chutiya Gandhi are gone, OK?" he says suddenly. "I won't offer my cheek to be hit any more", and here he sticks his right cheek towards me nearly as crudely as if he had grabbed his crotch. "They trouble us so much on the border," he says. "Then Godhra happened. We had to hit back."

I have never been to Gujarat. Not before, not after. But those words are disturbingly familiar. Words that were spoken not by a pan-stained-banian-wearing individual but written as a rejoinder to a thread on a newsgroup in my institute, purpotedly having the most highly educated individuals in the country.

Wednesday, April 04, 2007

Best quote ever!

"I was number one on the Who's Likely To Die list for 10 years. I mean, I was really disappointed when I fell off the list."


Source.

पांच साल बाद

Five years on, there is still no justice in the thousands of cases of violence that took place in Gujarat. Five years later, the government has the temerity to accept that it killed an innocent man in a fake encounter who was purportedly involved in a conspiracy to kill Modi.
Every time you think that India is resurgent and is on the path of progress, remember Gujarat and remember how close to fascism our country is. Remember that Modi still rules over Gujarat and the party he belongs to has the second highest number of seats in the Lok Sabha. And lastly remember this poem.

A reason to love Alanis

The Supreme Court judgement

It has almost been a week since the supreme court made its judgement on the obc reservations. A lot of people have already responded to it. Here are some links -

A reluctant 'stay' on the basis of flawed reasoning.

Caste/Class-I

It's your country

SC's stay of Mandal II: A rejoinder

SC on reservations

Mandal will have the last laugh

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

It's time...

After over two months in the suburbs of San Francisco, it is time for me to go home. By this time tomorrow, I will be on a flight to New York where I would stay till friday night which is when I catch the long flight back to Bangalore. Though I have enjoyed visiting so many places in the States and meeting so many of my old friends, I have to say that I am glad that I am leaving. Unlike Jaya, who is homesick after just two weeks here, I am not really homesick but just tired of this part of the world where everyone has a car and it is tough to get around by public transportation or by foot. Working at the headquarters was a great experience but I really love my city and am yearning to get back to it and my beloved bike. I will be there at the start of the next month!

Thursday, March 22, 2007

A bunch of movie reviews

Ok, I am bored and I tend to watch a lot of movies when that happens. Over the last two weeks, I have been to the theatres thrice and have seen as many movies. I was contemplating to go to 'The Host' sometime but haven't gotten around to doing that. So, the movies that I saw are -

300

A friend of mine recommended and since me and another friend had nothing much to do, we walked into this theatre in LA and saw this movie. Turned out to be the biggest waste of six dollars ever! The movie is entirely shot in front of a blue screen (much like the disastrous 'Sky Captain and the world of tomorrow' which gave the film a unrealistic PC game feel. But that wasn't the worst of it. I can't even begin to explain how lousy this movie was. The other day, I was watching 'Cool Hand Luke' again and I felt that they have stopped making films like those in Hollywood. The best movies of the contemporary world come from Latin America or Iran. No, not even Europe is making them anymore!
Anyway, 300 was by far the most bloated, over-hyped movie that turned out to be so goddamn lousy that someone in the crowd (in the theatre) said aloud, "that was horrible" at the end of it.

The Namesake

Based on the novel by the same name by Jhumpa Lahiri, this movie is directed by Mira Nair, a director whose works I have loved over the years. I did not like the book probably because I did not relate to its characters. Even though, I did not relate to the characters in the movie version too, I liked the film and I felt that it was probably the best Indian American movies I have seen. All the other 'Desi' movies are things I have found very shallow with caricatured parents and silly storylines but this was refreshingly different. For one, it does not ridicule the parents but portrays them with dignity and even though they do not express their love for each other in the way the Americans do, their love is hard to miss and more harder to not appreciate. Also, it does not go to the other extreme of disparaging the American culture as immoral but shows them to be different. One gets some idea of why ABCDs are called so. Caught between two different worlds and cultures, it might be hard to balance the two.
A film that is worth seeing, though there is nothing great about it, unlike Salaam Bombay.

Pan's Labyrinth

After an Indian crossover film, I saw a Mexican film (Spanish with English subtitles). I liked the film because I thought it mixed fantasy with reality (of the setting it was set in - the Spanish Civil War) quite well and is paced very well. The Americans suck at creating fantasy in their movies and they usually resort to things like princesses and queens and kings and princes, which is fairytailey and quite unoriginal. The Japanese animes have gone to whole other world of fantasy, creating the most incredible worlds and amazingly complex stories (see any Miyazaki's films and try not falling in love with them). This film is somewhere in between because even though it deals with a central character who is supposed to be a reborn princess of the underworld, we never see the kind of princess worship that we see in the American films. Also, it deals with pretty adult themes and has some scenes that are fit for children (the villain stabbing a boy in the face with a broken bottle is one).
I liked it for its emphasis on its women characters and a nice suspenseful story. Would definitely recommend as a movie to be watched in a theatre.

Sunday, March 18, 2007

Hooked



A friend introduced me to this singer/composer/musician and since then, I have been hooked on to his brand of music.

Btw, he is Joao Gilberto. Perhaps a more user-friendly and a more famous song will help you appreciate him.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Google catches World cup fever!

Google launches Cricket World Cup Campaign

To include a Cricket Blogging contest

New Delhi, March 12, 2007: With World Cup fever at all-time high, Google India unveiled a Cricket World Cup Campaign today, promising cricket fans a uniquely interactive experience through the Internet.

The campaign will help users write, share, debate about and enjoy the Cricket World Cup through an integrated platform of Google products like Google Desktop, personalized homepage, Blogger and Orkut through a special landing page www.google.co.in/cricket . This would be a one-stop shop for all information related to the World Cup, allowing visitors to access regular updates, post individual comments and analysis and express their love for the game.

Sundaraman K, Head of Sales, Google India said, "Google aims to constantly improve its users experience by designing products that make things easier and deliver better results than what was available before. Cricket is one of the key passions of users in India and this campaign is designed to bring people across communities together, offering them a unique cricket experience across different Google platforms."

Google has teamed up with renowned cricketer and commentator, Krishnamachari Srikkanth, who will host an expert blog 'Cricket Zone with Krish Srikkanth' www.worldcupwithkrish.blogspot.com. This blog will allow users to interact with cricket experts as well as other bloggers on the performance of the various teams and engage in match analysis and a host of other interactive sessions. Additionally to the blog, Krish will also bring expert content to an interactive social networking experience through Orkut Krishcricket community www.orkut.com/worldcupwithkrish

As a part of this initiative, Google is also hosting a blogging cricket contest, entries for which can be submitted at www.google.co.in/cricket/contest . This will include posts on anything from on-the-ground reporting from West Indies to viewers opinions on the progress of the various teams at the World Cup. Both existing and new users will get an opportunity to participate in the contest. Google will also have a fully equipped Blogger vehicle that will visit, Bhopal, Ahmedabad and Hyderabad, educating people on the use of Internet and blogging for self-expression. This educational road show will begin on March 19, 2007 from Chandigarh.

About Google Inc.

Google's innovative search technologies connect millions of people around the world with information every day. Founded in 1998 by Stanford Ph.D. students Larry Page and Sergey Brin, Google today is a top web property in all major global markets. Google's targeted advertising program provides businesses of all sizes with measurable results, while enhancing the overall web experience for users. Google is headquartered in Silicon Valley with offices throughout the Americas, Europe and Asia. For more information, visit www.google.com .

# # #

Google is a registered trademark of Google Inc. All other company and product names may be trademarks of the respective companies with which they are associated


Thursday, March 08, 2007

International Women's Day

20070015
Picture taken in the GH, IIT Kanpur

Over at the Blank Noise Project, it is action heros time! Support the movement and make the streets a better place.

Last year, I wrote -

"I am surprised that women don't screw men over whenever they get the chance (some women do but not all) because men (again, not all men) screw them over (pun intended) all the time."

A year later, I still wonder about it all and a year later, I look at how much the Blank Noise Project has progressed. People like Jasmeen and Annie are putting in a lo to effort to spread awareness and I hope that their activism is actively making the changes that we ought to see in our society.
Some time ago, there was a call for activism in bangalore and even though I volunteered for it, I could not turn up at the last moment. I want to do my bit to the efforts of these fine women because I feel strongly about this.
"Eve teasing" is such an harmless little term, isn't it? The "It is just a bit of harmless fun"s and "don't take it seriously"s are pretty common justification for this. In a larger feminist picture, how serious is the problem of "eve teasing"? How important is it for the empowerment of women? How is it going to the contribute to the liberation of women?
I think it is very important. How many women would go to work if they could travel without fear and their fathers/husbands did not impose restrictions on their movements (of course, the fact that they impose restrictions is itself a problem)? How many women are likely to get a quality education when the centre of education - the university or the college - is away from home, perhaps, in another city? How many job opportunities would open up to women if they could travel long distances on the public transportation without harassment? How many women would be inspired to be independent and be confident of thinking for themselves if they could walk on a street alone without being bullied and thus being confident of being alone and looking after oneself, much like we men get to be? How many men would start respecting their female colleagues for being good at their jobs because they had the option of choosing the one they were most interested in and not because it was closer to their homes or the hours were normal?
I could go on and on like this but the essence of the issue is that I believe that safer and "eve teasing"-free world would make it easier for women to be empowered and thus accomplish the primary goal of the feminist movement.
This year, I hope to contribute more than my words. Let that be my International Women's day resolution.

Tuesday, March 06, 2007

Pix Surf

I have officially started a new blog. As you might have noticed on this blog, I sometimes go on a overdrive posting several pictures and though this was never an issue with me personally, I realise that it is time that I separated my photographic interests to a new blog and the result is Pix Surf. It would be a photoblog where I would regularly post the pictures I take. I would regularly post pictures that I have taken over my numerous trips and tours and generic pictures of abstract nature that I sometimes take when motivated. I might include travel details and stories behind the picture as time goes on and I become more and more regular at this new blog. Though I could have chosen any of the multitude of blogging softwares, I decided to remain loyal to blogspot because I have come to like it a lot and I feel that wordpress is going down the wrong road and because Google is actively working on blogger and would continue to make it better as it has always done with all its products.
My current blog, the one you are reading, would continue as it is and I would refrain from posting pictures here unless I feel that it is important for something that I have to say or if Pix Surf fails to attract regular readers.

PS. Pix Surf should really be considered my third blog, if you consider Blogbharti, where I am a contributor.

PPS. If you have some suggestions to make about the blog, please feel free to make them where ever you feel like. Or you could also email me!

Saturday, February 24, 2007

A drop of life

I found a link to a sci-fi film/documentary called "A drop of life". The world's water is getting privatised and this is an alarming trend. There has been huge protests by the people against the efforts by the corrupt government of Bolivia to privatize its water supply. Back home in India, clean processed drinking water is sold to companies like Kinley for as low 60 paise per litre by the AP government (could not find the link for this), which are of course are then bottled and sold at 20 times the price.
Why is this alarming? Because it puts clean water out of the reach of the poor which in turn means that they would be forced to use polluted water and face the health problems that would entail. Maybe tomorrow, they will start selling air too. Wait, they are already doing that!

Thanks to : Priya

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Jack

I finally got to meet Jack Stephens, who blogs here and here and here. He gave a little tour of the city and he showed me some of the areas that we (tourists) never get to see. It made me realise that segregation still exists, albeit in a subtler way. Much of the problems of race in the USA like discrimination, economics and class are very similar to the problems of caste in India. And much of the right wing arguments are the same too.
Later, he took me to an LFS meeting that was protesting the political killings in the Philippines in SFSU.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

A hard lesson in discrimination

In 1968, Martin Luther King Jr was shot dead and a school teacher decided to teach a bunch of third graders a hard lesson in discrimination.



Part 2
Part 3
Part 4

Part 5 is missing on youtube but can be found here... :(

This is the power that a teacher can have on the children that s/he mentors. It is sad that such teachers are so rare...

Can this be true?



"Name a country that begins with an 'u'"
"Umm... (Y)ugoslavia?"

"where was the berlin wall?"
* silence *

"Whatever he thinks is right.. he's from texas, he's gotta be right"

ROFL


PS. I am pretty sure that if you did a similar survey in India, you wont find anything different.

Friday, February 16, 2007

Hilarious!

Check out this video! It is hilarious!

Monday, February 12, 2007

"A girl like me"

A long time ago, I read the autobiography of Malcolm X and besides being struck by the life and times of that man and that man himself, I was also intrigued by what he had to say about Blacks trying to be White -

"This was my first really big step toward self-degredation: when I endured all of that pain [of the hairstraightening chemicals], literally burning my flesh to have it look like a white man's hair. I had joined that multitude of Negro men and women in America who are brainwashed into believing that the black people are `inferior'--and white people `superior'--that they will even violate and mutilate their God-created bodies to try to look `pretty' by white standards.... It makes you wonder if the Negro has completely lost his sense of identity, lost touch with himself." [Source]

The process is called 'conking' and is generally used to straighten the naturally curly hair. It struck me very similar to the notions of beauty prevalent in India, notions that are still commonplace and for expression of which a popular blogger got severely burnt recently. Reading Malcolm X's autobiography, I wondered whether the beauty ideal originated during the British rule when the whites were the master of the land and the Indian mandarins fought for their favours and approvals...
Carlo Montemayor from the blog Double Conciousness posted a documentary called "A girl like me" in which a bunch of black girls talk about the beauty ideal that they were exposed to and they recreate an experiment that is disturbing. The video is posted below.



-------------------------------------------------------------------------------
Thanks to Jack and Carlo for the links..

Monday, February 05, 2007

IITs - as overrated as it can get

The IITs are probably the most talked about institutes of higher education in India. And I am probably contributing to the volume of words that talk about these institutes but I can be excused because I am after all an alumnus of one of these prestigious institutes and talking about these institutes in general is something that I tend to almost every time I think about higher education, considering that is the only higher education I have ever had.
The IITs are perceived to be _the_ place to go to for higher education. It attracts the best minds in India, both as faculty and as students. Some of the faculty I met there were the most brilliant people in their respective fields. I am still in awe of some of them and I think I would never see such people together in one place ever again. But is education all about putting the best faculty and the best students together in one place and let them mingle in classrooms? Is that all that is required?
But before we answer all these weighty questions, what purpose do you think the IITs serve? Are they supposed to take students and mould them into people who are equipped with the knowledge and skills to innovate? Or are they supposed to create technically equipped workers for the rapidly growing industry (software industry, in particular)? Or are they supposed to create better citizens for the country?
Education is such a hard term to define. A lot of people would agree with me that education is not just the knowledge of terms and facts. But much of our school education is just that. Rote knowledge is expected and tested in our examinations that we take but higher education is supposed to go beyond that as it is expected that through the education we receive in our universities, we should be able to create new things that contributes to the progress of our society. But do the IITs help in this goal?
Abi has argued that the IIT model itself is flawed. One of the arguments that he makes against the IIOs (Indian Institutes of...) -

Ultimately, IIO blinkers us into an utterly unimaginative -- and some would say, delusional -- worldview which devalues academic disciplines that are not worthy of an Indian Institute. Isn't it absurd to even assume that anything other than technology, science, and management (and, if I may add, Hotel Management!) is unimportant for our country? Don't we need great economists to steer us through turbulence of globalization? Psychologists to help us deal with stresses from a fast-paced life? Artists to make our lives richer and more enjoyable? And philosophers to make sense of our uniquely human condition and our (almost) impending immortality?

This is something that I agree with completely. Some time ago, I read a blog post by another ex-IIT alumnus who argued about how little exposure to humanities we get in the IITs. Comparing with similar institutes in the United States like Caltech, he found that the number of credits/courses taken in the HSS department is far fewer (4 courses in the IITs vs. 12 mandatory courses in Caltech). Now that is a big difference. The IITs are very focused on the subject of study that the student has signed up for and does a pretty comprehensive job of that. But everything else is either ignored or given very little attention to.
Another area that the IITs do not pay any attention to is the students themselves. The IITs assume that the students have taken up the field of study that they are already motivated to study and would work on their courses with the appropriate amount of energy and perseverance. Therefore, there is never any effort made to involve student deeply with the field of study and to motivate them to work hard on the courses or even make the classrooms interesting enough. But is that assumption really true? well, to be very frank, not all students who come to the IITs have come there with a definite plan in their minds. Most of them have come there because that is what they have been told to do and have taken up the branch that was available to them for the rank they obtained in the JEE. ie, most of them do not really know what they have taken up till they are immersed deeply into their respective departmental courses. You cannot find more aimless, intelligent young people than in the IITs. Most of them lack direction and one would be surprised to find out that a very small number really did know what they were doing. With the amazing infrastructure that is provided to them and in particular, the incredible bandwidth that is available to them (I hear it is 36Mbps in IITK now! In my time, we had 2+2 Mbps), it is not surprising that quite a few of them get distracted and end up 'wasting' their time on a lot of non-academic stuff. This has invariably led to a dip in the grades of the students and, apparently, a suicide in IITB. Recently, IIT Bombay administration decided to ban the LAN (Local Area Network) for certain parts of the day. Would this really solve the problems that the IITs face today? That dropping student grades could be stopped by restricting access to such facilities like internet access?
I do not think so. The idea behind banning the LAN has been to discourage multiplayer LAN games that are generally played in the night and to ensure that students go to sleep at the appropriate time and are awake during lecture hours (this is something I heard from an IITB alumnus). But I am sure that the kids would find something else to distract themselves with. What about single player games and the hundreds of hours of movies, TV series, animes, etc that are readily available to be downloaded onto your computer when the LAN is active, to be watched at your own leisure? Does this really solve the issue of student motivation towards studies? My emphatic answer is "no, it doesn't!" This is the kind of knee-jerk reaction/"solution" that I have come to expect from the IIT administration. When I was still a student in one of them, the administration was more interested in adding more restriction to the entry of males to the GH ("Girl's" Hostel), painting zebra crossings on the roads that were so wide that they could crossed with three strides and other asinine things like that. There was no real effort to make the IITs a healthier place to live in for the students and there certainly was no effort made to motivate the students and inculcate in them a culture of innovation and creativity. In a recent visit to my alma mater, I found that the trend has continued. Now there are speed limit signs and more zebra crossings and other silly, non functional things like that.
I have always been a great supporter of counselling and I think a lot of students could benefit from a guide who could direct them in the right direction. Even though I think that a teacher could be the best mentor that a student could have, I realise that it is always not possible. I also think that a lot of students would benefit greatly if they would see a psychiatrist when they are in trouble. They were like three suicides in IITK alone last year and I would take this as a sign of declining mental health in the institute. As a society, we are extremely wary of psychological problems and are quick to ostracize anybody who seeks the help of a therapist. Which is why most people do not seek help when they require it the most. One of the things that I have observed in most MNCs is that they all have a telephone number that people can call when they problems and not just for work related issues and the employees are encouraged to call those numbers whenever they feel like it. Even though, the IITs have a psychologist who visits every month or so, there is no such number that is readily available for a student to call whenever they are the most depressed nor are they encouraged to seek help.
The IITB decision represents the great failure of the administration to empathise with their students and a great failure of imagination of how to go about solving the problems that the IITs face today. For this reason alone, I would condemn the IITs as a abysmal place as for as education is concerned. But for corporates seeking intelligent people to do menial work for them in their cubicles, it is the ideal place. The IITs are extremely overrated and someday, I hope, people would wise up to that fact.
As Abi has argued in his long post on the IIT model, it is just not the ideal place for education in India but the problem with India is the lack of quality universities, which is quite depressing. This represents such a gross inequity of education that is so hard to bridge. IIT alumnus are so proud of declaring that the IIT selection rate is just at 1% and that 1% receive the "best" education with the best facilities. Isn't it sad that the vast majority (99%) do not receive quality education in India? Call me a pessimist but I think the IITs are the best example of the extreme kind of exclusivity and classism that our society exhibits and I find it a disease that needs to be combated.
I am not done with my crib on the IITs and hopefully I would write on "why IITs do not produce Indian citizens" sometime this week.

Wednesday, January 31, 2007

"Reality has become a commodity"

One of the best things of being here in the States is being able to watch The Colbert Report everyday. Colbert is definitely one of the comic geniuses and he would probably go down as the most famous political comedian ever!
He is the guy who re-invented the word 'truthiness' and popularised to such an extent that it is common parlance these days. And he, in character, has supported wikipedia as a great example of truthiness! He called it 'wikiality' or reality according to wikipedia. You know the idea that if the majority feel something is a fact, it is made so... And to prove it, he asked his audience to go and change the entry on elephants to say that the elephant population has tripled in the past decade and they did it! Of course, the entry was reverted and the users were banned. And yesterday, he invented a new word - 'wikilobbying', citing a news story about how M$ hired some austrian to modify the entry on M$ in wikipedia to make it sound more favourable to the company. What this means is that if wikipedia is considered to be an encyclopedia of facts/reality, then reality is amenable to the highest bidder and hence the quote! He also made a reward offer to the first person to change the wikipedia entry on reality to his quote and people did do it! Wikipedia responded and protected the entry on reality!
Absolutely marvelous. As someone (I forget the name of the person) said, I am sad that the only meaningful political commentry comes from a comedy show!

Colbert rules!

Friday, January 26, 2007

I was there!



Pics and videos later...

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

California...

I am in california for a few weeks; the bay area, in particular. This place somehow manages to be both cold and sunny at the same time! Wide roads, lots of different varieties of cars, big office buildings, etc, etc.
I flew in through dubai and I had the rare opportunity to land in dubai at night and quite frankly, I have never seen any city look like that from the sky. To be fair, I had only Delhi, Bangalore and Hyderabad to compare with. As the flight approached Dubai, I could see long streaks of lights below that seemed to go into the horizon, and when the plane turned, I saw an entire city lit up, covering the entire horizon and the city seemed alive even though it was the middle of the night. I just wish I had my camera handy at that moment! But it was not to be.
The Dubai international airport should probably be renamed as the Dubai international _mall_. It reminded me of The Forum, the big mall in Bangalore. Only here, the people were from different countries and it was just as crowded as The Forum...
I have been in a suburb of San Francisco for the past few days and so far, I feel that this place is a little boring. Of course, the roads are wide and the facilites are impressive but the place seems so... dull! But then I am not in the main city which I plan to do this weekend!

Tuesday, January 09, 2007

"Now I'm stuck with that song... Now it's in my head."

This song is the title track of the movie "The Devil Wears Prada" and since morning, I havn't been able to get this song out of my head!!! It was buzzing in my head all day and I am still not sick of it yet! :)

Partake in my agony! Enjoy...

Friday, January 05, 2007

Funny?

I received this joke through email.


OLD VERSION...
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant’s a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the ant is warm and well fed. The grasshopper has no food or shelter so he dies out in the cold.

MODERN VERSION
The ant works hard in the withering heat all summer long, building his house and laying up supplies for the winter. The grasshopper thinks the ant's a fool and laughs & dances & plays the summer away. Come winter, the shivering grasshopper calls a press conference and demands to know why the ant should be allowed to be warm and well fed while others are cold and starving.

NDTV, BBC, CNN show up to provide pictures of the shivering grasshopper next to a video of the ant in his comfortable home with a table filled with food.
The World is stunned by the sharp contrast. How can this be that this poor grasshopper is allowed to suffer so?

Arundhati Roy stages a demonstration in front of the ant’s house. Medha Patkar goes on a fast along with other grasshoppers demanding that grasshoppers be relocated to warmer climates during winter. Amnesty International and Koffi Annan criticize the Indian Government for not upholding the fundamental rights of the grasshopper. The Internet is flooded with online petitions seeking support to the grasshopper (many promising Heaven and Everlasting Peace for prompt support as against the wrath of God for non-compliance). Opposition MP's stage a walkout.Left parties call for "Bharat Bandh" in West Bengal and Kerala demanding a Judicial Enquiry.CPM in Kerala immediately passes a law preventing Ants from working hard in the heat so as to bring about equality of poverty among ants and grasshoppers.


This joke follows the usual trend of jokes on India. It is cynical and in the context of the joke, it becomes funny.

But there is so much politics in this joke that it surprises me that nobody stops to examine it. Why do people want to portray Roy and Patkar as people who support "grasshoppers"? Do they consider the displaced tribals are grasshoppers? Actually, I am more interested in the effect such jokes have on the recipients. Does this make them _start_ disregarding Roy's words or does it just amplify their disdain for her? Some day, I will study jokes in more detail...

I dont know who wrote this joke and whether s/he intended it to be a just a joke or a propoganda, though I would be more inclined to think that this was meant to be just a joke which, in my opinion, is more dangerous. The fact that this joke does get circulated implies that the circulator feels that the joke is worth sharing and is in fact funny. I am pretty sure that a lot of people find this joke funny but I find it sad that the so called "educated" people do not stop to analyse it. There is actually a school of thought - zyada dimag na lagao and quite a few "smart" people seem to follow it. Is that the reason why Bollywood is able to make money off moronic movies?

Monday, January 01, 2007

A new year cometh..

2006 had been very good to me. When I look back at the year and look at what all I have accomplished in the year, I am glad that it wasnt another year of inactivity.

2007 beckons and time, as usual, is inexorable...

Happy new year to all!

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