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Paris2Barack

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Back in 2007 the mainstream news media in the US was obsessed with entertainment news. So much so that gossip mags in supermarkets were feeling the heat. I mean, if the mainstream media poaches on their ‘safe-bet’ of celebrity gossip, what is left for them to report? Of course, this being the land of innovators, these guys started filling their front-pages with gossip about the Dubya-Laura-Condi triangle. Sick but hilarious. You go to the nearest grocery-store/supermarket, buy some stuff for the kitchen, stand in the queue at the counter and end up trying to make sense of the headlines speculating whether Condi can ever do a Monica… Definitely sick, occasionally hilarious.

In the middle of this hysteria discerning people (like me) started raising their eyebrows by more than the mandatory one-eighth of an inch. In short doses, such stuff is amusing. Large doses of such speculations suggest proximity of the end of the world. And I am not ready for that yet.

The entire phenomenon of page-1-ification of page-3 had created a positive feedback loop where the media was obsessing over those whose main job was to be in the headlines. It works for both, except that the ensuing loss of credibility would kill the news industry before these publicity-hounds grow old. The only way out in such cases, when all else fails, is Divine intervention. Intervene or not, Comedy there definitely was. The US was in the middle of two wars,  but these wars lost the ‘battle of the front-pages’ to the grand-daughter of a hotelier. The last time a heiress created a sensation, at least she was kicking some serious rear-end, this time it was all for nothing. We now know that things did eventually change for good, so much so that we can’t imagine that news was so silly back then. We now obsess over the Obamas.

Anyway, I was reminded of all this by this video clip of a news anchor trying to make a point about the sad state of affairs in those days:

(link-source: The Editrix)

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Written by kowsik

November 2, 2009 at 19:47

Posted in courage, culture, life

Abort, Retry, Ignore?

with 2 comments

I was reading this old post by GreatBong lamenting about the lack of traffic to his posts that can be judged as sensible by any objective standard, while seemingly crappy blogs keep getting heavy traffic. It is a testament to his skill that, even in such a moment of frustration, he had managed to come up with a post that conveys the pain that is caused when one is rejected by a subjective standard that one finds unreasonable. May be the mythical ‘frustration of poverty’ that forces great works of art is at play here. I don’t know. But this post is not about what is behind works that touch our hearts. This post is about the frustration that is a consequence of being rejected by seemingly subjective standards. This post is not about whether its ubiquity is restricted to nerds. This post is about the role of chance behind these frustrations. It is about an instance that demonstrated how much a casual act by a stranger can change the fate of an enterprise from a soul-crushing humiliation to something that warms the hearts even years later.

Back in the fall of 2003, PJ and I were given the ambitious task of selling T-shirts to IIScians. Ambitious, because we had to convince the students, particularly the new entrants, to buy T-shirts from the non-entities that we were. It looked like there existed a T-shirt design, and we just had to do the front-end work. Blissfully unaware of the absence of any such design for the shirts, we made posters promising the moon (“babes for the guys, and dudes for the girls”) in a language that was meant to convince the readers that we were qualified to make such promises. A week before we hit the mess’ with prototype T-shirts, the truth of the non-existence of the design was revealed to us, and we had to come up with designs that were ‘cool’ and ‘acceptable’. Not surprisingly the designs that we came up with were, we were convinced, particularly unremarkable. And we went with these unremarkable designs to a students’ mess to begin the sale. And then began the long wait where we kept trying, unsuccessfully, to catch the eye of any student in the hall, in the hope of getting someone to wander by our table.

It was a good half-hour before the first set of students finished their dinner, and it was a good ten minutes after that before anyone even bothered to stare in our direction for more than a few seconds. You put a bunch of smart-sounding posters, notice that the reaction to the posters is good, and then occupy a few tables of the dinner hall with your T-shirts… You should have students dropping by your table, right? Wrong, apparently. We were being ignored by the same students who were frustrated about being ignored by the people that they were interested in all their lives. Being ignored appears to be something that we humans are incapable of empathizing with, in spite of being at the receiving end of the same treatment forever. Coming back to the mess that we were in, another few minutes, and we would have given up on any hopes of succeeding, and left with our stuff. At least that was what PJ and I had resigned ourselves to. What else can one do, when one has just become invisible to one’s acquaintances? And then, as Tolkien might have put it, something happened that we had ceased to expect. One non-descript student who we had not noticed till then (ignored by the ‘ignored by the ignored’) wandered towards our table while sipping on his tumbler of Boost. After a few, insanely long, seconds of looking at the shirts, he smiled, and asked, “How are you doing?” The rest was just a blur of people and numbers and cash. That smile of his was the difference between public humiliation and a memorable adventure. To this date, I don’t dare think about what the scene might have been had he not decided to walk towards our table. I don’t even dare to think whether the decision was about whether to walk towards our table, or whether to ignore us! I don’t know if PJ dares to think of it either. Occasionally we talk of him, but never do we try imagining the alternate scenario.

But then, as Tolkien said, somethings that should not have been forgotten were lost. The ungrateful bastard that I am, I don’t even remember this man’s name.

Written by kowsik

August 12, 2009 at 18:20

Posted in courage, cribs, IISc, life

Hanging on to the towel

with 2 comments

You believe that you are entitled to possess/experience ‘X’. As with any belief, this may not necessarily logically (colloquially referred to as ethically) valid. You are offered ‘X’.

The question here is not about whether you would accept the offer. The question is, “Do you consider this to be an issue of just two choices, or is it more of a grayscale issue?” And, how much of an effect would this answer have on how far you go with the offer?

Words of wisdom:
Marvin

You live and learn. At any rate, you live.

Zaphod Beeblebrox

I refuse to answer that question on the grounds that I don’t know the answer.

Written by kowsik

August 10, 2009 at 17:27

sushupti

with 2 comments

Consistency is one quality that we Indians are consistent about. Our apathy to our history is now a stuff of legend: that we had no clue that Aśoka existed until the Britishers told us so. While such lapses of memory might be incomprehensible to those outside the subcontinent, the explanation is trivial for those of us going through the daily drama. With a billion people every where, who has time for the long dead? But what about the living? While the Israelis are an example of bringing back a language from its grave, we are the example of the opposite. Forget Sanskrit, what about our present languages?

Obviously there is never a rant for nothing. Today’s rant has its origins from a link to an article by Chandrahas Choudhury. And yes, consistency. Once again, it’s a Westerner who is trying to shake our apathetic souls into action. To act before we forget our languages.

Unfortunately, most of us are too obsessed about the perceived insults/denigrations that we almost never listen to what we are being told. In this case, we have been failing to realize that these academicians are interested in our literature, a lot more than we are. It’s insulting, probably. But it definitely is stupid on our part to get angry that they are misinterpreting our literature without having read that literature ourselves. Does it really matter if their interpretations do not agree with our sensibilities, us who do not even bother reading our own literature before forming our prejudices of what our literature is about? For the past couple of centuries we Indians have been gradually compromising on our own past for our survival. Till the generation before us, there were acceptable excuses. What about us? What about the generations immediately following us? Are we going to put a stop to this slide away from our our identity? Do we have it in us to say, “Thus far, and no further”?

Written by kowsik

January 26, 2009 at 17:17

War

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November 26, 1949: Consitution of India is Passed by the Constituent Assembly

November 26, 2008: Mumbai attacked by terrorists

Attack on India?

From known history, this building was among the early displays of Indian nationalism. Considering how much research the terror groups behind this attack appear to have done, this is nothing but a declaration of war? Beyond this obvious comment on the entire incident, more important are the following:

1) Why was there a situation such that the ATS chief had to be involved in a shoot-out?

2) Why did it take 6 hours for the army to be called into action?

3) Do we have any sort of central level system/protocol to meet terror attacks?

Commandos

On a lighter vein, now that the incident has come to an end,

If there is a terror attack in India, and we don’t accuse Pakistan of complicity, would the ISI-chief be sacked?

Written by kowsik

November 29, 2008 at 10:07

Posted in courage, death, life

prakruti/vikruti?

with 6 comments

I find this post marginally insane. For once I have a problem with every single paragraph of a post. For God’s sake… sorry, its author belongs the the ‘God Delusion‘ school, so why bother! In any case, coming to Postdoc’s post:

The entire article is about mother nature being this chaste virgin and how humans, through their industriousness, have been violating mother nature. I know, it’s not a new theme, but when the dude appears to begin to lose it, it is a thing to be arrested, or at least ticketed. I also know that Postdoc should have the freedom to go on a rant every once in a while, this my corresponding counter-rant.

Nature is beautiful in NatGeo. But when you are out in it, it is– as Murphy puts it– ‘a bitch’. When you are out in the wilderness/nature, it is a battle for survival, much as it is in the concrete jungle. The average man is spared the Freudian guilt because, not only has he (thankfully) no access to Disney/NatGeo but also because, he is enduring the battle for survival every day. Only when you are asked to live up to an ideal do morality & guilt come in, this is one such case. I find the attitude in this post to be in the same league as that of most doomsdayers and moralists, damning the entire mankind by comparing it with a dream, obviously we fall short– what chance has reality got against a dream?

As to the balance in nature: I don’t think there is one, if we are talking of a balance that ensures that any perturbation will bring it back to the initial state. I don’t even see the need for such a balance to exist– if it were not for some of the ‘spoiling of the nature’ level destabilizations, mankind would never have come up.

While it is patently absurd to argue that perturbations to the existing nature happen only due to humans, one might still argue that some of the perturbations are due to humans. I agree, but one should understand that perturbations happen, if not by us, by the nature in our immediate vicinity, or at higher levels (nature, as the dinosaurs found out first, is the entire universe). Here is where I find the biggest contradiction in the post. For some one having (not just ranting) serious problems with religion’s views like creationism, the author takes a condescending on the ‘lowest common denominator’ (‘lcd’ from here on). As far as I understand history, human civilization evolved in the same way that life evolved on our planet, survival of the fittest. If we want the religious people to accept and internalize this knowledge in their world-view, how hypocritical would a denigration like ‘lcd’ be? As to whether ‘lcd’ is bad for us, it has been the way evolution happened, and for some arcane (is it?) reason that has been the way progress in most aspects of our civilization has been. In short, if we want this ‘ugly’ ‘lcd’ to go away, we have to give up the present civilization and be ready to live in the forests and deserts (not oceans, of course). Incidentally, all the so called ‘cruel’ cultures happen to be the cultures living closest to nature, so I am not sure if any of us would want to take that risk. While I feel some pain when I see the deserted concrete houses and stuff like that,  a sensible/fitter way would be to try to find a way to avoid that (alternative to concrete?), rather than blame the ‘lcd’s. I am taking so much offence at the word ‘lcd’ because I am one. And I think that art is as much of a luxury as soap-operas are, that’s some red pill that I wouldn’t mind if taken by Postdoc though I am sure he thinks his pill is redder than mine.

Now to the most politically correct condemnation ever: religious intolerance. My only disagreement here is about the effect of religion. Religion does not divide, in fact it has been the most successful unifying mechanism ever. The only problem seems to be our missing the forest for the trees. With religion, you have <10 broad divisions on matter of faith, without it, the number will be much more. If we can’t find a way around <10 broad divisions, how can we manage to do any better in the absence of religion? As to intolerance, it has always been there. Sistine Chapel was in a region and period where there was no intolerance because the other groups were wiped out. Is the author ok with a state of tolerance and high-art if it is attained through a wave of intolerance? ‘IED’-art? Mirabai was a victim of intolerance, I almost fell through the beauty in that line. That’s another probem with beauty, most of the time it is rhetoric, the same thing that the author accuses religion of.

In short the author sounds like a character out of ‘American Beauty’. I believe this is the age of the market forces, we ‘lcd’s deserve better. On a serious note, I think attitudes like those exhibited in the post of interest are the ones that lead to totalitarian regimes, all the while condemning it in letter.

PS 1: I have serious problems with the abuse of the word ‘beauty’, in a way not much different from Postdoc having problems with the abuse of nature– just as we are a part of nature, part of beauty lies in our gray matter.

PS 2: In my opinion ‘art’ is a corrupted spelling for a word that should be pronounced with f-silent. We all know what they say about opinions, we can leave it at that

Written by kowsik

August 3, 2008 at 09:13

karma

with 4 comments

Occasionally, only occasionally, people forget being fake; and only in a few among those rare occasions they speak what they think

Sharon Stone rules! If only her career was as good as her debut… may be that’s asking for too much

As can be expected, a billion-plus Chinese are hurt because of the “cold-bloodedness” of truth, something that goes contrary to what their government wants them to believe. Worse is what the PC media will do to her…

Written by kowsik

May 29, 2008 at 07:29