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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

Miniluv Redux

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Some time back I had posted on the post-election protests in Iran. I did not realize how naive I was about Iran until a comment by Tazeen.  Looks like even my hopelessness was naive:

(source: Sam Roggeveen)

On hindsight, this should have been obvious. There are too many distractions on the internet. It is most compatible with arm-chair activism. Type a rant, and be done with your anger! It is that easy. It is equally fickle. You read one article and get all fired-up, but you can get equally fired-up for the opposite cause by reading another article. The medium is built for propaganda. And from the well known example of Google in China,we know that the medium is tightly controlled by the Big Brother. Fat chance we have, of beating the casino in this gamble!

Written by kowsik

October 6, 2009 at 04:41

Posted in civilization, culture

MohAtma!

with 2 comments

“We live, I regret to say, in an age of surfaces.”

So said Lady Bracknell. Atleast that was what Oscar Wilde made her say. And she was right. Right for her times. Wilde, I regret to say, needs to be revised! Conditions have deteriorated quite a lot since the days that Lady Bracknell was imagined in. We don’t even bother with the surfaces these days. We live, I regret to say, in an age of edges. I am only reducing the no:of dimensions by one as I need to account for the literary licenses of the next generation. The one after theirs, I am glad to say, is not my problem.

While the past generations judged a book by its cover, we do not bother to even glance the cover. Our judgement is solely a function of whether the author is in fashion, or not. Predictably enough, where the generations before us had Hemingway, we have the likes of Roy. Where they had Wilde, we have… NONE. No writer who can point out the inherent silliness of it all without sounding like a whiner. Even when some one makes an attempt, we condemn him for being politically incorrect, or brand them as publicity seekers. Most often we just ignore them. We have so many who make a living out of creating sensation that when some one actually rattles us with aim of making us question our beliefs, we are caught off-guard. Occasionally though, we get angry just because we can’t stand the person.

This whole thread, Bracknell, Wilde and Hemingway aside, is no where truer than it is in India. We don’t give an airborne-pollination about either history or historical figures. And we remain apathetic until an outsider pulls a smart-one on the figures that we would rather not care about. Just like those truck-loads of cows whose remains regularly head to the tanneries. We do not care about it, so long as it stays at the periphery of our thought.

The sad part of this pheonomena is that the only people who are truly hurt when an outsider intrudes on our beliefs are those who pride themselves of their knowledge. These are the only people who feel hurt at the apparent silliness/15-minute-mode of the outsiders. This, inspite of the fact that these very people know that they are not the target audience for these rattlers. Is it because of their condescending attitude towards their ignorant brethren? That the sheep might follow the wrong shepherd? The people that the writers want to rattle never get the hint. They look up to their indignant brothers and, predictably enough, take to the streets. When Rushdie wrote about the issues that he had with the religion that he grew up with, he was rewarded with fatwas. When he questioned the myths about the Father of the nation, a principle figure on whose legacy his entire career was based on, his target audience did not give a damn. And he ends up hurting a few people who feel that the greatest man in the near past be sacrosanct!

Raja Ram Mohan Roy died a good 20 years before Wilde was even born. Inspite of being virulently hostile towards the Hinduism as practised in those days, no record exists that tells us that he had to go underground to save his life. We generally tend to imagine that we are better than our ancestors. So one can not help but wonder, what if he lived in our times? Would he have been forced to go underground like Rushdie and Nasreen?

PS1: While I often complain that Wilde resorts to literary licence a bit too often, he is never far off the mark. More importantly, he seems to be of the “Shut up, and do your work” school.

PS2: My stance on idol worship & conversions is diammetrically opposite to that of Raja Ram Mohan Roy. But that does not take away any respect that he deserves for the reforms that he fought for.

Written by kowsik

October 3, 2009 at 13:32

Posted in civilization, culture

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

acedia

with 4 comments

I think I am a fool. A fair case can be made of that, I think. Not in the grandiose sense that most of us fantasize about– like those crusaders for ideas that are ahead of their time etc– no, I think my foolishness is of a far more basic nature. Something that is trivially comprehensible, and hence, possibly the silliest.

A case, as an example illustrating this foolishness, is this incident during my +2. One fine day early in the morning, I felt like skipping the tuition class because I wanted to take a day off from getting drenched in the rain and pushing that stupid moped of mine through the rain for a couple of kilo-meters before even the Sun got up. I did. The next day the lecturer wanted to know why I skipped. He wanted to know if I was ill. I said NO. To this day I am not sure if I answered so because I believed that two wrongs don’t always make a right, or if I was lost in the logical maze that was the way out of the perceived wrongs… whatever I was honest, not in the bragging sort of a way, but in a sheepish way. The lecturer, in what I still consider to be a reaction a load of parsecs away from what would’ve been commensurate with my behaviour, possibly feeling that I was being insubordinate I am sure, told me that it is better that I stop attending the tuition if such were my attitude. I couldn’t figure it out on that day, I don’t fare much better today either. What confounds my sub-social intelligence is that I might be alone in limited company in so far as offering ‘laziness’ as an excuse is concerned, and that too, often. I find it strange that people can cite reasons for most of their actions. Most people, that I know, are irritated when I admit my laziness rather than think of some excuse. And I find it stranger.

I stopped attending that tuition. And that was not the only occasion that I had to give up something for such a reason. I don’t know if I regret that. It was not the last time. I don’t now if I should regret that.

Written by kowsik

January 18, 2009 at 17:21

Posted in cribs, culture, life

Fry, Stephen Bheja

with 5 comments

“Insane. That’s what Stephen Fry is!”

If there is any one thought that descends on me as heavily as anything that usually depresses anyone with it’s weight, it is the above exclamation of surrender every time I read anything written by Stephen Fry. It’s not just that he writes in a manner not very much unlike the way water flows, sliding along the path of the shortest, damned-well fastest, descent — it is possible to imagine someone born with a command over language that Fry has — thankfully it is much more than that. Reading his articles sets us off on a line of thought, and all of a sudden there comes a line that stops us blind: facing the realization that Fry had anticipated the lines of thought that the reader is drawing in his mind while reading the article that he, Fry, was writing whenever he was writing that article.

Before you ask “Why?”, the cause for this panegyric was this article by Fry on Wilde & Chekhov, where he explains and demonstrates what it is that make artists like Wilde & Chekhov:

A paradox is that it seems harder to penetrate one’s own mind, participate in one’s own experience and discover one’s own feelings than those of another.

… …

Everything we know may be wrong, but art helps us believe that…

Everything we feel is right.

But, how do we know what we feel? Is that why we need art? Midway through the same article, he explains the wilderness that is Wilde

Because Wilde was an artist he saw the artist in everyone. He believed that Christ was an artist and that Satan was an artist. He believes that you and I are artists too.

About Fry, he may be rightest; about me, he may be wrongest!

Written by kowsik

December 22, 2008 at 17:19