alochana

yes Gods are crazy

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)

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

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

Miniluv

with 3 comments

2006: Burma

2007: Tibet

2008: Iran

Can’t help noticing that Orwellian/Bulgakovian touch! Unlike in the past two cases, the modicum of freedom in Iran gives us an idea of the desperation that drives such protests. And the hopelessness behind it all.

Written by kowsik

June 21, 2009 at 13:20

Posted in life

Winamp, Galadriel…

with 6 comments

Archana: Obama is this dude, you know

Me: Yeah right! He is to politics what Aishwarya Rai was to acting… I prefer Sarah Palin. And, by the way, that line sounds familiar, and not in a good way at that!

Furious Archana goes for the kill: What do you mean? Ok why did ever our Winamp ji not consider politics?

Me in the ‘You can’t handle the truth‘ mode: Elementary… That was answered by Tolkein long time back. Take this

Written by kowsik

June 13, 2009 at 06:05

Posted in humour, IISc, kboy, life