Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Some thoughts...

In the last 3 years, I have added more blogs to my feeds than newspapers. I read more blogs than newspapers. I don't read paper publications anymore, except for the Mint Lounge on Saturday. (Which says a lot about the paper's content)
I read entire novels on my cellphone. My handbag is lighter. Will I buy the Kindle? I think I will wait for more ebook reader innovation. I would like to be a one device person. Another device, another charger, another handbag for another device is too much for me to worry about. 

Do I like ebooks? Yes, very much. Its doesn't have the old world charm of a paperback, but its the way forward. Will I stop browsing aisles and stop smelling old second hand books at bookstores? No. I will never step away from that luxury.

Where does the public library come into all this? I have never thought of a public library and the system of borrowing as a monetary decision. I think most people want to read recycled books than pirated books. And its a trend that should be encouraged. I look at public libraries as research centers. I am amazed that very few public libraries offer broadband! In any case public libraries are for people who want to research or browse or read on a whim. Not just students alone. So why not marry technology with a public initiative. I will retain my public library card.  

Where does the magazine industry go from here? I want magazines to be digital. I want to read them on my device--ebook reader/phone/iTouch/netbook. With Issuu in picture, a lot of free magazines are going to be available. A lot of good content will be free and easy to browse. We have already see record signing amounts being paid to Justin Bieber who began his career by uploading a video to Youtube. I wont be surprised if the next Pulitzer Winner or the next J.K.Rowling begin their journey due to a blogpost or an Issuu publication. There will be no excuse for good content and the crowds will decide who they like/dislike. 

I just hope my favourite publications don't miss the bus. Its about content versus platform. And with so much good quality free content I might just choose a better reading platform. 

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Humans have versions too

Humans have versions too. Which is why what is thick as thieves, muah-muah today may be a civil Hi tomorrow.  Its funny that most people are surprised or awkward about it. People will change. And why should there be so much shock about it. What's amazing about an unchanged person? "She still the same ya. Same dressing sense, same talking style." I don't ever want to be that person.
And if its principles your talking about, I don't think you can judge anybody's principles on a random meeting.

How silly would it be if all the people in little colorful benches were the same many years later? I would love to meet newer interesting versions of people around me. It keeps my personal expectation meter in check.

Johann Hari on Religious Support for Evil

Johann Hari does this extensive piece for the Independent on the religious support for the evil. Its the classic argument. It may even exist around you. That boy, who works for NGOs could not be involved in money fraud. The woman who is old and sick could not be beating the maid. We let our own characterizations come in way of what is right and what is wrong. 

"Here's what we are sure of. By 1962, it was becoming clear to the Vatican that a significant number of its priests were raping children. Rather than root it out, they issued a secret order called "Crimen Sollicitationis"' ordering bishops to swear the victims to secrecy and move the offending priest on to another parish. This of course meant they raped more children there, and on and on, in parish after parish. Yes, these were different times, but the Vatican knew then that what it was doing was terribly wrong: that's why it was done in the utmost secrecy.
It has emerged this week that when Ratzinger was Archbishop of Munich in the 1980s, one of his paedophile priests was "reassigned" in this way. He claims he didn't know. Yet a few years later he was put in charge of the Vatican's response to this kind of abuse and demanded every case had to be referred directly to him for 20 years. What happened on his watch, with every case going to his desk? Precisely this pattern, again and again. The BBC's Panorama studied one of many such cases. Father Tarcisio Spricigo was first accused of child abuse in 1991, in Brazil. He was moved by the Vatican four times, wrecking the lives of children at every stop. He was only caught in 2005 by the police, before he could be moved on once more. He had written in his diary about the kind of victims he sought: "Age: 7, 8, 9, 10. Social condition: Poor. Family condition: preferably a son without a father. How to attract them: guitar lessons, choir, altar boy." It happened all over the world, wherever the Catholic Church had outposts."

Friday, March 12, 2010


..are such wonderful beings. You can connect with them over a blurb, a line or a quote. You could be photographing a beautiful gate and reading the history of an architectural piece, when they will start a conversation on history. Sometimes, you exclaim at the title of a book, or smile across bookstore aisles. Sometimes a pregnant writer will talk to you about fantasy fiction and shake her head over the books dictating sermons about expecting a child. Some of them will remind you of that 'author whose name was on the tip of your tongue'. Some will secretly whisper bargains. One writer gravitated towards a magazine discount section, when he saw me with countless New Yorkers in my hand! Sometimes they frown about the dust on an old book, but smile at the colorful footnotes in the said novel. Some of them will invite you to writing clubs. Sometimes you  walk into a college classroom and see that bespectacled boy, who is the silent types, holding a Chekhov. You will start with Russian novelists and end at non-fictional war tomes.
Writers are wonderful beings. And how many of them have connected with me over a line!

Monday, March 08, 2010

Validation and Comments Policy

I don't have a comments policy on my blog. For a very long time, my friends debated my decision to keep comment moderation. I heeded their advice and now I don't moderate comment publishing. However, I do moderate the comments once they are published. Which means if its anonymous AND abusive, it will be deleted. If it doesn't add to the discussion--either by a viewpoint or a counter viewpoint-it will be deleted.
I will illustrate my position with this anecdote.
When Oprah Winfrey was asked why she never featured Ku Klux Klan or the Satanic Churches on her show, this is what she had to say : " By calling them on my show, I will give them validation. I will give them the validation of being on my show. I do not want to air anything that gets people to think about something clearly shouldn't exist in the first place."

I want to achieve something similar with my blog. I don't want to encourage comments that degrade people who comment on a post or people who want to find flaw for some reason. I agree that I rant. But the counter argument to the rant is not another rant, rather a logical argument. If you feel the rant is useless, don't comment. As is the case with all rants, they subside. You learn to live with something or shut something out.

Secondly, a blog is a privilege for readers. A comment/recommendation is a privilege for me. You read because I let you read. You have the choice to not read/comment. Exercise your privileges. I will exercise mine.

A country's Tag Cloud

I was watching this well researched documentary about Japan. They were discussing the technological prowess of the nation and how everything in Japan is well-timed. The train timetables, flight changes and events are so well-timed that being late to an event is a sign of irresponsibility.
I was comparing that to the Indian context, where being late is a given. People are late even on the first day of their job! We have famously expanded the abbreviation IST( Indian Standard Time) to mean Indian Stretchable Time. Its a convenience and a cultural perk that we dont want to lose. We may crib about the lack of infrastructure and how reaching/doing work late is affecting our eventual processes. But we never think how much of our personal time it wastes.
For example, the Japanese citizen doesn't have to worry about trains being late or about buses being stuck in traffic due to road digging. Because he trusts the infrastructure blindly, he is able to make decisions and decide meeting times with conviction.
Contrast that with an Indian situation--example a wedding. If the wedding card says the wedding begins at 7 and ends at 11, most people will give themselves a one hour buffer and come late. Or reach early, by leaving their other social commitments early. We always have the traffic, train timings and the infrastructure excuse approach on our minds. Which is why we are never able to focus on issues important to us.(There are some of us who do take pains to observe punctuality. That we happen to leave home two hours early to reach a place in time is an infrastructure or a distance gap.)
Japan may be going through an economic crisis, but the people over their never have to worry about being beaten up for seeing a movie!
Our politics has a tag cloud of castes, religion, language, creed and crime. Which is why we may make technological advancements, but they are dependent on a quota or a long queue or an archaic law.

The more I read about governments, the more I feel they are about their tag cloud. What your politicians are constantly talking about is where your country is headed.
And if the youth is talking a different language than the politician, how do you bridge the communication gap?

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Trend : Bollywood-ization

A news channel conducted its annual awards function, by commemorating Indian of the Year in different fields. The usual award list saw the inclusion of 'Twitter Indian of the Year', Actor, Musician,Superstar etc. of the Year awards being given out to Bollywood celebrities. One would assume that a news channel would hand out  journalism, stories or even headline of the year awards. In fact apart from a chat with the Home Minister about the rising Naxal problem, most of the awards were about Bollywood.
It is increasingly obvious that Bollywood is playing a major role in the lives of Indians and Indian trends. News Channels have Bollywood production houses as investors. Sports teams are bought by Bollywood. Politics require Bollywood celebrities for vote garnering. The silver screen has a strong Bollywood presence. No fashion event is complete without a Bollywood showstopper. Even our own sense of justice and freedom is defined by Bollywood. In the recent MNiK controversy, we took it upon ourselves to fight the 'internal enemy' by watching the movie. We discovered our sense of justice and fundamental rights when in fact the dispute was between the star and a politician. We were just collateral damage(well almost!).
In a recent discussion with a friend, we talked about how phrases from Bollywood have begun to show up in status updates, dialogues, greeting cards. Take the ubiquitious 'Aal Izz Well' or the 'My name is Khan and I am not a terrorist'. Its very obvious that the trend-setters and the sources of idea implementation will come from Bollywood.
I dont know if its a dangerous precedent or not. Should we be afraid that a largely spineless industry has the power to influence decisions? That creativity for the sake of profit has a share in our basic infrastructure? I like the idea that a creative industry takes charge of the way trends are thrust upon society. In its own subliminal way, Bollywood is changing not just the fashion sense, but our perception of education at times (recent examples being 'Wake up Sid'). We may not be gobblers of information, especially if it comes from a fluff movie, but a lot of individuals are.
It is important to realize the influential value of this behemoth. Both from a directorial/production house perspective and from an audience perspective.

P.Sainath offers his opinion on a similar issue.