India Uncut

This blog has moved to its own domain. Please visit IndiaUncut.com for the all-new India Uncut and bookmark it. The new site has much more content and some new sections, and you can read about them here and here. You can subscribe to full RSS feeds of all the sections from here. This blogspot site will no longer be updated, except in case of emergencies, if the main site suffers a prolonged outage. Thanks - Amit.

Wednesday, May 31, 2006

Moral police objects to condoms

Well, not to the contraceptives, but to the word itself. The thought police is out in force.
amit varma, 6:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Something fishy, for sure"

The Hindustan Times goes bonkers.

I know that piece is in a section called "HT Tabloid" and I know this particular feature is called "Girl Talk," but isn't HT even slightly embarrassed to have stuff like this come out under its name? On the other hand, as a reader, I shouldn't complain. Where else could I find "tonnes of giggling voices [sic]?"
amit varma, 6:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

An equal opportunity destroyer

Smoking, that is. So says Dush Ramachandran in his excellent post, "Guns don't kill, smoking does!" Among the many fine points he makes:
[I]n the more traditional societies, smoking seems to be considered a sign of a woman's emancipation. If a woman smokes then she must have thrown off the yoke of male domination, and saying to her (male) oppressors "I am equal to you in every way". How ironic, that when a woman feels she is empowered to make her own decisions, she makes a decision that weakens her rather than making her strong.
Indeed. I'm against smoking, by and by, not because of the damage smokers do to themselves: I couldn't care less how much you harm yourself, it's your life and your body. But smoking harms the people around you, and as you presumably hang around people you care about, family and friends and suchlike, it makes the act of smoking all the more befuddling. No?
amit varma, 5:29 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Yet another monsoon is upon us...

... and so an old blog gets active again. The BMC has sent out SMS warnings that heavy rains are expected in Mumbai in the next 48 hours. So if you're reading this now, do stock up on essential supplies in case you're stuck at home, and don't travel any more than absolutely necessary.
amit varma, 5:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

No South Asians...

... in the Australian cricket team, points out Amitava Kumar. All the other Test-playing sides in the world have at least one player of South Asian origin, he writes.

If you look at his list, you'll notice that all the players of Indian origin that he lists are either batsmen or spinners. That's just as I'd expect. I'll elaborate on the reasons for that in a future post sometime.
amit varma, 5:15 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Allen Iverson ain't that hot

Malcolm Gladwell reviews a book that looks at performance in sport in an entirely new way. Fascinating stuff, do read.

I wonder whether we could also find new ways of looking at cricketing performance beyond batting and bowling averages, and if so, what kind of metrics would we take into account. I know interesting studies of the kind have been attempted before, including by Wisden, who feed me bread and butter, but never with the kind of systematic rigour that is typical in, say, top-notch sabermetrics. (By and by, I'd written once on the subject of sporting performance and statistics here, with reference to baseball.)

I'd particularly be interested in an evaluation of Shane Warne vis-a-vis Muttiah Muralitharan. Assuming that both of them have legit actions, and I believe they do, who is a greater matchwinner? Murali has a far better wickets-per-Test record, but then, he bowls in a team that has no other great bowler, while Warne has generally bowled with Glenn McGrath in his side. Also, Warne had featured in more wins, but then, he's part of a much better side. And Warne has done badly against India, while Murali's done pretty well. How do they stack up against each other? How do we judge? It's a fascinating subject.

(Gladwell link via email from Joby Joseph.)
amit varma, 4:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Podcast education

You don't need to go to a classroom to attend a lecture anymore.

While some will bemoan the lack of human contact, think of the possibilities this opens up to spread quality education. Perhaps professors can one day be independent superstars, not affiliated to universities, teaching online to people who want the education but not the degree. Hell, I'm never going back to university, but I'd certainly pay to attend courses by Steven Pinker or VS Ramachandran. Do you have someone you'd pay to learn from?

(Link via Digital Inspiration.)

Update: Ah, and in case you haven't heard or read them already, do check out Ramachandran's outstanding series of lectures on neuroscience, delivered as the Reith Lectures of 2003, and collected as "The Emerging Mind".
amit varma, 3:26 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Still an ostrich?

The Times of India reports that India now has more people with HIV than any other country in the world. The 2006 Report on Global AIDS Epidemic puts the count in India at 5.7 million, and while I don't know what the methodology for the study is -- are these actual reported cases or extrapolations based on known cases? -- I wouldn't be surprised if the actual number is higher. Either way, given the poverty in our country and the dismal state of healthcare, these numbers won't fall, they can only grow.

The headline of this post, of course, is a reference to this earlier post of mine.
amit varma, 3:04 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Takla Hatela messed with Kajrawali

But Black Beauty is happy with Bawa Model.

Indeed, the names that the underworld has come up with for Bollywood stars are superbly functional. Most apt is Mota Rola. Immense joy comes visiting.

(Link via email from Akshay.)
amit varma, 2:52 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Hey, I hang out there!

The next time you have a capuccino at a friendly neighbourhood cafe, don't look too inviting. DNA reports that how outdoor seating at the Barista and Cafe Coffee Day at Oshiwara has been banned because "these places were being used by pimps to solicit clients."

Odd. Those outlets are fairly close to my office, and used to be as close to my residence, and I go there often. Rakshanda Khan says in a follow-up story that she has "never come across anything seedy at the coffee shops in Oshiwara," and I second her impressions. Also, if the police hasn't actually apprehended a single pimp from the premises, does it really have a right to make these allegations, which by virtue of the lack of an arrest are unsubstantiated?

And let's not even go into whether the activity allegedly being indulged in should be banned at all.

(Links via email from Dhoomketu, whose take on it is here.)
amit varma, 12:18 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

The chosen outsider?

Mike Brearley examines England's love for their newest folk hero, Monty Panesar:
Monty and Manuel [the waiter in Fawlty Towers] are both from cultures that are foreign to the majority, yet both are cult heroes. In feeling so affectionate towards them, are we also compensating for our prejudices? In falling in love with the chosen outsider, do we thus make a convenient exception? I've heard people say if all blacks/foreigners/ East Europeans/Indians, etc were like 'him' there'd be no problem.

So the racism or xenophobia stays intact, while the person chosen as the exception becomes a more than honorary Englishman, whose name is turned from Mudhsuden Singh Panesar, to dear old Monty (with the Panesar pronunciation anglicised). But this may be cynical and pessimistic; perhaps the popular attitude to Panesar humanises and moderates other more paranoid feelings. I'm not sure.
I'm not sure either. Maybe we just like Monty because he's likable. Or maybe it's because he's damn good at his primary job -- bowling left-arm spin -- and as inept as us at others (like fielding and batting; Cricinfo's Andrew Miller made a similar suggestion in an audio feature I did with him here). Whatever the case may be, he's endearing across countries, and I'd taken to him (1, 2, 3) before I'd even seen him bowl. Long may he thrive, and misfield.

(Link via email from Manish.)
amit varma, 6:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

And what if I had an invisibility cloak?

I suppose in all fairness I should answer my own question. So here goes:

I would turn it inside out and cover myself with it completely and pretend the rest of the world didn't exist.

Thanks to all the people who sent in their responses. Here they all are again:

Falstaff, Neha, Bombay Addict, Gaurav, Patrix, Arnold, The Antithesist, Space Bar, Megha the Punk, Sony Pony, The Invizible Man (heh), maverick, Gaurav (2), Rohan, Nitin, Ranjit, Anirudh, Lalita, Happy-Go-Lucky, Sriram, Dhananjay. Dhoomketu, Boscoe, Vijayendra, Manish, n, Krithiga, Akshay, Lova, Ashish, Amrit, Chronicus Skepticus, Saket, Raju, Jaggu, Bongo P'o'ndit 1, BP 2, IndianArchie, The Saint.

I was deeply saddened to find not a single response that was remotely erotic in nature (though this one had a welcome hint of it). As you refrained, so did I. You'll just have to make do with a poor wisecrack!
amit varma, 6:02 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Selectively libertarian

Halle Berry wants freedom for her boobs.
amit varma, 5:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wardrobe malfunctions

That's what our parliament has been discussing recently. After much discussion on this matter of urgent national importance, a solution has been reached: compulsary underwear.

I kid you not. Read.
amit varma, 5:13 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, May 29, 2006

Do you not know who I am?

I'm the Juggernaut Bitch! (NSFW.)



(Link via email from Ul. Who'll? Ul.)
amit varma, 11:30 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

I roll over and go to sleep

Reuters reports:
Australian brothel owners want an exemption to anti-smoking laws for sex workers and their clients because, they say, one thing leads to another.

[...]

"People smoke when they drink, and people smoke when they fornicate," the industry group's William Albon was quoted as saying by Australian Associated Press.
Bloody hell. Does that mean I'm a virgin?
amit varma, 9:58 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Schumacher wins Monaco biscuit

What's left? Alonso wins Monaco Grand Prix.
amit varma, 9:51 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

'The monkey terror'

Rampaging monkeys are a huge problem in Delhi, reliable friends of a financial and literary kind once informed me, and I read today in the Times of India that the government has found a solution: fake langurs.

The article elaborates on the problem:
An earlier plan to trap the pests and ship them to neighbouring states fell apart after these states complained they had enough trouble coping with their own monkeys.

Exterminating the animals was not an option are they are worshipped as incarnations of Lord Hanuman, sources said.
I can't make up my mind about which sentence I am more amused by.
amit varma, 8:16 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, May 28, 2006

Shoot the messenger

This is a classic case.

And while we're talking about Cambodia here, it's not like we don't have enough goofy politicians in India trying to control the behaviour of others. No?

Update: Of course, if you have a lawyer, you don't need to shoot the messenger -- you can just strangle the lawyer.

(This link via email from Arnold.)
amit varma, 10:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, May 27, 2006

Imagine you're invisible

.I'm changing the timeline of this post to make it sticky for now. Some good responses have come in. Write, write! (Regular programming follows below.)

AP reports that scientists are on their way to making the kind of invisible cloak that Harry Potter has. Instantly, I start fantasising about what I'd do if I had a cloak like that. Wouldn't we all like one?

So here's a question for those of my readers who have a blog or a website: what would you do if you actually had a foolproof invisible cloak? Caveat: you're not allowed to harm anyone in any way. If you wish, write up a blogpost on the subject and send it to me, and if I find nothing objectionable in it, I shall link it from this post. (Erotic fantasies are allowed, but not if they involve any kind of coercion.)

Responses: Falstaff, Neha, Bombay Addict, Gaurav, Patrix, Arnold, The Antithesist, Space Bar, Megha the Punk, Sony Pony, The Invizible Man (heh), maverick, Gaurav (2), Rohan, Nitin, Ranjit, Anirudh, Lalita, Happy-Go-Lucky, Sriram, Dhananjay. Dhoomketu, Boscoe, Vijayendra, Manish, n, Krithiga, Akshay, Lova, Ashish, Amrit, Chronicus Skepticus, Saket, Raju, Jaggu, Bongo P'o'ndit, BP 2, IndianArchie, The Saint.

Update (May 30): My answer is up. No more updates to this post, I'm afraid.
amit varma, 6:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ganguly guides India to narrow win

Reader Devranjan Chatterjee points me to a piece with this startling headline.

Then I discover that it's talking about Surya Shekhar Ganguly and the World Chess Olympiad. There was a time when we'd see this in an entirely different context, of course.

I'm quite a fan of the Dravid-Chappell combo, by the way, but Chappell's uber-confrontational approach was always likely to work against him in the long run. As I'd written in an op-ed in March, "the illwill it generates will be used to hurt him and Rahul Dravid, the captain, when the side goes through a rough patch, as all sides inevitably do." Well, India's just lost the one-day series against West Indies, and I'm sure knives are being sharpened. It didn't have to be like this.

By and by, for an audio discussion between me and my Cricinfo colleague S Rajesh about the fourth ODI, click here.
amit varma, 6:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Celibacy is illegal

For animals in zoos, that is. Moved by the "plaintive mating calls of ... lonely animals" in zoos, Dhananjay Mahapatra of the Times of India finds that the "enforced celibacy" of zoo animals is "against rule 37 of the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992."

I know plenty of college kids who would surely wish that the state had as much consideration for their carnal needs as for those of zoo animals. We're all caged animals inside our skins, and the zoo is civilisation. Or is that a terribly pseudo thing to say? Never mind.
amit varma, 5:53 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Naked on a goddess

Rajiv Poddar mails me to direct my attention to the story of Lakpa Tharke Sherpa, a gentleman who climbed Mount Everest and then stood naked on the summit for three minutes. When asked why he did not stay naked longer, he replied, "You see, it was rather chilly."

Sorry, I made that second line up. Anyway, his act has sparked protests because, in the words of a fellow quoted in the report, localites think of Mount Everest as "a Goddess Mother of the Earth." I wonder if the good people who protest thus realise that climbers, who must answer the call of nature, no doubt relieve themselves and defecate on the mountain. They're okay with people shitting on their Goddess, then?

Apparently Sherpa's team-mates took pictures of him in glorious undress, and I don't imagine he would want anyone to see those pictures. I shudder to think how small the wee-wee must become at minus 25 degrees.
amit varma, 2:00 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

India Uncut Nugget 26

There seems ... to be a problem with some of our most cherished beliefs about the world: they are leading us, inexorably, to kill one another. A glance at history, or at the pages of any newspaper, reveals that ideas which divide one group of human beings from another, only to unite them in slaughter, generally have their roots in religion. It seems that if our species ever eradicates itself through war, it will not be because it was written in the stars but because it was written in our books; it is what we do with words like “God” and “paradise” and “sin” in the present that will determine our future.
Sam Harris, in "The End of Faith." This particular quote is from the first chapter, which is available here. Do read.

An angry reader emailed me some days ago accusing me of being "against religion." Whoa. I'm not against religion, provided it is restricted to the private domain, and is a personal matter. I am against coercion. And religion is the most common excuse used to try and justify coercion, of all kinds. Religion must not be beyond examination, and there should be no sacred cows at all. (Cows are divine in an entirely different way.)

Vaguely related posts: 1, 2.

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 12:58 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The Vijayawada Blues

Many, many summers ago, I went to Vijayawada to represent Maharashtra in India's national junior chess championships. My friends warned me that it was so hot there that crows often fell down dead. I replied, with youthful bravado, that I was not a crow. Little did I know...

Anyway, I've mentioned this before on this blog. I merely mention it again because of a news item that Vijayawada is now to get its own anthem. The municipal commissioner of the city, a gentleman with the mellifluous name of Natarajan Gulzar, says, "We have a national anthem. The states have their own songs and why not a signature song for the city?" Another gentleman whose designation takes up most of the next para talks about pride and identity. The anthem is due to be "a ringtone for every mobile phone in the city."

Goofy. But there is one wise thing I would advise the authorities at Vijayawada to do: commission the anthem from Blogswara. This is a collective of bloggers with different kinds of musical talents -- composing, singing etc -- who have come together virtually and have actually produced an album. It's an outstanding initiative, and a great example of the possibilities of our online age. Vijayawada would get some terrific publicity if it went to these fellas for their anthem. And people across the world would know of them for more than just their weather.

Either way, more power to Blogswara.
amit varma, 12:04 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, May 26, 2006

And how do you plan to imprison me, officer?

The Times of India reports that cops in the musically named Dumka district in Jharkand have filed an FIR against a ghost. The report says that "intriguingly, it appeared to haunt women more than men."

Yes, I find that intriguing too.
amit varma, 6:02 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Launching biscuits deliciously

Don't you just love our newspapers? This one is from yesterday's Asian Age. Click on pic for larger image.

The money quote:
"The versatile actress was heard commenting that just as she is a multi-tasking woman, the biscuit too was similar to her. [sic.]"
Darn, I am so swamped with work right now. I could do with a biscuit
amit varma, 5:50 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Subsidising religion

Yep, that's what we atheist taxpayers do in India. Surely that's unfair, no?

(Link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 4:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, May 25, 2006

Guilty Pleasures 1 -- Lost Cause by Beck

Yes, I'm a sucker for the slow, mournful stuff. I love this song, from "Sea Change," though I hate the video. But what the hell...



YouTube tip: if the video doesn't play at one go, just pause it, wait for the whole thing to be buffered/downloaded/whatever, and then it'll play seamlessly.
amit varma, 7:31 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Brazil v Argentina

I've never put up an email forward here, but I can't resist this one, sent to me by Kind Friend (who is now capitalised by virtue of being a regular.) I searched for the original source, and it seems to be this. If I'm wrong, please correct me and I'll change the link.

* * *

Before a football game between Brazil and Argentina, a condom company from Argentina came out with this ad.


Brazil won, and this is how their football association replied.

amit varma, 2:45 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Idea for a horror film

The haunted plane.

I'm bewildered by this. What comment can I make? If I manufactured this news as a parody of superstition in India, I'd be berated for being too far out. Jeez.

(Link via email from Karthik.)
amit varma, 2:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Looking for a loo in London

My old pal from the late 90s, Abhirami, finds out that if you want to pee in London, well, tough shit. Watch:



When I was in London for a few terribly cold days a couple of years back, I made sure I was close to a bookshop at all times. Bookshops have loos. Bookshops also have books. (Both are essential, and I suppose one is a hygiene factor.)

PS. Well, I just hopped over to Abhi's site to link to it, and like always, it threw up something exceptional. Here, read "To my niece, 3 hours old."
amit varma, 1:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Your boss doesn't deserve his salary

But there is a good reason why he gets it, and it's all to do with you. Tim Harford explains.
amit varma, 3:09 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Missing red sequins

It never fails to amaze me what some people notice.

I can't make up my mind whether the reporter on that beat is to be envied or pitied.
amit varma, 2:45 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Quiz question

Rinki has something to sell, and it belongs to her alone. She puts out an online ad. Chinku responds, and agrees to buy. She hops over to make the deal. No one else will be harmed by it.

Then it turns out that Chinku is a cop in disguise, and Rinki gets arrested.

Why so, you ask? Well, I'll give you a clue. She gets booked under the Information Technology Act.

Think about it, and then click here for the answer.
amit varma, 1:57 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Keep your stomach happy

Only the Times of India could have come up with a phrase like "pleased as a paunch." Manish Vij has more. (And he also tells us that Sanjay Dutt is still alive.)

A few months ago, when I was on my way with Yazad to meet a friend of his, Yaz remarked, "she's looking forward to meeting India's most-read blogger." With characteristic self-deprecation (and honesty!), I said, "Oh, so when is she meeting Manish Vij?" That's formed my stock response whenever someone refers to me in those terms, though I am, needless to say, secretly thrilled. (Going by this, I could also have named Kiruba.)

My regard for Manish was formed because of his work on Sepia Mutiny, the group blog with an outstanding line-up of bloggers, of whom Manish was my favourite. He's left SM now to start his own blog, ultrabrown, and it's already rocking. (He lives in Mumbai and is most convivial, though I am not at liberty to reveal what he's doing here!) So hop on over, why on earth are you still here?

Ok, ok, don't go. Just hang around here all day and all night and keep refreshing. I'm a loser, so if you're reading me...
amit varma, 1:31 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sleep, and a new medium

Regular readers would no doubt have noticed that my frequency of posting has gone down a bit recently. Well, I've been rather busy, and rather sleepy. I offered recently to set up audio programming for Cricinfo, where I am a consultant, and have had to learn a new medium, and produce lots of work in it, in very little time. (Examples: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 and 6.) As India is playing in the monstrous and entirely unfair timezone of the West Indies, this has involved staying up some nights, while working the days as well.

An example of the toll it takes came on the weekend, when after a busy Saturday (which included a blogmeet), I stayed up all night for the match and then went off to Sophia College for the Mumbai round of the Mahaquizzer. The lack of sleep told on me, and I fell asleep within five minutes of the start. I woke up at the end, and read some of the questions for the first time while the answers were being read out. It was quite embarrassing, though I wouldn't have had a shot at winning anyway.

I can't find the results online, but Vikram Joshi won the Mumbai round with 54 out of 150, while members of a group I belong to that we playfully call the Cartellians won the Delhi and Pune rounds. (Aadisht got 66, Kunal got 42.) Immense joy came for them, but Gaurav and I weren't quite so good in Mumbai. (You can download the questions here.)

Anyway, work continues apace, and my sleep patterns remain disrupted, with much pending work and a mad overload of emails. (Not a new complaint, you will note.) I shall try to blog a bit more regularly, though. Thank you for your patience.
amit varma, 12:20 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, May 24, 2006

Cows, and brevity

What lengths some of us go to!


In all seriousness, though, there are two recent posts by Aadisht I rather enjoyed: both are reader-friendly in their length, pithy and to-the-point, and thought-provoking. One examines The Deepak Chopra School of Thought while the other tells us about the new non-aligned movement.

I sometimes get asked, for reasons unfathomable to me, for advice about blogging. The first bromide I offer: Be brief. Your reader probably doesn't have much time, and you've got to respect it.

And then I start talking about cows.

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34, 35, 36 and 37.

Update: Here's another nice pic of a Singapore cow. (Via Sharanya.)
amit varma, 11:32 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The next time you have a splitting headache...

... be careful how you describe it.

(Link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 10:05 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Dr Rajkumar and his somewhat phallic guitar

Ah, the sounds!
Love me or hate me
Kiss me or kill me
Oh darling, please do something to me
Do roo roo roo roo roo roo roo
Do roo roo roo roo roo roo roo
Do roo roo roo roo roo roo roo
Now watch:



I especially love it when the camera shows a close-up of Dr Rajkumar's knees, and then pulls out as he sways seductively. His pumpacious actions with the guitar are also admirable, and are no doubt imitated every day by the millions of fans he surely has.

(Link via email from the catastrophically noble Samit Basu, who had also sent me Dr Rajkumar's previous masterpiece once. Long may he give.)
amit varma, 11:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Protesting the politics of reservations

Pratap Bhanu Mehta, a columnist I enjoy reading and often link to, and Andre Beteille have resigned from the National Knowledge Commission set up by the prime minister, protesting against the venal politics of Arjun Singh. Their resignation letters have been published in the Indian Express, and make for excellent reading. In his piece, Mehta writes:
I believe that the proposed measures [of reservations] will harm the nation’s vital interests. It is often said that caste is a reality in India. I could not agree more. But your government is in the process of making caste the only reality in India. Instead of finding imaginative solutions to allow us to transcend our own despicable history of inequity, your government is ensuring that we remain entrapped in the caste paradigm.
Quite. Indeed, measures such as this deepen people's perceptions of caste, as is apparent to anyone witnessing the impassioned demonstrations -- both anti- and pro-reservations -- in India's cities.

Beteille, in his letter, pithily remarks:
We can either move forward and create centres of academic excellence or go along with the demands of identity politics based on caste and community, but we cannot do both.
And what of the main proponent of these reservations, Arjun Singh? What does he have to say? Well, nothing. Karan Thapar interviewed him for IBN Live, and all he got was evasion, as Singh ran through a series of familiar argumentative techniques, some of them dissected by Ramanand here. When people in the blogosphere use such evasion, one can simply ignore them and leave them to their self-delusion. But Singh implements policies that affect the lives of millions. We can't ignore him, and he won't engage with us.

I'd briefly touched on the subject of reservations here, and a longer piece is overdue. I've been madly busy lately, but I'll get down to it soon.

Update: aNTi points me (via Youth Curry) to Karan Thapar's interview of Kamal Nath, where Nath is quite as evasive as Arjun Singh, as he tries desperately to dodge the facts Thapar expertly hurls at him. These boys just use the rhetoric of social justice to prove their compassion, which wins them cheap votes from those who can't see beyond intent -- what happens to the country is hardly their concern.
amit varma, 7:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Remote seduction?

You know how in your Gmail, sponsored links alternate with your chosen RSS feeds just above the top band? Well, a few readers had sent me mails about this post, and their subject headers contained the words, "Mind Reading." Well, a sponsored ad duly came in my Gmail about "Hypnosis Software," and I clicked on it and reached this page.

Immense desire comes to have lunch with ten people who have paid the fairly substantial sums of money -- by my meager standards -- to buy the "Telepathic Mind Reader," the "Chaos Magick Spell Caster," and the "Self Hypnosis Engineering Studio." There's also something called a "Orgone Condensation Unit," which you can use to "[t]ransform your computer onto a source of orgone/etheric energy for other radionics devices or use it for empowerment of magick operations, visualization sessions, and techniques of remote influence and mind control."

And what will we talk about during lunch? Well, that's not really in my hands, is it? Sigh.
amit varma, 6:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Before the Big Bang...

... there was the loose cannon.

How I wish that was a story about physics.
amit varma, 2:40 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Waiter, there's a grenade in my soup

Well, it could happen.

On that note a shameful memory comes to mind. This is in the few months I worked in Delhi in 1995. I go to Nirula's, order a hot chocolate fudge, find a strand of hair in it, point it out, and am offered a replacement. (Nothing shameful so far.)

I go there again a week later, order a hot chocolate fudge, finish 80% of it, and then realise that I want more, more, much more. I'm in my first job, budgets are low. But nosehair is abundant. So I pull out a strand, put it in my fudge, and call the waiter.

I get a free fudge, but I don't enjoy it so much.

And my nose hurts.
amit varma, 2:47 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

So Happy You Are Mine

Reader Shyam Nunley writes me a mail regarding my post on freedom and feminism, in which she explains why she chose to change her name after marriage. She writes:
When I became engaged several years ago I had several people ask me why I would ever take another person's name. My answer was and always will be: "My maiden name is not my own. It is my father's father's father's name. My first and middle name are not my own either, they were given to me by my parents. What difference does it make whether I keep the patriarchal name I received at birth or I choose to take the legal name of the person I now share an address with? Everyone has been given someone else's name. Wives are the only ones given an option of changing our names or not. Men are saddled with a name which carries all the weight of their fathers since the beginning of the family. Seems to me I am the one with more social options than my love."
And just at the time when I begin to wonder how a lady can have a name like 'Shyam,' she explains:
As a post script I feel inclined to say that my real first name is Shyam, however it is not an Indian name. I only mention this because others have been confused and on occasion insulted when they find out I am an American. My parents were "free spirits" and when my father had to join the military to support his pregnant wife he often wrote to her while away. Every letter he signed S.H.Y.A.M. This stood for So Happy You Are Mine. When I was born my mother graced me with that name never having heard it before. It was not until years later, when my circle of friends widened, that I started to hear it as an Indian name.
Wow.
amit varma, 2:04 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, May 22, 2006

Reading your mind

There's a really simple trick behind this. But it's fun to thrust it upon the gullible nevertheless.

(Link via email from a very loved cow.)
amit varma, 7:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

India's favourite past-time

Mid Day catches people in the act, and asks them why they do it. Fun. I wish they carried cameras along and uploaded the footage online.
amit varma, 7:34 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, May 21, 2006

Do you want to email your MP?

I thought not. But in case you did, I would have linked the pages where you get email IDs of Lok Sabha MPs and Rajya Sabha MPs (via Nikhil). But since you don't I won't.

You could send them spam of course. I can imagine two MPs chatting:

MP 1: Mishraji, I have just got an email that seems to be offering me a free trip. Only thing is, I don't know the destination.

MP 2: Sharmaji, how strange. Are you sure?

MP 1: Yes, Mishraji. All it says is that on the way I will stop at Agra. Via Agra, it says. Something like that.

MP 2: I see, Sharmaji. And by the way, please stop calling me Mishraji, I am Guptaji. There, Mishraji is coming here.

MP 3: I am not Mishraji either. I am an audio file.

Ok, ok, I'll stop now.
amit varma, 5:55 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Meaty snacks?

This is a stunning first line for a news story:
Women at a sausage roll factory had their bosses' heads rolling with anger, when they caught them poking fun at the meaty snack while watching a porn film starring men with huge manhoods on computers.
The story doesn't have too many specifics, but I'm guessing the bosses were male and were perhaps just a wee bit insecure about their, um, manhoods. After all, even men can have penis envy. What else explains the spam?
amit varma, 1:55 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The sound of me

My first audio feature ever is available for download (or streaming) on Cricinfo. It's a new medium for me, and I'm sure much fault can be found -- I suspect I'm a little awkward and stilted, and I've never liked the way I sound (or look, for that matter). Still, one has to get out of one's comfort zone sometimes.

Feedback is welcome.
amit varma, 1:43 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Meeting in meatspace

My account of the blog meet of a few hours ago is up on Metroblogging Mumbai. Needless to say, fun came.
amit varma, 1:41 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Gentleness detectors

There's one for surgeons now.

And I'm sure all the ladies reading this wish there was one for men as well. But if there was, would Aishwarya Rai have heeded its results before getting into a relationship with the chap/chinkara-killer whose violence she testifies to here? Attraction is a strange thing.
amit varma, 12:21 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, May 20, 2006

Game, cookbook, clock, porn

The Da Vinci Code is everywhere, and everything. What will they ban?

And while on the subject, I must confess that I rather agree with the NY Times description of the book as a "best-selling primer on how not to write an English sentence." If that's what people learn from it, it's a worthy bestseller.
amit varma, 9:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Dairy girl

Sometimes a typo can be immense fun. And sometimes, it can be insulting to cows. See this headline, for example. (Screengrab below in case it's changed!)


It reminds me of the time when a friend asked me if a blog was "like a daily dairy." "Yes," I remarked joyfully, "yeh cheese badi hai mast mast."

Sorry!

(Link via email from reader Sunil Kundal.)
amit varma, 2:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Choosing where to stand

Whenever I walk into a public toilet, I always choose a urinal at the corner, or one that has the maximum buffer space between me and others. I've occasionally contemplated doing a study of men's behavioural patterns on this matter, to see if all of us have the same instincts. I've wondered if I'm the only person who wonders about this, and if there's something wrong with me.

There isn't! Reader Nitin Srivastava sends me a link to this outstanding site, which tests your "men's room etiquette". I didn't even know there was a term like that. This is most charming. Do play the urinal game.

Update: Reader Ambar Hegde writes in to point me to a book by Dave Barry that touches on exactly this topic, and other such. Much fun.
amit varma, 2:33 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to write bad reviews

The easiest way out: rely on puns. Jai illustrates this with an example drawn from the (no doubt illustrious) work of Sabina Sehgal Saikia.

Indian journalism is too reliant on puns and wordplay, especially for headlines, and the sports page of the Times of India often reads like an immature college rag. (That's just the headlines; you read the stories and it sounds like a pre-school rag.) It's actually rude to the reader to use puns, because you want to make it as easy for him as possible to get a gist of what a piece is about with the headline, and wordplay invariably forces readers to read it twice. Bad manners.

My rule of thumb while writing anything: my writing should not draw attention to itself, and the content of what I'm saying is all that the reader should notice. (If it's not engrossing enough, of course, that's my fault.) Wordplay is simply a way of saying, "Oh, look how smart I am." Only your friends will indulge you when you do that, as would happen if you actually said it aloud.

Needless to say, I make an exception for PJs, like this one. The greatest PJs often have the worst puns, and I entirely support that. Not in serious writing, though.

As for what makes a good review, Chandrahas's work illustrates that beautifully. Thankfully, he has recovered from a mysterious ailment, and has a light post on the subject. I didn't find talk of bequeathing things to people remotely funny yesterday, but now that all is well, I think I'll cheerfully ask for the film books now. (Oops, it seems many claimants already exist!)
amit varma, 2:06 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cardinal Martini clarifies

Andrew of Cardinal Martini writes in regarding this post of mine:
I read your post on the matter of USC Lecturer Diana York Blaine. My guiding principal is a belief in the individual, as is yours. I just want to make you aware that we, the alleged USC students, confined the vast majority of our criticism of Doctor Blaine to her bizarre beliefs. We only noted her photos as part of her larger pattern of strange behavior. If she were just some person, and not a faculty member at my university, I wouldn't care at all about her photos. The reason a controversy arose surrounding the photos was because a local Los Angeles television reporter came across the photos and reported on them. We didn't contact the reporter and he didn't contact us prior to the report.

Our criticisms of Blaine are primarily about her beliefs and her public statements.
Well, I guess for mainstream media the pictures were a far juicier peg to hang the story on than the other stuff, which a wider audience probably couldn't care less about. MSM tends to simplify and dumb down issues, with no space for detail or nuance. Thank FSM for other media.
amit varma, 1:49 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, May 19, 2006

Mr Pai v Mr Clinton

Mr Pai wins.

A few days ago, my friend Nitin Pai pointed out in his excellent blog, The Acorn, that Bill Clinton had made a factual error in his introduction to Madeleine Albright's recent book. So what, you might have thought. Who reads blogs anyway?

Heh. Harper Collins, the publisher of the book, has now acknowledged its mistake. More hearteningly, mainstream media has credited Nitin with being the first to point out Clinton's error, as in this ToI piece. Good shit.

(Link via Gaurav. And ah, Nitin posts about it here.)
amit varma, 9:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Cows have four feet

Therefore, they play better football. Simple.



(Link via Pratyush.)

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, 34 and 35.
amit varma, 8:55 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Keep them kids apart

Considering how we come to exist, I find it amazing that some of us are so terrified of the libido. The ominously named Bangalore University Syndicate has ruled that boys and girls must sit separately in class. And yes, they also want a dress code. And before I forget, they want flirting to be banned by the state government.

Ok, ok, I made that last line up. But you believed it for just one second, didn't you?
amit varma, 3:19 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Life partners and gas pipelines

Devangshu Datta tells us all about infructious investments, and the lunacy of the Indian government.

Apropos of nothing I remember Jose Saramago, who, after an early novel, stayed away from the form until rather late in life. But when he did take it up...
amit varma, 1:55 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Dil-Vil, Purse-Wurse

Man steals purse of woman. Man sees woman's photo in it. Man falls in love. Man wonders if woman is hooked up. Man sees woman's divorce certificate in purse. Man sends purse back to woman, along with a love letter.

Man!

(Link via email from Aadisht.)

Update: Reader Rajpal Sidhu writes in:
Do you see a potential Bollywood romantic storyline in this? A good-hearted-person-having-bad-luck-in-life (John Abraham) steals a purse (to buy medicine for his cripple sister and blind mother), sees the purse owners picture and also reads a sad letter (she has been divorced or left pregnant by a scheming gel-in-the-hair-dude [Salman Khan?] in the purse and falls in love with her(Bipasha Basu?) and after 2 hours of singing, dancing, tears and some laughs, they live happily ever after. Bollywood, here I come! Do you know anyone in Yashraj Films?
Actually, as a matter of fact, I do.
amit varma, 1:25 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Lights, camera, gown

Quote of the day:
At Cannes, gowns and glamour are as important as the cinema on show.
No doubt that's why Quentin Tarantino wore that fetching black Versace dress on the opening night.
amit varma, 6:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

'That's the way I've been brought up, dude'

Salman Khan takes pity on the people who put him in jail. Heh. Wish they'd thrown away the key. As readers of this blog know, I'm no fan of the man, and am disgusted by the tone Rediff's article takes. A little perspective, guys?

(Link via email from Dhoomketu, who blogs about it here.)
amit varma, 5:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

ykcowrebbaJ

.hgniS nujrA iaJ si siht kniht t'nod I ,oN

(.dazaY morf liame aiv kniL)
amit varma, 5:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Man and shadow

Man standing still. Shadow standing still. Suddenly shadow runs away. Man is alarmed. Man runs after shadow. Catastrophe follows.

Do check out the excellent video below, by Lasse Gjertsen.



You Tube rocks, doesn't it? We're all empowered now.

Update: And this is terrific as well. Go Lasse!
amit varma, 5:36 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Conquering Afghanistan

What the Soviets couldn't do and the US struggled with, Ekta Kapoor has managed.

As I'd mentioned at the end of this post, Ms Kapoor has got a hold on Pakistan as well.

But she'll never, ever get me. I promise you that. Renegade to the last, and suchlike.
amit varma, 12:31 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, May 17, 2006

He did what with a lemon?

It's bizarre what turns some people on. I know what I'm not putting in my dal tomorrow.
amit varma, 11:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The answer, my friends, is alcohol

Niall Ferguson invokes Homer Simpson in laying out a solution to the world's fossil-fuel problems.

I've always dreamed of a world where our cars run on liquor and we swig petrol. Or, when the end of the month approaches, kerosene. One for the road, and a gallon for me.

(Link via email from Chandrahas.)
amit varma, 11:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

'The dream that other people dream'

America, says Ray Bradbury.

Um, I'm hardly a poetry aficionado, but the poem seems a bit clunky to me. The sentiment is clear, though. And I like whatever little I've read of Bradbury's science fiction.
amit varma, 11:17 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Not been working out?

Don't feel guilty about it. There are others who just can't get themselves on a treadmill.
amit varma, 6:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

No need to huddle around the notice board

You can now get your exam results via SMS.

Imagine if someone hacks into that central database and changes the order of things...
amit varma, 3:19 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Mistaken identity

Immense hilarity ensues as I watch the video below. The BBC, doing a show on technology, mistakenly call in the wrong guy. Instead of a tech expert named Guy Kewney, they usher a gentleman from Congo named Guy Goma into the studio. As the anchor addresses him as Kewney, Goma realises the mix-up, but gamely answers the questions thrown at him anyway. Watch!



Heh. The transcript is here, and here's an update on the story. Goma, needless to say, does not make much sense, which certainly qualifies him to be a TV expert.

(Links via my friend Sruthijith KK's excellent blog, All Of The Above.)
amit varma, 1:44 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Listen to the cows!

Reuters reports:
Cambodia's sacred oxen have forecast a bountiful harvest but thin rains, leading farmers to call on the government to build more irrigation systems and canals.

At the annual royal ploughing ceremony in front of Phnom Penh's golden-spired palace, the cows ate lots of rice, beans and corn, suggesting "there will be plenty of crops", court astrologer Kang Ken told the crowds on Tuesday.

However, the beasts, who were also presented with golden bowls of water and wine, refused to drink any water, meaning the war-scarred Southeast Asian nation could suffer a year of drought.
I can present an alternate explanation for that last observation: maybe cows like wine. Hic.

(Link via email from Ajay Shankar, who has written a poem on cows that begins with the words, "I wandered lonely as a cow." Nice!)

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32, 33, and 34.
amit varma, 1:22 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

TFIB

In other words, Thanks FSM It's Bloggers. The noble Sakshi Juneja has taken the initiative of conducting a Bloggers Meet this Saturday at TGIF. Be there or... be not there. Here are the details.

And no, it is not contradictory to believe in both FSM and in the IPU. All parodies of religion are equal, in my secular opinion.
amit varma, 1:09 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Watch the book

Why? Because the book's widely available, and they won't let you watch the movie.

(Link via email from MadMan; an anonymous tipster brought the contradiction to my notice.)

Update: MadMan and Arnold both point my attention to Vir Sanghvi's article on the issue, in which he says that "India's Christians have not let Pramod [Mahajan] down." Well, yes -- religious nuts everywhere are the same.

Update 2: Nirav Mehta, via email, mentions a similar contradiction regarding "Black Friday": Anurag Kashyap's film was banned but S Hussein Zaidi's book, on which the film is based, was not.

Perhaps I shouldn't be blogging about such contradictions -- if someone in the government reads this, they might decide to ban the books as well!

Update 3: Now Muslim groups are demanding a ban on "The Da Vinci Code," with one cleric saying, "We cannot tolerate any insult to Jesus Christ." Unity in intolerance and suchlike. Pfaw.

(Link via email from Nishit Desai.)

Update 4: Aged Shilpa writes in:
Perhaps the logic behind [the inconsistency] is that the reach of movies in India is far more than books, given the literacy rate, and more so, English literacy. Also, low literacy = low level of awareness = increased likeliness of getting influenced by a devious political mind hoping to take advantage of the situation = more likelihood of communal tension breaking out?
Damn it, Shilpa, you've just given them their excuse. Once again, pfaw.
amit varma, 12:26 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, May 16, 2006

The key to a successful wedding night

Switch the mobile phone off.
amit varma, 6:51 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Blame it on the spirit

Mid Day carries a story about a chap called Kishore Kumbhar who slashed the throat of his would-be wife, Shubhangi Salvi, shortly after their wedding ceremony began. Check out the following bits of the report:
Shubhangi’s brother Kishore Palvankar, who witnessed the incident, said, “Kumbhar was holding a coconut and a few other items in his hand. As soon as the shlokas ended and the veil separating the two dropped, he pulled out a razor and slashed her throat.”

Palvankar said the guests were about to lynch Kumbhar, whose family intervened to save him.

“We initially thought he was possessed by an evil spirit and tried our best to free him (from police custody). After all, we didn’t want to break up the marriage,” Palvankar added.

But Rohidas Palvankar, another relative of Shubhangi, said, “As soon as Kumbhar admitted that he had done it deliberately, we called off the wedding.”
So if you, reading this, wish to commit some gruesome crime, blame it on an evil spirit if you're caught. Scream:
I wuz possessed, I heard a stranger's voice speaking from my throat, I was not in control of my body, this evil spirit was, this evil spirit even molested me, with my own hands, ohhh, the horror, the horror!
And you know what? There'll be plenty of schmucks who'll believe you.
amit varma, 5:47 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Let's talk freedom, not feminism

Reader Manu J writes in to tell me about a controversy that's recently broke out in the US. Diane Blaine, who teaches gender studies at USC, put some topless pictures of herself on her personal account at Flickr. (The pics are here: 1, 2 and 3; NSFW; neither obscene nor erotic, as far as I'm concerned.) Some alleged students objected, and this created a bit of an uproar.

Now, as far as I'm concerned, I see nothing to object to. They're her pictures, her Flickr account, and I don't see what goes of anyone's father, as the saying goes, with something like this. But her post in defence of herself befuddles me. She speaks of "the ways that sexism functions as a method of control" and the "ideological voices of patriarchy," and so on. I was equally taken aback by a comment on Bitch PhD's post on the issue (via Hugo Schwyzer) by Dr Igloo that says:
I personally find her [Blaine's] feminist street cred slightly tarnished by the fact that she has apparently taken her husband's last name. Is there really a credible feminist defense of this practice??
Now, all this rhetoric, both by Blaine and against her, seems rather bizarre to me. As I have written before, the guiding principle of my worldview is a belief in individual freedom, that "individuals should be free to do whatever they wish with their person or property, as long as they do not infringe on the same liberty of others." (Quoted from here.) Simply put, if you don't mess with no one, no one should mess with you.

Going by that principle, Blaine had every right to upload her pics, as well as to take her husband's last name. Both were choices she made, and harm no one. They would only be wrong if there was coercion involved.

Beyond that, what defence is required?

PS. The context for the attack on Blaine is an editorial she wrote in the campus newspaper after a USC footballer was accused of rape, in which she said :
[E]very single male on this campus has the responsibility for stopping rape. Every fraternity brother, every science major, every professor, every one of them. Because they all rape? Of course not. But because only men rape and only men can stop other men from raping.
Such logic. Nevertheless, the gentlemen who were peeved by this should have attacked her arguments only. Not her topless pictures.

Update (May 20): Cardinal Martini has a clarification here.
amit varma, 5:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

What we search for

In response to this post of mine, Sudhanshu Raheja writes in:
Another thing you might notice is that if you compare rape to murder, rape is searched more often in the Indian subcontinent.

And not that it matters, but the French are obsessed with Accidents...
For the first observation, click on 'regions,' for the second, on 'languages.' And in case you think Sudhanshu morbid for the things he searches for, he also sends me this rather interesting result.

Update (May 17): Dushyant Wadivkar writes in:
I wish to point out that the trends mentioned in "what we search for" could be false. While its blatantly clear that India has the highest searches on anything involves male-female genitalia, I am not sure if these trends consider the percentage of population while ranking the cities. Sure Delhi is fascinated by rape, but is it possible that there are more people to begin with in Delhi then compared to other cities? I just think when we compare India to any other country, the difference in population is so high that we should not ignore it as a factor. Of course, it can be debated that other advanced cities might have an easier access to the net.
Good points. In fact, these results seem to conceal more than they reveal, such as absolute numbers and so on. I'm sure Google will help us get more useful information out of these as time goes by.

Update (May 18): Reader Tejas Rao writes in:
The ranking is based on normalized scores (searches that include the keyword as a percentage of the total number of searches from any geographical location), so the argument doesn't hold.
amit varma, 3:31 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Whose stats are they anyway?

Not long ago, when the BCCI tried to get mobile companies to stop sending cricket scores as SMS updates to their users, I had a hearty laugh. Did these chaps actually believe that they owned cricket scores? It seemed evident that once these scores were in the public domain, anyone could use them in any way they wanted. But BCCI believed otherwise. Later, there were murmurs about them trying to get Cricinfo to stop ball-by-ball commentary, which is again a use of information already in the public domain -- most BBB commentary is done off TV anyway.

Well, here's something that should give Lalit Modi, the BCCI's main moneyman, hope: a legal war in the US over baseball scores. The New York Times reports:
The dispute is between a company in St. Louis that operates fantasy sports leagues over the Internet and the Internet arm of Major League Baseball, which says that anyone using players' names and performance statistics to operate a fantasy league commercially must purchase a license. The St. Louis company counters that it does not need a license because the players are public figures whose statistics are in the public domain.
The legal system in the US is relatively modern, but Indian statutes are so primitive that I worry that they may not even be clear on the concepts of 'public domain' and 'intellectual property.' And if MLB wins the US case, that might sway our judges as an international precedent on the issue. The sheer money-power of the BCCI, of course, could be another factor.

Disclosure: I am a consultant with Cricinfo, and will remain so until at least October this year. My views on this issue are entirely personal.
amit varma, 2:43 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Haliburton v Exxon Mobil

See this and this.

I got these links via email from DD, who elaborates in response to my queries:
Peer companies with similar performances would include other integrated oil companies (verticals which explore, refine and market) and other defence firms (equipment as well as services).

These two industries made the highest contributions to the Republican campaigns of 2000, 2004.
Do note that I'm not drawing any conclusions here.
amit varma, 2:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Who flattened the Himalayas?

Much fun comes via this excellent short story, Indium, by Michael Swanwick. It's part of Swanwick's excellent series on the periodic table. You can read more about Swanwick here and here, and this is a nice interview -- especially if you like dinosaurs.

(Indium link via email from Rishi.)
amit varma, 12:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, May 15, 2006

This is a Ylog

What neologism is your blog? Find out here.
amit varma, 7:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Growing hips

It takes a lot to make a jaded old blogger speechless, but that's just what happened to me when I read this article. In particular, this quote by Minissha Lamba:
I am surely obsessed with my growing hips. I want them to grow much bigger than they are. And that's the reason I love doing all those things, which will make my hip bigger and bigger. I feel there is nothing wrong in having bigger hips.
What she means by "all those things" is, sadly, not specified. The rest of the piece rocks as well.

First Wild and Wetty, and now this. Is HTTabloid playing some elaborate joke on us all? Or are they really like this only?

Update (May 16): Young Shilpa informs me that HT has removed this piece. Indeed, I note that they also removed the Wild and Wetty piece (before doing so, they'd apparently changed the headline to "Wild and Witty"). Such is the power of India Uncut?

On a more serious note, newspapers really should take their websites more seriously, and hire good editors and writers for them. They have a mid-90s attitude to what, in 2006, is very serious business. Their loss.

Update 2 (May 16): Reader Sonny Gill informs me that the page is still available here, and cached here.
amit varma, 5:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Look ma, no ear

Reuters reports:
At least five mobile phones have exploded over the last two months in Brazil, causing anxiety among phone users and making news headlines.

The incidents, representing only a fraction of the 89 million phones in circulation in Brazil, all involved Motorola phones.
Motorola, by and by, has said that "the probable cause of the explosion was that the owners used non-original or low-quality batteries."

All our politicians should instantly be given some Motorola phones from Brazil, with free non-original batteries, for official use (for once, I won't complain about the waste of taxpayers' money). That's how you turn a defect into a feature.
amit varma, 5:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Olivia, John, Wayne and Bruno

Being an atheist is tough: one needs to reconcile oneself to one's mortality, and accept that life has no 'meaning' and death ends it all. No wonder people stick to religion for comfort. So what can atheists do when the temporary nature of their existence depresses them?

Turn to cows. Cows give comfort, hope and reassurance in troubled times. (Also beef, but let's not get morbid here.) And lest you think I'm the only one who feels this way, consider this post by Neha, about Olivia, John, Wayne and Bruno. She expresses her love for cows rather well -- only a cow-lover could think of a headline like hers, which plays off Godard's little-known love for bovine beauties -- and I find it wonderful that through the blogosphere, cow-lovers can unite.

Have you ever stared into the eyes of a cow?

Previous posts on cows: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11, 12, 13, 14, 15, 16, 17, 18, 19, 20, 21, 22, 23, 24, 25, 26, 27, 28, 29, 30, 31 , 32 and 33.
amit varma, 4:32 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, May 14, 2006

The Visa God

Reader Deepak Krishnan points my attention, via email, to this story of a deity in a temple in Hyderabad that grants visas. Heh. Everyone who goes to the temple to pray for a visa will almost certainly already be a believer, and will tend to credit the deity if they get the visa, and blame something else if they don't. That's how belief gets perpetuated.

It's interesting to see how religion evolves to fit our modern needs. Perhaps shopping malls should have small temples at their entrances as well, where people can pray to discount deities and suchlike. And offer gory sacrifices.

"I have brought thee the head of an old communist goat, o Discount God," I can imagine someone saying. "Please bestow upon me a free frying pan to go with the widescreen bluetooth fridge I just bought."

Update: Multiple readers write in to inform me that the temple is called the Visa Mata Temple, and Tony says, "[E]very rickshawala at the airport or the train station will take you there directly when you mention Visa Mata."

He also tells me about a Pressure Cooker Mata Temple at Siachen. He writes:
The Pressure Cooker Temple, is so named because they [the soldiers there] worship the remnants of a pressure cooker that saved the lives of jawans from a heat-seeking missile, fired from the other side, that went straight for the pressure cooker.
Well, yes, so their lives were saved. But what about their lunch?
amit varma, 11:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

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