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.

Monday, July 31, 2006

"The Undress Circle," or how to write recursive parody

There are many levels of bad prose, but the worst kind is surely that which cannot be parodied; that is virtually a parody of itself; recursive parody, as it were. The writers at Indiatimes have mastered this, as the following intro text for a slideshow makes clear:
The obsession with ‘bare’dom has been the focal point of men, maestros and masters down the years. And the fine line has often been crossed, raising the bar for bareness each time. These are ladies that have led the pack with seductive ease and inevitable grace. Together, we call them the ‘un’dress circle. Go on; raise your cheers to the glorious vision of these gorgeous vixens.
Needless to say, the pics are nice, and I wonder why Indiatimes doesn't offer them to readers as branded wallpapers or screensavers or (monetise, monetise) mobile phone backgrounds. And the text, ah, the text. Such joy comes.

(Previous posts on Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10, 11.)
amit varma, 11:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thanks goodness Marco Materazzi isn't a rooster

Or you know what Zinedine Zidane might have done?

(Link via email from Arun Verma.)
amit varma, 11:28 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The secret of getting away with extra-marital flings

Have two wives. As Tirthdas, one such gentleman, says in this news piece:
If I do not come home, one wife automatically assumes that I am with the other.
So while Wife No. 1 thinks he's with Wife No. 2, and Wife No. 2 thinks he's with Wife No. 1, he could chill out with Mistresses Nos. 1, and 2, and so on. Apt fodder for a Priyadarshan film, you'd think. He could even add a Memento twist to it, with our feller constantly forgetting who's who, and needing to take MMSs of all his paramours to keep track. Hmm...
amit varma, 11:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Guess where they've banned nudity

In Paris.

This is most disconcerting. It's like banning classical music in Poona or IT in Bangalore or boringness in Ahmedabad. Everything is going to lose character then, no?

The government decree prohibiting how to dress in Paris's artificial beaches says, "Notably indecent attire (nude sunbathing, g-strings and toplessness etc) is forbidden." Bloody hell, RR Patil and Pramod Navalkar must be freelancing for them. For years I've been saving up to go to topless beaches in Europe, but if this trend spreads I might as well go to Kolhapur and buy chappals.

(Link via email from Salil Benegal, who really is too young to be thinking about all this. Tsk tsk.)
amit varma, 11:16 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

A hungry man wants...

... food? Ha. Not according to some researchers in the UK, who have concluded that hungry men like plump women. But what about after they're not hungry anymore? Will they go:
I'm sorry, I proposed to you and impregnated you with my copious seed when I was hungry. But that steak hamburger satisfied me muchly, and now I find your ample bosom intimidating, so, um, tra la and have a good time.
It just won't do, I tell ya. And by the by, I find this research rather less convincing than this was. What's the frigging logic here? Most tenuous.
amit varma, 11:09 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How not to commit a theft

Leave your dog at the scene of the crime.
amit varma, 11:04 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Omkara: Vishal Bharadwaj does Othello

I pray you, in your letters
When you shall these unlucky deeds relate,
Speak of me as I am. Nothing extenuate,
Nor set down ought in malice. Then must you speak
Of one that loved not wisely but too well,
Of one not easily jealous but, being wrought,
Perplexed in the extreme; of one whose hand,
Like the base Indian, threw a pearl away
Richer than all his tribe.
Othello, in William Shakespeare's "The Tragedy of Othello, the Moor of Venice."*

If Shakespeare was alive today, I fancy he'd be pretty happy with Vishal Bhardwaj's Omkara, an adaptation of Othello that has enough bawdiness, poignancy, grandeur, wit and drama to make the old man -- for he'd be 442 years old -- right at home. I won't attempt a review of the film because I didn't see the film with that intention, and I wouldn't have much to add anyway to Baradwaj Rangan's excellent review (though I didn't think the film was that great), or to Jai's post (from where I got the link to the aforementioned review). So just a few observations:

- If you'd shown me the cast and the script before I heard about the film, I'd have assumed that Saif Ali Khan was playing Cassio/Kesu: after all, the cheerful charmer, as Kesu is in this film (though not Cassio in the play) is what Saif does best. But instead, he plays Iago/Langda Tyagi, and slips into character so well that you hate the man by the time the film is over. Surely this isn't the same guy who did Dil Chahta Hai? And, more pertinently, how many actors in Mumbai's film industry are there who could play both Kesu and Langda with such conviction? No other actor in this film, certainly, though had Naseeruddin Shah been 20 years younger...

- The rest of the cast is also exceptional, and Kareena Kapoor, in particular, is a revelation. May FSM forgive me for thinking this woman couldn't act. She makes you fall in love with her character, and her last few moments alive are a tour-de-force: as the audience, we feel her shock and her disbelief; and if you imagine her from Othello/Omkara's eyes, she seems frantic and confused now that the show is up. It's a difficult double act, and she hits just the right registers.

- Konkana Sen Sharma reminds me of that cliche about genius being in the details. She gets the little things so right in her character -- the lilt in her voice, the phrases she uses, the way she bobs her head. As Jai asks, "Is there anything Konkana Sen Sharma can’t do?" (Her alleged dog-defenstration and choice of men don't bother me, as I don't see what they have to do with her acting, deplorable though they may be.)

- Ajay Devgan does brooding well, and broods through this film as well. Look, it's good and all that, but his acting was the most predictable in the film. He can do that in his sleep, and put us to sleep in the process. Also, Bipasha is miscast as Bianca/Billo, which isn't her fault. I like her arms, though.

- I thought all the deviations from the play, in terms of plot, were just fine, except for one crucial bit: the 'evidence' that Iago/Langda presents to Othello/Omkara of Desdemona/Dolly's infidelity. It's way too contrived, requiring everything to happen at just the right time. So many things could have gone wrong there, and Langda would have been screwed. It's the only big flaw in the film.

- And finally, I think Vishal Bhardwaj did a terrific job as a director -- some particularly well-constructed moments include the one with Dolly swinging with Kesu and Indu on either side of her, and the final frame of Dolly and Omkara's bodies -- but I'd love to see what he does when he works on a subject other than the underworld, and without Shakespeare's plays as fodder. Not that he needs to: he can make the rest of Shakespeare's plays into films, for all I care, and build an impressive body of work. (As long as he doesn't cast Sunny Deol as Titus Frigging Andronicus.)**

* The quoted text was from The Oxford Shakespeare, edited by Stanley Wells and Gary Taylor. You'll find other versions of the text online if you search for it.

** I often tell friends that I'd read all of Shakespeare's plays when I was ten years old. What I conveniently don't mention is that Titus Andronicus was one of my favourites. Ah, well, I suppose one does get wise with age...

Update (August 1): Falstaff is most unimpressed with Omkara. Excellent review, read it.
amit varma, 4:27 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, July 30, 2006

From the bikini to the bindi

In a feature titled "First bikini, the bindi," the Times of India explains how actresses evolve in Bollywood. It begins with exposure:
So, a Nisha Kothari readily squeezed herself into a pushup contraption that was two sizes too small to enhance her bust in Killer. Mallika Sherawat romped around in a bikini in Bachke Rehna Re Baba .

Priyanka Chopra, Bipasha Basu, Antara Mali and Neha Dhupia also displayed their ample female form in the first couple of movies.

Oddly though, as soon as these actresses establish themselves in front-benchers' minds as benevolent providers, they start shopping for clothes. Or bring their mother on the sets to intimidate filmmakers.
I can only wonder if the ladies mentioned in that second para also had an "ample male form" to display. Well, never mind redundancies. There's a nice line later about how, having moved beyond their early days as starlets, these ladies "then venture into art cinema and scramble for Rituparno Ghosh's address." I can only presume that the mother is then not required.

"You don't have to come with me today, Mommy," says the starlet. "Rituda wants me to dress up in a shaaree made of shootee."

"But I want to come, Beti," says Mommy. "I have become addicted to the glamour, the spotlights, the thrill of hearing 'Lights, Camera, Action,' the smell of the sets, the spotboys with their taut muscles and throbbing loincloths. I want to come, Beti, I want to come."

"Where's Daddy?" asks Beti.

Then they realise with a start that they haven't seen Daddy in the last nine years. Oh, the side-effects of pursuing a career in the movies!
amit varma, 2:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to get yourself male offspring

Be ugly.

The Times reports:
According to research, attractive parents are 26% more likely to have a daughter than a son as their first child. It is an inexorable process that has resulted in women becoming increasingly more attractive than men.

This is because of differing “evolutionary strategies” that each sex has adopted to survive, claim researchers at the London School of Economics.
Fascinating stuff, and though it might sound loony at first, not to mention politically incorrect, it actually makes a lot of sense. (For starters, consider that the second para quoted above refers to ultimate causation, not proximate causation. Also consider that we're not talking about the volition of people or their genes, and that kind of language -- such as when we talk about "the selfish gene" -- is just a metaphor.)

By the by, the article also explains why there are more attractive girls around than boys. It quotes a researcher as saying:
We have also shown that women on average are more attractive than men, because over evolutionary history the slight bias of beautiful parents to have more daughters has accumulated, so that girls have become more and more attractive than boys.
Well, I'm not a first child, but my parents were pretty good-looking, and I'm neither female nor attractive. Any one of the two, in evolutionary terms, would have been either a setback, or merely pointless.

(Link via email from Ravikiran.)
amit varma, 1:47 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The mixie goes backwards

Formerly blood-squirting toe was moaning and groaning (after this), and I'd had enough of it. So finally I said:

"Listen, toe, pipe down. The fact of the matter is that I didn't drop a mixie on you, you dropped a mixie on me."

"Huh?" said One-Time Blood-Squirter. "I've never heard anything so ridiculous in my life."

"Well, I have," I said. "See this."

Previous posts on toes: 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5.
amit varma, 1:40 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"People-kissing classes?"

Who says academics is boring?
amit varma, 1:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

India Uncut Nugget 33

In a way, the most morally troubling thing about killing chickens is that after a while it is no longer morally troubling.
Michael Pollan, in "The Omnivore's Dilemma." The quote reminds me of the anecdote about how Leo Tolstoy's aunt once visited him for dinner and found a live chicken on her chair, and a carving knife besides it. "We knew you wanted chicken," Tolstoy said, "but none of us would kill it." (I wonder what Tolstoy would have done had the lady wanted beef, but you get the point.)

That anecdote formed the basis of an essay I wrote around three years ago called "Two chickens." (The one that we eat and the one on the chair, as Tolstoy's aunt found it.) I had just turned vegetarian, and wrote the essay to explain my reasons for it; I resumed eating meat a year later. Well, I just opened the Word doc with that unpublished essay a few moments ago, and it seems so naive to me, both in terms of style and content. Who the fug was I fooling, I wonder, but myself? And who, indeed, am I fooling now?

Anyway, on that note, an email from Kind Friend just rolled in, with a link to Julia Keay's review of "The Bloodless Revolution: A Cultural History of Vegetarianism from 1600 to Modern Times" by Tristram Stuart. I shall write more on the subject when I'm in the mood to berate myself, instead of merely bemoaning my existence, a pleasurable activity I find myself performing frequently these days. As Marquis de Sade famously said, "Why pity others, motherfugger, when you can pity yourself?"

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 1:06 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, July 29, 2006

Defenestrating dogs

I understand where Jai is coming from, but it doesn't always work.

(Please do not try this at home, and all that.)
amit varma, 11:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Toes v Cows

Formerly Blood-Squirting Toe and Previously Injured Toe curled up and looked straight at me. I put away the TV remote. "What is it now?" I asked.

"How come you blog about cows all the time, but never about toes?" asked Previously Injured Toe.

"Yes," said Formerly Blood-Squirting Toe. "Always cows this and cows that, and see my pretty cows, well, what about toes? If you had no toes you wouldn't be able to walk, or attract women. Cows fulfill no such role in your life."

"We demand an explanation," said Previously Injured Toe.

I breathed out. "Ok boys," I said. "Now let me ask you something. Have you heard of the Russian man who asked permission from Vladimir Putin to marry a toe?"

"Er," said Previously Injured Toe. "No."

"Damned right you haven't," I said. "That's because it was a cow. He wanted to marry a cow, not a toe.

"And here's more," I continued. "Have you heard about the agricultural show where everyone turned up to see toes, and this hot woman suddenly did a striptease with a pole?"

"Um," said Former Blood-Squirter. "No."

"Darn right you haven't," I barked. "Because everyone went there to see cows, not toes.

"And," I continued, pressing my point home, "have you heard about the chappie who got arrested recently for sucking a girl's cow in a public library?"

"Erm, no," said Previously Injured Toe.

"Damn right you haven't," I snapped. "The fellow got arrested for sucking a toe, not a cow. A toe. Everybody thinks toes are disgusting."

Previously Injured Toe and Former Blood-Squirter looked at one another here, and began to curl back down. Almost as an afterthought, Former Blood-Squirter curled back up and said, "Um, sorry to bother you and all that, but we, we, we dreamed of the day that you will end a post with the words, 'Previous posts on toes.' Ah, never mind."

"Hmm," I remarked. "I'll see what I can do."

(First cow link via email from Wraye Wenigmann, second cow link via email from Nazim Khan.)

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, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45, 46.

Previous posts on toes: 0.5, 1, 2, 3, 4.
amit varma, 11:09 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

192 million pounds

By TCA Srinivasa-Raghavan's estimate, that's the minimum the British government makes every year from transit passengers at Heathrow airport who do nothing more than use its toilets.

So the least you can do while passing through, I say, is crap forcefully.
amit varma, 11:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

My toe demands personal freedom, and strip poker

"I want to play strip poker," said my previously injured toe (not the blood-squirting one).

I looked down from my newspaper. "What the fug," I said. "What do you mean you want to play strip poker, you never wear any clothes anyway."

"Not at home, I don't," said previously injured toe. "But whenever you take me outside you put socks and shoes and suchlike on me. I can barely breathe."

"Indeed," piped in once-blood-squirting toe. "In fact, you treat us like women are treated in certain repressed societies. Be as undressed as you want at home, even walk around naked, but outside you gotta be all covered up, like hijab and suchlike."

"We want emacipation," said previously injured toe.

"Revolution," said once-blood-squirting toe.

"Personal freedom," said previously injured toe, which then added, "You know, for all your talk of libertarianism and so on, you're not particularly libertarian when it comes to your toes. What's up there, dude, Hayek never mentioned toes?"

"Ok, chill, chill," I said. "I'll wear slippers when I next go to the mall. That way you get to show yourself off to all the little female toes struggling to breathe in their high-heeled booties. Happy now?"

"Well sort of," said previously injured toe. "But you see, I don't mind leaving home wearing stuff."

"Then what do you want?" I barked.

"I want to play strip poker," it said.
amit varma, 12:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

My toe wants boots

"Hey, I want boots," said my once-blood-squirting toe, now dry and encased in Band Aid.

"What the fug," I remarked. "You already have boots. And a sandal to boot."

"No, no," said former blood-squirter. "Those are your boots. I want some boots for me. Boots that I alone get to wear. Boots that I don't have to share with -- [looks right, looks left] -- any other toes."

"Dude, you got to be kidding me," I said. "You do not get any boots of your own, and if you don't pipe down I'll drop another mixie on you."

"I won't pipe down. I want boots!"

"Yeah, right, you want boots. You'll get boots the day sheep in Germany wear Wellingtons."

"Wow, thanks so much," said blood-sucker toe. "Click here."
amit varma, 12:27 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, July 28, 2006

"The bindaas babes of Bollywood"

My injured toe winces as I read this out to ease its pain:
Here come the ‘bindaas’ babes of Bollywood who dare to bare without a care. And don’t expect too much restrain when they are on their byte song. Just the things that make them so ‘Bindaas’ (in trademark Mumbai street lingo).
Byte song? Yes, yes, I know it's about them pics, and I shouldn't keep looking at the text (I was a big fan of Playboy's short stories, by the way), but these are levels of badness in writing that need immense practice, and I'm actually filled with admiration.

In another slideshow, we are told about women who are "[n]ever minding their lajja even once," and we are also informed that Amisha Patel is a bosom. At that point, my toe says, "Why couldn't she have been a toe? You never take us to meet any nice toes."

"That's not true," I point out. "And in any case, you're injured. Rest now."

And somewhere a little toe squeaks, "Pixies!"

(Previous posts on Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10.)
amit varma, 3:42 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Breaking news: Mixie falls on Amit Varma's toe

I'm so tired of linking to things, you know. Link, link, link, comment sometimes, wisecrack often, hey, what about me? So this post is going to be personal blogging, the kind I never do, and I thought I'd warn you at the start.

A mixie fell on my foot today, making a toe spurt blood. I was moving the toaster out of the way of the microwave so I could heat some water to gargle with -- yes, my throat is aflame and my nostrils are in turmoil, though those around me point to PMS as a likely cause of my mood swings -- and the wire of the toaster was tangled up in blue the mixie, and it came crashing down.

Luckily, the toe it hit was not the one I'd famously busted in a lit-blogger's kitchen -- it was separated from that one by one innocent toe. And as blood burst forth and I let loose a series of plaintive yelps, the innocent toe spoke up.

"Such misfortune it is, to be surrounded by you wimpy toes," it said. "You should just wear nailpolish next. Why're you always moaning and groaning and getting hurt, why can't you just be an alpha male like your owner Amit?"

"Ha," snorted the previously injured toe. "Alpha male my foot! Amit's a pussycat, a thin-brained, weak-hearted, flabby loser. And you know what, I can take the pain. The only reason I make these noises is because Monsieur Wimp wants attention."

"Yeah," said the blood-squirting toe. "What's a little blood or a probable bone-break to me? All this noise is for Amit. He wants attention. He's a blogger."

"Oh come come," said the toe in the middle. "He's not that kind of blogger. He blogs about, well, things other than himself."

"In the end," said previously injured toe, "they all blog about their toes. There's nothing else, really."

"There's mixies," pointed out blood-squirting toe. "But you can't blog about mixies. Who'd be interested?"

And now the little toe at the corner squeaked up. "What about pixies?" it asked. "Can someone please tell me a story about pixies? I'm lonely down here."

The blood-squirting toe looked at him. And squirted blood.
amit varma, 2:26 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Mika: the "overnight smooching star"

To my disgust. saying "she asked for it" actually seems to work. Remember Mika and Rakhi Sawant? (I'd written about them here and here.) Well, guess what: that whole fracas has worked massively to Mika's benefit. Here's what he says to Gautam Buragohain of the Times of India:
I feel sorry for Emraan [Hashmi], poor chap it took him four years to build his image of a kissing star, while it took me just five minutes!

I have become an overnight smooching star and now wherever I go girls come up to me and beg me for a kiss. The other day I was at a party in Delhi and four girls came over and kissed me. Since they were all beautiful I didn't mind it.

Next an aunty came and kissed me! Nowadays whenever I see girls and aunties swooning over me, I get scared that I might develop some kind of allergy. I will have to approach a skin specialist soon.
The fellow even has the audacity to joke:
In a way, I've done some social service too. Look at Rakhi Sawant. She used to dress only in fancy clothes and now a day she wears saris. [Sic.]
Well, that isn't exactly true, but that's completely besides the point. And I hope Mika doesn't want to be famous as the "overnight fornicating star" next, because now that a precedent has been set, he probably won't ask permission.
amit varma, 1:28 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, July 27, 2006

Bipasha Basu's pink-bottled perfume

"Life," said Homer once, "would not be worth bearing were it not for HT Tabloid." And indeed, checking it out today I find an article that has as its headline a metaphysical question that has long tormented me: "What do hot women splurge on?" I dare to click, and the answer comes:
While going out for shopping, the dishy dames spend a whopping amount on beauty products ranging from perfumes to skin care stuff. They admit that such things make them irresistible to loosen their purse string.

For leggy lass Bipasha Basu, a peculiar pink-bottled perfume (which she doesn't want to name for some strange reason) is something she just can't avoid grabbing once it's available in the market.
Oh, to be a pink-bottled perfume, and to be in the market and -- ah, the thought makes me shiver -- to be grabbed by Bipasha Basu. As Ovid once wrote, "I ne'er fail to become as hard as husk/ when I see something dusky at dusk." But ne'er mind Ovid, let's move on to one more HT Tabloid masterpiece that informs us of arson:
Rumours are rife that former Miss World Priyanka Chopra is all set to set the screen on fire by donning a bikini in the Shah Rukh Khan-starrer Don.

P.Chops (as Abhishek fondly calls her), who is presently basking in the success of Krrish, has worn a sexy swimsuit in Farhan Akhtar's forthcoming mega release, a remake of Amitabh Bachchan and Zeenat Aman starrer original.
As my fans (all three of them) no doubt know, I'm a huge fan of Bikinis. I can't say the same for Priyanka Chopra, though. When the two come together, I'll be inclined to overlook the presence of the latter if there isn't much of the former.

"What would you like for dinner," she should ask me seductively, the slightest of threads preserving her modesty. "I don't mind some chops," I will say. "And may I borrow your G-String, please, that's just the one my viola is missing."

Okay, this won't do. Let's talk about men. We are informed by Homer's favourite source that "tension is brewing between living legend Amitabh Bachchan and Bollywood Badshah King Khan." The article elaborates:
The controversy between the strenuous relations between Big B and Shahrukh Khan has now turned to lovey-dovey family relations between the two. Both superstars have refuted allegations of their troubled relations by expressing bond of love between them.

[...]

According to Shahrukh, his children are very fond of Abhishek while Amitabh Bachchan says that Jaya is equally fond of Shahrukh.
Er, but do they get along? As Shakespeare once remarked, "Friends, Romans and countrymen/ Who gives a shit?/ Not me, that's for sure/ Et tu, Brute?"

(Previous posts on Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9.)
amit varma, 2:56 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Bear with our leaders

Newsweek gets behind the scenes at the recent G8 summit:
Outside, a bear dressed in a green tutu with pink polka dots performs tricks. Inside, Chancellor Merkel starts to tell the story of a rare wild bear that was recently shot and killed in Germany. This prompts Japan's Junichiro Koizumi to reel off every bearlike word in his English vocabulary. "Teddy bear," he says for no apparent reason. "We must bear criticism. Unbearable." The leaders all start giggling.
The leaders all start giggling? When I say things like that I usually have to apologise instantly. But I guess people running the world probably have a higher level of tolerance, or we'd all have nuked each other by now many times over.

I can imagine at night after a hard day off meetings, Koizumi wakes up in his bedroom to find there's a bear there, carefully inserted by China. He stands up and takes off his clothes. "You bear," he says, "me bare."

Sorry.
amit varma, 2:34 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Where your taxes go: 4

Compensation for a bank employee mistakenly declared dead.

Earlier in the series: 1, 2, 3.
amit varma, 5:16 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

You've got mail

It's a python.

In other animal news, man fights bear to save dog, and later says, "Love is a very powerful emotion and my thought right away was, 'You're not going to kill my dog.'"

Doggies rock, and on that note, one of my best buddies has started a blog for her pup: Chorizo: A Dog with a Blog. Most notable. I wish I could also be a dog for a day.

(Man-fights-bear link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 4:20 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Big Brother is watching cows

Patricia Nunan reports:
In a government-run shelter in India's capital, New Delhi, cows are undergoing what may seem a strange procedure, they are being forced to swallow microchips which remain permanently in one of their four stomachs.

With the use of special scanners, municipal workers can read the numbered microchips, identifying the cows and their owners.

In India, the cow is sacred as part of the Hindu religion's story of creation. But they are also a source of currency or collateral in the society here, and being able to count and track them is vital to some businesses.
Well, from a human point of view, I suppose it's all very sensible. Often, when I've lost something at home, I've wished that I could do a Google search for it, or press a switch and make it beep or something. So this is nice, and we can't, after all, afford to lose our cows.

But what do the cows feel about it, I wonder. Huh? Huh? Moo?

(Link via email from reader Jayakamal Balasubramani.)

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, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44, 45.
amit varma, 1:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sex in outer space?

It's hard enough to get it right on earth, and here we have MSNBC writing about how difficult sex in outer space would be. The reasons cited by them include "spacesickness," "the difficulty of choreographing intimacy," and "the potential for sweat and other bodily fluids to, um, get in the way."

Um, indeed. The article ends with the memorable phrase, "humanity's long-term push into the final frontier," which may or may not be a pun.

And why on earth would we want to extend humankind into outer space? End it here, I say. Life is a disease -- don't spread it.

(Link via email from little n. Gaurav Mishra also emailed me separately with a link to Xeni Jardin's post on the subject on Boing Boing, and about the time she went on a zero-gravity flight.

And no, men don't think about sex all the time. They do need to sleep, you know.)
amit varma, 12:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

SMS warrior

I thought those days were gone, when the only Indians in the Guinness Book of World Records would be the jokers who'd grow 30-foot nails and eat lightbulbs and write an epic on a grain of rice and grow snakes in their intestines, and so on. But no. Times have changed, and in this age of new media and new technology, IBNLive tells us about Mr Nitin Thakor, who "has set a new record of sending over five-and-a-half lakh SMSs in just 30 days in Gandhinagar."

Let's put that into perspective:
This means on an average, Nitin sent one SMS every five seconds, 13 messages ever[y] one minute, 718 messages ever[y] hour and 18,705 messages every day.
And that's an average. If our hero sleeps and eats and bathes like normal people, he'd need to send an SMS every three seconds, which either means he can type frightfully fast, or he sends blank SMSs. And who are the recipients of his largesse?
Nitin's passion for SMSs almost got him into trouble after he sent over a 100 messages to a police officer in a single day. His friends don't think his new obsession is too much fun either.

"In the evenings, we have to call him and tell him 'please do not send messages to me'. It’s then that I am spared," Nitin’s friend, Bhagirath Solanki said.
Naturally they call him. I don't think there'd be much point in texting him. Anyway, Nitin also announces that his aim "is to send one crore messages in a month," so I recommend you keep your number away from his phone book.

(Link via email from Sunil Kundal.)
amit varma, 12:11 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Now you can play with Priyanka Chopra

And Shah Rukh Khan, if that's what you want, as Bollywood becomes Dollywood. The Hindustan Times reports:
Dolls immortalising Bollywood's leading stars Shahrukh Khan, Kajol, Hrithik Roshan and Priyanka Chopra will be sold in the UK from August 1 under the brand name 'Bollywood Legends'.

The first four 'Legends' ... have all been immortalised for their fans with the stars themselves having been involved throughout the process of creating their dolls, the manufacturers of the dolls claimed on Monday.
Sadly, no voodoo shit here, and no pins or needles sold with the dolls. I was struck by the last line of the report:
The 12-inch dolls have been meticulously crafted, with attention paid to every detail, from their outfits and their expressions down to Shahrukh Khan's famously curved eyebrows.
And to think I never noticed his eyebrows. I think they should make mechanised dolls that ham just like Shah Rukh does. And Priyanka's need not be too lifelike, or it will be too unlike her acting.

By the by, Lalu Prasad Yadav became a doll ages ago. What kind of kids play with dolls like that, I wonder.
amit varma, 7:22 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

All you who sleep tonight

One of my favourite poems by Vikram Seth runs thus:
All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above -

Know that you aren't alone
The whole world shares your tears,
Some for two nights or one,
And some for all their years.
This is from Seth's collection of poems, All You Who Sleep Tonight. Had he read this newspiece, though, he might well have written it thus:
All you who sleep tonight
Far from the ones you love,
No hand to left or right
And emptiness above -

Please stay on your own
Even if it breaks your heart
Because if you sleep alone
You'll wake up smart.
Er, Vikram, if you're reading this, sorry! Screwed up your poem, but at least I'll sleep well.

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

Monday, July 24, 2006

Rose Friedman takes on Milton Friedman

The subject is Iraq, and you can read about it at the end of this charming feature by Tunku Varadarajan in the Wall Street Journal.

It's a good interview of Friedman, and the point I found most interesting was the one where Friedman says that he believes in "completely open immigration," but not if we're talking about a welfate state. "If there were no welfare state," he says, "you could have open immigration, because everybody would be responsible for himself."

I also like the bit where Tunku tells him that he [Tunku] isn't an economist, and Friedman replies:
You mean you're not a trained economist. I have found, over a long time, that some people are natural economists. They don't take a course, but they understand--the principles seem obvious to them. Other people may have Ph.D.s in economics, but they're not economists. They don't think like an economist. Strange, but true.
In our times, of course, more and more people who are "natural economists" are discovering that fact because of books like Freakonomics and The Undercover Economist, and blogs like Marginal Revolution, Cafe Hayek, and so on, which demonstrate the value of the tools of economics in understanding just about any subject. (I'd written about that here once.)

That doesn't stop Rose and Milton squabbling, of course, but the day couples stop arguing, there'll be no fun in the world. (Peace, yes; fun, no.)
amit varma, 4:01 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Monstrous eater"

The headline of this post contains the highest praise known to man, and the Hindustan Times bestows it upon a worthy recipient. The gentleman is known as Rappai, and this story indicates the extent of his clearly considerable abilities:
Once college students took sweet revenge on a restaurateur with Rappai’s help. He took an “unlimited meals” coupon and emptied the day’s food -- three buckets full of rice, one bucket of fish curry and 10 kg cooked meat -- in no time. Finally, law-enforcers had to be called in to end his sumptuous feast.
Joyous. On to shift to an entirely unrelated subject, let me leave you with another HT story, one that begins with the memorable line, "The Footloose Bengali is terrified." I tell you...
amit varma, 3:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"You make my peepee go DOING DOING DOING"

Just one of the selections in the Phoenix's list of the 32 worst lyrics of all time.

Thing is, you could probably come up with as good a list by just taking the first 32 CDs out of your cupboard and noting down a couple of lines from the first songs on them out of context. A more worthy exercise would actually be to come up with 32 really bad lyrics by artists otherwise acclaimed for their lyrics, like Bob Dylan and Bono. (And I promise you, you'll get some wicked shit.) But it's all pointless, because to me Rock 'n Roll's never been about the lyrics. Sure, good lyrics add to the mix, but they're the cherry, not part of the cake.

The most sublime album I've ever heard is Van Morrison's Astral Weeks, and the lyrics of its title track are, well, crappy. Yet, as Jay Berliner's guitar kicks in behind Richard Davis's bassline, and as Morrison begins to sing, it's the closest to musical heaven I can get. (More about Astral Weeks here and here.)

And ah, the bit quoted in the headline of this post is by Eminem. And here's an excellent essay on him, The Zen of Eminem, by Zadie Smith. (I love the way it ends, those last two paras.)

(Phoenix link via email from Scribbler.)
amit varma, 3:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

India Uncut Nugget 32

The Catholics say, “Shit happens.” The Protestants say, “The other guy is responsible for the shit.” The Muslims say “The shit is the Will of Allah.” The Jews go, “Why, oh why, is all the shit falling only on us?" The Buddhists reply, “But there is no shit.” And the Japanese Zen masters whisper, “Listen closely and you will hear the sound of shit falling."
A character in Shaere Zobale-Ha (Scream of the Ants), a new film by Mohsen Makhmalbaf. I got the quote from Jai Arjun Singh's post on the film; he thinks it's shit.

More Nuggets and Aphorisms here.
amit varma, 1:37 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Koena Mitra reveals all (and suchlike)

Indiatimes has an entertaining slideshow-cum-interview of Koena Mitra, who apparently "doesn't like to be labelled as an item girl and is looking for meatier roles." Many moments of amusement in there, such as when Koena says that "beauty and brains both matter a lot," and, when asked after that what she'd like to change about India, says: "Traffic, I think it should move faster..." Yeah, traffic's damn lazy, innit?

I also love the juxtaposition of image and text on this page. I can't figure out, though, why someone would ask a question about the last time Koena took a cab. (July 26 last year. So?) Anyway, Koena's favourite dish indicates that she at least has good taste, and if she ever offers to do anything I want ("Anything at all, Amit," she should remark sensuously, her bosom heaving), I will ask her to cook.
amit varma, 12:57 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

"Mada chod!" "Bey shalam!"

Could such a delightful cross-cultural exchange have happened before the days of the internet?

(Link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 12:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How not to leave police custody

Steal their property on the way out.
amit varma, 1:21 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Who needs sleeping pills?

Not Kareena Kapoor. Speaking to the Indian Express, she reveals:
I listen to four scripts a day and sleep through all of them.
Hmm. One could use blogs for that as well, as this marvellous cartoon by Hugh McLeod points out.

Check out more of McLeod's work here. I discovered him via Dhoomketu, who photoshopped one of McLeod's cartoons to put my name in there. I should be flattered, I suppose.

Let me end with a McLeod cartoon that answers a question many readers ask me:

amit varma, 12:41 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Jaswant Singh says there's a mole in the PMO

Manmohan Singh assures him it's just a birthmark.

Ok, ok, so I made that up. Here's the real story.
amit varma, 12:26 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Where your taxes go: 3

Prince.

Now, to save you a click, let me summarise that for you. Boy named Prince falls into 60-foot pit. Boy trapped there for 50 hours. Boy rescued. The prime minister announces that the government will take care of the boy's medical expenses, and I'm cool with that, whatever.

But then both the state and central government announce that they're going to give the kid Rs 2 lakhs each. That Rs 4 lakhs of your money. For a kid who fell into a pit and is now out of it. I mean, immense sympathy comes and all that, but is the kid really entitled to your money?

(Link via email from Confused.)

Earlier in the series: 1, 2.

Update: More of your money than I thought is involved. The Times of India reports that Haryana's chief minister "announced a reward of Rs 51,000 each to the army personnel, local villagers and civilians who were directly involved in the over 30-hourlong rescue operation."

No, a count isn't given in the article.
amit varma, 12:11 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sunday, July 23, 2006

How not to praise your director

Not much is expected from starlets when they speak to the press besides chirpy prattle, but still, they should watch what they say. Consider Rimi Sen speaking about "Golmaal":
I play a sweet and beautiful girl in the film. The best thing that I like about the film is that though it has four heroes, I am the only heroine. Rohit Shetty is amazing as a director. He can make even a black African look pretty.
Ahem. "Even a black African," it seems. Pickled Politics picked up on the issue here, correctly lambasting Sen and Glamsham, where Yahoo! India got the feed from, and Glamsham instantly changed the words on their site to "He can make anyone look pretty." (That's rather fishy: if Sen said it, how can they change the words? If they agree it's objectionable, surely they should just remove the offending bit entirely from the piece. And if she didn't say it, does that mean they made it up?)

In case Yahoo! also amend their text, Pickled Politics has a screenshot here.

(I read about this entire drama after Gaurav Mishra emailed me and pointed me to his post on the subject.)
amit varma, 11:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

More sleep, less AC

Slate checks out a new study and gives us some pointers on what we need to do to avoid putting on too much weight.

So all you people going on and on about how many packs of Kit Kat and Dairy Milk I consume every day, and the many Frappes, and all that cheese, please get one thing right: It's not about the food.

Now switch that AC off and let's get hot and horny. (Er, actually, we'll get horny later, I need to sleep now.)

(Link via Annie.)
amit varma, 11:46 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

An accent on accents

The Times of India reports on a trend of young Gujaratis working hard on "getting rid of their accents."

I always thought there was some charm in people speaking English in so many different accents, and it would be so boring if everyone was all propah and suchlike. Anyway, maybe The Big Ben can now get back to being a clock.
amit varma, 3:30 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Pakistan to the rescue

Here's a piece I've written about the recent blockade on Blogspot blogs.

Update (July 24): Here's another piece that sums it up for the layman. It covers much of the same territory as my Metblogs post, but what the hell, different audiences.
amit varma, 3:09 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Saturday, July 22, 2006

"Mutually assured destruction"

It happens in marriages too.

Humans shouldn't be allowed to marry other humans, I've concluded. That's a recipe for trouble, because humans have egos and conflicting needs. Instead, all humans should be allowed to marry only goats and cows and so on. That way, if the marriage doesn't work, it ends not with divorce, but with a meal.

(Link via email from Maria.)
amit varma, 3:53 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Would you say the witness has turned hostile...

... if he starts barking?

Sigh.

(Link via SMS[!] from Gaurav.)
amit varma, 3:25 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Fields of porn

Sounds like the Gold Rush.
amit varma, 3:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Friday, July 21, 2006

It happens in China...

... and now it's going to happen in India. Photo i-cards in cyber cafes.

(Link via email from Amit Agarwal.)
amit varma, 8:38 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Where your taxes go: 2

Loo allowances.

(Link via Nazim Khan.)

Earlier in the series: 1.
amit varma, 8:21 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wankers, wankers everywhere

The Guardian joyously reports:
Channel 4 is to bring mass public masturbation to the small screen. [...] In what must surely be one of the summer's more bizarre events, hundreds of people are expected to gather in a hall in central London on August 5 to pleasure themselves in aid of charity.

[...]

Prizes will be on offer for those who clock up the most orgasms and those who can masturbate the longest - the current record, according to the organisers, is a chafing eight-and-a-half hours.
Can you imagine how people would react if someone planned to organise a similar event in, say, Shivaji Park, Mumbai? Pramod Navalkar and RR Patil would, well, um, get immense pleasure at the prospect of having an issue to kick up a fuss about. I'm fairly sure than wanking must be against Indian culture.

(Link via email from old pal Abhi, who worked with me in the last millenium in MTV, and who asks in her email, "Why didn't we think of such programs when we were in TV?" Because we were too busy, um, you know?)
amit varma, 2:54 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Lose weight, gain weight, lose weight

Phew. About about 'learn acting'?
amit varma, 2:47 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The next number in the series

This is a bewildering question, but the discussion in the comments is fun. I especially enjoyed the bit about the "evil neo-con code question"?

(Link via email from MadMan.)
amit varma, 1:32 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The laughing Buddha starts guffawing...

... when he reads this up in Nirvana-land.

Dudes, dudes, trees are also impermanent, okay? Everything's gotta go.
amit varma, 1:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Georgie Porgie, pudding and pie

Okay, quiz question: without clicking on the links below or taking your mouse over them, tell me which of the two headlines below are of a story that's been made up:

Bush Acknowledges Racism Still Exists
Bush Quietly Rolls Back Iraq Death Toll To Zero

Er, sorry, maybe that was too easy?

And no doubt you've heard of the famous shoulder rub Georgie Porgie gave Angela Merkel recently. Much fuss has been made about it on the net, but from what I see in the video below, it seems to be just a playful moment between two people who seem comfortable with each other, as her smile after the event indicates. If she don't mind it...

Georgie Porgie should run into Zinedine Zidane somewhere and head-butt him, though.



(ABC News link via email from reader Joby Joseph.)
amit varma, 1:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Imagine there's no Imagine

Pratyush Khaitan points me, via email, to a BBC story titled "Church school bans Lennon classic," about a school in Devon that has "withdrawn John Lennon's Imagine from an end-of-term show after teachers ruled that its lyrics were anti-religious." You know, the "Imagine there's no heaven" and "no religion too" bits.

They can't bar their students from imagining stuff, of course. "Imagine there's no school" and suchlike, I'm sure they scribble in their notebooks. "And no teachers too."
amit varma, 12:49 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Don't believe the spam

A remote-controlled penile implant is not a good idea. Manish Vij, via email, points me to this story:
A man who had a penile implant to cure impotence is rising to the occasion — whenever his neighbour opens his garage doors. In a call to BBC Radio Merseyside the man claimed the remote control for his neighbour's garage was on the same frequency as the electronic device in his groin.

[...] He said: “Every time my neighbours park their 4x4 I get an erection. It’s embarrassing.”
As Manish remarked in his email, "gives fighting over the remote a whole new meaning."

(I don't need to point out what Manish must have been searching for when he came across this story.)
amit varma, 12:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Thursday, July 20, 2006

"Show me Vajrasana"

That's what Oscar Fernandes, a member of the Congress Working Committee, reportedly asked a candidate he was interviewing for "a post in the National Student’s Union of India (NSUI), the student body of the Congress."

So now you can be assured that politicians of the future will be well equipped to tackle this country's problems.

Also, reader Sunil Kundal emails to point me to a piece about a fish with human teeth. So maybe there's some hope for our politicians yet.

But how would it brush?
amit varma, 5:04 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Vaastu Shastra

That's the latest battleground between M Karunanidhi and J Jayalalithaa. The lady isn't happy with where she sits in the state assembly, and is blaming the gent of using Vaastu Shastra to determine who sits where.

I'm sure there's a huge market for dolls of both these leaders, sold with a packet of pins and this book. Do it with the help of the supernatural, ye folk, and leave the electorate out of this.
amit varma, 4:24 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Sit erect, right now

Why? Well, because Mallika Sherawat is doing something. Consider these incredible lines from Indiatimes:
Whatever she does, it makes you sit erect. Whatever she wears, it titillates you. Her intention is clear to make your attention pin-pointed on her sensual parts. She is sultry Mallika Sherawat, who always says it script demands. [Sic, naturally.]
Sigh. But before you complain, check out what the Indian Express has to say about Celina Jaitley's reaction to the bomb blasts in Mumbai:
Celina was very traumatized after seeing the whole scene. She can’t talk about it without crying. So it’s everyone who was affected by the tragedy. But it’s the never say die spirit of Mumbai which makes us bounce back time and again!
Note how adroitly the writer comes to the conclusion stated in the third line of that excerpt. And for even more ludicrosity, check out this ANI piece, the writer of which doesn't seem to know the difference between 'groupie' and 'group'. Such fun.

(Previous posts on Purplocity/Verniness: 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8.)
amit varma, 4:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

404 Not Found

Is that what you'd get if everything that existed in the universe had a webpage, and you clicked on the link that said "God"?
amit varma, 3:58 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Not in control of your life?

Well, at least plan your funeral properly.

Yeah, yeah, I know, after wedding planners, the next hot professionals are funeral planners. This trend of people planning for an event they can't possibly attend is hardly surprising. After all, we all believe in our own immortality, don't we? Nothingness is the hardest thing to imagine, so most of us follow a fiction of our own choosing that grants us meaning and everlasting existence. And that brings me to my next post...

(Link via email from Maria.)
amit varma, 3:51 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Collateral damage...

... of this nature is not acceptable.

(Link via email from JK.)

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, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42, 43, 44.
amit varma, 3:45 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Advertising, drawing, Mozart, sadness and Kim Sharma

A busy day lies ahead, so I'll leave you with some links to pieces to mull over, and get to other work for a few hours. (Note that my post on the block on Blogspot sites in India constinues to be updated whenever developments take place.)

First up, check out this essay by Ryan Bigge in Toronto Star in which he bemoans, "Advertising has forgotten how to be subtle. Worst of all, it requires no cultural competencies to decode."

On perhaps a related note, Michael Kimmelman writes in the New York Times about the decline of drawing, saying, "We’re addicted to convenience today." He elaborates:
Before box cameras became universal a century or so ago, people drew for pleasure but also because it was the best way to preserve a cherished sight, a memory, just as people played an instrument or sang if they wanted to hear music at home because there were no record players or radios. Amateurism was a virtue, and the time and effort entailed in learning to draw, as with playing the piano, enhanced its desirability.
Quite. It's the age of the short-attention span, as I'd written about in an old essay, "Beautiful scatty minds."

And while we're getting nostalgic about the past, let me direct you to Alex Ross's marvellous essay on Wolfgang Amadè Mozart, as the composer "usually spelled his name." It's an excellent profile of the man, one I enjoyed quite as much as the ones in Javier Marias's "Written Lives", which Chandrahas had blogged about here. "All these wonderful writers seem to have such sad lives," I thought while reading that book, "I can manage the 'sad', but can I manage the 'wonderful'?"

But, of course, sadness is not the sole preserve of writers, as this story indicates, about a former Indian football captain who killed himself recently. Pundits will no doubt blame the state of sport in our country for the man's death, but I'm not so sure that's fair. Sorrow often has its own trajectory, and little can get in the way. Even the rich and successful sometimes lose their battles with personal demons.

In non-sad news, I am pleased to inform all those of you who may be planning to go in for an operation at some point in your lives that your chances of waking up to find that the doctor left his sponge (or visiting card, or whatever) inside you has decreased.

And in news from India, model Kim Sharma and photographer Vikram Bawa have had a fight. Things apparently went wrong at a photoshoot recently, when the lady allegedly refused to expose, and announced that she was allergic to baby oil. The shoot was for Maxim, whose readers can do without the exposure, but absolutely must, must have the baby oil. Pity.
amit varma, 1:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

One mighty befuddled autorickshaw driver...

... stared at me as I got into his auto and absentmindedly said, "Blogspot."
amit varma, 12:21 AM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Soon, you may not be able to see Blogspot blogs

(I'm post-dating this post to make it sticky. It was originally posted at 3.56 pm, IST, July 17. Regular programming continues below.)

In India, that is. The block on Blogspot blogs that I mentioned here seems to be spreading across ISPs, and if you find you can't visit my blog any more, here are a number of things you can do. [Update: The block has spread, and most ISPs in India have blocked all Blogspot, Typepad and Geocities domains.]

One, subscribe to India Uncut via Bloglines. You should be able to see at least my posts regularly, though not my blogroll and so on. I use Bloglines myself, and recommend it.

Two, use http://www.pkblogs.com. This was set up to enable Pakistani residents to view Blogspot blogs after a ban on them there.

For more ways to circumvent the ban, hop over to Amit Agarwal's post on the subject.

Update: To my horror, it seems that this may not be a false scare. Airtel reps told Amit that they have received government orders to block Geocities sites, just as Spectranet chappies had told Mridula that they'd got orders to block Blogspot, and a lot of ISPs seem to have blocked Blogspot, Typepad and Geocities sites. I hope it's just a kneejerk reaction by some clueless babu that is soon corrected. I hope we don't go the China way.

Update 2: For the latest on this, please follow the wiki and the email group we've set up for this purpose.

Update 3: Chacko writes:
Two sources, one inside the Government of India and the other kind of inside/outside have confirmed to the Mutiny, that ISPs are being instructed to ‘control’ access to blogspot. It seems that some blogs are being used by some terror units (read SIMI) to communicate.

There is a crack down in place. IP numbers are being physically located and identified. All should come back to normal once this operation is over. [...]

Now I know you are not going to believe this, so I’m going to quote what she said, “This operation is limited to certain parts of India. Bloggers in Andaman, Nicobar and Lakhsadeep islands are not affected.”
So if you're in Port Blair, no problem!

Update 4 (July 18): The Indian Express story on the subject lists some of the blocked domains, and confirms the suspicion that in trying to block a particular blog on Blogspot, the ISPs blocked the entire domain. Here:
Though the communication, dated July 13, by the telcom department to ISPs lists specific pages/ websites, several ISPs have blocked all blogs because they were not equipped to filter specific pages. This could be because all websites hosted on blogspot.com, for instance, have the same IP address.
Apparently officials still don't understand that they've blocked not a handful of blogs, but millions of them. The Hindustan Times reports:
Officials defended the decision saying, "We would like those people to come forward who access these (the 12) radical websites and please explain to us what are they missing from their lives in the absence of these sites."
Sigh.

Update 5 (July 18): And ah, do read this DNA story on the block. And Slashdot. And Boing Boing.

Update 6 (July 18): I have a post on the subject on the Guardian's Comment is Free blog: "Inept censorship won't work."

Update 7 (July 19): More press coverage: NY Times, Business Standard, Washington Post, Outlook, Hindustan Times. And ah, this Indian Express story exposes how the particular blogs that the government meant to blog were themselves harmless.

Update 8 (July 19): Good news. Rediff reports that the block on Blogspot blogs will be lifted by the Indian government within 48 hours.

Update 9 (July 20): The Department of Telecom has "sought explanation from the erring ISPs as to why action be not taken against them for blocking unintended websites/webpages." Here.

Update 10 (July 21): I have a post summarising these events in Mumbai Metblogs: Freedom.
amit varma, 11:59 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Shhh...

After completing this survey for the worst sound in the world, I need a little silence.

(Link via email from Uday Kiran.)
amit varma, 9:31 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

An eye on the fish

Mumbai's police commissioner, AN Roy, goes all defensive about the blasts in this piece on Mumbai Police's site, and at one point writes:
I am like Arjun with an eye on the fish! I tell my officers, this case must be detected and as soon as possible.
Well, knowing the legend of Arjuna and the fish, I can only hope that Mr Roy is looking terrorism in the eye, and not just at its reflection.

(Link via email from reader Prajakta Samant.)

Update (July 19): Biswaroop Som writes in:
I guess Mr. Roy got it right with the eye but is confused between the fish and the bird. Remember the story of Arjun's intense concentration power when Drona asked all his pupils to aim at the eye of the toy bird and tell him what they saw? While the others saw a tree, the sky, a bird, Arjun was the only one whose focus lay only on the eye of the bird.

But then again he's a cop and not a mythological expert, so he can be forgiven.
Indeed.
amit varma, 9:08 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Ask Jeeves...

... what happened to him. It ain't a pleasant story.
amit varma, 6:48 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

So what kind of ringtone do you have?

I've always thought that you can learn a bit, just a bit, about people by what kind of ringtones they have. (Like, if you have a Himesh Reshammiya ringtone, I'm not coming to coffee with you.) Well, it seems to be blatantly true for some people in South Africa, where a newly popular ringtone features "a song about tying a black person to the back of a truck and setting dogs on him."

Actually, given a choice between having coffee with a chappie with that ringtone and a chappie with the Himesh Reshammiya ringtone, I'll take the Himesh Reshammiya chappie. Please don't call him, though, ok?
amit varma, 6:03 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Monday, July 17, 2006

The good that blogs can do

I have a post on the Guardian's blog, Comment Is Free, on the good that collablogs such as Mumbai Help can do in the immediate aftermath of a crisis. It's called "Online intervention".

I wrote the post over the weekend, and its headline now seems more apt for another crisis that is brewing. Won't it be ironic if, after all that Mumbai Help attempted to do last week, residents of Mumbai aren't even able to access it?
amit varma, 6:39 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

How to hide your paunch

Wear a shirt that follows these principles:
Collars and cuffs in contrasting colours and tempered sides and princess seams can attract attention away from a person's paunch. Similarly, extra-hidden buttons can be used so that its middle part doesn't open up while the person is in a sitting posture.
Yes. Finally, finally, I can sit down.

Anyway, read more here. And give up that gym membership, you don't need it no more.
amit varma, 3:41 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

Boiled eggs, mademoiselle?

What some men do for their loved ones. First there was the Doofus who dressed up in a burkha and went to the airport to meet his beloved's sister. And now there's a Dumbfug who stuffed eggs in his underwear to surprise his girlfriend. Or so he said.

The eggs included "two gang gang cockatoos and two galahs." Which girl doesn't love being surprised by gang gang cockatoo eggs? I want names, and I want addresses.
amit varma, 3:23 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

The maddest fucking cow you've ever seen...

... you ten-toed freak!

This is awesome. It's bovine and divine and full of righteous anger, and I'm going, "Dude, this cow should blog." Watch.

(Link via email from reader Mayank Upadhyay.)

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, 37, 38, 39, 40, 41, 42 and 43.
amit varma, 3:07 PM| write to me | permalink | homepage |

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