Sunday, 13 December 2009

Facebook, Woods, and the Morality of No Privacy

Facebook posts on Google and Woods soon on Oprah. Are we being pressured to give up our privacy?

Two recent and unconnected events may have very well defined the expectation of privacy that we take into 2010 and put a greater economic as well as moralistic premium on sharing personal information.

On 10 December, social media network Facebook rolled out changes in its privacy policy.

With the default privacy setting as ‘everyone’, Facebook’s 350 million users are being encouraged to share more personal information – location, photos, videos, posts – with those outside trusted circles of friends.

And effectively, with Google and Bing of course.

High premium on sharing

Of course, it must be mentioned that the new Facebook policy affords greater granular control of posted information, and continues the option for customised, restrictive privacy settings. Having taken the trouble to review and reset mine, I for one am glad that I have been offered the choice not to share party pictures with “everyone, forever.”

However, FB’s emphasis on openness signifies a slight but important change in policy and ideology for an industry leader.

With even the rather private Facebook CEO Mark Zuckerberg opening up his profile to the public, the premium on sharing and openness is exceptionally high.

As a user, I get the distinct feeling that my decision to have fewer people find me and not to contribute to a more ‘effective’ online search experience, doesn’t sit so good with the guys at Facebook, Google, et al.

Google CEO Eric Schmidt’s comments are almost scolding: "If you have something that you don't want anyone to know, maybe you shouldn't be doing it in the first place."

Privacy as amoral? 

And here, the purpose of information sharing changes from economic benefits and knowledge gain, to take moralistic overtones. And it’s not just limited to information online.

Take the Tiger Woods situation (as it has indeed turned into) – Woods’ extra-marital shenanigans is everyone’s business now and a very public apology is being suggested as the only way out for golf’s biggest personality.

Intense scrutiny has meant that the normally reticent sportsman has already taken the decision to issue public statements about his “transgressions” and finally confess to his “infidelity”.

But that’s being considered far from enough. With sponsors getting cold feet, congressmen giving up campaigning for a Congressional medal for him (“in light of recent developments”), it would seem that Woods is being pressurised to forgo privacy for a tearful confession on Oprah.

‘Woods chose privacy, and look how that turned out, so no more privacy’ seems to be the prevailing sentiment. Take sports journalist Rick Reilly (ESPN) who makes a example of Woods as he writes:
He needs transparency. Let us into your life a little. Do the "A week on the road with Tiger" story. Give a home interview once in a while. Let people check in the closets and under the bed. Prove to the world you've changed. Because "no comment" and three security guards are only going to make people suspicious.
Sure, as a public persona, Wood’s personal life would always be an interesting conversation point, and the subject of constant tabloid speculation.

The issue however, is not about the intrusive media coverage or online insights into personal life, thoughts and behaviour. The worry is that as the decade ends, we're going to be pressured into volunteering to give up privacy concerns, or else face disapproval, self-righteousness and lectures on morality.

Image courtesy Markus Meyer aka Sunside, CC-BY-NC. 

Wednesday, 18 November 2009

The British Super Team. Ahem. Right.

I thought the drama of F1 would end with the Abu Dhabi spectacle earlier this month. For someone who has followed the sport for well over a decade now, this is naive, shameful and plain stupid, and I apologise.

The 2009 Formula1 season may be over, and the celebratory champagne barely dry, but the motorsport news desks would rarely be busier.

New teams, old teams with new names and new colours, new drivers, old drivers in new teams, the sport is still trying make up its mind on a 2010 look.

The most delectable piece of news however, is the prospect of the 2008 World Champion and 2009 World Champion driving for the same team.

As someone who still has to swallow hard before referring to either Hamilton and Button as a World Champion, I'm looking forward to this, just to see someone get cake on their face.

And I'm not the first to think that someone is going to be Button.

"British Super Team"

The man whose title challenge nearly came undone following a spectacular mid-season slump (and that's only putting it nicely).

Driving in the same team as the man who was the leading points scorer in the second half of the season, and who in a three years has proved himself to be an infinitely more competitive racer.

The no. 1 on Jenson Button's McLaren will infuriate Lewis Hamilton no end, but there is little doubt who will be number 1 within the McLaren team. Speaking to reporters earlier this year, Hamilton is quoted to have said that Button would only be "borrowing" his title.

"I look forward to challenging him next year and taking my title back," he reportedly said.

Snigger. Good luck Jenson.

The British media has already begun extolling the virtues of the "British F1 Super Team." The excitement of having two British drivers - both World Champions as we are never allowed to forget - in a British team seems too much for even the BBC to handle. In a seemingly desperate attempt to justify that Button's switch is not simply about show-me-the-money, the Beeb says:
But Button's preference for McLaren is not solely to do with money, according to sources. He also believes it is the best option for his career.
 Jense may well get his "competitive car", but put him in the same car as his countryman and now team-mate, and a competitive car may not be enough.

Here's to a season of Snigger.

Saturday, 7 November 2009

Live Music (Coming soon to a cinema near you)

Last week, I watched This is It. While the MJ plaudits may be taken for granted, this post is not about the genius that Michael Jackson was.

It’s about how much I enjoyed the experience of watching a ‘concert’ on a large screen, eating popcorn and having the music sound better than ever before.

I love my music, and I know my music largely as a result of exposure to both licensed and unlicensed digital music.

For years now, sections of the music industry have been lamenting the loss of revenue caused by illegal music downloads. At the same time, even two years ago, reports estimated that live music revenue would overtake recorded music sales.

People like me, lucky enough to have heard of bands from the other side of the world, bands that MTV or commercial radio wouldn’t even sniff, would happily pay (or consider paying – I’m pretty sure I can’t afford U2 on most days) to see someone worth more than manufactured pop on little plastic disks.

Unfortunately though, with only practically retired rockstars (Mr. Big? Seriously?) coming to my town, I think I’d jump at the opportunity to hear my favourite music ‘live’.

Live music from the other side of the world

On November 25, fans from 16 countries tuned in to watch U2 live on YouTube. The rock group was playing to an audience of 10,000 at Pasadena, California, but 10 million online viewers were part of the show at the same time as well.

A recent Wired report talks about the increasing popularity of such live music webcasts, with players like Billboard, Sony and MySpace organising live online shows.

The report goes on to suggest how these shows, while being remarkable examples of an industry finally adopting new marketing practices, would be that much more memorable as experiences when being watched in a cinema, in a crowd, rather than as a thing between just you and your PC.

I’d fully agree.

I like Michael Jackson because he sounds good, even on my laptop speakers. I don’t need to elucidate on how amazing it was to be able to listen to his songs in surround sound. Add to it the excitement of watching what was technically a lavish stage performance, and I’d say it was Definitely Worth It.

Why can’t we have more of that?

If acts still dream of being rockstars, I’d say this is as close as they’ll get.

Of course, in no way can a show watched in the cinemas take the place of the real concert experience – of watching the bands up close, with maybe more than a little jostling, of being part of a 10,000 plus crowd.

But this could be a way for an industry to adapt, a way for audiences to acknowledge creativity and talent, and large groups to be part of a process of culture building, based around shared experiences.

It’s like when the movies started and going to the cinemas was a real event. Live concerts in cinemas could well be the beginning of a new form of entertainment, and a lucrative one at that. I'm in.

Image courtesy p4nc0np4n aka Victor. 

Monday, 2 November 2009

Meet the Star

Look who got a cool 500 words to write about herself in the paper. 

Education Times Bangalore, The Times of India, 2 Nov, 09.

Note that I also got not one, but two pictures. Neither of them embarrassing. (Have a friend who picked one for me and Photoshop that did the rest, to thank for that.)

Also note the quote that makes the headline.

 I'll admit - it's not just Mum that thinks I'm a natural at this stuff. I'm a Me fan too.


(The link to the page, pdf format.)

Monday, 19 October 2009

Shoebox memory cull

I threw away my Bon Jovi poster. The first love of my life is now lying with his pretty face in old news print. 

It was faded, frayed, spotty, stained, and ... old. It had been an indulgent gift from caring friends that I treasured almost as much as JBJ CDs. The poster was about shared fantasies, dreams, conversations, and stories with friends. But it was dusty and so were the memories.

It all started exactly a month ago when I packed all my life's possessions and moved continents. Besides the 46kg + 8kg hand luggage (+ laptop bag), I was dragging with me enough memories and, some would say, emotional baggage.

So when I first began emptying my room, every little ticket stub and visitors' information booklet was carefully packed away. But during the period of wanderlust that followed, and before I landed up at the next place I would call home, the memory cull had been ruthless. "I can't lift so much stuff," might only have been an excuse to shed carefully collected tokens of memories and shared experiences, left behind as I continued onwards on my travels.

A first restaurant bill was just a piece of paper and my security-blanket t-shirt really didn't have another wear in it. Bin 'em.

Finally back home, the things that once defined My space didn't seem that important any more. For one, Jon was already off my wall, rolled and left in some cupboard.

Out went Jon, old textbooks, old stuffed toys (the cow that went moo was put in a plastic bag and stuffed in a cupboard nobody can reach, at least till the next cull), papers, bags, clocks.

As did old birthday gifts, friendship tokens, thank-you/ happy-new-year cards...saved text messages from three years ago.....

I'd like to think that I can get rid of some of this stuff because my relationships have moved beyond names signed on restaurant tissue (yea, we did that) and an awful drawing that sprouted one particularly boring class. These people are still in my life, I'm making new memories with them all the time, and I hope I can show them I care in ways that don't include hanging onto a present from seven years ago.

But I can't escape that some of these things are just dust-gathering-junk, the stories behind them aren't that special any more, and the people or the experiences are from a past that was wonderful, but now well past.

I still love JBJ, I'm pretty sure I always will.

But there's only so much that a shoebox can hold, and we need space for the new.

Monday, 7 September 2009

Do-it-together media

I've been harping on on my website*  about the cultural worth of DIY media, and about innovative independent music business models. But as we move beyond basic 2.0, I correct myself: do-it-yourself media eventually should give way to do-it-together media. 

That was no brain-wave. I stole that thought from a website of Unconvention, an initiative that claims to do exactly that for the "grassroot music scene."

I had nothing to do with Unconvention, besides an interest in the music and ideas of some of the independent artists involved.

I still have nothing to do with Unconvention. But it just happens that I found my way to the website, heard clips of some new acts, heard them recommended by artists I already like and hence trust, witnessed an online initiation for an interesting new band, ("four musical savants generating controlled chaos") and found more music and ideas that I intend to be interested in and freely recommend.

But what just happened here? In just a few days, a community working together, energised by the digital tools available, effectively decided that some young people with a couple of guitars, a drum and a tune were worthy of being Music, and for a wider audience.

Collaboration was always an important aspect of the free culture movement. The ability to build upon another's work was a desirable consequence of free creation. But now, it seems to be becoming a part of effective creation itself. And I'm not talking the collaboration on Wikis, but on creating mainstream multimedia. 

So now who's scorning "the Cult of the Amateur"?

* One ought to be allowed to use one's blog for shameless self promotion.

Sunday, 6 September 2009

Excuses for limited blogging in August

1. Free culture - Creative Mind project - the website I built as my final masters project and the purpose of my existence since April.
Still trying to fix IE formatting issues. (Any web developers reading this know where I'm going wrong?)

I've had some great feedback, I've met more smart people and my Twitter feed is getting hard to keep up with.

2. Various distractions.





Oh! And Brighton - Travelled far to see the Kissing Cops by celebrated street artist Banksy. For no particular reason. Except that it was there. You think he painted it because the wall Was There?

There it was, preserved from potentially overzealous councils and profiteers. While some might dismiss Banksy very distatefully, it was Art, standing by trash cans and restaurant leftovers. The graffiti around was as, if not more striking; but those remain blotches on the city walls, relegated to being examples of public nuisance and anti social behaviour.

Tuesday, 18 August 2009

If zombies attack

More from the how-do-you-write-this-with-a-straight-face department.

This from the science correspondent of the BBC. Brilliantly done. I'm sceptical here, but I commend these researchers for brightening up my dull day. This is how the story starts:
If zombies actually existed, an attack by them would lead to the collapse of civilisation unless dealt with quickly and aggressively.
If. Well no harm in being prepared, I reckon.
That is the conclusion of a mathematical exercise carried out by researchers in Canada.
So whose childhood dream to be a comic book artist was crushed by highest levels of education?
They say only frequent counter-attacks with increasing force would eradicate the fictional creatures.
I'm sure the President of the United States of America as portrayed by a Martin Sheen look-alike in Day of the Zombies (The Undead Walk the Heart of Manhatten. Coming soon) would be happy to have that on a memo on his desk. Did one of those researchers take a moment to stop to hear themselves?

The scientific paper is published in a book - Infectious Diseases Modelling Research Progress.

In books, films, video games and folklore, zombies are undead creatures, able to turn the living into other zombies with a bite.

But there is a serious side to the work.

Oh is there? Who'd have thunk it. Glad to see Science doing its bit to save the world.
In some respects, a zombie "plague" resembles a lethal rapidly-spreading infection.
I'm sure there's a strip somewhere in PhD comics about trying too hard to make research seem relevant.
In their study, the researchers from the University of Ottawa and Carleton University (also in Ottawa) posed a question: If there was to be a battle between zombies and the living, who would win?
Good question. Let's ask Buffy.

Oh and here's the best part:
Professor Robert Smith? (the question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake) and colleagues wrote: "We model a zombie attack using biological assumptions based on popular zombie movies.
"The question mark is part of his surname and not a typographical mistake." Brilliant!! I knew this needed a man with imagination! Like Russell Peter's !xobile with a click in his name!! And his explanation:
On his university web page, the mathematics professor at Ottawa University says the question mark distinguishes him from Robert Smith, lead singer of rock band The Cure.
And just when you were being amused by all this comes the inevitable prophesies (this time backed by Science) of doom and gloom.
To give the living a fighting chance, the researchers chose "classic" slow-moving zombies as our opponents rather than the nimble, intelligent creatures portrayed in some recent films.

Even so, their analysis revealed that a strategy of capturing or curing the zombies would only put off the inevitable.
A fighting chance. That's the best thing about humanity, isn't it? Aliens, vampires, Godzilla, killer tomatoes - they may rip out the heart and guts of the hero's left-hand-man and leave his right-hand-man crippled (but with his sense of humour intact), but we'll always squish them.

In their scientific paper, the authors conclude that humanity's only hope is to "hit them [the undead] hard and hit them often".

They added: "It's imperative that zombies are dealt with quickly or else... we are all in a great deal of trouble."

According to the researchers, the key difference between the zombies and the spread of real infections is that "zombies can come back to life"

Which genius did it take to figure that one out.

But they say that their work has parallels with, for example, the spread of ideas.
Ideas come back to life as well??
The study has been welcomed by one of the world's leading disease specialists, Professor Neil Ferguson, who is one of the UK government's chief advisors on controlling the spread of swine flu.
Is someone calling the zombies pigs? Way to make them annoyed.

"The paper considers something that many of us have worried about - particularly in our younger days - of what would be a feasible way of tackling an outbreak of a rapidly spreading zombie infection," said Professor Ferguson, from Imperial College London.

I'm not afraid. Buffy will save me. And on her day off I call the Ghostbusters.

However he thinks that some of the assumptions made in the paper might be unduly alarmist.

"My understanding of zombie biology is that if you manage to decapitate a zombie then it's dead forever. So perhaps they are being a little over-pessimistic when they conclude that zombies might take over a city in three or four days," he said.

Today I should feel safe in the knowledge that there are smart men who Understand zombie behaviour. I'll demand to have a 'Break this in case of zombie attack' installed in my building.

Till then, I aim to Know My Enemy, and Be Prepared.

Wednesday, 29 July 2009

Michael Schumacher Forever

Update - As my friend Aakanksha says: Or not.

It's been three years since one of the greatest, if not the greatest F1 driver retired from the sport, but it's now time to bring out the old refrain. Michael Schumacher Forever.

Ferrari has announced that the seven time world champion will come out of retirement to step into Filipe Massa's seat for the next race.

Massa fractured his skull at the Hungarian Grand Prix. Although doctors have said that last year's championship runner-runner up is stable, there are worries that he may not be able to race again.

I'm sure I join every racing fan in wishing Massa a quick recovery. But if there's anyone who can slip into a Ferrari, it has to be Schumi.

He may have to come back to drive a car far from the pack leader he's been used to. But whatever the results, his return under such unfortunate and unexpected circumstances will only help to maintain his previous achievements in the full glory they deserve.

He's doing everyone a favour.

On the day that BMW announced it will no longer race, and with many drivers in the job market, Massa would be pleased with the team's decision as well.

Get well soon Massa, and come back. Till then we get to see Schumi race again.

We get to see Michael Schumacher race again.

Maybe if I say it often enough I'll believe it.

Tuesday, 28 July 2009

Why, thank you! *blush*

I love a compliment just as much as the next girl, so when it was the national newspaper telling me what my mirror tells me an average of 19 days a month, of course I was flattered.

According to The Times,
Scientists have found that evolution is driving women to become ever more beautiful, while men remain as aesthetically unappealing as their caveman ancestors.
Of course, I knew that this is one compliment that is absolutely true. So it comes as an added bonus that the scientific acknowledgement of my beauty is accompanied by the opportunity to say I-knew-it-all-along.

(Brilliant and beautiful. Can I do human-kind any more favours?)

But honestly, I really can't take all the credit. According to the report,
...good-looking parents were far more likely to conceive daughters.
Thanks Mama, thanks Dada.

Feel free to tell me how you absolutely agree with The Times. And me.

Wednesday, 15 July 2009

The most read article on the Beeb at 22:56, July 15

Once in way, a story comes along that you can't read without smiling an amused smile.

But imagine how the person writing this story of a smoker's quadrillion dollar credit card crisis must have laughed. (Laughed at, not with.)
He (this smoker) thought he would be a couple of hundred dollars in the black. But his overdraft had pushed him into the red - by an amount equivalent to many times the entire US national debt.

"It is a lot of money in the negative," he said. "Something I could never, ever, afford to pay back.

"My children could not afford it, grandchildren, nothing like that.
You don't say!
(Said in the same mock serious tone the article has been written, as one hopes it has, else it's a very very dry day for news at the Beeb.)

Saturday, 4 July 2009

Buffy kicks some Cullen arse

Like there was any doubt as to what would happen if Buffy the Vampire Slayer met Edward Cullen (cue contemptuous sneer) of Stephenie Meyer's Twilight.

Remix artist and self confessed pop-culture hacker Jonathan McIntosh brings together the icons of vampire fiction in this great political remix.

(To be fair, maybe we shouldn't call Twilight 'vampire fiction' and even bother comparing the two; as a racy romance, Twilight would be perfectly acceptable time pass entertainment.)

In six minutes, Jonathan McIntosh reminds us that
  • Buffy's cool.
  • Spike's cooler and infinitely more admirable topless, than Edward and it is preposterous to even take those two names in the same sentence.
  • Vampire pop culture of 1997 - 2003 is way (waaaay) better than the post 2005 upstarts.
But more significantly
  • Buffy was all about girl power. On the other hand, Twilight with all its sensuality (and sexuality) can fall quite easily into the "Oh-Bella!"-"Oh-Edward" Mills and Boon style of story telling that seems to portray Edward's possessiveness and creepy behaviour as Love. Jonathan says it best in this post.
  • Vidding and remixes can be extremely useful in political and social commentary. Copyright is thus severely curtailing the fundamental right to expression through transformative works.
Here's the video (Creative Commons BY-NC-3.0 License): Watch and learn Bella.

Tuesday, 30 June 2009

Goodbye to The Pirate Bay?

The world's largest bit torrent tracker and the symbol of Internet anarchy is going corporate.

The Pirate Bay has confirmed the news it is being acquired by Swedish software company Global Gaming Factory X AB for the equivalent of $7.8 million.

TPB crew claim that this is in the best interest of innovation, an ideal they've always claimed to stand for.

"If the new owners will screw around with the site, nobody will keep using it. That's the biggest insurance one can have that the site will be run in the way that we all want to," says the blog post announcing the decision. "It's win-win-win."

If they seemed naive in fighting for open culture, in court, against the clout of the big media houses, this seems more so.

GGF, in its release, doesn't take long to clarify its intentions: "GGF intends to launch new business models that allow compensation to the content providers and copyright owners."

That sounds like the death knell for the steadfast and irreverent pirate stand on the many legal threats they receive, never to take down anything from their site.

Whatever GGF's plan is, it surely isn't the end of file sharing, and TPB founders know this better than anyone.

However, it could well be a blow to the Pirate ideology and everything TPB stood for in the fight for a free Internet. It's been a huge influence in deciding our online culture. 'Sell-out' is a word that's appearing rather frequently in the comments that have greeting TPB's announcement, with the bit torrent loyal threatening to delete their accounts.

The announcement comes at a time when the founders face a huge lawsuit and there are questions still being asked if the judges in the the Pirate Bay trial were biased.

Wednesday, 17 June 2009

News and Hash-tag activism

In journalism school, one of the first of the inexact sciences we learn is the prioritisation of news.

There's local, national, international, sports and entertainment news to juggle (with breaking news of Madonna's divorce of course changing everything).

I've spent a lot of time this past year hearing about how the future of the media is in local, highly personalised news. Reams have also been devoted (in media that nobody apparently cares about anymore) to lamenting the lack of international news in mainstream media.

#IranElection however very reassuringly shows that people still care very much about what happens in the rest of the world and it would be myopic of news organisations to assume otherwise.

CNN was asked to pull up its socks and Twitter rescheduled its down time rather than break the flow of information coming in from Iran.

Who says people don't care.

Thursday, 4 June 2009

Why I do what I do

Despite an apparent increase in readership (thank you folks for reading!), I'm afraid this blog is going to fail to contribute greatly to fruitful discussion or bringing about world peace (glad someone at least has that all figured out).

Until I finish my final project at least (all about free culture and creativity and art and y'know, stuff) I might find this an especially convenient place to rant. (Let's call it 'documenting the thought process.')

With every meeting with my tutor, and visions of failure and doom related and unrelated to this, an important question comes up.
Why am I doing this?

Please don't tell the Prof.

Tuesday, 2 June 2009

Bloody Fire Alarms! Burn! Burn!


It's been a long day. So shoot me for wanting a bit of peace and quiet before I put on my jammies and crash for the night.

I said shoot me. Not blow my head to bits with the incessant shrieking of six minute fire alarms every five minutes.

(Make it stop, plEAse!!!)

Where's the fire I ask you?

Nobody uses the kitchens to cook anyway - at least not since they were turned into refugee camps thanks to renovations that have lasted long enough for the new table tops to have fossilised food. (Oh and the smell. The smell of paint and turpentine. Moan-groan-grumble-sob.)

Let them alarms cry wolf just once more tonight and I'll give them a fire.

Only blogging etiquette has held me back from POSTING THIS IN ALL CAPS but make no mistake, I am screaming and whining and swearing and making rude hand gestures.

What's a girl got to do to lead a fire-alarm free existence in student housing? - I ask in great consternation.


Oh yea - Move Out.

Thursday, 28 May 2009

United lose it

Barcelona 2 - 0 Man Utd

This was supposed to be one of the best United team ever, if not the best. One that took the fight to Beautiful Barca.

So after a day of high anticipation, it was disappointing (okay crushingly heart-breaking) to see them outplayed so. Especially after a stellar season that deserved more.

But instead of saying what's been said in every pub from South Korea to South Ken with Rome on the way, how the defence wasn't working, nobody ran fast enough, Rooney didn't do nothing all game, Park was nervy, where was Tevez, Messi's a genius, Iniesta and Xavi didn't give Utd a chance... (defeated sigh)... I'm going to say Well Played Barca and get around to dealing with footie season withdrawal symptoms.

Wednesday, 27 May 2009

It's a pirate's life for me

I finished re- reading Free Culture by (well,) free culture cheerleader Lawrence Lessig.*

Just in time to hear old arguments from the entertainment industry all over again. This time, it's Sony Pictures Entertainment CEO Michael Lynton dissing the internet for ruining the industry.

This post is not arguing what he says. That's what TechDirt did brilliantly.

I'm just here to take exception to this:
And my point is this: the major content businesses of the world and the most talented creators of that content -- music, newspapers, movies and books -- have all been seriously harmed by the Internet.
'Most' talented creators? Who, the ones at Sony? The ones who last made Angels & Demons which was, if I'm being complimentary, average at best?

The ones signed on by the big names are not always the most talented, just that they sell better.

Talent's very much on display elsewhere online and it doesn't need to have a million dollar marketing price tag on it.

*Yes, I did download a free online copy to sample before I picked up the printed version. See, I just proved his point.

Friday, 15 May 2009

Playing with words

It never ceases to surprise me, how many options a fast Internet connection offers for distraction and procrastination.

This is what happens when I put my blog into, the winner of the Best Use of Typography award at the Webby Awards 2009.

Wordle created a tag cloud of the most commonly used words in my blog.

Really? These? How awfully dull. Little green mango might just decide to go down the sex-drugs-rock 'n' roll way to inject some drama into any future word cloud.

(Image from

Tuesday, 12 May 2009

Watching and listening

I found myself at the Science museum, London this weekend, for two very interesting exhibitions.

First - a newly opened exhibit on F1 technology in everyday life.
I was missing the race at Barcelona anyway, and this was my way of consoling myself. The technology on display, which included millimetre-thin dining tables, wheelchairs and high-tech fishing lines, is a far cry from the 'everyday' that happens everyday in your and my homes. It remains however a testament to the engineering superiority of Formula 1.

Second - the Listening Post.
I don't know enough about art to be able to adequately describe this exhibit. It is, at the same time, a work of art, technology, a mirror to society and an astute observation of the philosophies of human conversation.

Made of many (the booklet says 200) tiny electronic screens suspended like a grid and with an accompanying Sci-fi voice soundtrack, this displays fragments from Internet conversations across the world in continually changing patterns and themes.

The creators - Mark Hansen and Ben Rubin say that these are part of 'real-time', 'unedited' and 'uncensored' Internet chats and emails. I can't figure out how that works.

The pace and manner in which the bits of words come together, accompanied by a voice reading out the texts to me is lyrical. Indeed, the artists have divided their work into movements that seem to rise and ebb.

It's brilliant. I spent a good half hour staring transfixed at the blinking screens. Voyeuristically following thousands of thoughts - nonsensical, profound, funny, banal, personal.

It felt exhilarating, to be part of this world, to consider the possibility that someone somewhere might be listening to those thoughts and feelings let loose into cyberspace. Why, they may be sharing the same thoughts.

I think the Listening Post is more attractive because of the anonymity offered to all these conversations.

I've mentioned in previous posts how the idea that I may be getting an audience who can identify me and hold me accountable for all I do and say online has taken some getting used. But something like the Listening Post seems to suggest that my every little blog post or microblog is only part of a larger discourse that is taking place online. Who I am doesn't matter. What I say matters little. That I say it has a significant impact in making me part of a larger community and is my contribution to human communication.

Even if it sometimes feels like I'm shouting in the dark.

As a post script, I must add that there was a third special I went to - a Wallace and Gromit something-something. I crashed in on a kiddie party and probably was the only adult there who stayed for the show despite having no child to distract for half an hour.

Wednesday, 29 April 2009

Christmas lights (in April)

This is a piece I worked on...well...during Christmas last year. 

It's been lying about in my drawer all these months, and I just found a good programme to convert DVD to MOV (till now, it was more trouble than a two minute piece is worth) so here it is.

All those lights, on almost all day, got us wondering if light pollution was an issue. 
Add Video
(But they just look so pretty!!)

Monday, 27 April 2009

Website spoiler

After spending 15 hours in front of the computer fixing pixels I think I deserve a distraction.

Since I spent the last two hours (and good afternoon last week) trying to figure out how to post feeds of this very blog you are so kindly reading, I figured I might as well see the fruits of my labour. Hence this post.

Of course weaving all those dreams (the aforementioned 15-hour workday excuses the use of cliches and puns) on Dreamweaver, and the prospect of editing a radio documentary in the next couple of hours means that my imagination is limited.

This is all I have for this post - my website spoiler.

It's one of those open windows...

Saturday, 25 April 2009

Who's tracking your online footprint?

With Twitter mania adding to the already established popularity of Facebook, MySpace, YouTube and all those Google apps, the line between information and too-much-information gets another shade murkier.

While I voluntarily (for the most part) put up information about myself, scores of private and public organisations are collecting more information about what I do, the choices I make and my behaviour patterns.

As the New Statesman puts it, "Our digital records create a fast-growing laboratory of human behaviour."

I'm in the middle of research for a documentary about surveillance, and not surprisingly, the Government and Google regularly feature as the bad guys. Both have been criticised by privacy organisations for their disregard to dataprotection and privacy laws.

But as the same New Statesman article mentioned earlier goes on to point out, we may be confusing romantic ideas of anonymity with privacy.

It seems like a futile fight for anonymity, against the natural progression of a society where the information we share exponentially increases.

I'm coming around. It would seem that we require a completely new mindset, behaving in the straight-and-narrow. Because: 'Who's watching me? Who do I want watching me?'

Ironically, a half- finished 1984 stares at me from my bedside table.

Tuesday, 21 April 2009

Fight for the Torriano

Earlier this month, my colleagues and I worked on a 7 minute documentary for a video project.

We picked to follow the story of the Torriano, a quaint little pub in Kentish Town, North London.

The landlords and lease holders of the place, a young couple, are in a legal battle with the owners of the property, who want to convert part of the pub into flats.

It's an interesting case. The next round of hearings is coming up next month. More on that soon.

Till then, this is our video doc on the Fight for the Torriano. The video hosted on the Vimeo site is a bigger size, so do watch that one.

Thanks for watching!

The fight to save The Torriano on Vimeo.

Saturday, 18 April 2009

Everyone's a hack's friend

Family and friends of us journos don't have it easy.

Hounded for contacts, asked to drop everything for the sake of quotes/ soundbytes/ 'expert' opinions.

More so for student journalists who just need some camera practice before the real thing. This one's called 'Trains Outside my Window.' Haha.

Of course, sometimes in the process, a star is discovered. Thanks for being a sport Salil!

Monday, 6 April 2009

Thanks for the thought!

An email sitting pretty, read, re-read and treasured - no use pretending I wasn't waiting.

Phone calls, long winded and pleasant.

A photograph that sparks off hysterical laughter to drown out self-righteous indignation.

And everything really is alright.

Good memories just make for more :)

(Pic: Kriplet and the Rascals.)

Saturday, 4 April 2009

"Holy Crap!"

Now that I'm far from the place I'm used to calling home, once ignored aspects of daily life take on greater importance. Like religion.

With essay deadlines staring me in my face and the daunting task of having to eat food I cook myself, it should come as little surprise that I find the need to call on favours from higher powers.

But finding a temple I'm comfortable with has turned out to be harder than finding god.

My latest religious misadventure - Ramanavami celebration at ISKON London.

They promised a festive feast and I can shamelessly admit that I went because more than my piety was piqued.

The temple is in Soho. In an area known for hight-street fashion, gay bars and fun options for nights/ evenings-out. We've all been here before on a different kind of pilgrimage, but it's not exactly what I'd call a 'spiritual atmosphere.'

The 'temple' seems little more than a room up a narrow stairwell, above the organisation-run vegetarian restaurant.

The hall had no ventilation and no emergency exit that I was immediately aware of, a fact that worried me greatly as the prayers of the faithful got more vigourous as the evening went on.

(For a better picture, watch a Beatles documentary or read this entry.)

I was momentarily distracted from making sure none of the dancers stepped on my feet when I spotted a pierced and longhaired rocker with his electric guitar and spiked jacket turn up as well.

I try not to be judgemental; I don't intend to sermonise about how anyone else follows their religion, I myself love the ISKON temple back in Bangalore and I quite readily embrace their approach to religion. I chant Hare Krishna. The people were probably there, as the Hare Krishna man said, to get rid of their miseries, and who's to say that their chosen means of doing that is right or wrong.

But there seemed something fundamentally wrong with pundits serving prasada in dirty socks.

Any place of worship has to be holy and I didn't feel that here.

It's not holy when food isn't cleared off the floor before serving the next set of famished believers (?), when tuneless prayers are screamed out at random, different ones at different parts of the room, at the same time, when waiting-room entertainment is a cartoon Ramayan, and the cloak room/ shoe stand area is also where you dump the unconsumed food.

It was surreal and rather hilarious. It seemed like I'd stepped into a confused mix of cultures and generations (didn't the Maharishis and the Gurus die when disco took over from Flower Power and rock-and-roll?) and just plain confused people.

As a friend and I prepared to make a quick exit, we overheard: "Hare Krishna. I'm stepping out to Starbucks for some herbal tea."

Either this place is the ultimate confluence of free religion, or the most messed up Hindu temple ever. Or was I the confused one?

Thursday, 2 April 2009

This Happily-Ever-After thing never really ends

Two things that'll survive as Things Fall Apart - chocolate and happy endings.

According to a BBC report, Hollywood has traditionally been quick to employ artistic liberty and liberally sprinkle its annual produce with happy endings during times of gloom.

The BBC's calls this 'happyendification' and makes a perfectly pleasant fairy-tale ingredient sound like an embarrassing body condition.

Let me take a moment here to say I Knew It All Along.

It's time the contribution of escapism and the comforting predictability of stories to the collective human sanity is well recognised.

Hell yea we've earned it after living in reality the rest of the day.

Of course one (means I) shall be willing to appreciate (albeit slightly grudgingly) the (apparent) emotional depth and narrative intricacies of a tear-jerker and one (me again, with a Queenly disposition) will clap when it gets that Oscar.

But with the power to decide an ending for any fictitious expression, why not choose to brighten some dreamer's day. Leave the depressing stuff for Robert Peston, willya.

Saturday, 28 March 2009

My near and immediate future set in verse

Hot chocolate and a cosy bed.

Now that's poetry.

Wednesday, 25 March 2009

Say the word

I first saw her from the corner of my eye while I was googling for statistics on coffee production around the world.

The slightest of flutters behind a half-demolished stack of papers. Easily buried in the shadows of academia.

Distracting me all evening with the shimmer of Meaning.

Bolder and bolder as she fluttered around the room.

It wasn't easy to entice her onto Microsoft Word untitled-1.docx. But there she sits above demanding green squiggles.

She makes no sense nor sentence yet.

Just the word carrying the weight of an unwritten story.

Sunday, 22 March 2009

Princess Lessons

It ought to be my dirty little secret, but I owe these books too much to hide the truth.

I love the Princess Diaries. All ten of them.

I'm quite certainly too old to be in the demographic that the books target, but I remain a sucker for happy endings and I credit them immensely for their significant contribution towards my social and emotional development.

Why deny it - I've learnt more about myself, my friends, and everything that goes with being part of the cell phone, iPod, pop-culture, consumerist generation, from TPD.

Other books
have real conflict. The heroes and the heroines have real problems - war, poverty, no family, evil witches.

It's all very well that that's inspiring, but that doesn't really help me in my cushioned existence now, does it?

Just because I have nothing but love, friendship and comfort at every step, doesn't mean I'm going to give up on having some drama in my life.

Me and Mia, we like the drama.

It's my right to have problems. Loads of them. Nobody has problems bigger than mine and I'm convinced that my world will end.

So it's an extremely grounding experience to be reminded in rather amusing literary style (full of smart contemporary pop-cultural references that have for too long been denied the recognition deserved in fiction) that none of my problems are problems at all.

That every nobody-understand-me or nobody-cares-about-me situation is a been-there-done-that-so-get-over-it for every other formerly self-pitying teenager (and 20-something to be fair).

That happily-ever-after is only what I make of it. And hence, there's still hope for happily-ever-after. After-all, everyone needs the fuzzy feeling of a happy ending :)

Wednesday, 18 March 2009

On Patrol last Sunday

Snow Patrol!

Still grinning.

Amazing seats.

Amazing band.

Grinning too much to come up with anything more descriptive than 'amazing.' It was an investment well worth making, and it's taking some measure of self control to refrain from pasting lyrics that I have fallen in love with all over again, across all my status messages, tweets and similar stations of online existence.

Here's a clip from the show, from someone who'd brought recording equipment along. Not mine sadly.

Some wisecrack about going to the dogs

So there was this proposed visit to Wimbledon stadium to watch greyhound racing. More school assignments.

I knew nothing of this alleged sport I was going to watch. Except that there would be dogs running around a track.

As an introduction, our tutor gave us the book he wrote about his short and unfortunate stint as a race dog owner. All I knew at the end of it was that I still couldn't understand betting odds.

Ignoring the ethical ambiguity of what I was indirectly supporting, I trekked to the tracks at Wimbledon.

The place didn't smell of dog, but it smelled of beer and burgers. And high spirits.

Old men in tweed, elderly couples, some spiffy suits and loosened ties, and even a bunch of German school children were at the races, clutching race sheets and counting their bills. The screens continually brought up the odds.

The really serious punters, the ones who said they'd been coming here every week for over 40 years, were those that skipped the screens and instead peered at bookies through binoculars, while making illegible notes on their race sheets.

Soon, the first set of dogs are paraded.

Nunhead Jack stops to sniff a post.

(One should expect no less from a dog. "Come on boy!")

With two minutes to go for the race, the last bets are placed.

The gates open and they're off.

In less than two minutes, fortunes were made and lost. Me, I won the princly sum of 25p.

But at the end of the night, I quit both gambling and dog-racing. Quit when I was winning.

The story I wrote for University is up on our website mindZgap.

Friday, 13 March 2009

All work all play

The sports journalist has the best job in the world after the Swiss chocolate taster.

QPR were playing Sheffield United in London and my first assignment as fancy-shmacy sports hack was to cover this. (Read my report here.) Work at a football match was definitely in itself the benefit of a lifetime of accumulated good karma. But it only got better.

I was at a Championship game having paid 22 quid less than the cheapest ticket, with the added invitation to "enjoy the Cipriani's catering." (I did. Whoever Cipriani is.) My vantage viewing point was as good as it could get in the stadium, letting me keep an eye on the TV screen showing matches I was missing while I was at Work as well.

I was offered a press sweatshirt to keep me warm and allow me to turn my full concentration to the game. The bright blue thing was arguably fashioned for a strapping ex rugby player turned sports columnist, but it was cosy nonetheless.

Us sports types don't hang around with the common folks. We with our ubiquitous press passes and memorised stats reels collect in the press rooms to write match reports of a game where the most interesting thing to happen was that I went to watch.

Of course there were challenges. Like concentrating on hastily improvised shorthand while a rather easy-on-the-eye Portugese coach was talking at the post match press meet. And understanding that it might not be highly professional to ask the players to sign my press pack, however star struck I may be.

I could get used to such pampering. Of course, I'll be working for my supper.

Like when I visit the dog-racing track next week. On Work.

Sunday, 8 March 2009

Lost masterpiece

These four walls
A window
Dark drapes hang heavily in unfinished blink.
Dust colours the unseen painting within
A shadow
Then not at all.

Sunday, 18 January 2009

Non-alcoholics Anonymous

I am the Little Green Mango and I am Not an Alcoholic.

The night starts with a glass of fruit juice. And another. Then I think I can handle a glass of tap water. On the rocks. Just one more.

But it always ends the same - drama, drunk friends and someone else's dinner on my dress.

It's quite a challenge being a non-drinker at any party or night out.

Of course I'm automatically the designated driver - and it's no mean feat driving around with either extremely high-spitrited or temporarily-lost-to-the-world friends. When I'm not driving, I'm making sure we're on the right side of the road to catch the bus or cab. After a head-count obviously.

But I'm also the non-designated chaperone. There's the responsibility of frequent supervised visits to smelly loos that always leave me with toilet tissue stubbornly sticking to pointy heels. There's making sure that nobody steps on the glass that's always on the dance floor. There's magically producing tissue for when half a glass of something lands on someone (not me if I'm lucky). And remembering to check if their passport is in their bag as they head to the airport to catch the first flight out.

I've to deal with the crushed spirit when after wading through crowds by the bar and screaming over the music, to the extremely cute bartender for some water - Yea, just some tap water please - for a friend that could definitely use some, only to be greeting by, "Yuk! This tastes like water."

I've to tread carefully as I assure friends putting on quite a show that I'm laughing with them and not at them.

Sometimes, the party ends before I've even ordered my first lemonade. Which turns out to not be such a bad thing after all when the paramedics at the scene play a guessing game about what exactly a friend who's passed out has been having to eat all day. ("Definitely cheese. And tomatoes.")

But if I find myself cleaning said regurgitated dinner, it probably means there's a long night (or day) still ahead of me.

Despite the evident martyr-like suffering and the seeming prudishness, it really has do do with having more fun.

It's hard to give up on non-drinking when it's always the sobre one that has the wildest night. With the added advantage of fully functioning mental faculties to remember every single delectable detail the next morning. (Except details of puke. That should be blocked out of memory.)

I'm probably one of the few people with a hand steady enough to document the evening with the promise of enough material for two facebook albums and some more saved for special blackmail. I doubt I can ever give up the pleasure of saying to a mildly embarrassed friend just out of a 24 hour hangover: "I know what you did last Saturday night." Or better still, in mock righteousness: "Well if you can't remember if you danced on tables then there's no point in me telling you, is there?"

It's not easy being the non-drinker. But it does help collect a whole lot of stories. Stories that one day shall be retold over fruit juice and tap water, and laughed about.
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