Friday, 26 November 2010

Witty, pithy criticism at the click of a mouse - 1


On November 11, Paul Chambers, an accountant from UK, lost an appeal against a conviction and £1000 fine for a flippant comment made on Twitter that the judge thought was a “menace” and a realistic threat.

Taking up against what is definitely a dangerous legal precedent in the exercising of the freedom of speech and expression – heck, even humour or ill-tempered grumbling – online, thousands of Internet users, responded to the “#twitterjoketrial” with, what else, but more flippancy and wit.

A tweet (pictured above) by @christt, one of the many who thought the official decision was more than a little ridiculous, started a tongue-in-cheek movement that was a comment against the state of affairs. Then,
Under the hashtag #IAmSpartacus – a reference to the film in which Spartacus's fellow gladiators show their solidarity with him by each proclaiming "I am Spartacus" – thousands of people have copied Chambers's original message. (The Guardian)  
via Mashable

Everyone who was using the hashtag was courting censure by the authorities, but in their shared indignation, the Internet community was also actively fashioning witty social commentary.

#IAmSpartacus became the latest story of satire on the Internet.

 (There's more coming, when I get around to writing it, which will be later tonight!) 

Tasty journo titbits

A story that provides opportunities for food tasting is always welcome.

Especially if it involves eating Bangalore's famous K.C. Das rossogollas.

I came back in a good mood, and with a matka full of rossogollas. They were polished off, the matka washed and dried, long before the story made it to print. See? Empty.

On, nom, nom

The story as it appeared in The Hindu, November 25, 2010.

(It's a pity colourful print layouts are lost in the automatic transfer of articles online.)

Saturday, 6 November 2010

Coffee and something new

It's taken me a while to post this:

My story, as it appeared in The Hindu, October 14, 2010.

This has been one of my favourite assignments so far. Sunalini Menon, coffee taster, founder of Coffeelabs and, as the article says, "quality control expert" is a charming lady.

Her workshop/ lab was absolutely fascinating as well. Take a peek at the items behind her in the (unfortunately tiny) photo with that article.

A pity both the photographer and I weren't coffee drinkers. I of course, have a 50% success rate of telling coffee from tea, but that's our secret.

Friday, 17 September 2010

To Jezebel, with love

At around 11 p.m. the other night, I chanced upon a Kannada movie shoot.

Murali meets Meera I understand

In the middle of a large ground near home, with elaborate Ganesh pandals in their full shimmering glory in the background, was a small crew filming about 20 seconds worth of a dance sequence.

It was fascinating, because it was so typical. A really pretty, fair heroine, dressed exactly as she is in the picture above, dancing with the dude, surrounded by a lot of porki-dancing sideys who were remarkably sidey.

I may sound like an elitist talking down to the unwashed masses, but they were men with open shirts, lungis, and in desperate need of a shave. I know few women who wouldn't have quickened their step, held their purse closer and readied themselves to hear some lewd remarks at the sight of those loud shirts, banyans and bandanas.

To be fair, there was nothing vulgar about the scene. And the actors may have been perfectly well behaved. But it annoyed me an awful lot.

Once again, here was an example of popular culture engineered to elicit a few whistles from some men in the audience using a frankly detrimental portrayal of women. No, it was not a little harmless fun, and make believe at that - it was just another instance of objectification of women on screen.

Of course, she was dressed in 'Western' wear, which obviously means She Was Asking For It (NO, she NEVER ever is).

Reams have been written about the hypocrisy that characterises the depiction on women on film, given the oppressiveness faced by women in everyday life, (“You’re wearing that and heading out?!”)  and everyone seems to think we should learn to live with it, but we really shouldn’t have to, and cinema like this doesn’t help the cause.

Few people may watch this “harmless” film. It’s not even unique in how it paints women. But the larger issue is not as benign.

It matters how women are shown on screen

I love the seeming empowerment of women in many films and how comfortable a lot of narratives are with female sexuality. But this is few and far between.

In a recent interview on Salon, author Gail Dines talks about the effects of society getting sex education and its understanding of relationships with the opposite sex, through increasingly violent images in the media. (Elsewhere, she's been called an "anti-porn zealot", but I thought these were interesting points.)

She specifically discusses porn, (Should we worry whether porn has hijacked our sexuality, September 11, 2010) but the argument stands for much of the cinema in India. To see women as objects, she says, is to see them (us?) “not as somebody to have relationships with, but as somebody to do something to.”

Like bum pinch them on the street perhaps?

She also talks about the how violent sexual imagery, “takes control of the discourse around sexuality.” I blame the reels of films, which are the often the most accessible means of sex education and information about sexualised behaviour, and having scant respect for the heroines, in part at least, for continuing the categorisation of anyone who doesn’t dress traditionally as lacking in morals and being “indecent”.

“It’s not our culture”? Bollocks. Just an inability to look at women as beyond a shiny commodity.

PS - It was traumatic looking for links and images to movies that would illustrate my points. Even with a moderate search on, it is incredibly insulting, and scary, to see the language that accompanies every video/ photo of an actress that has been posted. 

PPS - This piece doesn't even begin to discuss the problematic depiction of male sexuality in film; sticks only to a very small section of regional cinema; and condemns a movie based on 20 s that could never make it past the edit table. But still.

Friday, 27 August 2010

Aww, she said

If I was still doing the 30 days of music thing, I'd make up a category just to post this one.

I love old people and these ones are especially adorable.

Jamaican octogenarians singing Rehab.

Thursday, 12 August 2010

Living cemeteries

I won't lie, I wasn't too pleased at having to visit the cemetery all by myself.

It was for a story for The Hindu, August 12.

I wasn't afraid - Zombies, I was sure, would definitely liven up one's life.

Rather, it was the quiet, and the feeling that I was intruding, that bothered me. And I don't know what Miss. Manners suggested about walking around final resting places.

In retrospect, I needn't have worried so much. A dog fight in the vast grounds of the Indian Christian Cemetery livened things up more than I bargained for; the polished stones turned into lunch tables for some staff members and visitors; a girl with a bright pink umbrella didn't seem to feel out of place in the supposedly sombre mood of the place.

There were a considerable number of people carrying on with their business. Nobody, at least at first glance, seemed to be unduly upset at their surroundings.

Respect for life, more than anything, perhaps.

Monday, 2 August 2010

Meeting Maya Rao

My very talented grant aunt Shantha Poti sang at Maya Rao's performances. Years later, a friend, and Ms. Rao's daughter's student taught me a dance with a bit of kathak. So I was glad for the chance to talk to an artist I had heard so much about.

The Hindu Neighbourhood article - 8 July 2010

Daily Dump article: 'She has designs on your garbage'

"One part business, two parts design, a handful of ideas and a lot of garbage."

Update: After weeks of struggling to find a way to put this online, I come across a link to access the article on The Hindu website

A few weeks ago, I met Poonam Bir Kasturi, the woman behind Daily Dump, for an article. This is what came out of it.


She was an extremely passionate person, and I liked what she said. Presumably because we seemed to share a proclivity for free flow of ideas and information.

Composting techniques and designs under Creative Commons licensing - what's not to approve of, I ask!

It was also refreshing to talk to someone who was doing something incredibly innovative, without money as a motive, but far from the NGO altruism.

But, Poonam has me thinking about this again: is a makeover the best way to promote a product or even an idea? Is 'pretty' and 'upmarket'- and every other aspirational word we could use - becoming the only way to sell anything?

(I'm just thinking aloud, I really don't know yet.)

Update 2: Am also mighty chuffed with what Daily Dump has to say about being interviewed by me :D 

Saturday, 10 July 2010

Song 14 - that nobody expects me to love

I'm sure this half-month worth of a reasonably wide variety of songs has killed any "expectations" behind my song choices. So much for any rep I imagined I had.

But I do like this song, and I believe I'm in the minority here.

Elvis impersonators, shiny lights, hilarious lyrics (Oh bol-e bol-e why did-e you ditch me), a spunky bride (you go, girl!), in an altogether unexpected musical break in one of the pivotal moments of Dev-D, a very fresh retelling of the classic Devdas.

Friday, 9 July 2010

Song 13 - that is a guilty pleasure

It takes a brave person to agree with Mum without being ordered to do. Especially if Mum belongs to the 70s and has questionable tastes.

I think I used the love affair between Mum and the Swedish quartet to develop what I hoped would be biting sarcasm to hold me in good stead in my growing years.

I got pretty good at the eye roll and the eye roll while simultaneously saying Lay-ame.

But I couldn't for one moment effectively hide the evident song in my heart (hyperbole alert) when ABBA came on.

Even that ridiculous Pierce Brosnan - Meryl Streep film had me all confused. Did I like it?

I've learnt to make excuses for any ABBA love, one of the best ones being that I'm not the only one. (Heard the one about how ABBA were one big Swedish mind-control exercise?)

With the benefit of hindsight, we can say that ABBA were so simplistic with their tunes - catchy, we say - so flashy with their persona, that their songs have survived better than others.

This survival has only been aided by that their songs, rife with double meaning (unintentionally I believe), to be appropriated by LGBT community who, (I wish I could find the link for this essay) saw a measure of equality in these songs and have been keeping them alive, so to speak.

So bonus: the "gayest song ever"

Thursday, 1 July 2010

Song 10 - that makes me fall asleep

This one.

I have two CDs of this artist, which I have been trying to get rid of for years but they just find their way back. Like a Monkey's Paw one just can't get away from. Grammy-shmammy.

But why devote a whole post to a boring song, you ask.

(Well, I ask, but the question remains.)

A lot of this 30 Days of Music stuff is rather rubbish. Like the attempting to finish-this-in-30-days-actually bit and the glorifying of songs that in my very personal opinion are not worth remembering or sharing.

So here it is - the song that makes me feel so calm, so secure and so pleased, that I could fall asleep simply because I feel so comfortable with myself and the people around me, and dream some very nice dreams.

Go on then, say awww, I know you want to.

Thursday, 10 June 2010

Day 9: a song I can dance to

Alternate title: Why I love Lady Gaga

I haven't stepped onto a dance floor in the last two years without having this song playing.

It's a great song to make up awkward dance steps for as you go along. (Those are the best kind, no?) And I have nothing but the fondest of memories of friends in different states of sobriety doing so.

But there's so much more to this song, and indeed to Lady Gaga as a contemporary artist.

I'm a huge fan of Gaga, and I have nothing but respect for her as an artist, because I think she's one of the few mainstream artist doing it smart and doing it right.

Most importantly, Lady Gaga's songs, are perfect examples of music - I'd call it an art form - that has made way for shared experiences and has inspired further creativity.

Many of those who've contributed to her over one billion views on YouTube and put two of her songs in the top 10 iTunes downloads until February 2010 - and these are only two of the innumerable music outlets today - have gone on to do creative things (amazing/ odd/ funny) on their own.

Like these guys:

Or this really cool video+cover by The Morning Pages

Or any of these ones for that matter. Make up videos, karaoke, credible covers, tributes to friends, just a bit of fun - but all about people creating shared experiences with the song.

Loads of people seem to love dancing to Gaga. Just like I did with my friends.

I also think that her sexually ambiguous and arty videos which tell weirdly fascinating stories, stripped down+over the top live performances and of course, her Madonna 2.0 bras, make her an extremely talented, passionate and astute artist, perfectly suited for multiple media platforms.

But that's for another day, another argument.

Tuesday, 8 June 2010

30 days of music - Day 8: a song I know all the words to

Oh I give up on Day 7, which must be day 17 by now.

Day 8 however, brings back memories of a diary I kept for song lyrics. (No need to go looking, I burnt it once I stopped getting high on scented markers.)

There were four songs in there, which remain the songs I know all the words to. The ignominy of naming said songs would be too much, and hence, I decline to do so except under duress.

What is, however, in both our interests, is this alternate for Day 8. A song I'd LIKE to know all the words to. 

Chart music, unfortunately, is not one to experiment with lyrics. Conventional ideas and subjects - love, loss, sex, hot girls, partying, giving-peace-a-chance - and worse, conventional treatments and metaphors are only expected.

Then occasionally, you have a Tom Lehrer or Jonathan Coulton turn up to talk about real stuff:
  • In one word he told me secret of success in mathematics - PLAGIARIZE / Let no one else's work evade your eyes/ Remember why the good Lord made your eyes - Lobachevsky
  • Hey Tom, it's Bob from the office down the hall...Things have been okay for me, except that I'm a zombie now...I don't want to nitpick Tom, but is this really your plan/ Spend your whole life locked in a mall - re: your brains
Yes, those are real songs, and brilliantly smart ones at that. 

Because a great song is entertaining - and that's not something you can do simply with "virtuosic playing" or "being loud".

That's not my idea - Ben Walker says it best in a post from last year  - and he should know - he writes some of the best words I've heard put to tune. 

Song I'd like to know the words to: Ben Walker's Putting Your Hand in the Blender Again. It's song #3 but the whole album is awesomeness. 

<a href="">Box Junction Heart by Ben Walker</a>

Monday, 7 June 2010

Licence to write nice things

If you're allowed poetic license, USE IT, methinks.

I just finished wiping my tears after watching this week's episode of Doctor Who (Vincent and the Doctor).

It was great - touching, good pace, fine acting, entertaining. And it was also exactly what I'd like a 'story' to be.

The episode was - bear with me for a minute - one of those historical episodes where the Doctor and Amy travel back in time to Vincent Van Gogh's period. There they meet a troubled genius, unappreciated, unknown, broke and suffering from depression, about a year before he kills himself. 

So far so accurate.

Then, however, the story goes on to appropriate fact to fiction. It builds endearing tales around the artist's character and his individual art pieces, providing reasons for behaviour and creations we can now only speculate, or at the most hazard educated guesses about.

Because it's a story, it can take these liberties. 

So now, the Starry Night, the Sunflowers,  Van Gogh's self portraits, the stunning cafe one, are all, in my mind, inextricably linked in lovely little fully fictitious stories of their own, with the Doctor.

In further sentimentality, the story takes a shitty reality (old boy Van G.'s anonymity in his time) and changes it in a sweet, positive, touching prerogative of imagination (he travels to 2010 to see what a super star he is). I guarantee you can't watch without tearing up.

I - and this is a VERY personal choice/ opinion - think this is what a story should do: make rubbish realities better.

Am I suggesting that stories should be escapist? - To an extent, yes. Never exceeding narrative frameworks of plausibility or inconsistency, but definitely heading to an ending that is happy.

Or at least, taking a chance to tie up loose ends.

I believe that killing off a main character, or bringing in a shocking twist - a popular narrative technique on tele these days - is not the most enjoyable way to tell stories.

A good story is one that plays with my emotions. A great story, in my books, is one that does all that but leaves me happy, satisfied.

I have pleaded guilty to favouring happyendificiation before. And this won't be the end of it. 

Thursday, 27 May 2010

Music break

I've spent two days thinking about my entry for '30 days of music - Day 7: a song that reminds me of a certain event'.

With little success.

(What with all these distractions)

Sure there were lots of school dances, holidays, parties, fooling around times that had memorable soundtracks-for-the-day.

But posting any one of those would be needless, pointless oversharing.

What would also be oversharing is a stream of consciousness on hiccups (they've been slowly sucking the lifeblood out of me for the last 12 hours at least with never more than 25 minute breaks) or something as random. Especially if the SoC piece in question is not guided by the conventional rules or understanding of grammar and syntax, or lack thereof, which one would have or should have been exposed to in literary works - y'know Woolfe et al. - but wasn't really, hence making it a SoC more in spirit than in function.

Unless of course it was punctuated by hiccups.

Then it'll be a Brave New World.

Disclaimer: This post was a writing experiment. Thank you for your time. Our apologies for not adding literary, cultural or entertainment value to your day.

Here, go read some actual, thought-provoking issues  now.

Monday, 24 May 2010

30 days of music - Day 6: a song that reminds me of somewhere

I was looking forward to this.

I was heading back home after an awesome Snow Patrol concert at the magnificent 02.

The Jubilee Line traversed the city, emptying itself of its late-evening passengers on platforms waiting for a long day to end.

I made the 45-minute journey from East London to West, sat by myself, amidst the crumpled free-sheets. And all that time, this was the refrain in my head.

Urgent, energetic, enthusiastic.

I think I fell in love, proper-like, then. London became my city.

And I fell in love with myself all over again. It was about time too.

Sunday, 23 May 2010

30 days of music - Day 5: a song that reminds me of someone

It was crazy for a few days. I was humming this song, D was humming this song, this dude Jude was playing in the city, D was sitting in a concert a couple of seats away from music-boy Jude, the radio was playing Hey Jude way too often, Media Player pulled out Jude on shuffle at the precise moment D popped up online, at least twice, it was FREAKY, it was official - Paul Was Dead and he was haunting us, well not 'us' but D, because she was born on the VERY SAME DAY as the song released, but about a couple of decades later.


Love ya D.

Also, I am not fully sure where that fabulous flowchart is from, but it seems to go back to that link there.

30 days of music - Day 4: a song that makes me sad

Can I skip this one?


Okay, let's be done with this.

This one. Because.

Monday, 17 May 2010

30 days of music - Day 3: a song that makes me happy

A song about an evil genius in love.

What's not to love?

If a smart musically inclined bloke made a half-pony half-monkey monster to please me and ruined a pony making a gift for me, I'd be willing to put aside rather strong ideals of animal activism and be happy.

Jonathan Coulton is pure genius.

He makes me happy because his music is nothing like what I've grown up being told 'music' is.

With light tunes and pleasant vocals that let the hilarious songwriter in him take centre stage, JoCo is automatically refreshing and a high dose of good, clean, happy.

It also helps that he's an incredibly smart and sensible artist, because of the way he distributes his music. It's Free to take (often enough), to mess up, remix, enact, sing to your sock doll, to do what you please with it. Including making videos for the song like the one here.

The happiest music has to be the most accessible.

If Skullcrusher Mountain didn't put you in a good mood, try JoCo's full-of-awesome version of the frankly demeaning Baby Got Back. It's the fourth song on that link.

Sunday, 16 May 2010

30 days of music - Day 2: my least favourite song

(I think I missed a day. Wonderful start, yes.)

Least favourite song. Hmm.

I could choose 87% of the Top 40 (any country really, based on radio plays and requests and probably iTunes downloads) because they're all just a depressing reflection of the lack of imagination or talent in the 'music industry' today....

Or, I could condemn a whole genre that's lame, immature, disrespectful or offensive, or a combination of those. But someone already did that and there're too many to choose....

I agree with the Internets when they ask if Black Eyed Peas have written the worst song ever (yes) and if Nickelback is the worst band ever (the answer is one click and an amused smile away) ....

But these aren't my 'least favourite' songs. They're songs I detest.

My least favourite song is *drumroll*

Staying Alive by the Bee Gees.

As a pop culture enthusiast (yea, I just called myself that) and a believer in the value of seemingly temporary fads to fashion our societal choices, I'd hate to criticise the song.

I'm sure the lyrics and the vocals by the brothers Gibb resonated with the youth and the creatures of canine auditory capacities in 1977 as the album went on to shatter records.

And plunging necklines and tight-white-pants a la J. Travolta were outrageously sexy to the disco kids.

But that is no excuse for an incredibly popular and culturally significant song to be Annoying As Hell and making one want to seriously consider using a butter knife as an aid to the homicide of all creatures that would consider staying alive after this song.

This song is my least favourite for the continued falsetto, extreme shininess, and high levels of annoying.

Friday, 14 May 2010

30 days of music - Day 1: my favourite song

There's this internet meme going around that I thought would be fun to be part of. Y'know, one song posted everyday for 30 days, to fit a description. Pretty simple stuff really.

Why would I do that, you ask?

  1. Because I like music and I like arranging music into lists more
  2. Because I really need to make more of an effort into completing my writing and posting on my blog everyday. (3 posts all year. Disgraceful.)
  3. It's a great opportunity to explore all that music, and music sharing options, don't-ya-think.
And yes, I have a fondness for Cheese. Don't laugh, don't judge.

Oh and yea, do share with me your songs. It'll be fun.

Day 01: my favourite song

My first genuine music craze, the first and only poster to go up on my walls.

I have about five different versions of this song in my collection, each one making my heart melt in a very shameless, breathless, lovesick, girly, oh-I-wish-it-were-me kind of way to hear JBJ sing those words.

Plus it's a pretty good tune. So there.

Here's the rest of what's coming up this month for anyone who'd like to think about it as well. You know you want to.

Day 02: your least favourite song
Day 03: a song that makes you happy
Day 04: a song that makes you sad
Day 05: a song that reminds you of someone
Day 06: a song that reminds you of somewhere
Day 07: a song that reminds you of a certain event
Day 08: a song you know all the words to
Day 09: a song you can dance to
Day 10: a song that makes you fall asleep
Day 11: a song from your favourite band
Day 12: a song from a band you hate
Day 13: a song that is a guilty pleasure
Day 14: a song that no one would expect you to love
Day 15: a song that describes you
Day 18: a song that you used to love but now hate
Day 19: a song from your favourite album
Day 20: a song you listen to when you're angry
Day 21: a song you listen to when you're happy
Day 22: a song you listen to when you're sad
Day 23; a song that you want to play at your wedding
Day 24: a song you want played at your funeral
Day 25: a song that makes you laugh
Day 26: a song that you can play on an instrument
Day 27: a song that you wish you could play
Day 28; a song that makes you feel guilty
Day 29: a song from my childhood
Day 30: your favourite song this time last year

Sunday, 28 March 2010

I Voted!

I voted because:

  • I want to feel part of the governance of a nation, part of the System you could even say.
  • I don't want to have to refer to "the System" pretentiously, contemptuously, or apathetically. I don't want it to be a dirty word.
  • I'm saying I'm willing to take responsibility for my nation. 

Which is why when I cast my (secret) ballot, my choice was for the candidate best placed to ensure ward-level development. 

I think that's fair, but that's a view that is open to change. 

Does larger ideology and party principles take or should take precedence over ward-level issues? 

Me and my violently indigo pointer are going to give that some thought for when the next election cycle starts. 

Thursday, 18 February 2010

Learning on the journo job

Another civic story done and dusted. And this one has my voice on it.

This piece is about the Namma Metro construction along MKK Road in my side of Bangalore.

(Why, thank you, I know I sound lovely!)

Apart from giving me a chance to fiddle with sound and to stare for hours at audio squiggles (oh joy!), there's some learning that the experience brought -

  • There're so many civic issues in everyone's backyard. 
  • In a case where people will lose their homes and their livelihoods for the sake of snazzy new constructions and urban infrastructure projects, I cannot bring myself to pick a side, but I would know where my sympathies lie. 
  • That everyone, every time, will learn to live with it. Despite all protests, life goes on. 

Many years ago, I read about how the concepts of karma and fate ("hane bareha" as Granmum says) are integral to the Indian societal make-up, and responsible for holding back economic and scientific progress. Then, I was inclined to dismiss it as a eurocentric statement, full of scientific and ethnic bias.

I would still contest that this 'passivity', as it may appear to some, is unjustly held responsible for holding the nation back, just because it doesn't conform to the ideas of competition, standards of achievement, and all's-fair attitudes that characterises the globally favoured paradigm of development.

However, I have now come to acknowledge the existence of the notion. It is hard to ignore the 'What can we do, that's written in the stars' explanation and acceptance of one's lot in life.

I'm still not sure that's a defeatist attitude though. It could also alternatively be seen as simply the lack of choice. Or just pragmatism and maturity.

Friday, 5 February 2010

Reporting in Bangalore - Tannery Road widening project

I've had the chance to get involved in civic issues and do a bit of reporting recently. The hunt for my first story in Bangalore took me to Tannery Road, where I spoke to residents and property owners protesting road widening along the stretch.

Here's the story on Citizen Matters - Tannery Road businesses strike out at TDR 

Coming up...the real story behind the story.  From Our Own Correspondent style.
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