Apr 12, 2011

Babies, Babas, Bappis, and Bas Karo

Outgoing Kerala CM V.S.Achutanandan called Rahul Gandhi an "Amul Baby" a few days ago, in a desperate attempt to remind us that much of the country is in the midst of assembly elections. Predictably, the Congress and its minions have seen red (ha!) , and dismissed this as being uncivilised and disrespectful.

I don't think there's anything wrong in being called an "Amul Baby". Assuming the usually bombastic VS was referring to the chubby "Amul Girl" and kids who've been reared on butter, Rahul Gandhi (who has previously been described as heading the "babalog") is being compared to an iconic figure says more clever things in a week than many of our politicians manage in years.

Of course, Kerala has lots of Babys of its own - none more prominent than the current Kerala Minister of Education M.A.Baby.

Apparently, Bappi Lahiri is some sort of an official cheerleader for the Pune Warriors IPL team. That team has the least amount of golden colour on its uniforms, so perhaps Bappi-da has been roped (though no lasso is big enough to...) into lending his auric presence to the proceedings.

Speaking of the Sonar Fella, here's an extract from a recent book about the making and impact of "Disco Dancer". Writer Anuvab Pal goes to Bappi Lahiri's house, where:

Now, during the walk, on either side of me, what I saw could be best described as gnomes. [...] It was a garden gnome, a little sculpture in ceramic.

But not of a random old white man but of Bappi Lahiri himself, wearing tuxedoes of different colours, almost as if fourteen midget marble versions of him, or a series of oversized tiled Bappi Lahiri action figures, we[r]e welcoming you into a room whose central decoration you were manipulated into observing -- a wall with two roman columns on either side. The wall had a huge framed photograph. In the photo were three people -- Mr Lahiri, Sonia Gandhi and Jay Z.

The article is here.
Speaking of gold and IPL, we're into the fourth year of the annual parade of extreme colour clashing combinations. The addition of the Kochi Tuskers and a revamped Bangalore outfit has taken the discolorations to stratospheric heights. Watching an overhead shot of the players during their match reminded me of some of the worst Powerpoint slides I've seen. And this supreme example of this website of a Japanese children's hospital (who must be undoubtedly, just to spite me, doing great humanitarian service during the current crisis).
(It has become exceedingly difficult to make pithy observations such as the above at home. As soon as they are made, the reluctant smile on people's faces gives way to grave concern. "You are going to tweet about this, aren't you?")

Apr 11, 2011

A Google a Day

A Google a Day is a new trivia game by Google. Apart from the fact that is neatly designed and fun to play, I'm guessing it helps Google collect data about how people would use web search to answer questions.

I've always thought search engines and Q&A sites (this seems to be where the action is these days) could harness the power of quizzing. Google seems to have designed the whole process nicely. Judging by how they have taken the pains to make these questions relative un-google-able via answers to these exact questions elsewhere by people trying to solve them, a lot of thought has gone into the design.

As someone who runs a daily quiz blog himself (and has a similar in-built "show answer" design), I wonder how easily the scalability-conscious Google generates these questions. The questions seem to have a human hand in them, judging by the framing.

There's always place for one more daily quiz site, I guess :-)

Apr 9, 2011

Fast and Future

"Civil Society"
A tendency to wince each time this phrase is heard has now turned into a full-blown case of shuddering unease, with the events of the last week. Does this universally mean what it represents in India today? A cursory web search is evasive on the answer, but it appears to principally (and ironically) serve as a label for anyone excluded out of formal social or political dialogue.

So what makes this particular collection 'civil society'? Can it only be defined by what one is not? For instance, anyone in the military is not 'civil society' (and serve us indisciplined civilians right). Anyone in politics (i.e. not in a position to rule today or tomorrow) is not 'civil society', perhaps because it is hard to be 'civil' in that society.

I don't know what it is about 'civil society' that riles me. Perhaps 'civic society' might work for me. Given the strength of this class of people is in their ordinariness, perhaps "ordinary people" is good enough. Or "Rest of India".

The God of News Channels
There is a God of News Channels, who looks and protects them. Realizing the inevitable hollowness of soul that would succeed the euphoria of an Indian World Cup win, He provides with an event that would allow them to remain on the side of the masses. Something you could cover all day, and whose result was going to take more than a few days to emerge. There were clear heroes and villains too. Essentially, something like a gripping Test match between India and Australia. This makes a good change from the usual battles, once in a while.

It also meant that reporters could continue to interview the ordinary citizen, while keeping the experts talking. Words like "Victory" and "standoff" could still remain relevant to headlines. And there were scenes of street celebrations to round it all off.

Less ironically
I actually heard some interesting and thoughtful comments by ordinary people. The politicians sound so out of touch, and so unwilling to engage in meaningful debate. Any young politician could easily have seized the day by simply talking to and with ordinary people, in many of the hundreds of gatherings around the country. There were no reports of any major 'young' political leader doing that. It was both an opportunity lost for the established lot and the briefest of sparks for the Rest of India.