zigzackly's omnium-gatherum *
|Quid quid latine dictum sit, altum videtur|
Reactions, suggestions, any kind of feedback is always welcome.
We, the Media;
Son of CSF.
Now and then, when Hurree needs a holiday, i pinch-hit at Kitabkhana.
We endorse, approve of, and throughly adore:
Other Thieves of our Time
D Mervin Ffingir writes, and having writ, moves on:
Thursday, June 29, 2006
Insofar as anyone actually asks us for advice on anything at all, we get asked this pretty often. "How do I get into travel writing?" We realise that this is more because travel writing is considered to be quite a cushy thing to do and not because of the wisdom we project, but hey, we're flattered.
Anyway, after our head returns to something approaching its normal size (we, by the way, have a hat size slightly above the normal to start with, but that's irrelevant here), we wind up saying pretty much the same thing. So, being a lazy sod, we decided to put this up here for future reference. Of course this means that now no one will ever ask us for any advice whatsoever, but laziness wins over need-for-ego-stroking any day.
Several caveats first (and we'll abandon the royal pronoun for the rest of this post).0
a. I write only for one travel magazine, Outlook Traveller. This is not because they're the only ones who have asked me to write for them.1 I happen to think it's pretty much a no contest as to which is the best travel mag in the Indian market. So I haven't the foggiest idea how to really work the circuit. I don't even know who all the other players are.
b. I am by no means a professional "travel writer." I'm sure it's possible to be one, but I haven't made the contacts that would permit me to do it full time, and even if I did have the ear of every travel editor worth the name, I'm not sure I could make enough cash doing it. I do it because I enjoy it, because OT is a good place to have one's byline appear, because it means a little paid holiday every now and then. My main income, however, is from other stuff.
c. That I first got a look in involved a generous slice of luck: someone who had read
some of my writing elsewhere recommended me to Outlook Traveller. (This wasn't even travel writing, by the way, it was just general mood stuff in a newspaper.2) I had pitched an idea to the magazine before that, but got no reply. I haven't actually used the methods I'm suggesting to you, so, pretty please, take my oracular motherhoods with a large shovelful of salt.
On with the show, then.
Waitaminute. Before we start. You're a good writer, right? Sorry, but I have to ask. You'd be amazed at the number of people who want writing jobs when they can't spell for toffee, have atrocious grammar, wouldn't know a metaphor if it bit them in the arse—and demonstrate these facts in their CVs. Editors (and for the purposes of this little ramble, I also mean people who may not have that title on their visiting cards but who do commission writers) of any degree of competence will not look kindly at wannabe-writers who can't write.
Travel editors, perhaps more than any other kind, are inundated with offers to write for them. Not surprising, because travel writing is perceived as being very attractive, very cushy. I'm not saying it's not, mind you - just that that supply exceeds demand. An email out of the blue is not guaranteed to get you a reply, even from the most courteous of editors. If you're submitting an article on paper or photographs, include a self-addressed stamped envelope if you want them back.
The essence of good travel writing, IMAO, is not just the documentation of your travels. You must bring the place alive to someone who's never been there. Some people read travel writing as a form of vicarious entertainment—they'll never actually visit the places they read about. Others (a smaller section, when you're talking print magazines, but a large and growing percentage online) read up on stuff with the intention of actually going to those places. A travel writer must cater to both those kinds of people.
How do you get better at it? Read a lot of travel writing. Seems self-evident, but quite a few people don't bother with it. As with any field, it pays to study the pros.
Do some homework. Find all the publications that publish travel writing.3 Short-list the ones that you would like to see your writing in. Factors to consider: the kind of readership they have; the circulation; the quality of the articles, the kind of remuneration they offer. Be warned: quite a few publications that happen to carry travel writing among other special interest areas do not pay your travel expenses.
Figure out also which ones are closest to your natural writing style. Figure out the balance they maintain between hard information and intangible stuff like mood and style (and the best ones have all of those) and whether you can deliver that balance, whether you're comfortable with it.
Practise. On your next trip, write about the place you're visiting. Or think back to your last trip and do likewise. Even tougher: write about your home town, or the place you're living in now, but do so as if you were writing for a travel magazine. Put these travelogues on to a blog, or a personal website (if you have a photographer's eye, even better: put up your pictures as well4), or mail them to your friends. Ask for feedback. Take serious note of what people like, what they're ambivalent about.
Putting this writing online has other advantages, by the way.
For one, it could lead to random web traffic via search engines, which means that your work can, potentially, find readers beyond the 57 close friends you have spammed with the URL.
Related point. Most travel writers I know research a place before they visit. Research has the word "search" in it, remember? Going quickly, but unblushingly, past the corny word-play, search in this day and age has a simple definition, and it starts with G ends with e and frequently has many, many os in it. Travel writers include the folk at publications who commission work. 'Nuff said?
And yes, it gives you a simple way to actively showcase your writing. Instead of sending many attachments, you could, at the drop of a hat, email a URL that's engraved on your heart. (: Even the genuine space cadets remember their own URLs :)
Once you've developed some confidence in your travel writing, then send the permalinks of your best work to the editors you've targetted.
All the best.
0. Footnotes and introductory notes! We're getting posh, we are!
1. I have been asked to write travel-related stuff elsewhere, but when OT commissions me, they pay my expenses, which many other publications seem to think is needlessly pampering writers.
2. This, this, this and this, if you're vaguely interested.
3. I'll try and add some names of publications to this post later. In fact I'll try and add to this piece a bit. Right now, I need to sleep. If you have experiences with specific publications to share, please add them in the comments. Or mail me.
4. Good writer/photographers are rare. Publications love 'em. It cuts the travel bills in half. :).
Today, we discovered that a quotation we had always seen ascribed to Voltaire isn't actually something he said or wrote.
We refer, of course, to "I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it." ("Je désapprouve ce que vous dites, mais je défendrais à la mort votre droit à le dire.")
According to Wikipedia, Answers.com and several other sites we forgot to copy links to, that line appears in Friends of Voltaire (1907) by Beatrice Hall.
Something Voltaire did say, and which we saw for the first time today (yeah, we're borderline illiterate; sue us), and promptly fell in love with was: "Think for yourselves and let others enjoy the privilege to do so too." from Voltaire's Essay on Tolerance.
Wednesday, June 28, 2006
Question: What is the correct direction to face when presenting your vastu-compliant web design to the client?
Answer: Turn around, bend over.
We learn from the editor that Time Out Mumbai is now online. Go see.
Tuesday, June 27, 2006
Re this, a scenario comes to mind:
You're slogging away creating your vastu-compliant site. You're hard at work creating the graphics and the images for headers because the fonts you want to use aren't web-ubiquitous. The client calls and wants to know what status is.
"I'll be done in an hour or two," you say, "I'm just making water."
From The Scientific Indian, "Science as a way of life."
Are you an aspiring writer?
Do you like to blend fiction with science?
Enter The Scian Science Fiction Short Story Contest 2006!
Closing Date: 30 September 2006
Download details (pdf)
Questions? Discuss here.
Once more, with a straight face, and no comment:
"Just as the world comprises of the five basic elements, each Web site has five elements and these need to be in balance with one another," says Dr. Smita Narang, author of Web Vaastu, a new book that marries vaastu laws with the Internet.Read on.
[via an email from Hanisha]
Saturday, June 24, 2006
FYI, with a straight face, and absolutely no comment:
Pretty, Hot and Tempting (PHAT) Chicks is all set to be the world's first interactive, multi-media enabled chatisode. Think of it like Sex & the City on the Web.If you find this interesting, mail sanjay[dot]trehan[at]indiatimes[dot]co[dot]in.
Tuesday, June 20, 2006
We took the Political Compass™ test, and found that we're Left Libertarian, in the same quadrant as Gandhi, the Dalai Lama and Nelson Mandela (though a tad closer to centre) and on the diametrically opposite side from Dubya, Blair, Berlusconi and Chirac.
We checked back to a similar but shorter quiz we took a year or so ago, and yeah, we're consistent. Well, actually not. We took the second test again, and find that we're further from the centre now.
Anyway, that wasn't why we decided to post when we should be meeting deadlines.
Political Compass also has a wrap-up quiz for when you're done with your test, a quiz that..
..offers some important facts that were barely, if ever, reported. It may raise your eyebrows and adjust the pedestals on which you placed some of your favourite icons. The chasm may be greater than you'd imagined.Here are a few sample questions:
Who presented Chairman Mao Tse Tung with a bouquet of poems that lavishly praised the Chinese leader as the timely rain to nourish the land?Hint: They're all mentioned in the first paragraph of this post.
Go then, and take the Iconochasms quiz.
Sunday, June 18, 2006
Pratik is pretty pissed off with this Washington Post piece by Marc Fisher, a reproduction of an interview he gave to Stuttgarter Nachrichten and other German papers.
We read the piece, and we find it difficult to understand how Fisher, who seems a reasonable and intelligent person going by his other writing, could put such utterly uninformed bilge up. It's so much a caricature of the Ugly American stereotype, has so many gaping holes and plain knuckle-headed bias in it that we assumed it was a joke, but since no Gotcha post from him follows (his post is dated June 12th), we are forced to assume he meant it.
Read Pratik's fisk, and for even more ire, the comments on Raw Fisher (300+ and counting).
We must hasten to inform you, by the way, that we are not football crazy, though, like Chance the Gardener, we like to watch.
We meant to post about Kingfisher Air when we first flew with them last year, not long after they started up and were maha-impressed. But then, we told ourself, hey, everyone launches with their best foot forward (to mangle a few metaphors), let's see what they're like next year.
Well, we flew the airline again a little while ago, and we're happy to report that they still rock.
Before we go on to tell you why, let's tackle the hot flight attendants bit. People—well, okay, male people—like to say that all Kingfisher flight crew look like models.
Some of them look like supermodels.
Right, now that we've got that out of the way..
We're not a frequent flier by any stretch, and we're pretty nervous about flying in the first place, but we've flown quite a few of the domestic airlines: IA, an Air India connector, Jet, Sahara, Deccan, even Vayudoot (and there lies a tale—and it also shows our age), and Kingfisher kicks butt big time when it comes to service.
It starts before you get to the airport. Their site isn't fabulous, but it's easier to get around in than the other airline sites. When you actually get out of your car / rickshaw / cab and walk in to the terminal, there are alert chaps on the lookout for people clutching KA tickets. They offer to help you with your bags, haul up a trolley, lift your bags onto the X-ray machine for you, get to the other end before the bag does, usher you to the check-in counter.
The check-in is prompt and polite, and their counter is spic-and-span (and yes, that does make an impression when, as in Delhi, it adjoins the peeling Air Dakkan—as we refer to it—counter). While you're looking for a tag for your hand baggage, a polite chap standing by with a full supply is already slipping one on for you.
Inside, you get a little goodie bag—no biggie, a pen, earphones, and the wee bag itself—but none of the others give you more than your boarding pass. Crib here: we like the damp towels that some airlines give you as you sit down—there's something very refreshing about them, and you're able to cover much more skin than you can with the wee packed tissue in the goodie bag.
The earphones plug you into the inflight entertainment system. The video (which you watch on LCD screens built into the seat-back in front of you) isn't much to write home about; recorded stuff, of course, some unfunny comedy show, Walk the Talk, and old cricket footage is all we remember. We much preferred the graphic that showed the plane's position, speed and altitude. But the audio is much better. There's pop and bollymix for those who like it, but also some seriously good jazz and lots more.
The down-side: everthing on audio and video gets overridden by Mr Mallya's booming welcome address. We think the bit about instructing his staff to treat us all as guests in his own home was a bit over the top, but that's because we've heard about his parties. The safety lecture comes to you on the screen instead of live. Mixed feelings on that one: no legit excuse to stare attentively at the lady doing the demo, but then the lass on your screen is a super model.
Food: we've heard complaints, but we actually like the food.
Oh yes. And despite *ahem* hot competition from the cabin crew, the thing that really made converts of us? We first took a KA flight to Delhi. We do not have happy thoughts about Delhi's airport, as a rule. But here, in pushy, rude, inefficent Delhi airport, as we got off the flight and looked for our flight number in the baggage conveyor section, we saw KA staffers (listen carefully now), lining up trollies around the right conveyor before the passengers even got there!
And the experience continued even outside, in the taxi line. More staffers, ushering passengers into cabs.
Irritants: the lousy stuff on video. And the announcements that said things like "hum land karne ko aa rahe hain (or something like that). And the inflight mag sucks. Basically an extended Page Three on glossy paper and bound. Mr M, we're passengers, not, despite your welcome, the kind of guests you have at your parties.
Wish-list: How about a power outlet for laptops? Our battered machine runs out of juice very fast, so we're always on the lookout for electricity. Even the Rajdhani gives you plug points these days.
Oh yes. As we were scribbling this in our note pad, we asked for another coffee. We were asked how we'd like it, and it arrived shortly, as per specs, and accompanied by a large chocolate biscuit.
Mr Mallya, your airline has class.
Wednesday, June 14, 2006
These came out of typos on Caferati ages ago. Spot of wickedness we had, where we "defined" words that were spelled wrong.
Transrelate = To put into perspective for those who just don't get it.
Polygoat = Someone who can butt into conversations in several different languages.
Diaspuri = allegedly desi food available abroad that is not quite the real thing.
If we remember right, someone else came up with "polygloat." Don't remember the definition but here's ours:
Polygloat = someone who is very snooty and superior about being able to speak several languages.
p.s. Check out the worthy Word Mint, where a team of dedicated neologists (if that's not a word, now it is) churn 'em out on a daily basis. Our Mousetrap review here or here.
These are friends of mine, from Delhi. Do come, and pass the word too, please.
They also have a couple of paid shows, courtesy Motley, at Prithvi on the 1st and 2nd July.
The Sea of Eloquence - An Evening of Dastan-e-Amir HamzaSee also: The Dastangoi blog.
Two (bad) pictures from a Dastangoi performance near Turkman Gate, in Delhi, in April 2006.
Tuesday, June 13, 2006
this blog has the New York Post front page on the 9th June. It's about the killing of Abu Musab al-Zarqawi.
Sunday, June 11, 2006
..Outlook Traveller's Fifth Anniversary Special issue.
Special articles by Pankaj Mishra, William Dalrymple, Nayantara Sahgal, Siddhartha Deb and Mishi Saran. Special photographs by Steve McCurry, Pablo Bartholomew, Raghu Rai, Rajesh Bedi, John Stanmeyer. Also in the issue, a "Best of" selection of photographs and several interesting lists of five.
And, ahem, the first appearance in print ever of this combination of words: "Photographs Peter Griffin." It's only a little review of a hotel we visited in April (which is why we suspect, they used our shots and didn't send a pro along), but we're very pleased with ourself.
These are the shots you'll see:
Is quizzing a very guy thing? Almost all the enthu quizzers (quizzards? quizzerati?) we know and know of are male.
Is it just us and the people we know, or is this a gender thing?
US residents who love football and may not be getting their fix, read gHacks on How to view the football worldcup online, Endgadget's take on how HD, mobile, and web TV makes Cup hard to miss, and Wired's Soccer, anyone?.
And of course you know about mibazaar's World Cup Soccer 2006 News on Google Maps, the World Cup Blog , this listing of all matches results scorers and statistics of the FIFA World Cup , and have downloaded this printable schedule from the BBC .
No? Well, we have just the thing for you. Please go crack this World Cup quiz quiz that has nothing to do with football.
We've been wanting to see
Saturday, June 10, 2006
The Ignorant American's Guide to the World Cup
So with the games set to begin on Friday, I journeyed on down the path to soccer enlightenment. Generous guy that I am, I figured I'd share my accumulated wisdom with similarly situated dolts. I thusly present The Ignorant American's Guide to the World Cup.
Friday, June 09, 2006
This news item from last week puzzles us greatly.
Copperfield To Impregnate Woman Onstage. The piece goes on to say that he will do the deed without even touching the volunteer. "Naturally there will be no sex."
Huh? Now if he were to do the dirty (on stage or off) with the touching but without the pregnancy, we'd say the man was on to something. Is this, we can't help wondering, why Claudia Schiffer left him?
Tuesday, June 06, 2006
We're a member of an interesting online forum called Creativegarh. Sometime in February, a gentleman called Yogesh Goel wrote to the group thusly:
Hi all at CREATIVEGRAPH,(We're only quoting the first part of that mail, but members of the forum—and yes, it's worth a look-see if you're not—can see the entire text here.)
Mr Goel's post interested us. We're always desperately hunting for interesting sites to cover. So we bookmarked him for a rainy day. Which, coincidentally, came around last week. We'be been thinking that in addition to the regular 'blog of the week' we already do, perhaps we could add a 'community / forum of the week.'
Whaddya know? The chap has lifted entire sections of the column and posted them under his own name. (His signature line, by the way, reads "I AM THE SOURCE - I AM THE 'BAADSHAH'" in bright red all-caps. Heh.)
Here's an example: this, this, this and this are all straight lifts from one column.
We haven't gone through the forum in great detail - these caught the eye because he even used our words as his subject lines - so we really don't know if he's ripped off even more stuff.
Not a word of attribution, of course, though the mail quoted above also says:
- You can send the link and we will review them. The credit of sending the link will be urs.We're hugely flattered that Mr Goel approves of our selections, and we wouldn't dream of stopping anyone from linking to the sites we review, though if he were to do so, write his own reviews and say upfront that he thought his were better, we'd have some respect for the gentleman.
But wethinks it's a bit much when the chap lifts our entire copy and passes it off as his own, what?
Heh. A "BMC" page you have to see.
Wicked, contests2win, wicked!
[Thank you, Resham Singh]
Just a quick summary from a page we just saw. (We see some of this in the 'sphere, so it seemed relevant here. Our own observations are the stuff in brackets.)
3) Ban Right Clicks (and it's so damn easy to work around this one. we do it on principle some times.)
4) Music (almost top of our our personal most-hated list)
5) Fixed Screen Widths
6) Slow Loading Tables (: which includes stuff like hit counters and blogrolls. :)
7) Unnecessary Questions
8) Splash Pages (This pisses us off most. So many otherwise intelligent designers just love the darn things.)
9) Grabbing the Browser
10) The Obscure Plug-in
11) The IE only page
12) The Dark Page (which includes fluorescent text on dark backgrounds and bg pictures. Gah.)
Read the entire article. Do see the comments as well. Much fun.
p.s. If you have any pet peeves, and feel up to coming back here, please do add them in the comments. We promise to send on to many many designer friends.
p.p.s. Of course you're welcome to come say nasty things about our our design. We'd do the same for you. :)
Mozdex "is a search engine seeded from the dmoz.org directory. MozDex uses open source search technologies to create an open and fair index.
"Our goal is to be able to provide a powerful and open search service to the community.
"Please remember that this current system is in BETA.."
Qube v2 "centers around the concept of
browserless search, blending third generation websearch capabilities with user collaboration, progressive advertising & social networking." It's in private beta at the moment. Go to the page and enter your email if you want to check it out.
gnoos, from Down Under.
..Yahoo video? Reports?
Wonder what took 'em so long?
Sunday, June 04, 2006
“You are old, father Zig,” the kid made a moue,
“Your face is almost all forehead.
Yet you wear your hair long and tied into a queue—
Is that proper for someone so near-dead?”
“When I was young,” Ziggy said, (after kicking the lout)
“I visited the barber’s quite often.
But now that my keratin’s rapidly running out—
Why, I’ll take all that’s left to my coffin.”
“You are old,” said the brat, forgetting respect,
“Your hormones are a memory, god bless ’em.
But yet at the altar of love you genuflect—
Why do you persist in writing love poems?”
“In my youth,” said the sage, grinning into his beard,
“The point of the verse wasn’t futile.
What’s the point now? Why, haven’t you heard
Of that diamond-shaped blue pill, Sildenafil?”
Said the stripling, “Your playlist is years out of date—
You diss the pop music of this nation.
You tell us how your music was so bloody great—
But aren’t you the—heh–disco generation?”
Said the fossil, “I was easily influenced as a child,
I will admit I knew all the lyrics—
But surely you’ll grant this: disco never defiled
The ear as much as Bollywood remix!”
“You are old,” said the youth, “yet you still write a blog –
Why waste what’s left of your life?
Your fingers are arthritic, your mind is a fog—
Wouldn’t you rather spend time with the wife?”
“I have answered three questions, now kindly fuck off,”
Said the ancient, looking hunted and harried,
“With blogposts to write, trolls to be shook off,
Who the hell had the time to get married?”
The original poem is well-known enough to not need a reference, but just in case..
This is based on Lewis Carroll's delicious You are old, Father William, which, in turn, was a parody of Robert Southey's rather sanctimonious The Old Man's Comforts and how he gained them.
32 songs Esquire has on its list in this interesting tournament-style match up to select the best song of the 21st Century. And we've only heard 5 of them. One of those we don't like.
You are old, father William.
[Link via Word's don't come easily.]
If you have a del.icio.us account, there's an easy way to send us links that we can use in our little column, Mousetrap. Just add the tag "for:zigzackly" when you're tagging a site. Add a little descriptive note, if your little heart so desires.
What's in it for you? If we use the link, you get our eternal gratitude and a cuppa franchised coffee anytime we're in the same geography. And we credit you in the print version of the column, plus put a link from your name to your site (leave the URL in the notes) in the online version.
P.S. We have a sort of index up here, so you can see what we have already covered.
Saturday, June 03, 2006
Guess what these people don't like?
Friday, June 02, 2006
This just in from a friend in the TOI. Bookmark is the TOI's books page. Feel free to pass this on.
Please note, if you have questions, contact the email address at the end, not me.
We are starting a new series on Bookmark called BOOKED FOR LIFE.
Thursday, June 01, 2006
The wonderful folk at Karmayog would like to draw your attention to the BMC Manual on Pay and Use Public Sanitary Conveniences in Mumbai. In it, you will find, among other things:
Fine applicable, if dirty, Rs. 500 / day -- pg 6There are many more articles, opinions, copies of policies in other countries in the Public Toilets section of the site.
Karmayog would also like to hear from you if you have info re:
policies in various countriesThey are compiling more information to discuss with BMC. Please get in touch with them if you would like to be involved. Mail info[at]karmayog[dot]com.
Note: [*] = The site linked to requires registration.
Zig's on TwitterFollow, all ye who must know more.
We've all heard that a million monkeys banging on a million typewriters will eventually produce a masterpiece. Now, thanks to the Internet, we know this is not true.