Thursday, 31 March 2005

And her new phone number is 40-24-32

From Mainichi Daily News:
Hideto Tomabechi -- who first made headlines in Japan almost a decade ago after he cured brainwashed members of the AUM Shinrikyo doomsday cult that unleashed deadly sarin gas on the Tokyo subway system -- claims to have developed a tune for ring tones that promises to increase the breast measurements of those who listen to it.

And Tomabechi's brainchild for better busts has boomed, with chest challenged chicks swarming to transfer data to their own phones.

'I listened to the tune for a week expecting all the time that I was being duped,' says Chieri Nakayama, a 19-year-old pin-up model, tells Shukan Gendai. 'But, incredibly, my 87-centimeter bust grew to 89 centimeters! It was awesome!'
Since we don't want to, erm, change our shirt size, we're waiting for Tomabechi's next ring tone.
...he's already got plans on the drawing board for ring tones aimed at improving memory, increasing attractiveness for the opposite sex, making hair sprout and quitting cigarettes.
We still can't make up our mind which one we'll download first.

[Via the newest addition to our blogroll, Improbable Research, the blog run by the people behind the Ig Nobel prizes.]

Dr Zig?

Anyone care to give us an honorary doctorate? Or at least suggest a nice easy subject for a thesis? Then we can join the Luxuriant Flowing Hair Club for Scientists.

All you'res

Just came across Paul Brians's page of Common Errors in English. Great stuff even if it's an American behind the page. *grin* The irritating bit is having to go from the list page to pages that contain all of one line then come back again. Or right click and close pages. Methinks he's trying to pump up his sitemeter. Thanks be to Time Berners-Lee, his page of non-errors is easier to use.. One must however, tell you that Brians does not like people linking to either page directly. He prefers that you go here first. [Sorry, just discovered a page that contains the whole site in ascii text. But we won't delete our rant. So there.]

Oh yes, do also see Patrick Nethercot's page on The Dreaded Apostrophe. Or visit the Apostrophe Protection Society. Bookmark either to send to the idiot's in you're life who alway's misuse apostrophe's.

Now all we want is a page that is scathing about people who set our teeth on edge by using "you'll" when they mean "y'all." Suggestions? Write it ourself you say? Damne, this is a blog, fercryinoutloud. We don't do original writing.

P.S. What are the common errors in English usage that piss you off most?

Friday, 25 March 2005

You can do this shit

Watch out, NGMA... [Tip o' the hat to DD]

Lawrence of Cyberia

Want to write a book with Lawrence Lessig? He's put his 1999 book, Code and Other Laws of Cyberspace, on a Wiki, where you can help update it. [Via Weblogs in Higher Education]

Irony...

...or what happens when you do research online for an article on whether blogs get in the way of Real Writing.

Oh well. Might as well give you links to these blogs: Neil Gaiman, Dianne Duann [" I write for a living. That being the case, sometimes I want to talk about anything but writing (at least, writing per se). This is where that happens. "], and of course, William Gibson ["I’ve found blogging to be a low-impact activity, mildly narcotic and mostly quite convivial, but the thing I’ve most enjoyed about it is how it never fails to underline the fact that if I’m doing this I’m definitely not writing a novel – that is, if I’m still blogging, I’m definitely still on vacation."].

there are only 10 types of people in the world - those who understand binary, and those who don't

Therefore, the Binary Watch at from I Want One Of Those. (And that site brings home to us the fact that we can't afford any of the lust-provoking goodies they have. And if we get so distracted with it that we let our deadlines whizz past, we never will.)

Sullivan the Seer?

Excerpt from a 2002 article in Wired by Andrew Sullivan
Blogs do two things that Web magazines like Slate and Salon simply cannot. First off, blogs are personal. Almost all of them are imbued with the temper of their writer. [...] Readers increasingly doubt the authority of The Washington Post or National Review, despite their grand-sounding titles and large staffs. They know that behind the curtain are fallible writers and editors who are no more inherently trustworthy than a lone blogger who has earned a reader's respect.

The second thing blogs do is - to invoke Marx - seize the means of production. It's hard to underestimate what a huge deal this is. For as long as journalism has existed, writers of whatever kind have had one route to readers: They needed an editor and a publisher. Even in the most benign scenario, this process subtly distorts journalism. [...] Blogging simply bypasses this ancient ritual.

[...]

Why not build an online presence with your daily musings and then sell your first book through print-on-demand technology direct from your Web site? Why should established writers go to newspapers and magazines to get an essay published, when they can simply write it themselves, convert it into a .pdf file, and charge a few bucks per download? Just as magazine and newspaper editors are slinking off into the sunset, so too might all the agents and editors and publishers in the book market.

This, at least, is the idea: a publishing revolution more profound than anything since the printing press. Blogger could be to words what Napster was to music - except this time, it'll really work. Check back in a couple of years to see whether this is yet another concept that online reality has had the temerity to destroy.
Well, do you think he was right?

Wednesday, 23 March 2005

You have two cows...

You blog about them. The cows wander off to greener pastures.

Another deadline whooshes by

And it's all Amardeep Singh's fault.

You go see Uncyclopedia, "the free encyclopedia of politically incorrect non-information." We have to make apologetic call to an editor and tell him that the article isn't done yet.

Want to come up and see my etchings?

Our buddy the margin alien is taking centre stage at another subcontinent for the next month. Go see Travels on an ElepHAND: Prints by Manjula Padmanabhan. And you get to talk to the artist too. (For that you'll have to register, but a.c. is worth the trouble even if Manjula wasn't showing.)

Friday, 18 March 2005

Wednesday, 16 March 2005

TOI v/s mediaah! - Mark Glazer of Online Journalism Review reports

The Mediaah Weblog is shuttered after the Times of India threatens libel lawsuits, causing an uproar and petition in the Indian blogosphere. Can media criticism gain a foothold in the subcontinent?
The online publication i mentioned a couple of days ago has its story out. You can read it here: Indian media blog shuts down after legal threats from Times of India.

Tuesday, 15 March 2005

The Bloggies

...results are out.

Big winners: Dooce, in four categories, Defamer, in two, and Boing Boing, also in two, but one of them's the biggie, Weblog of the year. Pleasant surprise: a lit blog, Bookslut, winning for Best Topical Weblog.

Best Meme Flickr
Best Article or Essay About Weblogs How to Blog by Tony Pierce
Best Web Application for Weblogs Movable Type
Best Australian or New Zealand Weblog What's New, Pussycat?
Best Asian Weblog Xiaxue
Best African or Middle Eastern Weblog Where Is Raed?
Best European Weblog My Boyfriend Is a Twat
Best British or Irish Weblog PlasticBag.org
Best Latin American Weblog Overcaffeinated
Best Canadian Weblog Photojunkie
Best American Weblog Dooce
Best Tagline of a Weblog Dooce (for "Not your average clenched-cheek sprint to the bathroom")
Best Photography of a Weblog Daily Dose of Imagery
Best Non-Weblog Content of a Weblog Site Gothamist *
Best Food Weblog Cooking for Engineers
Best Entertainment Weblog Defamer
Best Weblog About Politics Wonkette
Best Web Development Weblog ScriptyGoddess
Best Computers or Technology Weblog Gizmodo
Best Topical Weblog Bookslut *
Best GLBT Weblog How to Learn Swedish in 1000 Difficult Lessons
Most Humorous Weblog Dooce
Best Writing of a Weblog Dooce
Best Group Weblog Boing Boing
Best Community Weblog Slashdot
Best-Designed Weblog Loobylu
Best-Kept-Secret Weblog Teaching the Indie Kids to Dance Again
Best New Weblog Defamer *
Lifetime Achievement Tom Coates of Plasticbag.org
Weblog of the Year Boing Boing *

* Categories in which The South-East Asian Earthquake and Tsunami Blog was nominated.

TOI v/s mediaah! - Sevanti Ninan weighs in at The Hoot

Sevanti Ninan's is a voice that we should have mentioned in our previous post, when we were pontificating about the lack of media critics in India. As our pal Nilanjana Roy said in an email, "Sevanti Ninan ... has been criticising the media for years without qualms about revealing her name."

So let me correct that oversight now, by quoting extensively from Ms Ninan's article in The Hoot on the TOI/Mediaah! affair:
The world of bloggers is agog with the news that Mediaah! the media blog run by Pradyuman Maheshwari, has abruptly shut shop after receiving a legal notice for defamation from the Times of India. But in [...] mainstream media, there has been scarcely a ripple. Journalists who had taken to visiting this gossipy blog precisely because it carried the kind of stuff they could not write, will turn elsewhere for their daily dose of gossip. It is unlikely that they will gather and protest, as some are fondly hoping. In the real world of MSM if you target a single entity whole-heartedly (ninety percent of Mediaah! postings were about the TOI or its group publications) you invite a legal notice. Usually, one article is enough to invite a notice from a biggie---ask any publication that has tried to write about the Ambanis. Publications receive lawyer’s notices all the time. If they shut down every time one arrived there would be no media left.

[...]

So was Mediaah! defamatory? Well, it carried language and insinuation that mainstream publications would not. Sample:

'Should Mid Day sell stake? Should it sell stake to the Times? Will Times use Mid Day to serve its own ends? Will it continue its policy of treating Mid Day journalists as B-grade employees and pimp Mid Day print space under the garb of Medianet?'

It was gossipy and irreverent. The nineteen posts ordered off were a mix of critique and news stories about the Times group. Defamation could be alleged not because of actual content but because of sustained targeting. The blog fired away merrily at the TOI, almost every single day. It had a source or sources within the newspaper, and that became its major selling point. It is hardly surprising that they moved to plug the leak. If somebody were to malign either Maheshwari or Mediaah! day in and day out, would either keep quiet?

[...]

We are, we may take it on now and then, but we don’t presume to target it. It is prudent to know the limits of your strength.

In the blogosphere the theme song is that a brave, independent blog is being snuffed out by Big Media. Come on! Make a noise! Save it! Freedom of speech is under threat.

The thing about free speech though, is that it does not come for free. Its price, at the very least is a lawyer’s fees. Pradyuman Maheshwari was offering no holds barred commentary on the media. If you are no holds barred, it stands to reason does it not, that the guy you are targeting will also be no holds barred? You have to be prepared for that, and cover your flanks. Or you have to duck and become subversive. The online world has a dozen methods of attack without being traced or pinned down. He should have tried some of them.

[...]

The comparison with Vir Sanghvi’s Rude Food is specious. If Sanghvi were to target the same hotel and restaurant day after day, he would be send a lawyer’s notice, but perhaps a more elegantly phrased one.

[...]

If a blog is raising an issue of national importance and providing evidence to go with it, the mainstream media will pick it up. But if it is a matter primarily concerning a media house with no larger implications, in India the media will not take on other media, no matter what. That has been Maheshwari’s misfortune.
Opinions?

Monday, 14 March 2005

Site of the day

Check out Huh Corp: We do stuff.

Lovely little slash job on your typical corporate site.

On blogging, mainstream media and mediah!

A couple of days ago, an online publication that plans to do a story on the TOI/mediaah! ruckus asked us to answer a few questions. Since it has some bearing on why this blog decided to take sides (and also because we stirred our lazy butt and wrote many paragraphs out of which maybe one or two sentences will be carried so we might as well get some use out of it; and also because we don't have anything else to blog about today, and we're actually getting a bit of a traffic spike, first-time readers who we want to impress with our intellectual depth), thought we'd share it with you, and ask for your comments.

Will post a link to the article if and when it's carried. This is the exact text mailed, with a few disgraceful typos cleaned up. So much for our snobbishness distaste for clumsily typed blogs.

Disclosure first.

On the Times of India, as an organisation.

It's been a reasonably cordial relationship. I was once a freelance radio jockey on their FM channel, I have worked on audiovisual material for the Group's TV division many years ago, and as a journalist, I wrote for them as a freelancer before I moved to an advertising career, and again in the last few years, when I started working freelance once more. I have been published both in the main newspaper, as well as in one of the Group's magazines. I would still write for them if asked to, because I am a professional writer. I would only refuse to work with them if the organisation supressed my opinion in something I was writing for them, something that hasn't happened so far. I also know many people who work for the group, people who i consider good friends, good professionals.

Pradyuman Maheshwari is someone I knew of very slightly, from my first stint as a journalist. We resumed contact when mediaah! was in its first run (incidentally, i learned of the blog thanks to a friend in the Times), and I followed it then. We have exchanged email off and on, but have only met in the flesh once - that was when he had a small party to announce the closing of mediaah! last year - and have had maybe half-a-dozen phone conversations. I cheered when he brought mediaah! back this year, and have been reading it regularly. I called him when i read about the legal notice, and we've talked frequently since that day.

Now, to your questions.

What do you think about his situation?

I think it's pretty sad that an organisation like the Times, one whose purpose is to provide information and opinion, should seek to suppress opinions it doesn't like. It does not befit them.

I think that they either underestimate or overestimate what blogs can do. Let me explain.

If they think that the blogosphere will let something like this go by without raising a stink, then they're seriously underestimating the power of the collective.

On the other hand, if they think a blog with a small subscriber base (Pradyuman says mediaah's readership is about 8000 individuals) can seriously threaten an organisation that is the size of the TOI and its group, then its almost comical. They look pretty much like an elephant running away from a mouse.

Frankly, it sounds to me like some legal gremlin in the hierarchy trying to earn brownie points with the top brass. Maybe it's me that's doing the underestimating, but I doubt the powers-that-be even know what a blog is. I'm being a cynic here, i know, but it's based on experience. When big media organisations the world over were talking to us in January, post the earthquake and tsunami crisis (see http://www.tsunamihelp.info/wiki/index.php/In_the_media), the media in India, with a few honourable exceptions - and even some of those were pointed in the right direction only because they were taken by the scruffs of their necks and led to the water, so to speak - didn't seem to know or care that net history was being created under their noses.

Does the Times have a good legal case against Mediaah! or should Maheshwari fight it?

Well, I'm not a lawyer. But I have read the posts in question, and while i think Pradyuman's conclusions on some of them are a tad harsh, and I also have issues with his tone of voice, he certainly is well within his rights as a critic to come to those conclusions, and his tone of voice is his privilege to choose.

Let me put it this way. If an actor or director thought the Times of India's movie critic was being unduly harsh, would s/he sue the ToI? If the ToI's literary critic savaged Salman Rushdie's next book, would Mr Rushdie have a case for slander against the ToI? Would a court look at such lawsuits seriously?

Another complication is that this is untested water. India doesn't have - as far as I know - any laws that cover publication over the web by individuals. What are our rights as bloggers, as web publishers? Do we have the same rights as members of the mainstream media? No one seems to have a definitive answer.

Secondly, I haven't actually seen the letter that Pradyuman got from the Times of India's lawyer, so I can't comment in detail. From what Pradyuman told me on the phone, they have said that he has vested interests and stuff like that. That sounds pretty thin to me. If Pradyuman can afford the time and money a legal defense can cost, I would say sue them for that insinuation. They're questioning his professional integrity.

(An anonymous blog has said that it will post those letters and i look forward to seeing exactly what they say.)

Should he fight it? I don't know. The legal process operates very slowly in India. It would mean lots of court appearances, sacks of money for lawyers, years of disruption to his life. On principle, i think he should fight it. The lawyer seems to be using scare tactics, relying on the Group's deep pockets to keep Pradyuman quiet. In his place, I probably wouldn't. Precisely because of those deep pockets.

Why are there so few media critics in India?

Good question. I'm afraid I haven't a clue. If i could hazard a guess, it's because people in mainstream media are wary of taking on other organisations. And on the web, there just isn't enough of a user base to make it a force. Not yet. But that's changing as we speak... erm, type. Maybe this situation will get people looking at the net more seriously. If a blog with under 10,000 readers can get a media giant's knickers in a twist, perhaps more experienced, qualified individuals will look at the net as a legit channel for their views.

Why does it seem like everyone has to be anonymous when criticizing the media in India?

Do you get that impression? Yes, there are anonymous blogs and the like, but Pradyuman, for instance, made no attempts to conceal his identity. I know of and read quite a few other blogs where the writers are quite open about who they are and very upfront about their views. I'm nowhere near being in the same league, but i have taken swipes at the media, and have made no attempts to conceal my identity.

Do you think this petition and uprising in the blogosphere will cause trouble for the Times, or will they ignore the whole thing?

Too early to tell. The petition seems to have had a rather low impact, from what I last saw. There were less than 200 signatures on it.

The blogosphere? In India, it's still a small force, and a rather inward looking bunch with (and I'm sure I'll get clobbered for this) an inflated idea of its own power and importance. I think the people who think that they will take the place of mainstream media are talking through their hats. Whatever it is that they're smoking, I want some. Potentially, we bloggers do have power: the power to make mainstream media look to its laurels; the power to keep them on their toes. We won't replace them. We can become a valuable part of the information chain, and we should show we have the responsibility to handle that. Right here, right now, no, we're not yet ready to change the world.

Ironically, it will take a certain amount of attention by mainstream media to change that. It's already happening. It started here with our tsunami blog (pardon my arrogance on that matter), and was aided by events like the media coverage to the factoid about the word 'blog' being the most looked-up word in an online dictionary, bloggers being Time's People of the Year, and suchlike.

So, to answer that question more directly, the blogosphere can cause trouble for the Times, provided there's a certain amount of attention brought to the situation, not just from online media, but from the conventional media as well.

Will the Times ignore it? I'd love to know. I'm watching. How they treat this is something that will tell all of us a lot about the Group's character.

Sunday, 13 March 2005

ha!

mediaha!, the blog that sprang up a couple of days ago to take mediaah!'s side in the controversy i've been talking about in the last few posts, has posted the letter from the lawyer.

Go read. It's a laugh, and not just for the decidedly, um, unorthodox spelling and grammar. (Gawd! And here i thought you had to be pretty good with the language to be a lawyer.)

Saturday, 12 March 2005

Top of the Pops!

Have you noticed that a publication we will not name (on the grounds that they may sue us) is back to the Number One spot for a certain Google search? They had slipped to six or seven the last time i looked, but have apparently made up lost ground recently. Wonder if it's got anything to do with recent events?

Updates on the mediaah! situation

Update 1. There's an online petition which you can read here, and if you agree, sign here.

Update 2.Petitions don't usually accomplish much except give the signatories a bit of feel-good. So, those of you in the media, this is your chance to take this out of the blogosphere. Write about it, explain the facts, get people talking.

Update 3. Pradyuman has decided to shut shop for now.

Update 4. [Via Chien(ne)s Sans Frontières] An anonymous blog has sprung up, and it lists the posts that got the TOI's legal chappies' briefs in a twist.

Wednesday, 9 March 2005

Pause for reflection

This post is addressed mainly to the contributors to this blog, but comments from our readers are more than welcome.

You've all heard of people getting dooced. (For those who haven't, it means losing your job because of stuff you wrote on your website or personal blog, and it originates from the URL of the first blogger to be canned because of her blogging.)

Many of you have day jobs in the Mainstream Media (MSM). Most of India's MSM is clueless about the web, as I can tell from personal experience. (For example, after a half-hour explanation to a TV journo fom a channel I otherwise think is good, the bloke says to me, "So tell me, what's the difference between a website, a chatroom and a blog?") So it's very likely your employers have no idea what a blog is. My first set of questions are for you who take home cheques from the MSM.

1. Do your employers know that you blog?

2. Does your company have a specific policy against blogging that you know of?

3. Does your immediate boss know that you blog? Have you ever been told, officially or unofficially, by people higher in the pecking order, that it's okay (or not okay) to blog?

4. It's pretty likely that your contract says something about writing for other publications. Do you think that covers contributing to a blog or writing your own?

5. Some of you who have concealed your identities, but even among those, many have done so very thinly. It wouldn't take much effort for someone to find out who you are and which media organisation pays your salary. Do you worry that you could get found out? And perhaps lose your job?

6. A blog like this one, set up to critique MSM, frequently takes extreme positions about specific organisations. How do you feel about, for instance, someone rubbishing your company? Do you join in with insider info?

7. When the rest of the blog is dissing your employer's competition, do you join in. If you do, is that ethical?

Now, there's a reason why I'm asking all these highly personal questions. Something just happened that may force you to answer some of those questions, if not in the comments sections, than at least for yourself.

MSM goes legal on a blogger's butt.

A little background first. mediaah!* was arguably the first Indian media watchdog blog, and certainly the first one where the blogger put the name on his birth certificate up there for all to see. Pradyuman Maheshwari, the man behind mediaah!, had quit his job and was blogging fulltime, hoping to make it a paying proposition. It didn't work out, and after a six month run, he called it quits in Jan last year, and went back to an MSM job. This year, in Jan, he revived the blog, and since PM is a well-connected chap with lots of goodwill in the journo fraternity, mediaah! quickly got back its old readership.

But the pitch just got queered. Yesterday he told me he had been served a legal notice about content on mediaah!. On his blog he said:
Yesterday, we got another legal notice. It was from one of the better known media conglomerates from the country, asking us to delete some 19 posts on Mediaah! as also refrain from writing about it in future.

This isn't the first time we've had a problem with media companies taking us on. In the last couple of months this is the second legal notice and not to mention a media baron asking us to apologise for what was termed an insulting post.
As he says, this wasn't the first time he was served notice. When it happened before, he apologised publicly and removed the post. Though, for the life of me, I couldn't figure out what the post in question did to harm the offended party's "reputation and goodwill." It was perfectly legit speculation, as far as i could tell, a bit gossipy for my taste, yes, but no more than the general tone of that publication's pages. I suspect that PM gave in because a legal fight just wasn't worth the headache.

This time, its even grimmer. PM says he was asked to remove nineteen "offensive" posts or else. He didn't name the complainant, but it isn't difficult to figure out who it was. (And no, I will not make any cracks about their honour and goodwill, since I can't afford a lawyer.)
When we spoke, late in the night, Pradyuman sounded weary, and it wasn't just the hour. He had pretty much decided to shut down the blog. It wasn't worth it, he told me. If every time someone with deep pockets didn't like something he wrote sued him, he wouldn't have the time to hold on to his day job, he'd be so busy in the courts. When I asked him about the content of those nineteen posts, he told me that they were all commentary, and certainly not, in his opinion, slanderous. Critical yes, very critical, yes, but a qualified opinion, and no falsehoods.

To me this sounds like harassment, pure and simple, and I sincerely hope PM changes his mind, but that's easy for me to say. I don't have a lawyer's letter sitting on my desk.

But now, back to you, and my questions.

This is a worrisome situation. Any one of us could be in the same boat as PM. Some of the things said on this blog have been far more extreme than anything he said during either of mediaah!'s runs. PM had a domain registered in his name, and under his address, which made it easy for the lawyers. Hopefully none of you have your street addresses out there in your profiles.

Anyway, it has all the makings of being a landmark incident for bloggers and blogging in India.

Which brings me to my last few questions. And they follow both from the first seven, and Pradyuman's predicament.

8. What, my fellow contributors, is your take on this matter?

9. Does this constitute a violation of our rights to freedom of expression? Are blogs not allowed to express opinions? Do we have to hide behind anonymous IDs to state them?

10. Would you back Pradyuman? Knowing that you could get the same treatment?

11. If this blog decided to mount up in defense of this cause, where do you stand? Would you like to disassociate yourself, be removed from the list of contributors?

* That link may not work right now - Pradyuman told me he was planning to take the site down while he figured out what to do.

P.S. This post reproduced in two parts, here and here, in a place where there's likely to be more vehement discussion than happens in these genteel surrounds. :)

p.p.s. Forgot to mention that this post grew from a long conversation with Annie, whose views you can read in the comments section (the Comment This button, not the Blogger comments).

Monday, 7 March 2005

happY! birthdaY!

Yahoo!'s blowing out the candles with what they call a Netrospective: 10 years, 100 moments of the Web. The email, chainmail, blogs, e-bay, the Goog, banner ads, Napster, Amazon, they're all there.

Didn't think much of the display, though. Very MTV-generation rather than the net in terms of what its creators think is the attention span of their readers.

Happy Women's Day. Now take two of these and call me in the morning.

This came in the mail. Thanks Ingrid.
New Drugs for Women

Damnitol
Take 2 and the rest of the world can go to hell for up to 8 full hours.

St. Momma's Wort
Plant extract that treats mom's depression by rendering preschoolers unconscious for up to two days.

Emptynestrogen
Suppository that eliminates melancholy and loneliness by reminding you of how awful they were as teenagers and how you couldn't wait till they moved out.

Peptobimbo
Liquid silicone drink for single women. Two full cups swallowed before an evening out increases breast size, decreases intelligence, and prevents conception.

Dumberol
When taken with Peptobimbo, can cause dangerously low IQ, resulting in enjoyment of country music and pickup trucks.

Flipitor
Increases life expectancy of commuters by controlling road rage and the urge to flip off other drivers.

Menicillin
Potent anti-boy-otic for older women. Increases resistance to such lethal lines as, "You make me want to be a better person. Can we get naked now?"

Buyagra
Injectable stimulant taken prior to shopping Increases potency, duration, and credit limit of spending spree.

Anti-talksident
A spray carried in a purse or wallet to be used on anyone too eager to share their life stories with total strangers in elevators.

Nagament
When administered to a boyfriend or husband, provides the same irritation level as nagging him.

Jackasspirin
Relieves headache caused by a man who can't remember your birthday, anniversary, phone number, or to lift the toilet seat.
And here's some more we came up with.

Astobig
Suppresses nagging suspicion that you shouldn't be wearing tight jeans any more.

TestRogen
Helps cope with irritation about the amount of time your spouse spends in front of the TV during cricket season. (Variant called Formula Vroom works for shorter spells, like for a couple of hours on Sunday.)

Himmodium
Good for the butterflies in the stomach before that first date.

Your turn.

The F "sport"

Honestly now, do you think grown men in overalls driving very expensive cars at high speed round and round a track is a sport?

Saturday, 5 March 2005

Belatedly...

Thursday, we just learned, was World Book Day. Belatedly, cheers to all the readers, writers and lit bloggers in my life. (You can visit them off the sidebar.)

Tales from the Wish-We-Had-Thought-Of-This Department

We coulda, shoulda thought of this. After all we were involved with getting aid to tsunami victims, we help run a lit group that plans to publish soon, and we know lots of people in the lit world. Well okay, we know lotsa people who know people.

Anyway, here's an anthology that should be on your "must buy" list, folks. And not just because of the list of authors (Margaret Atwood, Maeve Binchy, Tracy Chevalier, Harlan Coban, Paulo Coelho, J M Coetzee, Nicholas Evans, Helen Fielding, Mark Haddon, Nick Hornby, Marian Keyes, Stephen King, Ian McEwan, Alexander McCall Smith, Vikram Seth, Joanna Trollope, Scott Turow).

New Beginnings, says the Beeb, is "an anthology of new work, published to raise money for tsunami victims." The Independent calls it "a literary version of Live Aid for victims of the tsunami," and also carries a small quiz, which presents the first few lines from each donated chapter and asks you to match the style to the author. And the Guardian pitches in, offering a chance to win a free copy of the book to anyone who answers this question: On which day of the week was Ian McEwan's latest novel set?

(The part we don't get, though, is that it features just the first chapters of these authors' new, yet unpublished books. A book of first chapters? Of books that will soon hit the market? What is this? Some agent's idea? Would you buy a book of first chapters, even by a list of authors as high-wattage as that? Ah well. Never mind us. Most of the cover price is pledged to tsunami charities. And that we endorse.)

We'll take a padam rupees please, thank you. Or even just neel. Or a kharab.

We didn't know these words existed till we bumped into this page about the Indian numbering system on Wikipedia.

You know a lakh (ooh, we knew one once, and then we started freelancing) is 1 followed by five zeros, and a crore is 100 times that, or ten million.

Now meet their bigger siblings:
An arab (1,00,00,00,000) has nine zeroes and equals a billion.
Kharab - 1,00,00,00,00,000 - eleven zeroes = 100 billion.
neel - 1,00,00,00,00,00,000 - thirteen zeroes = 10 trillion.
padam - 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 - fifteen zeroes = 1 quadrillion.
shank - 1,00,00,00,00,00,00,00,000 - 17 zeroes = 100 quadrillion.

Ladies and Gentlemen...

Annie has a great post up today, on International Women's Day
There's nothing more galling than the realization that I am part of a group that needs this day of celebration. This leg-up. This day on which you will be honoured. It is a constant reminder of the fact that I'm not quite equal, not yet.
That's a view i've held for ages. It seems somehow condescending, patronising, even demeaning to imply that women need a boost of this nature. But then again, it is a fact that women get a raw deal in this world of ours. But then, to contradict myself, i can't stop myself opening doors for women, offering them seats in a bus (only when it's a crowded bus, i have to admit), dropping them home late in the night and stuff like that. Now i also just as willingly do the same for the elderly, people carrying babies, or anyone i'm walking through a door with.

What does this say about me? Am i being patronising too? Do tell.

Friday, 4 March 2005

Er, file this under "Toileteries," right?

All you Delhi types, did you know that at the BJP party headquarters you could pick up an antiseptic aftershave made of cow urine? Besides, of course, "lotions, potions and pills to cure anything from cancer to hysteria to piles -- all made from cow urine or dung."

Ah. Old Spiss.

We know, we know, we're sorry. You can come up with better brand names, right? Use the Comments button.

Tuesday, 1 March 2005

Got fiction?

Jerry Pinto, the hombre with the powers of high, middle and low justice over at Man's World magazine[*], tells us that the April issue is going to be a fiction special.

So if you have a tale to tell, in 2000 to 2500 words, bung them across to him at editor@mansworldindia.com, with the subject line "Fiction Submission." You can tell him we sent you. If you buy us a drink when your story gets published. Coffee then? Soda? Gola?