Friday 24 November 2006

Trading Places - an open writing exercise

Silly us. We forgot to cross-post this here.

As writers, we frequently use our passion for—and skill with—words in support of the causes and values we believe in strongly. We write strongly-worded essays, earnest poems, emotional protest songs, petitions to governments, sermonising emails, vituperative blog posts..

But how often do we take the time to really understand the other side of the debate? To get into the skins of those misguided souls who hold views diametrically opposed to ours?

This exercise seeks to get you to do just that. You may find that there are valid points on both sides of the line in the sand. You may find flaws in your own logic. Insh'allah, you will find a middle ground, a space where conversations can happen, not shouting matches and exchanging insults.

But that's not the only reason why you should try this exercise. It could also help you with your craft. When you write about a negative character (-: one evidently very unlike the rational, kind, sweetness-and-light-spreading person you are :-) this could help you give that character depth, it could get your reader to see that world view as valid, it could make your writing more convincing.

So here are the guidelines.

Pick a topic on which you have very strong views. Write about it. From the other side of the fence. No restictions on genre or style. It could be a poem extolling child labour. A monologue from a necrophiliac. An essay in favour of stronger government controls if you're a libertarian (or a paean to free markets of you're not). A short story where the protagonist is a violent sociopath. And so on.

If you are a Caferati member, do come and leave your piece in the exercise thread, and come back here to leave a link to the post (that's the one you get when you click on the "#" symbol next to your post title) in the comments.

For those of you who are not part of Caferati (hmph): if you have your own web space, post it there, with a link to this post, and come leave a link and a small introduction to the piece here, in the comments.

And if you do not own online real estate, please feel free to post your entire contribution here in the comments.

I'll update this post with direct links as well.

Added on 20th November

The idea is to write postively about something you'd normally write negatively about.

To stretch your imagination to encompass a world view that you despise, ridicule or just don't believe in.

To write convincingly from the perspective of a person who is very unlike you.

Some examples.

Are you anti-terrorism? Then you could try writing something that glorifies it. Perhaps a story about how terrorists are created, from the point of view of a young adult who has just become one. Maybe it's a poem that invites participation in a violent revolution.

If you're in favour of a government banning XYZ television channel, then your piece could make the case against government control. It could be an essay. It could be a piece of flash fiction that dramatises the point.

Are you homophobic? Write a letter to the Prime Minister asking for legislation to legalise gay marriage.

Do you think the moderators of this forum are power-mad despots? Then your piece could be a hymn sung by a fictional - yet entirely believable - person who lights agarbattis in front of our photographs every day, thrice a day.

No, don't write both sides of the story. Write only the side that is, in your opinion, diametrically opposite to the one you'd support normally write in favour of. We will take it on trust that the point of view you espouse in this exercise is something you genuinely don't believe in, subscribe to, or endorse.

Here's an example, a love story by Pawan Sony that I'm (-: reasonably :-) sure is not a fictionalisation of his real life preferences.

Clearer now, I hope?

P.S. I'd particularly welcome feedback from those who choose to participate in this exercise. It would be interesting to hear how easy or difficult it was for you. And whether this altered your thinking in any way.

Please go to the original post to participate. Comments welcome here, though.


A lovely idea, worthy of being passed around, from Confused of Calcutta.

Excerpt (but read the rest of the post too, as well as the previous one, which prompted this):
Every now and then, choose a blog that, in your opinion, doesn’t get the attention it deserves. Introduce it to your community. Keep the intro short. Tag it NewTailBlog.

How often should you do it? Up to you. No rules.

Which blogs should you pick? Up to you. No rules.

Let the tags do their work. Let the blogosphere do its work.

And see what happens.
Here's the tag
<a href="" rel="tag">NewTailBlog</a>
Go forth and get some NewTail.

And check out the tag on Technorati to see who other people are recommending.

Thursday 23 November 2006

More on Esha..

..who we blogged about a week-and-a-bit ago.

Nidhi has been busy, and has begun putting together a site: Esha - The Braille Place. Please go see. It's a work in progress, so we're sure suggestions would be welcome.

P.S. Nidhi and Esha have also been in the TOI this past Sunday.

Saturday 18 November 2006

The World Game

Can the world meet on one web page?

Is it possible that at least one person from every country in the world will visit a specific web page?

You can make it possible by using your internet ingenuity and personal connections.

Find people who live in countries that are still on the list down below.

Send them the link to this page using email, instant messaging, blogs, forums and smoke signals.

The first time someone from a country visits this page, the name of the country moves from the left column to the right column.

The first person from a country that visits this page gets a special digital gift (see example) and a chance to sign his/her name with a link.

Even if you are not the first visitor from your country, you can also sign your name and add a link. Your name and link will appear next to your country.

Have fun! This is the only purpose of this game.

This is not a hacking game. Please be polite. Thanks.
And the countries not covered as of this moment (so send the link around if you happen to know folks who live in any of them):

• Eastern Africa
Burundi Comoros Djibouti Eritrea Ethiopia Kenya Madagascar Malawi Mauritius Mayotte Mozambique Reunion Rwanda Somalia United Republic of Tanzania Zambia
• Middle Africa
Cameroon Central African Republic Chad Congo or Democratic Republic of the Congo Equatorial Guinea Gabon Sao Tome and Principe
• Northern Africa
Algeria Libyan Arab Jamahiriya Sudan
• Southern Africa
Botswana Lesotho Namibia Swaziland
• Western Africa Benin Burkina Faso Cape Verde Cote d'Ivoire Gambia Guinea Guinea-Bissau Liberia Mali Mauritania Niger Senegal Sierra Leone Togo

• Caribbean
Anguilla Antigua and Barbuda Aruba Bahamas Barbados British Virgin Islands or United States Virgin Islands Cayman Islands Dominica Grenada Guadeloupe Haiti Martinique Montserrat Netherlands Antilles Puerto Rico Saint Kitts and Nevis Saint Lucia Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Trinidad and Tobago Turks and Caicos Islands
• Central America
Belize Costa Rica Guatemala Honduras Panama
• South America
Bolivia Chile Colombia Falkland Islands (Malvinas) French Guiana Guyana Paraguay Suriname
• Northern America
Bermuda Greenland

• Central Asia
Tajikistan Turkmenistan Uzbekistan
• Eastern Asia
Democratic People's Republic of Korea Macao Special Administrative Region of China Republic of Korea
• Southern Asia
Bangladesh Iran, Islamic Republic of Maldives Nepal Sri Lanka
• South-Eastern Asia
Brunei Darussalam Cambodia Lao People's Democratic Republic Myanmar
• Western Asia
Georgia Lebanon Occupied Palestinian Territory Qatar Syrian Arab Republic Yemen

• Eastern Europe
• Northern Europe
• Southern Europe
Albania Andorra Croatia Holy See Malta San Marino The former Yugoslav Republic of Macedonia
• Western Europe

• Australia and New Zealand
Heard Island and McDonald Islands Norfolk Island
• Melanesia
Fiji New Caledonia Papua New Guinea Solomon Islands Vanuatu
• Micronesia
Guam Kiribati Marshall Islands Micronesia, Federated States of Nauru Northern Mariana Islands Palau
• Polynesia
American Samoa Cook Islands French Polynesia Niue Samoa Tokelau Tonga Tuvalu

[Link via Confused of Calcutta. And Gentle Readers who have read the updated version of this post will find a familiar name nestled next to the entry for India in the left right column.]

Friday 17 November 2006 the credits in a style of my choosing..

Those of you on slow connections.. move along now, nothing to see here. And the folks who are peering at this through feedreaders wondering WTF all that blank space is all about, sorry, but you'll have to come to the blog to see these. Bloglines and such don't seem to show YouTube vids.

Still here? Righty-oh, then.

Where were we? Yes, we chanced to day upon a bunch of clips from what is probably our favourite TV show of all time, Whose Line Is It Anyway. The original Brit version, we hasten to add, with Clive Anderson hosting, which was far superior, IOHO, to the American adapt with Drew Carey. If you have only seen the US version, you will find some familiar faces here—Greg Proups, Colin Mockery, Ryan Styles—but you'll also see Josie Lawrence, Tony Slattery, John Sessions, Mike McShane, Jim Sweeny, Steve Steen.

All of these, by the way, are from one YouTube user, Betise, who I have bookmarked, because s/he has, wait for it, 163 clips uploaded. And it looks like we're not gonna get any work done for a bit.

Right then, here we go. A special edition of this blog, featuring wall to wall Whose Line Is It Anyway. Got your popcorn?

The last playing of Authors (season 5, episode 7). One of the games that the US producers dropped. Probably, wethinks, because they imagined the American viewer doesn't read.

Jim, Steve, Tony and Mike doing Scenes From A Hat (season 5, episode 7).

"The World's Worst" Step. Jim, Steve , Tony and Mike giving examples of the worst Hamlet auditions. (season 5, episode 7).

Scene to music - WL UK s5e1

Bartender. Another game the US dropped.

Gospel. Ditto. Or rather, replaced by Hoedown, which wasn't bad, but got monotonous.

Josie, Tony, Mark and Mike do an American musical

Party Quirks

Film and Theatre Styles

Authors again

Helping Hands

"Things that went wrong" Heh.

Right. Now you go read our blogroll in the style of .. a Jhalak Dikhla Ja quarter finalist.

Thursday 16 November 2006

Tenzin Tsundue

Indian Government Gags Tibetan Activist In Lead Up To Hu Visit
Posted by Matt Browner Hamlin
It’s hard for me to capture the absurdity of what follows. Tenzin Tsundue, famed Tibetan activist in India, has been restricted to within the city limits of Dharamsala and is being guarded by eleven police officers around the clock. He has committed no crime and is under no suspicion of any dangerous activities. Yet the Indian government has declared that he will be deported to Tibet - a country that he has never lived in - if he leaves Dharamsala during the period of Chairman Hu Jintao’s visit to India.
More, including a press release, and the letter from the police, at Tibet will be free.

DesiPundit is also tracking the story. And the Acorn has a POV and some links. As does Amardeep Singh .

The weird bit is—as many of the posts we read have observed—that aside from The Telegraph, Indian media does not seem to have picked up on this yet (only four results when we last checked).

Tsundue says, in his prize-winning 2001 essay (reproduced here) that he is technically not an Indian citizen.
"My Registration Certificate (my stay permit in India) states that I'm a foreigner residing in India and my citizenship is Tibetan. But Tibet as a nation does not feature anywhere on the world political map."
He was born in Manali, studied in Himachal Pradesh, Madras, Ladakh and Mumbai, and has lived here all his life. So, while we are not legal experts by any stretch of the imagination, that should give him some rights, hm?

Wednesday 15 November 2006

And on the drums..

Totally cool drumming. Some fun voice-and-drums at the beginning, and it ends with, erm, a great, ah, drumroll. [Link from Manisha Lakhe.]

And here's another one, via the YoutTube page for the first vid:

Contextual pop-ups

Amit was riffing about contextual advertising in real life today. Wethinks he needs to see this first:

Popups Must Die

Caferati Listings Edition 2 is out

In this issue:

1. BBC World Service Radio Playwriting Competition.
2. Blabberwocky, a student magazine, invites contributions.
3. Breakaway Books Writing Contest
4. DesiLit Magazine's open call for submissions
5. Wanted: Intern for Literature, Kala Ghoda Arts Festival, 2007.
6. The Jaipur Literature Festival, Jaipur
7. The Kala Ghoda Festival, Bombay

To read go here. (You must be a subscriber to the list and logged in to Googlegroups to read. Subscription is free, and does not require moderator approval. Please see this page for more information about Caferati Listings.)

Monday 13 November 2006

Powered by blogging

Some time early this year, we stumbled on Confused of Calcutta—how, we don't recall. We did remember the URL, though, because it's kinda catchy, and we liked the little homage to old-style sign-offs to Letters to the Editor. Of course it's also a well-written blog, and has some really lucid, insightful thinking aloud happening. We meant to tell DD and Nilanjana about the URL—they have a Cal connection, so we thought they would find it of interest—but it slipped through our collander.

On one of our visits, we see a post about a picture we recognise instantly from the description. We enlist Aunty Google. We find. We leave a URL for JP. We don't mention it here. JP does another post about finding the picture (and another coincidence, which you should go read about).

In connection with another complex discussion, we mention the site to Amit. Amit blogs about it. DD, who I can claim to know before either of us knew Amit, reads about it at India Uncut, finds something familiar about the name, visits, finds dear auld buddy from way back when. Oh. Mark the sequel.

[Pause for reflection.]

Earlier today, Amit posts about a column of DD's in Business Standard (a paper we wind up reading only in office reception areas when waiting for someone). It's about game theory and suchlike high brow stuff, and mentions an Orkut feature. We read, having recently resumed frequenting Orkut, which we'd abandoned quite a while ago after signing up pretty early in the day.

In the course of an insomniac night (and it is pertinent to note that we became pals with DD because we were the only owls working on a project with larks), while chatting with DD on Gtalk, exchanging links and generally shooting the breeze, we mention the BS piece. He says it came off a back-channel chat with the Rangaswamis. Ah, we say, JP? No, says DD, his younger brother, who was in school with me. And sends us the link.

Which, we find, is a jolly good blog about advertising and media, one we hadn't come across before, run by someone right here in Traffic-Jam-by-the-Sea: Whether Pigs Have Wings, by Anant Rangaswami.

Now, there's probably a moral or a learning or summat with all this. Must ask scholarly types like Dina (by the way, we have another story about a set of coincidences regarding Dee, so many that we both considered checking with our parents if they'd been anywhere near the Kumbh Mela or Bandra Fair). Or JP. Or DD. Or Anant. We'll just put it down to this.

What goes around comes around.

Oh yes. Here's the picture we mentioned, that got all these connections going.

new shoes

All the links above, the picture, and this update, added in the wee hours of 18th Nov.

The saga continues

Today (well, technically yesterday, but we follow the vampire/owl rule: the night belongs to the day that precedes it), when we were checking the Caferati inbox, out of the erm, ether, we got an email offering to help out with a project that has been in limbo for a while; loss of sponsors and suchlike. After gleefully capering around the room uttering glad cries, we looked at the name. Anant Rangaswami. Could-it-be-could-it-be?, we wondered to ourself, and then, because we are cynical, naah, too many coincidences. Then we dial the number Anant left us, and whaddya know? Not just the same chap, but he happened to be having a drink at a pub near Pinstorm's office. (Now it would have been completely brill to have said that we then popped down to Toto's to join him in a beer, but our tum was misbehaving, so, though we had meant to, we hadn't made the trek into Bandra today. Alas.)

Tomorrow, or soon, at any rate, we shall sip a beverage with Anant. And frankly, even if he tells us that he won't be able to swing a deal our way, we're still pretty sure we're ahead of the game. We have yet to meet a pal of the Datta-Roy household that we haven't liked.

Serendib, can we have our citizenship papers please?

Sunday 12 November 2006

Once upon a star..

The results of the TheScian Scifi Short Story contest are now officially out on their blog.

See the winners list, with links to the stories, links to the 9 stories that made it to the top of the list, potted biographies of the top 9 authors and
the jury, and the Scian Kitchen topic that invites discussion of the stories (you'll need to register at that forum to post to those discussions, but not to read them).

Special huzzas to our buddies Rohinton Daruvala, who placed second with To Sleep, Perchance To Dream, and Manisha Lakhe, whose Happy Happy Joy Joy placed sixth.

Thursday 9 November 2006

Poetry on Poetry

The PEN All-India Centre

invites you, with your friends, to the eighth session of PEN@Prithvi:

Poetry on Poetry
Practising Bombay poets gather to discuss poems that take poetry for their subject.

11 November, 2006 (Saturday), 6.30 pm.
Prithvi House, 1st floor (Opp. Prithvi Theatre, Janki Kutir, Juhu)
Please note change in venue: Tomorrow's event will be held at the Prithvi Cafe, not upstairs at Prithvi House as usual (there's a Prithviraj Memorial event going on there just this Sat).

All are welcome. Enquiries: india dot pen at gmail dot com
A blogger you know is slated to be one of the "Practising Bombay poets." More in need of practise than the others, alas, but there you are.

Do come, if you're in the 'hood.

Tuesday 7 November 2006


Writers against Terrorism
Protest against the attack on Lebanon
Petition online against X
March against Y
Please go read our good friend, Caferati Delhi coordinator and generally one of the sweetest, wisest people we've ever met, Anita Vasudeva, who wants to know what happened to For?

When did we stop fighting FOR what we wanted? When did we become a people against War, not a world FOR Peace? While we were pushing FOR healthy workplaces, working FOR good marriages and sustainable relationships, FOR safety and freedom and independence, FOR respect and civil behaviour, FOR love and tolerance; while we thought standing FOR the good stuff would change the world, there was a growing group already in the driver’s seat swinging the AGAINST demolition ball to strike down the entire edifice.
Read on.


It's today, folks.

Reporters without borders urges internet users to join in 24-hour online demo against internet censorship.


Everyone is invited to support this struggle by connecting to the Reporters Without Borders website ( between 11 a.m. (Paris time) on Tuesday, 7 November, and 11 a.m. on Wednesday, 8 November. Each click will help to change the Internet Black Holes map and help to combat censorship. As many people as possible must participate so that this operation can be a success and have an impact on those governments that try to seal off what is meant to be a space where people can express themselves freely.
What time will it be in your time zone when it's 11a.m. in Paris?

The difference between Paris Time and time zones around the world.

Current local time in Paris.

I love Paris in the springtime. *Grin* Sorry.

Bring out the Bolly

Two reviews that almost&mdashalmost—make us consider catching the movies in question.

All style, but who says no substance? - Spacebar on Don.
We, in our low-browness, normally run a mile when we see words like subtext in a review. This one kept us reading to the end.

A gushing yet defensive post about Jaan-e-Mann - Jabberwock on, well, Jaan-e-Mann.
A line that found resonance: I’ve enjoyed his willingness to risk looking ridiculous onscreen. Something we remember from the last Hindi flick we caught in a theatre—which was, like, in the last century—Kuch Kuch Hota Hai. We remember liking the fact that a stud-type superstar was willing to play the affected NRI type to the male lead's cool dude. Right. Enough from us idjuts who know nothing about the movies. Go read Jai and SB.

Monday 6 November 2006

Shirky v/s Nielsen

For years we have been vaguely uncomfortable with Jakob Nielsen's pronouncements on usability. Not because he doesn't make sense. He does, frequently. And we have used his advice and pass it on. But one area of discomfort has always been that is one butt-ugly site. And we believe in aesthetics. (And before you say anything about this blog's template, it reflects our abilities with HTML, not our taste.)

And then, well, we recently discovered Clay Shirky's site.

(The man has been writing good sense for years, but we only found him the other day, because we're doing a lot of research on online community, and found this excellent essay, which we've mailed to quite a few of our bakras friends. But we digress.)

Yennyway, Shirky's open letter to Nielsen in, we think, 1999, which pretty much says all we were struggling to get out of our brain and into words. An excerpt:
I believe that the Web is already a market for quality - switching costs are low, word of mouth effects are both large and swift, and redesign is relatively painless compared to most software interfaces. If I design a usable site, I will get more repeat business than if I don't. If my competitor launches a more usable site, it's only a click away.
And also see his Power Laws, Weblogs, and Inequality, which talks about blogging and the A-list, and how "Diversity plus freedom of choice creates inequality, and the greater the diversity, the more extreme the inequality."

Sunday 5 November 2006

ho hum

Just for Blaughs

Cell Phone Overkill

To BCC or Not to BCC


Braille-enabled visiting cards

Reader Poonam points us to this Outlook story about a friend of hers, Nidhi Kaila, and the organisation Nidhi has started, called Esha.

Esha works with blind kids, helping them earn money with innovative little schemes, like the one Poonam wrote in about.

Which is simple. You pay a rupee a card to get your visiting cards Braille-embossed. So, your cards can then be read by people who read Braille. And you help visually-impaired people get a little more financial independence.

Esha can't afford to spend money to publicise this, so we'd like you to help pass the word. You can reach Nidhi and Esha at Esha_braille AT yahoo DOT com. They work out of Delhi [update]Esha was founded in Delhi but now works out of Bombay, and the cards are embossed in Bangalore[/update]. Mail (or leave a comment with an email address) if you'd like the phone number as well.

And the Braille letters at the top are taken from the Braille Converter at Humanware, and merely repeat the title of this post.

Update: Jace gets his cards Braille enabled.

Update 2: Esha and Nidhi appeared in Mumbai Mirror on Saturday, 11th November 06.

Anyone else?

Saturday 4 November 2006


Three takes:

Zaiba Malik in the Guardian (an article that marginalien reproduces in that post, and which a commenter points to at Annie's post.

Friday 3 November 2006

Two old faves..

..jamming with a third

..Tracy Chapman, singing Baby Can I Hold You with Luciano Pavarotti..

..and Liza Minelli, with an amazing rendition of New York, New York, again with Pavarotti (: theez vaagabon' shoes / are longing to straahy :)


Paco De Lucia, John Mclaughlin and Al Di Meola playing Mediterranean. (More here.)

We think we should just abandon all blogging and just become a YouTube filter.