Tuesday 4 December 2007

Free as in "Free Beer"

Richard M. Stallman, explaining the free software concept, said
“Free software” is a matter of liberty, not price. To understand the concept, you should think of “free” as in “free speech”, not as in “free beer.”
Then, a group of students in Copenhagen decided to "see what happens when an open-source structure is applied to a universally known product." Being students, they chose beer.

Their site has the story. And the recipe!

Happy Birthday, Creative Commons

Creative Commons, through whose licenses so many of us bloggers release our posts, turns five on Saturday, 15th December, 2007. They're having a party, and everone's invited. If you're not in San Francisco, no sweat. you can organise your own. The link has details.

Friday 30 November 2007


We were just wondering what would happen to this thinker if he tried out his theories in Bombay traffic. Or worse still, in Delhi!

Seriously, though, he makes sense. Reminded us of our driving classes. Where on the first day, our instructor told us, in Hindi, drive as if every other driver was a ch****a. Which we have never found difficult to do.

Saturday 17 November 2007

Hitting the Gujarat and West Bengal governments where it hurts: in the wallet

This is a proposal from a friend, Anjan Ray, left as a comment on a post at the Citizens for Peace blog.
To my mind, there is only one way to deal with State-sponsored terrorism. And that is a groundswell of economic boycott activity.

When the rule of the law morphs with willing connivance of the political leadership into the rule of the jungle, it is funded by government and party cadre revenues. These, in turn, come from economic acitivity within the State in large measure.

As a first step, I have sold - and encourage you to sell - every share of any company you hold that has its headquarters in the 2 states under discussion. You can also sell mutual funds that have invested in such companies. I will be happy to provide a list and propose alternate investments if the idea appeals to all those who read this.

Check the packaging of every product you buy, and choose a different option if the place of manufacture lies within these two states.

Simple enough? Pass this on, and I guarantee you will be amazed at the impact.
Should you wish to take Anjan up on his offer to provide the lists of companies HQed in those two states and the alternate investments, he can be reached at anjan DOT ray AT gmail DOT com.

Why we're glad we work from home

Go see The 'Winners' of the Wired News Saddest-Cubicle Contest.

Top that? We can, actually. But we have a deadline. Maybe we'll come talk about it later.

Monday 12 November 2007

Nandigram relief - an appeal

This email just in via Arka Mukhopadhyay, Trina Nileena Banerjee and others.
From: Anjum Katyal
Sent: Monday, November 12, 2007 8:12 PM
Subject: relief for Nandigram

I just received an sms from Aparna Sen asking for relief materials for Nandigram victims (she specifically mentioned old clothes, children's clothes and rice) which can be sent to Mahasweta Devi's address, given below:
c/o Mahasweta Devi
W 2C 12/3 Phase 2, Golf Green, Kolkata 95. Ph: 24143033

We've been asked to forward the request to as many people as possible.

Do please pass the word.

I had some misgivings about the old clothes, given past learnings, but sent it on nevertheless, since the folks who forwarded it are reliable sources.

I got this reply from Amit Varma:
It might be a well-meaning and genuine appeal, but in my experience, old clothes are generally the worst possible thing to give, because even poor people don't take hand-me-downs. When Dilip and I travelled in TN after the tsunami, the roadsides were littered with colorful heaps of old clothes nobody wanted. Both of us wrote about it extensively, Dilip also using the experience of previous trips through disaster-struck areas.

Of course, in this instance this specific need might exist for some reason. But in general, it is a bad idea, and I thought it fair to share that.
I wrote to Dilip D'souza as well:
What's your take on this?

I had my misgivings about this, given my learnings from the post-Tsunami scenario, not least because of your own postings on the matter. Nevertheless, I did send it on to several others. Amit Varma echoed my concerns thusly: [Amit's mail quoted here]
If you're in agreement, you may want to post a point of view somewhere.
Dilip said:
Amit is right: from Orissa '99 to Kutch '01 to TN '04, nobody in those areas wants old clothes. It's true, this is a slightly different case -- it's a manmade calamity rather than a natural one. I think we should hold off sending old clothes until we get some more info from the trenches. Maybe we should reply to that appeal asking specifically about the old clothes. (Once we get a reply, I'll post that somewhere). I'll send a note.

Money can be used to buy new clothes.
Dilip, after this exchange, wrote to the originators of this appeal, stating his concerns, and asking for clarification. He also notes that the "phone number listed for Mahashweta Devi does not work." I had got some further queries from people I had forwarded this to, so I followed up as well. After an initial reply promising more information, Anjum Katyal sent us this:

I am sending this out to anyone in my address book who I feel would need the information, and be in a position to circulate it further. Over the past few days I have received several emails and queries about where exactly relief material is being collected for Nandigram victims. It seems that when Mahasweta Devi's phone number was called, they were being told that no materials were being collected there.

I managed to speak directly to Mahasweta di this morning and here is what she has asked me to circulate:

1. Her address IS being used as a collection and despatch centre for relief materials for Nandigram victims. For those who do not have it, it is:

W 2C, 12/3 Phase 2, Golf Green, Kolkata 700095.

Children's warm clothes, new (not secondhand) lungis and dhotis for men. sturdy saris in wearable condition, rice and dal are welcome.

2. If money is being donated, it should be sent to Account no. 24941, Canara Bank, Sealdah branch.

3. Mahasweta di has been focusing on working with a doctors' group at Nandigram. The contact person if anyone wishes to help with the health centre there in any way is Dr Devapriya Mallick, 9830510911.

Thanks and regards
Anjum Katyal


We saw a couple of dandy neologisms the other day, and we just have to share. The beauty of these is that they don't require an explanation. Well, okay, with the first one, a portmanteau, you need to know that "shloka" is a Sanskrit word that means a verse, usually a prayer. (See the Wikipedia definition for more details.)

Here you go.

Spotted on the Sarai Reader List, in a mail from S Fatima

Spotted on Valleywag; can't find the exact post or author, alas. here (Thanks, Hanisha)

Sunday 28 October 2007

Not for kids

This story in the Guardian (no mentions yet in the Indian media) gives the lie to claims about child labour being banned. An extract:
Child workers, some as young as 10, have been found working in a textile factory in conditions close to slavery to produce clothes that appear destined for Gap Kids, one of the most successful arms of the high street giant.

Speaking to The Observer, the children described long hours of unwaged work, as well as threats and beatings.

Gap said it was unaware that clothing intended for the Christmas market had been improperly subcontracted to a sweatshop using child labour. It announced it had withdrawn the garments involved while it investigated breaches of the ethical code imposed by it three years ago.

The discovery of the children working in filthy conditions in the Shahpur Jat area of Delhi has renewed concerns about the outsourcing by large retail chains of their garment production to India, recognised by the United Nations as the world's capital for child labour.
Link courtesy Shefali Srinivas on Facebook. Shefali also point to this video, and notes that it was posted months ago.

Gap Unveils New 'For Kids By Kids' Clothing Line

So much for GAP's being unaware.

Please see also this CRY press release, which says that India has the largest number of child labourers in the world.

Wednesday 17 October 2007

In praise of bowel nosodes

We just discovered (thanks to Poonam), that Indra Sinha quoted us in a piece in Tehelka. Not by name—he calls us "a book blogger" though the quote was from one of our columns—so we can't claim blog cred for that, but what the hey.

[And completely ignoring the previous statement he then blithely proceeds to claim cred..] It's the second time in our little life that we acquired improved social cachet thanks to the man.

Background, you say.

Well, y'see, we're a fan. In our former profession, the man is a legend, especially in India; more so in those days when copy was still mostly literate and in one language at a time. We, like most other copwriters we knew, adored his work; we even had one of his ads framed up on our wall. (Those of you from the Profession will know what we mean when we tell you that the title of this post from that ad.) And we devoured his Cybergypsies at some point in the 90s. Around the same time as he was publicising an ad contest he was spearheading for the Bhopal Medical Appeal.

We were cynical at first, in our cool advertising kind of way; after all, ads for social causes (or 'public service advertising' as they're called in the trade) were hugely exploited by agency Creatives in search of awards. Contests were an excuse for Creative Departments to kick off the traces of Client and CLeint Servcing and go wild. Sure, some of the ads were even released. Causes or NGOs would be found (or, sometimes, invented) and hot, self-indulgent creative, designed to catch the eye of other Creatives, and never mind if any one else gave a damn, would be released in obscure publications or channels, usually in December (just before the eligibility period for ads for the year ended; and just in time to mollify disgruntled Creatives who had spent the year Making The Logo Bigger) and then beeyotiful prints on Zanders Matte would be taken and sent off to the awards juries in January. There was ad we remember from the Show Books that sent up the whole genre: the visual was a hand dangling a dog's carcass, and the headline said "here's my dead dog, now where's my award" or something very much like that.

But this contest was different.

The jury consisted of social workers who were on the ground in Bhopal. And the conditions specified that the ads had to be run in mainline publications. typefaces and logo were specified too, and the prospective contestants were told precisely what pictures were available for use.

When we wrote in asking for copies of said typefaces, Indra wrote back saying he'd made a mistake. He didn't want to promote font piracy by giving away a commercial typeface, and so he was removing that condition from the contests rules.

We had just been reading Cybergypsies, and we told him of that in the course of our correspondence. We enjoyed the book very much, relating not just to the bits about advertising and his causes, but also to the cyberaddiction to the point where it gets in the way of your life (our addiction was chat; yes, this was before blogs, or Facebook). We told him of this, and got a very kind reply, whereupon we proceded to bombard the man with more email, all of which was graciously replied to.

Came the time for the contest results to be announced, and we, like most of Bombay's Creatives, were among the hopefuls at the conference. We didn't win, alas. But, after the formal part of the evening, when the free (as in, the agency paid for our tickets) wine and munchies were floating around, emboldened by a glass of bubbly, we went up and introduced ourself to the man, and we were pleasantly surprised when he remembered our name. The next fifteen minutes or so were spent in animated chat about the web—which was still young then—and much else that we can't exactly remember—we, like the web, have aged—which he seemd to enjoy as much as we did. After a bit, looking around, this blog noticed that there was a ragged half-circle around us, composed of some of the Profession's leading luminaries, including, among others from our own agency, our National Creative Director, all looking tentative and slightly bashful. Slowly it dawned on us. And so we, lowly flunk from the salt mines, introduced our boss's boss (and others) to Mr Sinha.

Mr S, tough luck. And believe us when we say we were rooting for you, and it wasn't just so we can continue to drop your name. As you can see, we pretty much dine out on it already.

Saturday 6 October 2007


We haven't been blogging here much, have we? Did you miss us?

Hello? Anyone out there? Hello?

Your opinion..

..of the new Citizens for Peace site is earnestly solicited.

Wednesday 19 September 2007

The Senility Prayer

Grant me the senility to forget the people I never liked anyway, the good fortune to run into the ones I do, and the eyesight to tell the difference.

[Via email from Ingrid Srinath.]

Friday 14 September 2007

Friday 7 September 2007

R.I.P. Luciano Pavarotti

Nessun Dorma

Extract from the lyrics:
ll nome suo nessun sapra
E noi dovrem, ahime! Morir! Morir!
Dilegua, o notte! Tramontate, stelle!
Tramontate, stelle! All‚alba vincero!
Vincero! Vincero!

Nobody will discover his name
And we shall have to die, alas! Die!

Depart, o night! Set, you stars!
Set, you stars! At dawn I shall win!
I shall win! I shall win!
Thank you for the music, Maestro.

Tuesday 4 September 2007

J B D'Souza on Journalism and Profit

An extract:
It is, of course, possible for publishers to argue that theirs is a business like any other; they are in the business to maximise profit and that profits come not from news of events and analysis of them, not from readers’ satisfaction, but from advertisements, and advertisers have to be kept happy. The fact is that the press is not a business like any other; it is much more. Its prime responsibility is to its readers, a responsibility to inform. It is for this reason that it enjoys the freedom protected by the Constitution. The lust for money must not be allowed to obscure this advantage. “As editors collude ever
The rest here.

J B D'Souza, R.I.P.

Mr J B D'souza, former state chief secretary and ex-municipal commissioner, and one of those very, very few individuals of whom I have heard no ill, passed away last night.

Got this message from Dilip's phone this evening.
Bain, Dilip's father, died peacefully last night. He was 86. We thought you would like to know. Vibha and Dilip.
Dilip, Vibha, the world is poorer for this. Our thoughts are with you and your family.

Thursday 9 August 2007

(Why we'll be) Back soon

Poetry@PEN – New!

This month, we launch a new feature, 'Poetry@PEN'. This will be a monthly platform where we will present emerging voices, host debates on craft and concept, and create spaces of encounter that are part reading, part workshop and part masterclass.

The first event in the Poetry@PEN series is a reading by four poets: Malavika Sangghvi, Mustansir Dalvi, Peter Griffin and Rohinton Daruwala.

Date: 13 August 2007 (Monday)
Time: 6.15 pm
Place: Theosophy Hall (3rd floor), 40 New Marine Lines, Churchgate, Mumbai
We have absolutely no clue what we'll be reading, but do come if you're in the neighbourhood.

Back soon.

Away for a couple of days. Work, I tell ya. But someone's gotta do it.

Update: It's pouring madly in Mandvi, apparently. The management suggested that it might be better to postpone for a couple of days. And what with juggling the fact that there are two—not consecutive—days next week that we just have to be in town with the airline schedule (three flights a week), we're now going there next Saturday.

Monday 6 August 2007

Oh Dearie Me moment* of the day

Now that we have established the importance of the syllable in readability, we can move on to describe the Strain Index, which is based on the following assumptions:
1. The longer the sentence, the greater the strain.
2. The standard sentence has 17 words.
3. All syllables are equal ('ash', 'lash', 'slash' and 'splash').

The Strain Index can be calculated in three easy steps:
One: Choose the first three sentences.
Two: Count the number of syllables in the three sentences (S3).
Three: Divide S3 by 10.

Since we have assumed that a standard sentence has 17 words, it follows that in three standard sentences there are 51 words. Now if all the words are monosyllabic, then there will be just 51 syllables. The Strain Index = 51/10 = 5.1. If all are disyllabic or trisyllabic, then there will be either 102 or 153 syllables. The Strain Index will respectively be 10.2 and 15.3. Hence we can say that a text that scores 5.1 and less is very easy to read; and a text that scores 15.3 and more, is very difficult to read.
Clear? Right. Now let's look at the first three sentences in the article (in the latest issue of The Hoot's newsletter) that introduces this index.
In my M.Phil dissertation 'A Quantitative Analysis Of Media Language' (December 2006), submitted to the Madurai Kamaraj University, I have established the following hypothesis: Considering the fact that clarity and brevity are the main criteria of media language, it is possible to develop a readability tool that will be an alternative to the most popular Fog Index of Robert Gunning. This article is written to popularise the use of my alternative formula which I like to call the Strain Index.

Most readability formulae, such as Rudolph Flesch Reading Ease and Robert Gunning's Fog Index, are based on the length of the sentence measured in words and the length of words measured in syllables.
I make that 203 syllabubs. Let's call it 200 to make it easy. So, that's a Strain Index of 20.

What a salesperson you are, Nirmaldasan!

(And just by the way, on the Fog Index** , those three sentences give you a score over 34.)

* We're being all genteel like from now on this month this week today for the duration of this post.
** The Fog Index: [(number of words / number of sentences) + words three syllables and above, not counting proper nouns or words made trisyllabic with simple "-ing" type suffixes] x 0.4 = the number of years of formal education that a person requires in order to easily understand the text on the first reading.
Here'a a link to a description of the Flesch-Kincaid Readability Test for those who would like to raise the petard higher.

Saturday 4 August 2007

I love to singa

For all our pals who do. And can.

[From Jugal.]

Friday 3 August 2007

We're gonna be rich. Just telling.

We have reason to believe that we could get our hands on the estate of our good mate Kerry Packer (may his soul rest in peace). See, we got a letter from his accountant:
I am MR.CHEN GUANGYUAN, a personal treasurer to Late Mr. Kerry Packer the Richest man in Australia and owner of the many companies. His business empire,built around Publishing and Broadcasting Ltd (PBL), includes television, magazines, Internet-related enterprises, Melbourne's Crown Casino and the Burswood Casino in Perth, beef cattle properties, petrochemicals, property investment, resources and engineering.

I have a profiling amount in an excess of US$65.5M, which I seek your Partnership in accommodating for me. You will be rewarded with 4% of the total sum for your partnership. Can you be my partner on this?

As a personal treasurer to Late Mr. Kerry Packer, authority was handed over to me in transfer of money to a petrochemical merchant for his last petrochemical deal before his untimely death. Already the funds have left the shore of Australia to a European private Bank where the final crediting is expected to be carried out. While I was on the process, My Boss became ill and finally died on Monday 26th December 2005

You can catch more of the story on this website:


All I need from you is to stand as the beneficiary of the above quoted Sum and I will re-profile the funds with your name, which will enable The European bank transfer the sum to you. I have decided to use this Sum to relocate to another continent where I can invest and never to be connected to any the late Packers conglomerates. This transaction has to be concluded within the shortest possible time.

As Soon as I confirm your readiness to conclude the transaction with me, I will provide you with the details.

Thank you very much.

Reply to my Email:chen_guangyuan_ch1@yahoo.com.hk
Now none of you so-and-sos go mailing Mr Chen behind our back, y'hear?

Thursday 2 August 2007

The "Justice for All" petition

From Naresh Fernandes. Read. Go sign. I did.

To: citizens of Mumbai, India and the world

Punish the Guilty of the Anti Muslim Pogrom of 1992-1993

Justice for All

The convictions of the accused in the 1993 Bombay blasts case are intended to be a form of redress for the 250 families who lost dear ones in the serial blasts and aim to send the message that the Indian system delivers justice for all crimes, especially mass crimes of unspeakable brutality. But the bomb blasts of March 12, 1993 were only the external symptoms of a cancer that had gnawed away at Mumbai's vital organs with the abject failure of the state machinery to protect the city's Muslim population during the horrendous communal riots of December 1992 and January 1993. More than three times as many Mumbaikars were killed in the riots that preceded the bomb blasts but the lack of action against the perpetrators of the riots � who are named in the Srikrishna report � is clear evidence of the operation of a double standard of justice, one for the majority community and the other for the minorities. India and it systems of democracy, executive, judiciary and legislature, need to reflect.

The bomb terror of March 12, 1993 must be recalled with the same horror as the mob terror of December 6, 1992, in Ayodhya, resulting in the loss of hundreds of lives all over the country. The causes of the blasts, too, must be revived in public memory. As the Srikrishna report observed: "The serial bomb blasts were a reaction to the totality of events at Ayodhya and Bombay in December 1992 and January 1993� The common link between the riots and the blasts was that of cause and effect."

Information obtained under the Right to Information Act makes it clear that successive state governments, no matter what their political persuasion, have decided to shield the guilty. The motivations of the Bharatiya Janata Party and the Shiv Sena parties in refusing to implement the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission are obvious: among the individuals named in the report are several of their leaders and cadres, including Bal Thackeray, Manohar Joshi, Gopinath Munde and Madhukar Sarpotdar. What is more shocking is the role of the so-called secular parties. Though the manifestos of both the Congress Party and the Nationalist Congress Party in 1999 and 2004 promised to implement the recommendations of the report, these promises remain unfulfilled.

The report also lays bare the biased role played by 31 police officers, including RD Tyagi, who as then joint commissioner, shot dead nine persons at the Suleiman Usman Bakery labelling them "Kashmiri terrorists". Another senior police officer, NK Kapse was promoted after a departmental inquiry exonerated him of any guilt in shooting down seven persons at the Hari Masjid located at Rafi Ahmed Kidwai Marg. Save one policeman who was dismissed from service, all others have escaped lightly despite being found guilty of complicity in acts of murder and arson.

The RTI findings also demonstrate a complete absence of vigour in pursuing riot-related cases through the judicial system. Cases have been closed in a seemingly arbitrary fashion and appeals have not been filed against acquittals in the lower courts. If a genuine peace is to return to Mumbai, there must be justice. Continued injustices cause schisms to widen, wounds to fester. Justice can only be truly served by implementing the recommendations of the Srikrishna Commission report. We urge the state government to do so immediately. It must devote as much energy and resources to obtaining justice for the victims of the Mumbai riots as it mustered up for the victims of the Mumbai bomb blasts. We also believe that the process must be visible and transparent. Only then will the deep wounds caused by the targeted violence of 1992-1993 heal, bringing enduring peace.

Public Release of the Statement/Signature Campaign
Indian Merchants Chamber, Churchgate
August 9, 2007; 5.30 p.m.
Justice For All Campaign, Telephone: 022-26602288/26603927
Email: sabrang@sabrang.com


Vijay Tendulkar
Anil Dharker
Naresh Fernandes
Ram Rehman
Teesta Setalvad
Nandan Maluste
Arvind Krishnaswamy
Javed Anand

See the petition; View signatures; Sign the petition online

Also Address Protest Petitions to: 1. Chief Justice of India, Mr KG Balakrishnan, Supreme Court of India, Tilak Marg, New Delhi 110001. supremecourt@nic.in 2. President of India, Mrs. Pratibha Patil, New Delhi 110004. Fax: 00-91-11-23017290 3. Prime Minister of India, Dr. Manmohan Singh, 7, Race Course Road, New Delhi 110011. manmohan@sansad.nic.in Fax: 00-91-11-23019334

Public Release of the Statement/Signature Campaign: Indian Merchants Chamber, Churchgate; August 9, 2007; 5.30 p.m.
Contact: Justice For All Campaign, Telephone: 022-26602288/26603927 Email: sabrang at sabrang dot com

If you'd like a PDF of their statement to print out, sign and mail, please leave an email address, and I'll send it to you.

The Impotence of Proofreading - by Taylor Mali

Hilarious. And a great learning for the perfomance poets among ye. Even though I do think he hams it a bit too much at one of two points.

Via Annie.

Tuesday 31 July 2007

Facebook banned at the office?

Perhaps you should send ManCom links to these three posts by that scholar and gentleman, JP, over at Confused of Calcutta.

Friday 20 July 2007

If you're planning to start a blog..

Two from Blaugh:

Think Before You Blog

Shrinking Self Esteem

Travel photography contest

OK Tata Byebye is hosting a travel photography contest.
Details here.

Caveat: you need to register on the site to participate.

Disclosure: For reasons best known to them (wethinks they think we are a Popular Blogger. heh), we have been asked to help judge the contest (and in a swollen-headed moment, we consented), and the organisers asked us to help spread the word.

See ya. Erm. Sorry. Oktatabyebye.

Thursday 19 July 2007

How to phish - 2

Offer helpful advice.

This post gets us the most Google love on a consistent basis. From the traffic logs, there are apparently many people who either want to learn how to hack a yahoo password, or want to know how to get back a hacked password. Every now and then, a comment pops up for moderation. This one appeared a week or so ago.
Heres away to hack a yahoo acount step by step

You must have a Yahoo! email account. If you do not have, create the one at http://mail.yahoo.com.

Once created, Login using your account.


I assume you have logged in. Now, click on "Compose" on the left hand frame.

In To: , type


This is the email account to which Yahoo! sends email when you request for lost password.

In the subject, type:


In the body, type :

[ type EXACTLY AS IT IS , better copy-paste it]
We're breaking this up into two lines to preserve the column width
instructions continue, undedited.

Replace 'VICTIM_USERNAME' with the username of the person whose account you want to hack. Replace 'YOUR_USERNAME' with the username from which you logged on and 'YOUR_PASSWORD' with your account password from which you logged on. This is needed by Yahoo! for the account authentication and it assumes that this is the details of Yahoo Staff.


Click Send.
You will get the password within 2 min to 2 hrs, depending on the load on the server. (I got it on next day! BUT AT LEAST I GOT IT !!!)
This is a fully tested method. But please, do not expect any support. I can just tell you that IT SHOULD WORK...
This truly ingenious. You set up a Yahoo account (pass_recov_bin@yahoo.com natch; or something similar), write out some seemingly well-intentioned advice, and wait for the mugs who want to hack into some chica's account to come along and do the hard work of setting up new yahoo accounts and then send you the user name and password to add to your set of anonymous spamming accounts. Even better, of course, if said mugs were to use their existing accounts to do this. You get a free set of the mug's friends' addresses!

How to phish - 1

Provide photographic evidence of employment.

Someone feel like telling Google?

Tuesday 17 July 2007

Tomorrow we drone

Tomorrow, around 10:15am US East Coast Time, 7:45pm IST, we shall be making a 'remote presentation' to a bunch of US Government folks.

We shall be talking about our TsunamiHelp experience, as part of Collaborative Expedition Workshop #63. Our bit lasts about 45 minutes, and is part of a session called "Potentials and Realities: Opportunities and Challenges of Virtual Organizing for Humanitarian Response."

The page linked to has the schedule, and other speakers, as well as instructions on how to access the conference. We shall mainly riff on the stuff we covered in our Sarai essay (PDF), and answer questions the other participants may have.

Saturday 14 July 2007

What do you when you get a brand new iPhone? - 2

You—argh—blend it.

(You folks on the feed-readers will have to come on over to see the video. Sorry.)

And here's the bit that makes us go *toc toc* "These Americans are crazy!" The blended iPhone, which would have cost US$500 brand new, is up for sale on ebay. That's not all. The top bid, as of this posting, stands at US$ 1,058.33.

Tuesday 10 July 2007


We sent around the Guardian's Great Escape links, which feature various writers on the topic of the books they read while travelling. (Part 1, Part 2; and note that the links on the Guardian's page are bad - someone forgot t include the '.co.uk' bit, which we didn't notice until Divya pointed out the error.) Weighing in: Bill Bryson ("I read the Archer as well, of course, and am not too proud to say that I was grateful for it, too. In fact, after Pnin and the telephone directory, it was one of my favourite reads of the trip."), Kiran Desai, Dave Eggers, Pico Iyer, Ian McEwan, Jan Morris, DBC Pierre, Ian Rankin, Paul Theroux, and many others.

Naturally, we began thinking of books we have read while on the road. And found that none really came to mind. We tend to buy magazines when we travel, because we usually wind up looking out of windows, people-watching, sketching or writing when we travel. This despite packing in several books on each trip.

But perhaps your mileage (heh) varies. Care to leave a note?


The Perfect Day

This ad ran in 1997. I remember my then creative director sticking his head into my room, a DVD in hand, saying "You have to hear this." It was the disc that came with the latest D&AD Annual, and my PC was the only one with the software to play it (yes, yes, so very last century).

I loved it then for the fusion element—it brings together such an amazing range of musicians—and its simple brilliance as an ad; it's entertaining, and it delivers its message ("Whatever your musical taste, it is catered to by BBC Radio and Television") in no uncertain terms. Of course, the length (it's a full four minutes) wasn't a problem since the advertiser was running it on its own media. Heh.

The complete story from the YouTube page:
In 1997, the song "Perfect Day" by Lou Reed was featured by the BBC in a lengthy corporate advertisement of its own music coverage. The trailer was shown on BBC channels and in cinemas and won both awards and praise from commentators. This version was eventually released as a charity single in November of that year for Children In Need. The charity version features a host of well-known singers and performers, with Reed himself opening and closing the song, and was the UK's number one single for two weeks, selling over a million copies.
Right then. Here's your homework. Name all the singers and musicians.

Bonus videos

Lou Reed singing Perfect Day

Lou Reed singing Perfect Day with Luciano Pavarotti

Friday 6 July 2007

Billy Collins (encore)

The good folk of JWT-NY mailed to say they had put up another poem in their series of Billy Collins Animated Poetry. So here it is.

The Country

Friday 22 June 2007

Billy Collins

After valiant efforts and many conversation with his agent, we have Billy Collins making a guest appearance on this blog, reading his poetry. Found these on YouTube. Enjoy.

"Noted for their intelligent humor, accessibility and observations on daily life, Collins' popular poems come alive further in a series of animated poems produced by JWT-NY."

The Best Cigarette
(This one's the pick of the bunch, IMO. Watch this even if you don't have time for the others.)

The Dead

Walking Across the Atlantic

Some Days

Now and Then




Three more, by ComedyFilm, who, unfortunately, does not allow embedding. These aren't animations. Just slide shows and some background sounds.

A History of Weather
Shoveling Snow with the Buddha
Saturday Morning

Two more from Acumensch, who, unfortunately, et cetera.

Man in Space
Sweet Talk

And Collins introduces the Best American Poetry event at the New School 9/21/06 and mentions the controversy surrounding the publication. (Very fuzzy video shot by someone in the audience who wasn't in a good seat. But the audio's clear.)

And since we're ODing on Collins, here are some more links from emails that, erm, may have, um, been sent to you, in a manner of speaking, by me.

See The Best Cigarette where
All 33 tracks are available for FREE DOWNLOAD.
Internet Archive.(whole album or track by track)
Download.com. (song by song)

You can download, share these, burn these, give these for non-commerical puposes (you can't make money off it). For the full details read the creative commons non-commerical use license here.

On Minstrels:
Introduction to Poetry
Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles
Taking Off Emily Dickinson's Clothes
On Turning Ten

And a bunch of links shamelessly lifted from here.

Another Reason I don't Keep a Gun in the House (Also here)
Ave Atque Vale
Child Development (Also here)
The Dead
Dear Reader
The Guest (From the very rare, out of print, "Video Poems")
Hangover Procedure #12: Emptying The Jacket Pockets (Also from "Video Poems")
The History Teacher
I Ask You (Audio available)
I go back to the house for a book (Also here)
Introduction to Poetry (Also here and here)
Invention (Audio available)
Japan (Also here)
Jazz and Nature
Lines Lost Among Trees
Man Listening to Disc (Audio available)
Neither Snow (Audio available)
On Turning Ten (Also here)
Putting Down the Cat
Questions about Angels
Shoveling Snow With Buddha
Reading an Anthology of Chinese Poems of the Sung Dynasty, I Pause To Admire the Length and Clarity of Their Titles
Study in Orange and White
Three Wishes

For Collins reading Nightclub, go here and click on "Recordings" just below his photograph.


Tuesday 19 June 2007


Damien Hirst, him of the dead-animals-in-formaldehyde fame, had a new exhibition last week, Beyond Belief. Among the items on exhibit, this little skull, called "For the Love of God", which is
..without precedent in the history of art. On one level, the work is a traditional ‘Memento Mori’, an object that addresses the transience of human existence. ‘The skull is out of this world, celestial almost’ writes the distinguished art historian Rudi Fuchs. ‘It proclaims victory over decay. At the same time’, Fuchs continues, ‘it represents death as something infinitely more relentless. Compared to the tearful sadness of a vanitas scene, the diamond skull is glory itself’.
Me, I think it's beyond belief that people lap up this stuff.

More from ABC News:
"For the Love of God" is a life-size cast of a human skull in platinum and covered by 8,601 pave-set diamonds weighing 1,106.18 carats. The single large diamond in the middle of the forehead is reportedly worth $4.2 million alone. Hirst financed the project himself, and estimates it cost between 10 and 15 million. Of course, it will cost someone a pretty penny to own the work: It's priced at $99 million.
Ooh. Cleber pricing. This doesn't sound anything as expensive as $100 million.

As the chap in the gallery clip said, "it proclaims victory over common sense." Or something.

Friday 15 June 2007

Golden Anniversary

Nope, not us. (Though it is a bit of a landmark: this is—trumpets!—post # 1000 on this blog. Yay! Et cetera!) But yes, we shall break precedent, abandon the first person plural, and put down a personal post.

On this day, fifty years ago, my parents got married. And, despite the considerable stress given to them by their youngest issue, they're still there.

They gave me a happy, hassle-free childhood, sometimes at great cost to themselves. They gave me a love of books, of finding things out for myself, of art. They didn't shove their values down my throat, they demonstrated them to me, and if I chose not to take all of them, they didn't kick up a fuss. They respected my choices even when they didn't agree with them, never questioning that they were my choices to make, even though in hindsight, not all them were great decisions.

No big celebrations, alas, because Mum is still pretty much an invalid, and Dad has surgery scheduled in a couple of days, but hey, there'll be a cake, and a few friends to share it with. And they're there, together. That's a lot, yes?

Brand new waste of time

We're on Facebook. Look us up, if you're in those parts.

We have to admit that we're having a bit of fun with it. We had kinda avoided most YASNs for a while, seeing as they were coming out of our ears at one point, but we finally succumbed just to see what the buzz was all about. And someone we know asked in tones we find difficult to resist. And four-and-twenty hours later, we have linked up with 68 friends, many of whom we hadn't encountered elsewhere. Not bad for a hermit.

Tuesday 12 June 2007

What type type are you?

We were just reading the Slate photo-essay on Helvetica, and thinking back to our Lintas days, to a Visualiser who was so devoted to the typeface that he had several T-shirts extolling its virtues. One had all the names of the variants of Helvetica, in their respective typefaces, natch; the other said, "when in doubt, use Helvetica."

And there's a companion piece that asks various authors about their typeface of choice. Many favour—the horror!—Courier.

Curious minds want to know: what typeface do you write in? And why? We mailed this around to our long-suffering list and here's what some have to say:

Ranjit Hoskote: For me, it's Times New Roman, very much — although I'm now experimenting with a genre-sensitive system, with TNR for my poems and Trebuchet MS for prose... :)

Kamla Bhatt: Arial and Trebuchet are the two fonts that I seem to favor.

Neha Viswanathan: Verdana - easiest to read online.

Vikram Doctor: Courier is just force of habit from typewriter days I guess, rather sweetly retro no? I just do Times New Roman, seems like a good newspaper font (though I don't know which papers actually use it these days, we use Meridien Roman which is sort of boring and squashed.

Rajesh Lalwani: I like to use Trebuchet - neat, clean, clutter-free and classy. Same for Tahoma, which I use sometime. Abhor Times New Roman - I itch to change it, everytime I see it.

Hanisha Vaswani: Easy. Verdana. Or maybe - Tahoma. Nice chubby fonts - not too skinny a la Arial, and easy clean lines unlike Times New Roman and other serify stuff. If you want more serious, thought-about reason, here goes: Verdana/ Tahoma fill up a page very well... gives the page decently well-balanced expanses of black and white.

Manish Vij: times new roman. neutral.

Gouri Dange: i hate Times Roman. i dont know why. a truly irrational hate. would need to go into past life regression therapy to figure out why. i love Batang and Footlight (sadly, not in my comp right now) and Garamond and Georgia. the sans-serif fonts like Arial, Univers etc are too sterile for me; and the too-embellished ones i dont like either - so Batang, Footlight, Garamond, Sylfaen, i like for being contemporary and yet classic. (god i'm sounding like some pretentious wine-taster.)

Nikhil Pahwa: For fiction, I prefer serifs: Book Antiqua and Times New Roman. For articles/posts, I prefer sans-serifs: usually Arial. One little known font that I'm very fond of (have always had a copy saved somewhere for six years since I discovered it) is Celticmd. Only used it for design, though.

Kiran Jonnalagadda: My preferences vary with the application:
For shared documents in Word:
Headlines: Trebuchet MS
Body: Garamond
If document was for printing only (ie, no hassle with fonts on recipient's side):
Headlines: Adobe Myriad (Bold)
Body: Garamond
For websites:
Headlines: Georgia
Body: Lucida Grande, Lucida Sans, Verdana
For feeds in the feedreader: Candara (takes a little getting used to, but pleasantly readable)
For visiting cards: Optima (and maybe Adobe Myriad)
For presentations, option 1:
Headlines: Baskerville
Bullets: Hoefler Text
For presentations, option 2: Futura Condensed Medium
For presentations, option 3 (misc): Optima, Gill Sans, Helvetica Neue
That said, my peeve: I really can't stand to see Arial or Helvetica (not Neue) on screen and Verdana in print. They're so not meant for that.

Jerry Pinto: Most of the time I am too lazy to bother with changing the typeface and so I stick to the default Times Roman. But when I do think about it, I like Garamond. But I would never write anything which requires lots of italicisation in Garamond because I think the angle is far too steep. Often the result is that the space between the last letter of an italicised word and the first letter of a non-italicised word becomes negligible and then I have to insert another space for my own sense of how the words should look.(This is more important in poetry than in prose.) Of course, the result is a curly under-lining courtesy Microsoft. And yes, I am not above being spellchecked or edited grammatically by MSWord. I often disagree but I have been chastened — by discovering that I have been wrong — often enough to appreciate it.

Melody: Since this seems like a very worthy project to better the world, I thought I'd add my two bits.
The first bit being Verdana. I think in Verdana, I speak in Verdana & of course, my typeface is Verdana.
The second of my two bits has something to do with my mood-swings. Yes, with so many voices in my head, what did you expect.
I've been know even to use 'Bill' and 'Perpetua' and a variety of other typefaces that I shouldn't know by name.
So there you have it.

Bobin James: My favourite typeface would have to be Verdana... 10 point Verdana!! Am not too sure about the technicalities, but I personally find it easier to read than most others...

Janhavi Acharekar: While I'm partial to Times New Roman for its clarity, have a curious fixation with Arial Narrow. Have also come across a fascinating typeface (during Lintas days, interestingly) — one with sexist overtones — called Girls Are Weird!

Anita Vasudeva: Changes with what I'm writing, not just type of document, but sometimes content of one poem vs. another, kid stuff in Comic sans MS for instance. Swing between Verdana, Garamond, Trebuchet, Georgia, Palatino. All the draft work seems to be in Arial which is the default typeface on my machine, and its become a non-personality. Don't you experiment — write something and see what it looks like in various typefaces — love the way it changes the writing sometimes. Also with corporate housestyles its fun to figure which typeface suits their personality and communication.

Nandini Chopra: arial 10 - straight and no nonsense.

Maya Sriram: Times New Roman- I think it is purely a spill over from my working days where newsletters and reports and more all had to be in this font. Comfort of the familiar, perhaps?

Shivam Vij: I love Times New Roman but only in large 14 size. May be it's my glasses :)

Prakriti Pushp: I have used Book Antiqua for a long time now. It is just so very quaint. Makes even trivial look important.

Amit Varma: Verdana, size 12. I find it clean and readable.


Oh yes. This blog's personal choices.

Of course there were huge excesses back in the day, when we first played with a Mac, when we used just about every font we could find. Then Helvetica became a favourite. Franklin Gothic for text that needed emphasis. In later years, Goudy Old Style took a large share of or affections, with Garamond as a second choice. (And we just luhrve Goudy Handtooled for headlines of a certain type.) Brief flirtations happened with Dom Casual, Bernhard Modern, Caslon Open Face, Futura, some Humanist variants, various "ye olde" type fonts and brush scripts. Nowadays, all paid work goes to publications in Times New Roman, since that's one all desks are likely to have. Online, we prefer Georgia, and for headlines and suchlike, Verdana.

We have about 900 fonts on our system at the moment. That's the most it would take. :)

(Oh, and puhleeze don't follow Slate's example and call them "fonts." A font is a set of characters in a particular typeface, in a specified size and style. Times New Roman is a typeface. Times New Roman, 9 point, italics, is a font.)

P.S. Falstaff, who has weighed in via the comments section, also mailed to advise us to read this and this for the poet's perspective.

P.P.S. k.m. shares our feelings: "Courier is also the *industry standard* in Hollywood. Shame, shame."

Oh, and a note for the designers and copywriters and other communication professionals. This not about the fonts that a communication will eventually appear in; of course you will put one heckuva lot of effort into choosing just the right font on a case by case basis. This is about what you use yourself, when composing, when writing just for you, when it's just you and the computer.

Note: We have added quite a few opinions that have come in via email roughly in the order that they came in, unedited except for the odd typo.

Thursday 7 June 2007

Young peope today, *mutter mutter* no respect, *mutter mutter* going off and having fun doing wild things *gah*

Akshay Mahajan, who we already hate intensely because he takes much better photographs than we do, has now gone and upped the ante by enlisting for the Rickshaw Run. There's a lot more at the Rickshaw Run link, and at his blog, but the gist is this: he, with two young ladies (damn his eyes) will spend two weeks driving from Calcutta to Manali (swine). In the rains (kutha). In an autofrigginrickshaw (words fail us. etcetera).

Seeing as this is an expensive operation involving the purchase of autorickshaw, one numbers (which will be donated to a needy cause post the Run, Akshay tells us), plus pledging of some money to a charity, plus personal expenses on the trip, he and his friends need some a lot of help. You can go find out more by reading his post, and then whacking his Paypal button as hard as you can. And while you're there, tell him we can't stand him. We're green. We hate him. We loathe him. *dissolves in deluge of self-pity and envy*

Wednesday 6 June 2007

What it eej? (2)

Yup. That's us. In all our glory. Not.

Right. That, amigos, is a printable mask that you can then cut out, and stick on over your own if you want to look perfect. Y'see, it's a depiction of the planes on a perfect face, the "Golden Mask" as per Marquardt Beauty Analysis. It's all about the Golden Ratio. Apparently the the faces we find most attractive are "lousy with golden ratios." (That quote from an article on Discover Magazine, which reads far better than the Marquardt site, which is frankly a bloody ugly, clunky piece of work.)

Tuesday 5 June 2007

What it eej?

It's an E8, or rather, a picture of the E8 root system.
Mathematicians have mapped the inner workings of one of the most complicated structures ever studied: the object known as the exceptional Lie group E8.

This achievement is significant both as an advance in basic knowledge and because of the many connections between E8 and other areas, including string theory and geometry.

The magnitude of the calculation is staggering: the answer, if written out in tiny print, would cover an area the size of Manhattan.

Mathematicians are known for their solitary work style, but the assault on E8 is part of a large project bringing together 18 mathematicians from the U.S. and Europe for an intensive four-year collaboration.
The magnitude of the E8 calculation invites comparison with the Human Genome Project. The human genome, which contains all the genetic information of a cell, is less than a gigabyte in size. The result of the E8 calculation, which contains all the information about E8 and its representations, is 60 gigabytes in size. That is enough space to store 45 days of continuous music in MP3 format.

While many scientific projects involve processing large amounts of data, the E8 calculation is very different: the size of the input is comparatively small, but the answer itself is enormous, and very dense.
All we know is it looks bloody lovely. Geeky types can go here to read all about it.

CC: to all our former bosses

“The longer you work, the less efficient you are,” said Bob Kustka, the founder of Fusion Factor, a productivity and time-management consulting firm in Norwell, Mass. He says workers are like athletes in that they are most efficient in concentrated bursts. Elite athletes “play a set of tennis, a down of football or an inning of baseball and have a pause in between,” he says. Working energy, like physical energy, “is best used in spurts where we work hard on a few focused activities and then take a brief respite,” he says.
You said it, brother. We know just what you mean. We're like a golfer. We stroll around a lot, and now and then, we whack a ball, then we stroll some more.
And those respites look an awful lot like wasting time.
Sigh. Yes.
Over the years I have come to see that the hours away from the writing are the time when the real work gets done. When a paragraph turns itself this way and that in a corner of my brain even while my fingers are buying books on Amazon.com. What appears to be wasted time is really jell time. This redefinition only makes me feel a little less guilty.
Pliss to read Time Wasted? Perhaps It’s Well Spent by Lisa Belkin in the NYT.*

Via Nilanjana, on the phone.]

Friday 1 June 2007

"I love deadlines. I especially like the whooshing sound they make as they go flying by."

We're dreadfully late on an article and it's the first time we're writing for this publication. Appropriately, we were completely distracted by this treasure.

As we put our proboscis back to the grindstone, please go read this Exclusive Interview with Douglas Adams from 1979 in Darker Matter, an online Science Fiction magazine. In three parts, naturally.
Almost 28 years ago, a young (27) and still overdrawn Douglas Adams was poised on the brink of fame. The first radio series of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy had been released ("Escaped," was more the word, according to Douglas) and largely ignored in a late night slot on BBC Radio 4. It had then been repeated at a less perverse time, gathering listeners and momentum as the six episodes unfolded. But the books, the second radio series, the TV show and the long, long-delayed movie version were still to come.

Douglas Adams had done a handful of short interview pieces, most of which had just pinched his jokes and ignored his opinions. But when freelance reporter Ian Shircore got the chance to spend several hours with him under cover of an unlikely feature for Penthouse magazine, Adams found himself with half a day to ruminate, pontificate and smoke too many cigarettes in the cluttered office where he was earning a crust as script editor for the Tom Baker-era Dr Who. Apart from the few column inches Penthouse was able to accommodate, these tapes, from 1979, have lain unpublished ever since. They are being released now, in three parts, to mark the first issue of Darker Matter, the online magazine that brings you the best new SF short stories from around the world.
Part One
Part Two
Part Three

[Link via qaro's del.icio.us links. qaro, we haven't a clue who you are, or how to get in touch, so, if you're reading this, many thanks for all the lovely links you dig up.]

Update: qaro now has a blog. Go say hello.

Thursday 24 May 2007

4 2 gra fee

We have new blog. New photoblog. Please meet Click III.

On the power of crowds

From The Globalist's Forget Web 2.0. Say Hello to Web 3.0, by Evgeny Morozov
What is most troubling about this story is that the tremendous power of crowds is still being wasted on issues of marginal global importance. Try mobilizing online civic action of the same magnitude for most global causes: climate change, human rights, or Darfur — and you'll see that the magic number to unlock a HD-DVD leads to much more focused, organized and passionate action.

Sunday 20 May 2007

Cochin - 28

Cochin - 27

Cochin - 26

So pleased with this one, we are. Sprinted—well, okay, stumbled and huffed and panted and lumbered—along the bank to get to the spot where the fisherman would be in the ripples lit by the rising sun, found flat spot to place camera in lieu of tripod, got the shutter speed just right, and after five shots, he obligingly bent over to haul in his net just as the shutter opened. All at 10x zoom. *chortle, chortle*

Cochin - 25

Cochin - 24

Cochin - 23

Cochin - 22

Cochin - 21

These chaps paused as they were about to pass each other and stopped to chat. P'raps they were talking about where the fish were biting. Or maybe it was about the evening's toddy-drinking plans.

Cochin - 20

Cochin - 19

Cochin - 18

Cochin - 17

Cochin - 16

Cochin - 15

No, we didn't stay up all night to take these shots. No, this is not the Invasion of the Body-Snatchers. We had actually gone to sleep before 10p.m., and were up before dawn! And was it worth it!

(This and the next 13 shots — 15 to 28 — were taken off the shore of Micheal's Land, part of the Kondo Syokai group.)

Friday 18 May 2007

Ishmael, please*

I’m floating on my back, in a blood warm-sea. Land is a thin smudge on the horizon. There’s not a sound to be heard except the stray seagull, and the watery patpatpat of the swell against my body. A voice yells my name. I raise an ear out of the water; Kedar, leaning over the rail of the Rosa, is demanding that I turn over and swim for the camera. Damn. Duty must be done. I flip over, and execute a few energetic freestyle strokes.
That's the first paragraph in a piece we wrote for Outlook Traveller's May edition. It will appear is now on Your cheque.. in due course.

Pictures by Kedar Bhat, who was the pro photographer on the trip, with his fancy-shmancy camera.

*Coffee's on us if you sniggered at the title within 5 seconds.

Wednesday 16 May 2007

Cochin 14

The Mattencherry waterfront.

Cochin 13

Haven't a clue what building this is. And don't want to know.

Cochin 12

How to make sure you get credit for this construction: get your name painted in larger letters than those used for the name of the project.

Cochin 11

Cochin 10

Kind of, um, varied, this coastline, no?

Cochin 9

The secret to pulling the customers in: clear signage. :)

Cochin 8

The famous Brunton Boatyard, now restored and converted into a hotel.

Cochin 7

Can't do Cochin harbour without taking a shot of the Chinese fishing nets, can you?

The crew gets the Rosa ready to sail

(Rosa is owned and operated by the Malabar Yacht Club, part of the Kondo Syokai group. Details on their sailing excursions are available here.)