Tuesday, February 17, 2009

Our Ouija Board game.

Just when the massive amount of economics literature I've been devouring lately was beginning to bear off my sense of youth, my sister asked, "Da, do you still believe in planchette?". My response was a sweeping "No!" but I immediately realized I had nothing to add to that. Just the way an earnest believer would say "Yes" when asked if she believed in god.

Cricket and board games made up almost all my playing life in school. Just like everyone else I knew at that time, me, my sister and our group of friends in the building played Carrom, Snakes & Ladders, Lotto, really, really lame Chess and when the power went off - which, incidentally, made us all so happy we screamed ( we also screamed when it came back ) - we would retreat into a dark corner of someone's house ( randomly chosen, ofcourse ), light a candle very businesslike and pull out a notebook which we knew contained the Ouija board. Pin drop silence followed the planchette prayer and for some of us the excitement rose so high we had to scurry to the bathroom to relieve a bit of the extra-excitement and scamper back, just so we didn't miss the spirit. We were advised to invoke spirits of people we knew and to ask easy questions lest we upset their egos. My favorite spirits to invoke were Mahatma Gandhi and my grandfather. And I had two favorite questions : "When did India become free?" to Mahatma Gandhi and "What is my name?" to grandpa. Self-assurance, it seemed, was all I needed back then. Much to everyone's amusement, the planchette moved to 1, 9, 4, 7 and S, U, J, I when I was the medium and then gasping and satisfied, we would say the closing planchette prayers and request the spirit to leave the board and room.

So when my sister asked if I still believed in planchette ( which is what we called the Ouija board game ) a torrent of memories came rushing. What stumped me was I knew the planchette moved not as a "motor-reflex action to one's sub-conscious thoughts" as one of the popular explanations go, but in a very real, physical and intelligible sense. There seems no plausible answer and so I content myself by reckoning that in the "reasonable" world where even unreasonableness has reasons ( as new theories on behavioral economics explain ), a smack of such an enigma is very grounding indeed. And that, I believe, is definitely a fair reason to be content about.


Monday, February 02, 2009

The Extraction

This may be a little gross but it needs to get out of my head.

He anesthetized and cooed sweet things into me as if preparing a lamb for slaughter. In a few minutes, the decided area of war - gums, left wisdom tooth, upper palette - seemed numb and ready for carnage. That I have faced those drills and hammers and pincers and jacks and needle and knife before made me feel braver and readier than I was. And then I had my gameplan too. I would tell my dentist - my butcher - to relax, play according to the rules, not get charged up as the battle intensified ( because I knew this was going to be a tense, long battle ). And he obliged, smiled, laughed softly at my stress and poured in that maddening light into my face and said aaaaa and I did aaaa and ...

I had decided I'd close my eyes till the enemy played its little game and won. This proved disastrous because with the eyes closed the brain started playing a game of cat and mouse with whatever metal touched my mouth. The jack - because that's all I could think that instrument as, that which helps pull out wheels of a Landrover stuck deep in quicksand - went in first. It touched the gums, did a few tick-tocks with the tooth ( one old Banyan it turned out to be ), and ,umm, started pushing for space between the gum and tooth, trying to, as it turned out, find the roots of the tree. The roots were firmly, firmly rooted and soon my Ripper found out just pushing and playing with the jack wasn't going to be enough. The pincers grasped the tooth next. And as if it really was a tree, started to shake it, with the jack between the gum and tooth, pushing it down. The bloodbath, as I had anticipated, had begun. The noises around the room drowned into a vacuum and my head formed its own noises - shrill, unbearable noises - of images. I shut my eyes tight as a chicken shrieked, someone twisted its neck and then separated it from its body - its body writhing, a gloved hand tore my face at the jaws, a crowd beat up a young man, blood all over him and Holocaust and a hundred grotesque devils raped a young girl and and ... You think I am  exaggerating.

The pincers pushed and pulled at the tooth, the jack pushed it down and tears made a steady stream from the side of my eyes and blood, made thicker with saliva, oozed slowly from the side of the mouth as cotton ball erased its path now and then leaving just the dry outline of the stream. A piece of teeth withered between the jaws of the pincers, so they gripped even closer to the gums. Pull-push-push-pull ( oh I could tell how it would be to be in labor ). And click! Blood! Blood! Blood!

And we were done. The battle was over, the battlefield a bloody mess.

As it turns out, your senses go into overdrive in times of pain. It becomes sensitive to sound the way a person with an extreme case of leukemia is to sunlight. The most effective way to ease pain is to first quieten the noises in the head. And for that there could possibly be no better tool than music. But suppose you plugged in the headphones and your player played one of those louder songs with a lot of lyrics and which you love to listen to when you are 'normal' ? Bleeding again! That does not mean to say any classical, soft, slow, music would kiss the pain away. No. The trick is to avoid anything vocal. Human beings are no good when it comes to easing of pains. Violins, sitars and pianos - Ravi Shankar, L Subramanian or Bach. And no Beethoven. Just...Just avoid Beethoven. 


Sunday, November 16, 2008

How I ended up being disliked in the neighbourhood or How I stirred up a hornet's nest one fine Sunday.

On hindsight, I should have thought a little more before calling for a drastic change in the way we shared on the Local Area Network ( LAN ). I should have remembered Ariely's notes about shifting social norms to market norms and all its ill effects. Or maybe, for starters, I should simply have put a more popular movie for sale on LAN. Yeah, sale ! Whoever heard of that, right? Or was the price a little too steep for an introductory price? One thing I am sure about is when I put the following message to the guys on LAN, the responses were not favorable.

The message read thus :

Hello people! ( Before I go ahead, let me tell you that I am NO fan of free sharing. If  anything's worth your time, it's worth your money too.)

From today I introduce "The Honour System"  ( yeah, Freakonomics and more recently Dan Ariely's Predictably Irrational ) according to which I decide a price range for each movie I have. If you want that movie, I'll give you it's minimum and maximum price ( depending upon the quality of audio / video, movie and demand ) and you decide how much you pay ( ofcourse staying within that range. )

I decided to introduce this because I spend time and money researching about every movie and I find absolutely no reason why you should get it for free and then not appreciate it.

So there, you heard it. Free sharing is evil unless absolutely necessary and so I'm charging for the movies I share. Who wants movies from me now?

My first paid movie : The Profit. ( 2001 )

Director : Peter N. Alexander

Genre : Drama.

Tagline: A dark journey into an evil mind where the only good is...The Profit.

IMDb rating : 7.2

Min price: Rs. 75 /-

Max. price: Rs. 100 /-.

And the responses ( in the typical no-holds-barred LAN lingo ) read thus :

( My responses in italics ).


>> tarun >>If everyone goes on charging for movie why the fuck do we need LAN? We can rent it or buy it from outside.

Ok, so how about if I charged 1 Re? Does that drive my point home? My point is value the fucking movies you get. If you pay for something, you just value it more.

>> monty >>Am not talkin about money here...I just mean that you TRADE here!! You ask for something you want and then when you get it you share something of your's which isn't much important! Like movies..I know you got good collection but you don't share..you just send anything thinking we all are choos and anything you send will make us happy...but sorry am not one of them.....

Well atleast you are getting close to the point. Yea, we are trading here. But if you look at it, most people here ( except you and bonzi ) have shit for movies. Do you call that fair trade?

Now, what's so horrible in charging a small amount for the movies? For me, the mere mention of money would :

1) Introduce an element of productivity into the time you spend downloading movies from the internet.

2) Slowly, but surely, better the quality of movies watched and talked about on LAN and consequently outside of LAN too.

So, then. Were the responses a result of a sudden and unexpected shift of social norm ( free sharing ) to a market norm ( price for each movie ) ? Or were they because the first movie I put up on sale was just not very popular or was it the price? Would the responses have been more favorable if I had, say, kept a lower limit of Re. 1 and a higher limit of Rs. 5 or if the movie was, say, recently released Dostana?

What do you think?


Monday, October 06, 2008


If you find Arvind's hypothesis on the probability of the current financial crisis becoming a precursor for another baby boom counter-intuitive, come back. We shall talk.

The premise of his argument is that a baby boom has historically followed a state of national distress - true but the line of reasoning goes completely haywire after that. He goes on to comment about how they ( Americans ) have always managed to overcome the realities through their enhanced productivity giving such examples as the WW-2, the war on Vietnam and the 9/11 strikes. But on looking up data ( here, here and here ), that story doesn't seem to hold ground. For instance, the real baby boom in the United States happened after World War -2 precisely between 1946 and 1964 when birth rates went up dramatically ( nearly 16 % - 2.85 million births in '45 to 3.41 million births in '46) and not during World War-2 where, to requote him, people managed to overcome the realities through their enhanced productivity and abilities to handle stress. Moreover, this baby boom happened not only in the United States but in Canada, the United Kingdom, Australia, France, Sweden, Germany and heck, even in India after '47. Has the world seen that kind of a baby boom after that? Not really. Not after Vietnam ( the war on Vietnam happened in '75 and the birth rate has been going up barely 1% each year after that ) and also not after 9/11 ( the number of births in 2002 actually went down from 2001).

What, then causes a baby boom? Rather than, to quote Arvind again, crises leading to increased sexual activity in a nation ( which I am assuming was intended to be funny than of any real argumentative value ) it is an increased sense of social well being and security, immigration, a realignment of responsibilities among men and women leading to the man leading the conventional role of the bread-winner and woman of the home-maker. All these factors usually happen as a package only after a major war when young males return from their war-time duties, couples reunite, women go back to their usual responsibilities of bearing offsprings and the social and economic restraints that stopped them from starting families disappear and there is a heightened desire among human beings to bond and procreate.

So, now would the current financial crisis be a precursor to a baby boom? Hard as it may have hit the United States' ( and now Europe's ) financial stability, it is noteworthy that it has not caused an economic upheaval like in the Great Recession. It is because the finance community - investment bankers, analysts, financial advisers - form a very small group ( less than 7% of the employed American population if I remember an Economist article correctly ) so that a few ( relatively speaking ) lost jobs and some foreclosures on some bad mortgages do not convert to an economic crisis. Moreover the hardest hit by the financial crisis seems to be people in their 40's where losing a job or a stake in a company could be analogous to death in a battlefield ( very low probability of gaining it all back ), and by the time they ( the country to be precise ) recover from this crisis ( which could be atleast 3 years from now, if not more ) they would be as good as out of the fertile pool.

Point being, without an economic crisis ( rather than a financial crunch ), without a war-like situation, without great instability all leading to a heightened sense of social and economic security ( which an aftermath of this financial crisis do not guarantee ( taxes, remember? ) ) a baby boom seems highly unlikely.

P.S: Writing a reply-post on this wouldn't be worth your time. No, seriously!


Saturday, September 27, 2008

What General Motors Gave Me.

The GM weight loss diet program. Thats what.

I may have lost a kilogram worrying about what I would not be eating during the course of this diet program.

What I intend to give all my readers :

A tailor-made diet program for you, you and you.

Its a simple theory based on the instant gratification principle. The amount of food stocked in your house is indirectly proportional to hunger and directly proportional to the will power to hold back that hunger. Lesser the food in the house, hungrier you feel and less likely that you'll hold back that hunger, consequently ending up in a fast food, instant gratification joint. On the other hand, stock your house with a lot of food and even if you feel hungry, there's a higher probability that you will hold it back because of the comfort of food being available at hand. I am sure by now you must have noticed how this theory can be applied to a myriad of situations starting from sex, money, so on and so forth. So how do you go about implementing this new, extraordinary diet program?

Simple. Stuff your house with a lot of high-energy, low-carb, low-fat food. You'll get hungry less often and even when you do, hey, you have healthy food at hand.

If this worked for you, please feel free to contact me in the comments section for donations and other favors.


Saturday Night Fever

. . .this modern master piece tells the story of certain events that unfold between 2 and 6 p.m. on a Wednesday in Mumbai; events that do not exist in any record. . .This short, one and a half hour film, has a tight script which would not divert your attention from the silver screen for a split second. . .

Now, here’s a flick that could make your day. . . ( it ) talks about terrorism from a new angle.

. . . one of those rare variety films about which one can't discuss much despite a strong desire for it could hamper your viewing experience as an unapprised audience. It's a film one wants to rave liberally about but even then you can't conveniently converse on the instances of acclaim since those are the moments of surreptitious surprise held in reserve by the director. It's the kind of film that is discussed in detail once it acquires the cult status.

Why, ofcourse, we are talking about the "modern masterpiece" - A Wednesday. If you ask me what exactly makes this movie a "modern masterpiece" I'd stutter for an answer and on my shallowest day come up with something on the lines of what the reviews talk about. But why? Isn't it this short movie with a tight script which would not divert your attention from the movie screen for a split second? Isn't it the flick that could make your day? Or isn't it one of those rare variety films which one can't discuss much despite a strong desire for it could hamper your viewing experience as an unapprised audience? What's wrong with the movie is the grammar in that last line. And the word unapprised. English doesn't have that word in its vocabulary is whats wrong. And what's really, really wrong are all its other reviews. And the people who write them. And those who watch it. And then explode with exuberant confusion at the instant gratification that the movie intends to provide.

For me A Wednesday, for all its worth and with all its reviews, is a good handjob of a movie. The new generation of Bollywood film-makers is, to say the least, tiring in their attempts at making different movies. It is difficult to comprehend the obsession with " delivering a message " with every movie you make. Unless you are a Jean-Luc Godard or a Pasolini of Salo or I.V.Sasi of the early 90s I'd rather read a socio-political article than fantasize to be informed and enlightened about a situation, any situation from a young, opportunistic film-maker picking up a plot and distorting facts to create entertainment value and shoving up a chewed and ruminated over point of view up the audiences' throat in the name of a different movie [1]. And ofcourse such movies are lapped up with both hands by an audience either for lack of choice or lack of information and the latter seems more likely because how could you choose if you don't have the information? And when the responsibility of providing this information rests on a few nincompoops of reviewers and critics and if good audience makes for a good movie-making fraternity, its not difficult to guess where Hindi movies are headed.

Notes :

1) And I truly believed this and this were mediocre attempts at social commentary and to think A Wednesday - that " modern masterpiece " - seems so much like this!


Monday, August 18, 2008

What Me Zero

Zero appeals to people bred on Steely Dan and Iron Maiden and Led Zeppelin mostly because they played some pretty amazing covers to some of their songs and personally because they are simply not as loud as a Demonic Resurrection ( whom I just don't dig ) or Rudra whom I had mentioned in one of my earlier posts. Zero is more in the class of Parikrama - some wildly good originals and wildly famous.
Because come Independence Rock this 31st, Zero is going to play one last time as a band.
The last time I talked to Rajeev Talwar ( Zero's lead vocalist for the yet uninitiated ) was to congratulate him for one of their songs. That was when I had discovered them. Ironically ( you'll know why ), the next I talked to him was yesterday and the conversation went like this :
: Hey dude!

Heard IRock is your last concert? That true?
Rajeev: Hey man
Looks like it .
I am moving to London.
me: Oh , So what about the band???
Rajeev: Well I don't know. And anyway, there is nothing more to do here.
me: How do you mean man?
I love your band. And I know there are a gazillion others.
Rajeev: I know man. But you need to progress as a musician. There are no more good gigs, no more to do than what we have already done. And maybe going to London and trying from there may help.
me: Oh okay. Sounds great. I heard it only yesterday and was a little shocked. Anyways you rocked when you did :)
You are not getting married or something, are you?
Rajeev: *Laughs*
No man!
me: Okay!
Rajeev: Yeah man ... lets see if I can do something in London.
Know some musicians there.
me: Great! Wish you went there just for the music though. You aren't right? I know you are an MBA or something and working somewhere . * Laughs *
Great though ... Mick Jagger and all ... Nice place, eh?
Rajeev: *Laughs* No man ... An agency job.
But I have some musicians lined up and we gonna start a band.
me: Sooper . So Zeros breaking up or something?
Rajeev: I am leaving Zero .... If I come back , I may join them again. :)
me: Ok. All the best to you man.
Rajeev: Thanks man . You too.

Its funny how people who write songs give away so much about themselves in their songs. I am not sure if Rajeev composed PSP 12" but whoever did it is either a superb composer or one heck of a fantast!

P.S: What Me Zero.


Saturday, June 28, 2008

How to Lose Friends and Piss off People.

Tip # 5731.

Boy: Hi! One question. Could be stupid. Was looking at your snaps on Orkut. Do you wear pushups?

Girl: I don't wear pushups, asshole.

Boy: Ok.

We are friends - Past tense.
We were friends - Present tense.

This works entirely on the shock-unexpectancy factor. Choose your weapon depending upon your closeness to him / her.

Extras #1: If you are a guy, hey, how about a "pushup" question to your guy friend?

Tip # 5908.

Stare at your friend's lips while he / she is talking to you.

The beauty of this one is it could work wonders regardless of the gender of the person you are talking to. But then again, nothing like trying it on your best same-sex friend. You get? * wink wink *

Tip # 6014

Chat etiquette.
Go online, be online but never ever talk. Oh and if you are pressed to say something, we have a way around. Say it ( preferably in monosyllables ) exactly after 1 hour and 24 minutes and 43 buzzes, calls etc.
This works depending on your capacity to ignore.

There have been cases of people strangling chat windows.

Tip #6239

Fake. Its a talent and it can be practised to perfection.

Act like a fairy or ( for political correctness ) an angel. Let everyone feel that you are always at arms length. ( in the sky, looking down. * wink * )

P.S. : Curiously no amount of fakeness have known to effect anything in corporate environments. All I can add here is : it is worth studying, this fake-proofness.

Tip # 6498

Time to re-think.

Good relationships start at boundaries and you keep pushing it. Comme la mère et l'enfant. ( what a fucking fake, eh?) So if you are going steady in a friendly sort of relationship ( especially with people of the same gender ), something's wrong. Are you homo?

There are many more. It's only a matter of discovery.
You'll be surprised to find how easy it is to lose all your friends with these very practical tips.


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