The Carnival of Idiots

June 30, 2006

Attention all people who are going to go up in arms over the Sabarimala issue:

If your belief system is so accomodating that you’re comfortable with a god who was born  out of the union of two other gods (one of whom was cross dressing), then how difficult is it to make a further leap of faith? Once you’ve started believing in gods, believing that one of them will be defiled if he sees a woman is easy.

The Master Also Wrote

June 29, 2006

‘Thank you, sir,’ said the girl.

For what she was thanking him, his lordship was not able to gather. Later, as their acquaintance ripened, he was to discover that this strange gratitude was a habit with his new friend. She thanked everybody for everything.

(Lord Emsworth and the Girl Friend)

Free Trade in Landing Rights

June 29, 2006

For this reason, I am going to attempt to explain it. This is going to be rather nerdy. If Transport Blog still existed, it would be a fine post for that blog. However, it does not, so I will do it here.

The post linked to above is simply and lucidly written, and comes up with a solution to a problem. If that’s being nerdy, then we need more nerds around.

Self Contradictory Advertising

June 29, 2006

I saw these three advertisements (for advertisement space- how recursive can you get?) at the Rajiv Chowk Connaught Place station of the Delhi Metro.




Basically the funda is that each of the ads shows somebody with their eyes blocked- by cucumbers, hair or a bucket and claims that’s the only way someone will miss that ad space- and by implication, advertisers should run out and buy it.

But if there are three separate ways to miss the ad, then they can’t each be the only way. Woreshtax.

Indie Rock and Homeopathy

June 26, 2006

This comic strip reminds me of homeopathy: just as homeopathic medicines are supposedly most effective when they’re infinitely diluted, indie bands are most credible when they’re infinitely unknown.

While we’re on the two subjects, Questionable Content has become one of my favourite comic strips, and I strongly recommend you go read it right from the beginning. And where homeopathy is concerned, this article by Professor Richard Dawkins is excellent reading. Of course I recommend you read that too.

The Best Photo I’ve Ever Taken

June 26, 2006

Time To Begin Work

Thanks to a little experimentation (maximum optical zoom, macro closeup enabled, exposure down to -0.7) and a lot of luck. This one came out all right, but I had to discard ten shots.

If you’ve got the bandwidth, do click the photo and then see the original size as well. You’ll get a stunning view of the pollen sacs on her back legs.


June 26, 2006

I have no clue about how football works, beyond a vague idea that you have to kick a ball into a goal, with the annoying restriction that this only counts for one goal. However, I am getting into the spirit of the thing and supporting Ghana. My brother has offered me 10-1 for the Brazil match, and I have bet 50 Singapore dollars.

Yes, yes, Brazil is supposed to be a good footbal team, and Ghana are supposed to be not as good, but I wouldn’t know about that. On the other hand, Ghana’s supporters are big fat jolly black men who sing and dance, while Brazil’s fans are women with big bosoms. You can’t trust them.

Gloomy Bongs and Boisterous Tams

June 16, 2006

I’ve made a long-overdue start on Indian language fiction. I’ve finished three of the five Ponniyin Selvan books (in English translation), read Parineeta (again in translation), and am currently reading Premchand’s Nirmala (in the original).

The interesting thing about Parineeta is how different the original book is from the movie. In the book, the hero doesn’t flout parental authority and break down the boundary wall. What actually happens is that the girl’s uncle dies and then the guy’s father dies. Immensely received that he doesn’t have to face the prospect of his father’s wrath, the guy goes and tells his mother that he likes the girl. The mother is delighted. This is the end result of twelve chapters in which everyone suffers from inner conflict and sulks, but does nothing about it. The Bongness of the whole situation is overwhelming.

As for Premchand, a mere two chapters show why he is compared to the Great Russians in the little biography that precedes the book itself. All his characters are miserable people, tramelled upon by an uncaring world. I wouldn’t go so far to say that Nirmala is ‘a grey study of hopeless misery, where nothing happens until page three hundred and eighty, when the moujik decides to commit suicide’, but when an author begins a chapter with ‘विधवा का विलाप और अनाथों का रोना सुनाकर हम पाठकों का दिल दुखाएंगं’1, you begin to get the feeling that here is someone who firmly believes that the brighter side of life does not belong on the printed page.

Ponniyin Selvan could not be a greater contrast. I does not tackle burning societal issues the way Parineeta (bourgeois conformity) and Nirmala (dowry) do, unless of course you consider the royal succession of the Chozha empire a burning societal issue. The characters in Ponniyin Selvan may be evil schemers at worst, but they are cheerful evil schemers. And compared to the characters of Nirmala and Parineeta, who mostly sit around in gloom while bad things happen to them, they are hives of activity- escaping through secret tunnels, thirsting for Veera Vaishnavite blood, making sea crosses to Sri Lanka, falling in love with princesses… the list goes on.

This is easy to explai, of course. An author living in Madras, with all it entails- cheap accomodation, tasty grub, bajjis at Bessie beach and South Indians as far as the eye can see- cannot help being cheerful. It spills over into his characters. On the other hand, someone from Bongland or HTland, determined to draw a realistic portrait of life will find nothing to portray realistically except social evils and gloom. It’s just the way it is.
1: This roughly translates to ‘The author shall now make the readers’ hearts ache by relating to them the lamentations of (the) widow and the weeping of orphans’. It sounds even more depressing in the original Hindi.

Tank Boy

June 12, 2006

Interesting learning: the import duty on motorcycles is 105%, 135% on cars, but zero on tanks.

Damn. Now I want a tank. Fortunately, the internet is a wild and wonderful thing, and it turns out that these people have tanks for sale.

But they only have Czech manufactured Soviet tanks. What a shame. I would have liked a Panzer IV.

How to Encourage Corruption

June 12, 2006

It seems that people try to evade stamp duty (a tax imposed on the sale or transfer of real estate) by reporting a low price on the invoice and then paying the rest in cash. The Delhi government’s brilliant idea to solve this problem and get all the tax it’s missing out on has been to fix a minimum price on all real estate. (Incidentally, I am stunned that the Slimes of India, which broke this story did not come up with a pun involving price floors and floor areas. It just goes to show you that there is hope in this world. Or more depressingly and more likely, that the SOI staff doesn’t know enough economics to know what a price floor is.)
Anyway, I can’t see how this will remove corruption. For existing areas, it will of course only reduce corruption. People will be forced to pay at least the price floor on the invoice, but will still make up the rest in cash. But that’s for existing areas.

In the long run, this will of course increase corruption. Real estate developers who are coming up with new neighbourhoods will be bribing local officials to get their neighbourhood classified as a particular class- either upwards or downwards, depending on what they think the market will take. Whenever rates have to be adjusted to account for inflation or changes in market conditions, builder and landlord lobbies will swing into action to get the rates fixed.

We’ve already seen the effect of sixty years of a price ceiling in Bombay. Do we really need a price floor in Delhi?