Sunday, November 28, 2010

Baby, you're a rich man

Just as David Fincher's masterpiece The Social Network is about to end, Jesse Eisenberg who plays Facebook co-founder Mark Zuckerberg, is seen making a last ditch attempt at sending a friend request to a girl who once dumped him. He continues to refresh the page to see whether she has accepted. Meanwhile, the subtitles state the post script of the film - what eventually happened to the characters involved in the lawsuit. And as the camera zooms closer to Zuckerberg's face, it finally rests close to him as the final subtitle states that he is the youngest billionaire in the world.

What makes this entire sequence top notch, is the addition of The Beatles' Baby you're a rich man in the background score. The lyrics are apt and the music, just perfect for a scene of this nature.

In this post, I reproduce the lyrics. Read them and mull over Zuckerberg's state of mind at the end of the film.

Baby, you're a rich man - The Beatles

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Now that you know who you are
What do you want to be?

And have you travelled very far?
Far as the eye can see.
How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?

How often have you been there?
Often enough to know.
What did you see, when you were there?
Nothing that doesn't show.

Baby you're a rich man,
Baby you're a rich man,
Baby you're a rich man too.

You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo.
What a thing to do.

Baby you're a rich man,
Baby you're a rich man,
Baby you're a rich man too.

How does it feel to be
One of the beautiful people?
Tuned to a natural E
Happy to be that way.
Now that you've found another key
What are you going to play?

Baby you're a rich man,
Baby you're a rich man,
Baby you're a rich man too.

You keep all your money in a big brown bag inside a zoo.
What a thing to do.

Baby you're a rich man...

Thursday, November 25, 2010

How to get your dad to buy you laptop

I pore over the screen of my netbook. My dad, the only other person in the room, realizes what a terrible mistake he's made by buying me one.

"The fonts appear so small," he says. "You'll strain your eyes, if you sit for long hours in front of the netbook."

I shrug and carry on with my work. I enjoy the comfort and coziness that a netbook offers. It is light in weight, has longer battery life (compared to a laptop) and once you stash it's hard disk with movies, songs and e-books, you feel like taking a vacation.

But my father is not impressed. He continues looking into the netbook screen, from over my shoulder. "I should have seen this coming. You'd get addicted to this device and its small fonts are going to ruin your eyesight."

Annoyed, I snap at him: "So what do we do? Are you going to buy me a laptop?"

"Yes," he says.

\m/ :)

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

#barkhagate: Protests in 140 characters leave no space for grey areas

Barkha Dutt, one of the icons of Indian news television, has spent a generous part of the last few days, patiently replying to tweets, many of which express their loss of faith in her, and are demanding answers for her involvement in a controversial expose.

Her active presence on Twitter, has ensured that all ire is directed straight at her and she cannot dodge any of it. Search for '#barkhagate' on Twitter, and you sense that Twitter users, bloggers are baying for her blood, questioning her ethics and demanding her resignation.

Her reply to each tweet is calm and calculated. Like this one: "Ethics should be measured by coverage of issues. Diplomatic friendliness to get information from a source is very different. To get news one speaks to all kinds of people, dirty or clean, if they are a source of real time updates. That is not a crime."

But Twitter is a rather merciless place. Rohan Babu, head of social media at digital agency Media2Win says, "Once Twitter users take a stand against someone, the negative publicity can spread virally to all other media in a short span of time. Let's see how long protests in #barkhagate last. We're living in times where one controversy is only waiting to be suppressed by another."

Shubho Sengupta, head of digital media at Rediffusion Y&R agrees and says that #barkhagate is not going to affect her in the long run. "By replying to tweets, I think Barkha is handling the issue very intelligently and she should continue the discussions. But most tweets are very impulsive rants or attacks against her, they aren’t asking her the right questions."

How will they? Most users of Twitter are probably unaware of the lengths journalists have to go to, the shoulders they rub, the relationships they build, to bring their viewers fresh news everyday. After all, exclusive interviews don’t just walk into your studio. For many, the printed word in a newspaper is sacrosanct, coming from journalists who have access to 'the truth'.

Veteran media critic, V Gangadhar says, "This controversy has shown that the media is not so sacrosanct after all." He adds, "For long, the Letters to the Editor was the only section where you could complain about an erroneous report, or give feedback. Social media has changed all that, since criticism happens on public fora."

The controversy over paid news, the relentless play of the ‘breaking news’ on Hindi news channels and the coverage of the 26/11 terror attacks are only some of the instances where the media has come under sharp criticism.

Which is why, since the last few years, the growing adoption of new media - blogs, citizen journalism websites and Twitter - has thrown open a parallel source of news, not dependant entirely on journalists. It's a rather crucial phase in the history of journalism, when the media's reputation of having the final word is being challenged.

"I think #barkhgate has given people legitimate grounds to question the neutrality of the mainstream media," says Santosh Desai, CEO, Future Brands. "The blackout of reporting on the scandal by major newspapers and news channels, was the biggest reason that angered social media users."

But there is also criticism of the kind of debate that new media is generating. Gangadhar describes it as 'very Right-wing, unbalanced and extreme'. "In general, audiences and readers expect journalists to be all righteous creatures, black and white; they haven't been able to accept them in shades of grey. "

Desai says that people must read every issue with some sort of sensitivity and maturity of the context in which it took place. "#barkhagate hasn’t grasped that issue with a certain sensitivity required, or crafted it like a debate. Rather it is more of a personalized attack."

Still, social media is the true manifestation of a ‘free press’, says Shishir Joshi, former journalist and founder, Journalism Mentor Foundation for Excellence in Journalism. "Media organizations with dotted connections across businesses often find it tough to carry stories such as the allegedly grey role senior journalists have played in the spectrum drama. Social media, thus offers them an option of carrying these (by quoting the 'tsunami of buzz in the web world') and yet, not hurting relationships (which has been the case currently)."

In a way, it is hoped that the current backlash against mainstream media can only help journalists pull up their socks and be more accountable and accessible, because a certain Big Brother – the audience - is watching. "A free press is the strength of a vibrant democracy. We must admire its strength and be wary of its weakness (absence of control). Let us be skeptical, not cynical," says Joshi.

(An edited version of the above piece appeared in Daily News Analysis (DNA), Mumbai on 24 November.)

Image courtesy: Satish Acharya, Mid-Day

Monday, November 15, 2010

Ever tasted Izzat Ka Falooda?

There are certain terms in Hindi language that continue to amaze me. Mere expressions have been converted into delicacies, recipes that we would never try out.

For example, whoever invented the phrase 'Izzat ka falooda'.

Izzat in English, translates to synonyms such as respect, stature and image - all of which are shredded to bits thanks to the Hindi language which makes a delicacy out of it. That too, not a spicy or obnoxious or salty one, but a dessert! We're talking about falooda here, something which is made with a mixture of all things good - nuts, raisins, ice cream, vermicelli, cream, kheer and lots more, depending on how rich it can get. Basically, the term falooda conjures up images of all things so delicious, something we so lovingly indulge in from roadside vendors which nams like Gupta Ice Cream or Mewad Ice Cream. Yet the term izzat ka falooda suddenly has all the trappings of all things regressive.

Think about it. Film titles! Mango Ka Falooda could have been a nice Sanjeev Kapur recipe, Ishq Ka Falooda could have been a typical Farah Khan entertainer, but Izzat Ka Falooda is so, so David Dhawan.

Incidentally, it was Dhawan's film which coined the term Ande ka funda, which at least to me, has produced no 'Funda'mentals. An egg is white and yellow inside - the only fundas I know about it are that it is prone to mood swings, depending on how its cooked. Boiled (calm, soft), omlette (pissed, diseased), sunny side up (smiley and happy).

The story doesn't end here. What's a good Indian meal without some curd? Enter another Hindi language coinage - 'Dimaag Ka Dahi'. It's like giving a fatwa to dahi, which has always cooled tempers inside the confines of our belly.

When you say, "Mere dimaag ka dahi mat kar!" it means you're saying, 'Don't fuck my brain, ok?'

Fuck and dahi (curd) can be strange bedfellows. Come to think of it, a curd churned out of flesh from your brain could be disgusting, but I'm sure that guy who anchors Man versus Wild on Discovery Channel, will find still find some intelligent things to say about it, such as, "This is very rich in proteins! Brain curd is actually great for enhancing your memory. Like upping your 200 GB hard disk to a 400GB one!"

Dear Hindi, oh Hindi...what other culinary items have you prepared for us?