Wednesday, December 14, 2005

how do you talk to a wall?

"Condom Machine sparks row in India"

I should have known. Sometimes you don't even need to wait to click the link to a news story to know this is something that is really REALLY going to piss you off. Now take this story which I got off Reuters; which talks about the opposition some Muslim groups have in Tamil Nadu against condom dispensing machines in the State. Why? Because they believe this will promote sex outside marriage. By the way, the party creating all the havoc calls itself the Muslim Progressive Party. Yeah, I really see how progressive they are.

India has over five million AIDS patients, second only to South Africa. I've been reading a lot on AIDS in India of late. Over the years I have to admit the Indian government has taken taken responsibility about the disease. I remember a time when we refused to admit we had a problem or release official numbers. (I don't know if we have accurate numbers now, but we're talking about it, and that IS something.) When you drive through Delhi now, you can see posters educating people about the nature of the disease- the radio is filled with programs as is the television. Clinton was talking about the work of his foundation in battling AIDS in various parts of the world on BBC. He mentioned that while India might have a large population that has contracted the disease, we also have a large army of doctors and nurses who have reached even the remotest of areas- something many other developing countries do not.

But at the same time, because of the sexual nature of the disease, it is so difficult to get people to look at it as a 'disease' in the first place. [I think the stigma somehow makes it seem that if you have AIDS you are clearly having yhr sort of sex you are not meant to be having.. homosexual, pre-marital, extra-marital... and God's punishing you.]Clearly the situation we face in the country at present is not good- but what annoys me so much is that while health workers, NGOs and (fortunately!!) the government is picking up the slack, you find some parties going on and on about morals and how we encourage our young to have sex if we actually talk about the fact that them having sex might result in them contracting a fatal disease for which there is no cure. And whats worse is that if these people are so passionate about this subject then one would imagine they have some knowledge of it.. and if they do, how the hell can they oppose these schemes that are aimed at prevention?! I can understand civilians (I'm distinguishing citizens not involved with this crisis from those that are) who have misgivings; thats what the awareness campaigns are there for, but people who speak with authority when they have none is so damaging.

I really believe there needs to be an overhaul of the education system in India. Not only at the elementary and high school level but we need some form of adult education that works. Knowing the way the average minds ticks in India, perhaps we could have Amitabh Bacchan play an AIDS victim... or the father of one. I bet that would do some good. They say know your audience. I'm really trying. There's no point in preaching to the converted, and I believe visual communication is one of the most effective ways. If you see something that you identify as non threatning, then perhaps you will come to accept it. Like putting a human face to people with AIDS-- but it needs to be accessible. If you tell someone they are going to watch an educational documentary about something they have condemned; chances are they will not want to. So info-tainment might be the best option for awareness in India. All these thoughts are stemming out of the incredible amount of reading I've been doing on development communication but I think this is a valid point.

Anyone?

Wednesday, December 07, 2005

arrested.... development?

For those of you who have never seen Fox's brilliant and absolutely hilarious sitcom- Arrested Development, I have to say, you are missing out on something. Really. In the US, over two seasons the show could not get over 4 million viewers. Fox has now cut down the third season to just 13 episodes, although it has told the producers that they can shop around to see if any new network would like to pick it up. Rumour has it that Showtime might just. Most of us blame Fox for not promoting the show in the manner it deserves, and we also blame people for not "getting" it because it does not spell out every single joke for the audience (no laugh tracks)... in fact, oh hell, PLEASE watch it. Its just brilliant.

Someone pointed out something about prefering watching the show on DVD rather than waiting for weekly episodes. In fact, Nielson viewer ratings don't take these factors into consideration. Do we need new ways to measure the audience? Take for instance how DVD sales of TV shows are climbing higher- I've pre-ordered season 2 on DVD myself (its not out in England yet). I'm taking a media economics class, and everyday we talk about convergence- what it means to the media industry- how the consumer has more choice--- pay per view- downloading off the internet (albeit illegal now)-- consumer trends are changing because of the rapid changes in choices. So for networks to cancel a show that actually has a very strong- but small TV base- but a large DVD audience--- is that smart? Joss Whedon was so sure that his show Firefly had an audience (although it was cancelled) that he made Serenity and the movie did fantastically well. Family Guy was taken off the air, and then brought back due to popular demand.

The way we consume television is rapidly changing. I don't have a TV on campus but I watch the news online- I stream BBC shows, I watch Daily Show clips. Tivo caught on because people do not want to be held hostage by a Friday night line-up. The consumer should be king; and with newer technology and better choices this is the fact now.

So, to sum up, if I were Fox, or any large network with a show that was immensely popular, critically hailed as the best TV comedy etc .. but my ratings were not adding up, I'd think twice about cancellation. The message is the medium isn't it? Well, we have more than one medium when it comes to commercial television, so why limit ourselves? A revolution in technology should now be followed by a revolution in programming. And anyway, whats the point in having a gazillion channels if they all show the same crap or re-runs of things we've seen before. Power to the people I say!

Saturday, November 26, 2005

what how what

I have this dream diary. Basically a few years ago, conversations with a friend of mine always started with "guess what i dreamt about last night".. so we decided to write down our dreams and then see if a pattern .. or anything emerged. I've written down some of my crazier dreams off and on for about four years now. I've figured out that if i dream of a tsunami/ flood/ natural disaster it means I'm stressed... and sometimes I don't even know something is bothering me till a tidal wave threatens to wipe out montreal- or something. I wish I could do some more research about the workings of the mind.. but I fear I will over analyse myself thereby not enjoying my dreams anymore.

So I never did get around to it because I started reading some great books and watched some interesting plays.. [btw, saw Kevin Spacey in Richard II tonight and Anthony Head in Otherwise Engaged on monday]. I've been meaning to sit down with my thoughts and post a blog for a while but its been so busy and rushed that I just haven't.

Anyway, I've been busy with developmental communications of late, working on my dissertation idea etc.. and I read this very interesting article that pointed out that most Hollywood movies coming out are 'conscience flicks' .. for example, The Constant Gardener targets corruption by Big Pharmaceuticals in Africa, Good Night, and Good Luck shows how Edward R. Murrow took a stand against McCarthyism and Syriana questions the cozy relationship between the West and an oil-producing Middle Eastern country. And as much as I like cheese on tv (case and point, I'm a fan of the OC, don't ask me why) the education of the American public is something I wholly support. Hey---- just watch Jaywalking, and then talk to me!!

More later, just wanted to check in.

Monday, November 14, 2005

If the blind could see...

I saw Mary Stuart at the Apollo on friday night. I'm a huge fan of Tudor history- well, I used to be in high school anyway, so I couldn't pass up watching this. The acting was simply brilliant. By all accounts I've always read about Mary, Queen of Scots, she;s portrayed as a weak woman who was influenced by the men around her which led to her misfortune. I guess this is also because most of the books I've read on the subject have been rather pro- Elizabeth I.

Anyway, this play does a brilliant job of showing us what both women were going through at the time when Elizabeth had to decide if she was going to give the Royal order to place Mary's head on the block. There is a electrifying scene between the two women where Mary totally loses her composer and tells Elizabeth off- she has been begging for mercy but perhaps she feels that it won't help, or she cannot beg for mercy at Elizabeth's feet being Royal herself, but she talks of how England changed her official religion four times under four seperate rulers, and that she deserves respect due to a queen, and that Elizabeth is a bastard!! Elizabeth of course is appalled as Mary tells her off in front of Leicester and co. and is quite shook up by the meeting. Leicester himself is shown as the weakest link- he cannot fight for Mary because he has not given up hope that Elizabeth might just marry him someday. But at the same time it is not love guiding him but cowardice and laziness.

The script is brilliant. As Elizabeth cleverly avoids an engagement with France, she says something like I will give this ring as a symbol that one day I might marry the King of France, but rings are funny things because that is what chains are made of! Its truly fantastic. There are jabs at the Catholic Church as well, Mortimer, who wants to rescue Mary tells her he has been to a priest who has forgiven him his past sins and absolved him of any sins to come. He then tells her he is ready to murder his uncle, her jailor, for the cause and as Mary looks agahst at the suggestion, he reminds her he has already been forgiven for sins to come! If only the blind could see.... and this brings me to another point--

Funny thing, I went to meet my brother yesterday and he's reading 'The Great Indian Novel' by Shashi Tharoor- its the Mahabharata retold but set during the time of Independance. (Talk about coincidence!!) Instead of the decay of the morals of the higher orders (the Brahmins and Kshatriyas) this one talks of the decay set in society at the end of the British Rule in India. I haven't read the book but he told me that Dhritarashtra, the blind King who lets his son's wreak havoc in the original is Pandit Nehru in the book and the author asks how different the story of India might have been if the blind man could see. Interesting!!

Friday, November 11, 2005

..losing my religion..

I did something today, which is most of out character, although why I did it is most IN character. As always, let me start with a little background: I picked up this book in the library called 'Myths to Live By' by Joseph Campbell a while ago. It’s a series of lectures that he gave. He talks about the relationship between science and religion. What seems to happen is that the more we believe in scientific explanations for things, the less we believe in religion. What he says is that sure that God didn't create the world in seven days and it was probably the Big Bang... but don't discount religion too easily. The stories that we hear as children, the myths perpetuated by society at large all have a reason- they serve as our moral compass. He goes onto find links between religions- rites, love, war, peace etc taking into account Christianity, Hinduism, Buddhism etc etc. This really reminds me of the things my mothers told me- she’s a lawyer/historian and she's always drawn parallels for us between the great religions of the world.

So back to what I did today. I started reading the Bhagavad Gita. Its a holy book for the Hindu's. According to the story, right before an epic battle broke out between two families, the Pandavas and the Kauravas- one of the Pandava's- Arjun- asked Lord Krishna why he should fight his cousins. What point is there in winning a war, which would result in the death of not only his cousins but many revered intellectuals and great warriors. Krishna speech to him about the duty Arjun has to perform- and how mortal death cannot destroy their souls is already famous. I know the gist of it but I'm re-reading it to refresh my memory.

After dinner, we sat around the table and Roshni (one of my Indian flatmates) and I started telling Anna (one of the Greek girls) stories from the Ramayana and the Mahabharata. As we told her more and more stories, I started really enjoying going through them again. Anna wondered how we could remember such details- these stories span generations and are a curious mix of fantasy, incidents that might actually be factual and moral code. While we treat most of the leading characters as "divine" yet the stories portray them as very human. Ram distrusts his wife, thereby insulting her and being a bad husband, and she leaves him. He might have been considered a God but he is victim to the prejudices of his caste and does not let a man from the lower caste pray to God as was the custom of the time. The Pandavas lose their wife in a gambling game with their cousins and watch helplessly as the evil cousins try and disrobe her in court, but Krishna comes to her rescue. I could go on and on. We told Anna that besides having heard these stories from our grandmothers (etc) and learning some in school, the fact that Doordarshan (the Indian Public Service Broadcaster) serialized them into a fantastic Sunday morning show has left them imprinted in our memories. You even find comic books of the stories, called Amar Chitra Katha. For children, visual imprints help keep them fresh in our minds.

The Ramayana and Mahabharata no longer come on TV in India. I'm not sure how popular these comics are with the younger Cartoon Network generation. The very thought made me sad and brought me back to Campbell's books. I know these tales are not fact, although historians and archeologists have discovered old ruins etc that correspond with some of the tales. But the thought that perhaps my children would not know these made me very sad. Fairytales and mythologies are so important that we take them for granted. So granted that perhaps one day they will be lost.

They also allow you to debate what is 'right'. Authority is always in danger of arrogance. However, these old Indian mythologies do not try and be the definitive authorities and even when they give an opinion as fact, this is after characters in the stories have raised serious objections and argued about them. Amartya Sen's latest book talks of this quality that captures the essence of being Indian. We all know that India is a rich culture, one that has imbibed much from the various religions we have in our country. His book is called the 'Argumentative Indian'. I went for the book release in New Delhi where one man got up and said to Dr. Sen "I don't see why you called this book the Argumentative Indian, why not the Curious Indian or the Questioning Indian?" Dr Sen smiled and told him "I think you've answered your own question!"

In the end, my point- and I am not a religious person at all- but I do have "faith" (just not in organized religion)-- is that I can boast that I have these opinions because I have listened, learned and evaluated. The loss of religion would lead to a black and white society--- and the excessive dependence on it also, ironically, leads to a black and white society. My only hope is that people can understand the myth behind religion and form opinions taking from them- and not take myth for science (or "law").

I've heard that most bloggers only write their blogs and don't bother reading other blogs much. I hope this is not true because I'd love to hear what someone else thinks of my opinions. And that’s what they are -opinions- so lets not have a bitch fest please!

Tuesday, November 08, 2005

As the world turns....

I had a very interesting conversation at the dinner table today, made me think about a lot of things. Two of my flatmates are greek, and there was another Indian girl with us. We started with a little Bush bashing. Well, let me give some background. I was listening to Talking Points (BBC) - and there were a lot of callers from all over the world giving their view about Bush and Iraq et al. Now, I'm very used to the anti-Bush brigade, having been a part of them for ages. But what I am really curious about are the pro-Bush supporters. Because, I want someone to convince me that I'm not seeing the whole picture. It takes me back to what it must have been like when Reagan started his anti-communism campaign and I'm sure people protested then, but isn't democracy the best form of government? Even if we have to fight hard to establish it? Now, I don't think Bush is a visionary but I do like to think of a bigger picture. Sure, he's got some twisted reasons for going into Iraq, and sure, Iraq is a big mess at the moment. But, if it does spark the desire for freedom in the Middle East, is it not a good thing?

We started talking about terrorism and how the world changed. I was telling the girls that I believe more than just that 9/11 happened in New York (a city I am deeply fond of) the point is that for the first time we saw a terrorist attack- from start to finish- happen in real life, real time.. and the entire world could witness the destruction. That changed everything. I'm studying the media, and indeed visual images are far more powerful than the written word. My earliar post was about this too- what I felt when I saw the BBC documentary about events that I had only read about.

We went on to discuss civilizations, because at the end of the day, America might be a world power but an old power it is not. Its only been on the top of its game for 40 years. Talking to Greeks and Indians (including myself) .. after all, we boast of ancient civilizations. We began to discuss how Iraq was invaded and that itself makes it wrong- not my rubbish about "but what if the fallout is good?" We talked about how the Americans leave things in a mess- Vietnam, Afghanishtan, South America, Iraq... and went on to talk about how the British Empire operated. The Greeks seemed to hate the British far more than we did; it confirms my theory- that the main reason we do not hate the Brits is because we got freedom in peace (props to Gandhi) and ultimately that allows you to let go of your anger because the violence is that much pre-dated. But the partition between India and Pakistan was so horrific that we cannot make peace to this day. [I said something like it reminds me of two girls and a guy, invariably the girls hate eachother but both still seem okay with the guy... it did get a giggle out of them!]

The Brits just had diplomacy in their blood- they - and aren't they a tiny little island- ruled the world. But they knew how to get into the blood of the people .. they knew how to make alliances with those in power so as to keep subjecting the weak. They knew how to stab you in the back while smiling in your face. The Americans just cannot compare. This in turn led us to discuss how the British have such old artifacts that belong to all our countries but do not give it back. I suppose thats their history- as conquerers, but it takes away ours. I said that I definately want all the Indian stuff back but a little part of me is happy the British have had so many jewels, paintings etc because they have taken such good care of it- something we would not have done in India. Not everyone appreciates history in the same way, case and point, the Taliban and the Buddha stuff... (Bamiyan.. I can't remember right now, sorry) and the Greeks told me of what the Turks did to their church .. Sophia was it? I'll edit ths later, its quite late.
In the end, its all about how the world turns, and I agreed that if history just went the way it was 'meant' to go, with no aggression and no domination, we just wouldn't be the same planet. This is why I never understand.. with so much happening and so much that HAS happened in our world, how do people find history boring? Why don't they put on the news? Its far more racy than any soap opera can aspire to be..

Saturday, October 29, 2005

Surprise? Not so surprising after all...

I read about Iran's comments in the papers, but I didn't really add much importance to it. The countries have been at eachothers throats for years, knowing their history, and Iran's constant insistance that it only has nuclear power for non violent purposes. I'd written a paper in college about how the US and Iran have had a terrible foreign policy because of a series of misgivings. I'm simplifying it right now, but anyway after learning of all the chaos around the comments- the leaders denouncing it et al, I read this on the BBC website:

Added: Friday, 28 October, 2005, 11:15 GMT 12:15 UK
These comments from a democratically elected leader are causing outrage. I am not so sure why as they are representative of the feelings of frustration and anger generated in the Muslim world by the actions and inactions of the west. It just shows how unaware western leaders are of Muslim attitudes. This comment should not be so surprising. Just imagine how Syrians, Iranians, Iraqis, North Koreans etc feel when Bush makes similar remarks.
Anand Reddy, London

The West does seem to forget the passion and hatred that has engulfed the middle east for decades, looking at it from one point of view- theirs. I hope more people can keep an objective mind.

Delhi was bombed today as well. Diwali is coming up and the shops were busy. No one has taken responsibilty. I hope these attacks had nothing to do with our recent nuclear power deal with the US. Pakistan is in too much of a bad place to be involved, and I doubt they'd hit Delhi. Even they aren't that crazy.

Thursday, October 27, 2005

House of Cards

Thanks for those who read my blog!! :)

Someone said something to me yesterday that made me think a whole lot- we were talking about how President Bush sent the army to New Orleans because of Katrina. She said that if there had been a disaster in Britain and the army had been sent, one would expect them to be the ones picking up the broken pieces and helping salvage and rebuild. I thought about it, and its true. In other countries, like India, if the army is sent in to a disaster area, its because there is total faith that the army chaps can help out. But in the US, as she pointed out, images were daunting. You had the army in their super tankers or what have you-- holding guns, parading around town. They had guns pointed at people who had just suffered a terrible tragedy. And the images were just scary. It hadn't really occured to me; but now I can't stop thinking about it.

Anyway, the other day I needed to out this clock of mine in storage, and I came accross something I'd written when I was high school. So this is quite old; but I still enjoyed reading it. Its sort of the profile of a stalker. Its pretty creepy I thought, but I am still happy with the way I wrote it. So I thought I'd share it.


I watch.

Years of perfected movements have taught me to sit still and observe. I see his car pull up at his driveway. The driver gets out, and after a few moments his door bangs shut. The door of his house opens, his wife comes out to welcome him. It is only after a few hours that the lights of the house are switched off and I leave.

I wait.

He is all that I was. All that I lost. All that I want to regain. His world is now a desire that burns inside me. For me, timing is everything. They say, strike when the iron is hot. So I wait.

House of Cards.

I count on his vunerability. They say he exploited mine. The way he took possession of my world, and then left me. So ruthlessly. Now I sit and anticipate. One small blow and the house of cards will fall.

Defeat.

It never happens. I am destroyed. I am defeated. His is a world that I cannot touch. I cannot chase it any longer,it a mirage that is unattainable. So I resign myself to watching his daily routine. That is how I feed my impatience. Till the day the coward in me dies.

Monday, October 24, 2005

its a small world after all..

Well, I did spend the day leafing through books for an upcoming presentation.. but later on I decided to watch this BBC documentary on the 50 years of TV News. Then I played around with Picasa. [Might post some pictures here if I can find the button]
The BBC documentary was really moving. There were enough world events that I'd studied about but had never seen footage of. I was actually suprised that I had never actually seen Sadat address the Knessnet or ... Even the wars...The way they changed with bigger and bigger machines. And just the way we see people now. It was a lot to digest in an hour and a half but I'd suggest everyone watch it. Especially when you go through WWII to the Vietnam war, to South Africa and Apartheid, IRA-- footage of Bloody Sunday, Ethiopia, India and Pakistan.. September 11th, the Madrid bombings....I teared up at the events from the past decade because they affected me .. and it just felt like all we ever do is kill each other...

Anyway, in other news, thanks to the weekend.. and quite the entertaining weekend it was... I haven't seen my cat [my? cat] ..

Thursday, October 20, 2005

Think I've been adopted.


I live on campus. About ten days ago I came home really late, about 5am- and I found the cat- that belongs to the residence hanging about my door. He followed me home and plonked on my bed and fell asleep. I'm used to having cats- and having cats sleep on my bed, so I let him. I think he's adopted me. Whenever he wants, he waits for me, has a nap on my bed and goes meow at the door when he wants to leave. He's really fat too. Tomcat. Well he's really Tom. But I like calling him cat.

Wednesday, October 19, 2005

Baby steps..

I'm not new to reading blogs.. but am new to writing them. I've been filling out online applications.. well, HALF filling them out since some of them just annoy me. They give you choices, but sometimes they don't even apply to you---but you HAVE to choose an option. The last one asked me what service provider I had for my mobile. It gave me orange, O2 and two others. I'm on 3. But no, had to choose one of them. Exasperated I needed to vent and I arrived here. I promise to be a little more positive when I write next.

Well, here's to the internet! Cheers!