Category Archives: Lame

Americans to become Soccer fans for Exact Duration of Team USA Matches

With the start of the soccer world cup, the small fraction of the American population who are even remotely aware of the sport’s existence, appear to be showing a passing interest in the proceedings. Most of them have decided to become soccer fans and to actually give a shit about the sport for the exact duration of Team USA matches.

Sport Bars to be crowded from Kick-off to Final Whistle of Team USA matches only

Sport bars across the country have subscribed to the Team USA World Cup Special on their respective Cable TV providers. The special package allows the bars to show the broadcast of Team USA matches only. The broadcast starts exactly at kick-off and ends exactly at the final whistle. The advertisement for that special package explained that the time between kickoff and final whistle in Team USA matches is pretty much the exact duration when any American would even give a shit about the sport. It also said that it would cover the final celebrations only if USA won the World cup.

“Apparently this is something big. I think USA is playing. So I guess I will watch our matches,” said Tim, who learnt about the existence of this sport last year when his European college roommate was playing FIFA on his computer. When asked about other countries’ matches, he replied, “Oh I was not aware that there were other teams playing in this tournament. Maybe I will read up on the teams and the results online after the World cup.”

There appears to be no shortage of support for Team USA. There were reports that people who ‘would rather watch reruns of College football from 10 years ago’ were also supporting the USMNT.

“Go Team USA! We are the best! Wait…does it mean I have to actually watch this match? What sport is this? Why is this called football? Why is he playing the ball with his foot all the time?” wondered Bob, a truck driver from Wisconsin.

But what would happen if USA were to win the World Cup? To this, Pete, a NY Yankees fan replied, “First of all I do not understand this tournament. If this is a World Cup, why do they have different countries playing each other? Is this the Olympics? Why can’t they just have a bunch of city based teams in a country play other city teams in their own country and the winners crown themselves World Champions? That’s the way it is in the US of A! This World Cup is just a waste of time.”

 

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Americans unable to communicate verbally after Congress bans use of the word ‘Like’

In a bizarre turn of events, young Americans under the age of 35 all over the country have stopped talking to each other after Congress accidentally passed a new law that banned the use of the word ‘Like’ – the most widely used word by Americans. The word ‘Like’ has been in popular usage not as a verb or a conjunction, but as a filler that is used in between ANY two words in any sentence in a role of complete redundancy that serves absolutely no purpose. However, in spite of it not serving any purpose, young Americans have shown a very strong affinity to throw in as many ‘Likes’ as possible while talking to each other. Now all this has been banned under the new law which took effect last week.

No more Likes allowed

Now anyone using the word ‘Like’ in a redundant manner while talking will first receive two warnings. A third offence will invite a fine and more than 10 offences will make it mandatory for the culprit to take English classes demonstrating the redundancy of the word in regular grammar. As part of the law, employers will also be able to check how many offences any job applicant has to their name before hiring.

All this has not gone down well with Americans for whom the word ‘Like’ is fundamental to the successful construction of a sentence. A normal sentence such as:

After a long working day, he said, “I am feeling really tired and want to go home”

has always been spoken out as

After, like, a long, like, working day, he is like “I am, like, feeling really, like, tired, and want to, like, go, like home”

Young Americans have regularly demonstrated their inability to speak more than 2 sentences without using their favorite word. Linda, an American teenager, spent tremendous amounts of energy to focus and avoid using the word LIKE in order to tell us how she felt about the new law.

“I ….. don’t know …… what I’ll …..do……My friends…..cannot …..talk to ….each other anymore. I guess…I’ll have to….text them if I ….want to ….. say anything.”

This appears to be the ready made alternative to this new law. Teenage girls in America have always communicated with each other via text messages even when they are with each other, so this has become the go-to option for them.

Like here, like there, like everywhere

Following this new law, demands for speech therapists has increased astronomically. John, a New York based speech therapist, had this to say about the new law and its impacts:

“This has always been an epidemic. It is not just Americans who have been affected with this disability. All immigrants who have stayed in the country long enough and interacted with other Americans on a regular basis have shown growing symptoms of this condition. So, I believe this really is an epidemic that keeps spreading and affects even those who speak without using redundant words.”

Some young folks have tried to protest the law by shouting slogans in front of the White House. But almost inevitably, their slogan shouting included the redundant use of the word LIKE (e.g. “We, like, like our like, right, to use, like, whatever, we like, like, when, we like, speak to , like, each other!”) and were subsequently slapped with a hefty fine and asked to enroll in English classes.

Guest speculators on the official Republican Speculation Channel Fox News have laid the blame squarely on Obamacare. Their Democratic counterparts on the Democratic Speculation Channel MSNBC have, as expected, blamed the existence of the Republican party for the consequences of the new law.

The international media, on the other hand, were perplexed about why anyone would be using the word LIKE in this manner in the first place. Most English speaking countries just failed to understand the idea of a spoken sentence such as

Like, I’m, like, very irritated to know, like, I, like, cannot even, like, talk to, like, my own, like, friends, like how I, like, want to. 

Most English speaking people outside America said that by the time they heard the full sentence, they could not remember what it meant.

The Benefits of a Biased Media

One of the things that has truly fascinated me after me coming to the USA has been the state of the mainstream media in the US.

For one, it is downright pathetic and despicable. News has been conveniently and deliberately replaced by a toxic amalgam of speculation, sensationalism, hype, exaggeration, “expert opinion”, and dramatized debates – all aimed at providing no useful information or perspectives. I have personally come across very few instances of actual news reporting over the past couple of years among American news channels.

Secondly, and perhaps, more significantly, almost every single news channel in the USA is, simply put, biased. It is either Left or Right. But, to me, what appears to be the real talking point  is that there is barely any effort made by the news channels to try to dispel the general impression of bias among the viewers. Yes there have been a few statements released by the channels and a few of them may even have something indicating no bias in their slogans. But these efforts appear to be nothing more than rhetoric. It is a way of saying : “We will say we are unbiased just because we are required to, but you the viewer already knows better.”

Unbalanced and not hiding it.

My intention here is not to expose the obvious fallacies in a biased media. It has been well documented and a google search will provide ample references to read through. Instead, I intend to explore the contrast I have seen with the biased media back in India. In fact, after due contemplation, I have come to realize and appreciate the NEED for a biased media.

Back in India, the story isn’t that different from the first point I mentioned earlier. It is equally pathetic and despicable and checks all the boxes of the toxic amalgam. It is also heavily biased. But where the Indian and American mainstream media differ, is that ALL the news channels in India are biased towards only one political party.

Just a quick summary of the current political scenario in India. The ruling party is the Congress (with its allies) and the main opposition party is the BJP (with its allies). The Congress party has historically dominated the elections and they have been in power for the past 7 years now. They are also extremely corrupt. The opposition party has had its own fair share of troubles from within and is now looking to challenge the upcoming 2014 elections with a popular and charismatic new leader in one Narendra Modi.

The mainstream media (both print and TV) have almost without exception stuck behind the ruling Congress party through all its scandals, failed economic policies and the impotent Prime Minister. News items are routinely twisted to portray the Congress in favorable light to the public. Questions are repeatedly asked of the BJP and its allies while no similar inquiry is made into the Congress. This process has been going on for a while now. So much so, it has become the norm of any news channel.

In such a situation, I have always looked at the US model of mainstream media – and its bias. If the Republican party leaders say something totally ridiculous (which appears to happen every other day nowadays), MSNBC will eat those Senators or Congressmen alive on Live television. Whenever a scandal breaks open for the Obama administration (which also appears to happen every other day nowadays), Fox News is right there to keep pounding on the issue till….well…the next scandal breaks out.

Ultimately, there is no letting up for either party. A Congressman can have some media outlets putting out a story in his/her favor but there is no stopping a bunch of other media outlets who will keep harping away at his/her story until something bigger comes up.

Now here is where the contrast becomes very evident. In a country where the entire news media favors one single party, the scales are already tilted. The solution to this does not involve in getting the existing news channels and print media to become unbiased. Instead, the balance in the scales can only be achieved by throwing an equal weight on the empty scale.

The subtleties and fine details of any bill, legislation, scandal, breakthrough or victory is best revealed through a critique. That is an observation I have repeatedly seen to be true. And simply put, there is just not enough air time for a news channel to critique/analyze BOTH sides of the story on any news item – definitely not when the priority is the previously mentioned toxic amalgam. In such a situation, the only solution is to create two extremes and allowing them to balance out the scales to the best of their abilities. This allows for both points of view to be presented in full and anybody who wishes to hear both sides of the story will have their needs met.

The downside of this proposition is the obvious. The general population may already have certain beliefs and opinions that are usually in agreement with one or the other political party. This inevitably leads them to watch the news channel that serves their bias. Because you see, when people watch news, they are not looking for information. They are looking for confirmation. This then becomes a classic case of confirmation bias – a perfect platform to reinforce already existing beliefs and opinions. So for instance, as time passes by, it will become increasingly difficult for a liberal to get himself to watch Fox News to see the other side of the argument.

Not to say that this isn’t already happening in the US. But the crux of my argument is that the alternative – a balanced and unbiased media –  is just not a reasonable expectation. If this is acknowledged, then the only other option that would balance the scales is having a fully biased media – with certain media outlets catering to one side of the story and another catering to the other side of the story.

When IT Happens…..

Warning: This post contains stuff which may not exactly be kids’ material. I guess I am crossing a line here. But you decide that. You may also want to read this before you read further. And just so everyone knows, I am NOT married. 

Neeraj began to reflect on his life so far. 28 years. That was how long it had taken him to get to where he was right now. He knew that number was far less in other countries. In a few moments time, it would begin. He thought about all the times he had fantasized this very moment. About what he would do. About whom he would be with. And there he was. His marriage had taken place a few hours earlier. This was his First Night.

It had been about 3 months since he said Yes to his parents regarding the girl. And now he was waiting for her. He had no idea when she was expected to enter the room, carrying that clichéd glass of milk in her hands. So he just sat there and looked at himself in the mirror. Donning a dhothi and a shirt purchased specifically for this occasion, he was told by his friends that he was looking smart. One of them had even gone further and told him that he was looking sexy. It had made him blush. But that was then. Right now, looking at himself in the mirror, it was hard to miss the nervousness in his eyes, and he immediately looked away. All the short time that he had been waiting, there were a million thoughts that had gone through his head.

This was definitely NOT the way his fantasies had panned out. Excitement, desire, lust, love and satisfaction –  these had made their presence felt in his fantasies in varying degrees. But right now, in that room, he could only sense them on the periphery of his emotion. He tried to deny it, but he knew what he was feeling all along. He had felt it before –  before every examination he had written and before every presentation he had given. It was Fear. Fear and nervousness. And he was about to panic.

The past week, Neeraj was frequently involved in a few specific activities, which during any other time, he would have considered lame. It was embarrassing but he had realized that he did not really have any other option. Studying in an engineering college  where the male to female ratio was a fact worth ignoring  had made it practically impossible for him to get a girl friend. Growing up in a society that had looked upon sex as a taboo had not really helped matters either. Simply put, one week prior to his marriage, Neeraj was worried that he would be an embarrassment during his first night.

Neeraj was no monk. He was well aware of all the things his raging hormones had led him to do over the years. He had watched his fair share of pornography during his college years. So he felt he had a decent idea what to expect. All the conversations he had had with his guy friends over the years came back to him while he was sitting on that bed.  But the problem with all those discussions, he realized, was that everybody involved were inevitably virgins themselves and nobody had a clue what to expect when it actually happened.

So in the week prior to his wedding, Neeraj had been forced to scour the internet for ‘educative’ videos and articles about the human female anatomy and about the very act itself. All that effort had left him fuming with embarrassment at his own situation. “This is not the way it is supposed to be” he thought. “The first night experience is supposed to be a memorable one, filled with passion and intensity. Instead I am just trying to make sure that I don’t screw it up! There has got to be something terribly wrong somewhere here.”

After 2 days of ‘educating’ himself about everything that he could possibly expect on that night, Neeraj thought about his friend Kiran. Kiran had been the only guy he knew personally who was a bachelor and who had done it. Well at least that’s what he had claimed. He vividly remembered that day when Kiran revealed that fact to his friends. Everyone of his friends was more excited than the other to hear the news! And Kiran was more than happy to describe in detail about his encounter. Neeraj remembered feeling sick as he watched all his friends vicariously feeding off of Kiran’s experience, fantasizing their own experiences in the process no doubt. But for some reason, Kiran never really mentioned her name, and after a couple of weeks, had totally refused to talk about the girl or the experience. This created strong suspicion among his friends and especially in Neeraj that Kiran had been spinning a yarn all the way.

But during that week before his marriage, in an act of total desperation, Neeraj called upon Kiran to ‘help him out’ as a friend. Kiran flatly refused to hold any conversation in that regard. “You got to figure it out for yourself man” was his only advice.

So the only thing left to do, Neeraj realized, was to get more ‘educated’. And so he had spent the remaining few days on the internet reading and watching. There were a few specific things that were repeatedly drilled into his brain. Foremost among them was what one article euphemistically called ‘arriving too soon.’ But sitting there on that bed draped with flowers and adorned with perfumes, there was something even more fundamental that he was worried about.

He was so damn nervous that he was worried if he would even be able to respond to her in the first place. What if he lost it when it mattered most? What if he was not doing the right thing? What if the Melty Man attacked?

He had the pack of condoms lying under the pillow. It was only the previous day that he had seen how a condom looked like for the first time. And it had taken him 4 trials before he figured out how NOT to wear it inside out.

 “How the fuck did it all get so damn lame?” he had asked himself then.

He wished he had simply blown part of one of his paychecks on a hooker. At least that way he would know what he was supposed to be doing tonight. As long as he kept it safe, it could only have a positive impact. All this talk about the first night being memorable, sacred and the morally right thing to do was getting on his nerves. If anything, not having any experience prior to the wedding night was a recipe for disaster. He really wondered how many couples actually ended up doing it that night. The marriage ceremony is usually a pretty tiring affair. It would be no surprise if the couples simply went to sleep after that long day. Instead he was being expected to put in sufficient effort to lose his virginity while not embarrassing himself at the same time.   (Or maybe the guy takes Red Bull before doing it, he wondered).  Whoever made up those rules clearly died a frustrated and sadistic virgin, Neeraj concluded in frustration. He completely sympathized with all those people in the yesteryears who had no access to internet or any ‘educative’ material. At least he was better off than them.

He got up and began to pace the room impatiently. Where was she?

And then as if in response to his thought, he heard some loud giggling outside the door. The door opened and there she was. Roopa. Clad in a beautiful white sari, blushing with shyness AND carrying that redundant glass of milk. (Seriously, who in their right minds would even spare a thought to drinking that glass of milk? ) He gave her a weak smile and was surprised when it was returned with a weak and hesitant smile from her end too. And that’s when it hit him!

This was her first time too. And she was as scared and nervous as he was! Perhaps more.

And that helped him relax a bit. She came near him with her head bent down and slowly offered him the glass of milk. He promptly took it and kept it aside on the table. She then lifted her head and looked at him. And he could see the fear and nervousness in her eyes too. He helped her sit beside him and slowly wrapped his arm around her. It was then that he realized that he was actually shaking. He looked at her, smiled and said, “I maybe nervous. But I am glad I am the one who is going to see you like this the first time.” She blushed and smiled. Then, she appeared to muster up her courage and said, “But I need to let you know something before we do it. I hope you understand.” “What is it?” Neeraj asked, growing a little apprehensive. “Its nothing to worry. Its just that even though I have never been with anyone before, you may not find what you need that proves me to be a virgin.”

Neeraj knew what she was talking about. And he understood her completely. He had read about it online that women may not necessarily exhibit full signs of being a virgin even though they might be. So he immediately felt more relaxed and smiled at her. “Don’t worry. I understand.”

Roopa smiled, evidently relieved. She bent forward and gave him a kiss on his lips. Neeraj held that kiss for a while, with half his mind trying to fathom the significance of what was happening and the other half trying to judge how he was fairing at what he was doing. Then Neeraj knew what was going to happen and he switched off the lights.

************************************************************************************************

It was Neeraj who first came down in the morning at about 830. Almost everyone in the marriage hall were up and having their coffee. As he walked down the stairs into the main ceremony area where everyone had gathered, he had a bad feeling about what was to come.

It was his aunt who first spotted him. And as soon as she saw him, it appeared that she was saving up all her energy and enthusiasm just for that one moment when she exclaimed loudly at the top of her voice, “Hey look everybody! Neeraj has come down from his room! Come down Neeraj. I hope everything went well for you last night! How are you feeling today?”

Can somebody shoot this bitch?

He gave a weak smile, said I am doing fine and headed straight to the coffee serving area and picked up a glass of coffee. He looked around and found that a bunch of aunties were gathering in a place, as if planning to attack him with all their numbers. He immediately sensed danger and looked around. He found Kiran and Manoj sitting a few rows of chairs behind him and headed straight to them. The plan seemed to work as the aunties association appeared to stay down until they could capture their prey alone.

“Hey guys! Whats up?”, Neeraj asked.

“You tell me! You are the man! Everything went good?”, Manoj asked.

“Yeah man. It went good.” Neeraj kept his lie terse and to the point.

“Glad to know that!” quipped in Kiran and gave him a thumbs up.

Presently, Roopa came down and was immediately thronged by the aunty association trying to ‘ensure’ that their preparations for the room were ultimately conducive and helpful for the first night. Roopa tried to keep a straight face and just nodded her head in response.

“I do not want to be in her shoes right now” quipped Neeraj.

“No shit” Manoj agreed.

Soon Neeraj realized he had to go and just simply hang around with his wife. Otherwise everyone around were bound to infer that something went terribly wrong the previous night. So he went to Roopa, put his arm around her and held her close while talking to her friends. He faked a good smile to everyone, making them believe that he had just woken up from the most memorable night of his life. His parents seemed very happy to see him smiling like that.

Only the both of them knew what had happened the previous night. And he was already looking forward to Take 2. While he was smiling and talking to people, he wondered, “If all this waiting and saving it up for the wedding night is supposed to amount to a truly memorable experience, then this is the most embarrassing lie that is being passed down from generation to generation over the past couple of thousands of years. And the fact that nobody is ready to admit that it happened to them is only going to ensure that this continues in the future too.” He looked around himself at all the married men and women of all ages and smiled. He knew that all of them were no exceptions to what had just happened to him. And the schadenfreude suddenly made him feel good!

Manoj was keenly observing the newly married couple. Seemingly impressed by what he was seeing, he said, “Isn’t it so nice that a couple get to save themselves for such a long time just so can be with each other on the wedding night? That just seems so right.”

Kiran gave a small laugh at Manoj’s naiveté. He was looking at Roopa as she was posing with her husband for a pic for all her friends. He seemed to be lost in thought for a moment and when he came back to, he saw that Roopa was glancing nervously towards him every now and then.

That’s when he said to Manoj, “Maybe him.” He then raised his glass towards Roopa as she looked at him once more. “Not her.” And then he smiled as he sipped his coffee.

“Sheeeeeiiiiiit!” Manoj exclaimed softly.

Later, whenever Roopa’s friends asked her where she was looking in all their photos, she never really gave them a convincing answer.

Fast Five Review: A Really Bad Movie after a Really Long Time

I have never been so motivated to write a negative review of a movie which is being hailed otherwise all over the world. And considering the fact that I am a big fan of this genre of movies and a fan of the previous installments of this FF series, my objectivity need not be questioned.

So I went to see Fast Five at IMax just because I had not had the I-Max experience before ever. Anticipating good action sequences and special effects, I went for a late night show. But what I ended up subjecting myself to was pure and unadulterated mediocrity and one that lasted for about 130 mins.

My character is more retarded than yours.

Now when I say that this movie is really bad, not only do I just mean that it is REALLY REALLY bad,but there is another more subtle reason. This is one of those movies which had a good mainstream director, good budget and already a measurable benchmark set in the previous movies. But the end product is what you might find from an amateur filmmaker who has no idea how to write a script and put the large budget to good use. And THAT is why I find it really bad. That it had all the resources and still managed to suck so bad.

I don’t even know where to begin. So let me begin with the first sequence of action. As Roger Ebert put it,

…steal cars from a speeding train by driving a truck beside the tracks, cutting the side out of a freight car with an acetylene torch, flipping the cars onto the truck bed, tilting the bed, letting them roll to the ground and then driving them away…”

The actual action sequence is actually lamer than what Ebert makes it sound like. In the scene, Paul Walker does a lot of acrobatics and stunts to get off a moving train and on to a car (driven by Vin Diesel) before the train gets on a bridge after which he may be  forced to jump into the river running deep below. So he gets on the car just before the train hits the bridge but the momentum of the car takes them over the cliff and down into the river anway, thus making the whole action sequence redundant.

Come to think of it, the movie is replete with redundant scenes which do not amount to anything in the end. About 1/2  the movie is filled with such scenes. The whole planning of the heist, including assembling a ‘team’ (when half the members dont even contribute anything to the final outcome) and chalking out how to access the vault (when they really dont ‘access’ it in the end). There are also scenes where Vin Diesel and Paul Walker go in search of a faster car in order to beat the CCTV cameras in the heist site. They get a new car and show a bunch of scenes where they are practicing the run through the heist site but they still cannot beat the cameras. So later in the movie, they decide to use cop cars for the purpose ‘to camouflage’ their escape. And in the end, the way they eventually pull off the heist, they are not even avoiding to be caught, making all the previous planning scenes redundant.

The film tries to develop along the lines of a stereotypical heist movie. That is until the point where it suddenly decides NOT to be a heist movie. Sample this gem. Paul Walker says this somewhere in the middle of the movie:

“As a stealth mission, we will be in and out before they even know we are there.”

After watching the movie to the end, I am convinced the makers of Fast Five define ‘stealth’ as  (Ebert) :

“…take two mid-size sedans, chain them to a bank vault and haul it behind you on a high-speed chase through the streets of Rio de Janeiro while being chased by the cops.”

I am not exaggerating here. In the end, The Rock takes his hummer and crashes into the concrete wall, thus breaking it. Then Paul Walker and Vin Diesel rip the vault off the safe room and haul it all around Rio. That is so ‘stealthy’ no? Totally making use of all the planning that went into the heist. But really, is it a heist anymore?

Some other notable instances of unwatchability: All the hot girls that are shown in the preview as the mandatory association with fast cars and the racing scene are shown for exactly the same duration in the movie as well. No exaggeration here either. And while portraying the racing scene in Rio, the characters decide to put a car-for-car bet on winning a race. Only thing, the filmmakers completely SKIP over the race part. Totally awesome no?

For a movie series that has made its name with action scenes arising out of car chase sequences and races, this movie features exactly 1 race and 1 car chase sequence. The inconsequential race lasts for less than 60 seconds (and it should have lasted even shorter considering the fact that they were trying to race for just 1/4 mile at super fast speeds). The car chase sequence is the last scene and it lasts for about 7-8 mins. The only other action sequences are the opening redundant train-car thing and a couple of ambush sequences of The Rock’s contingent (lasts for about 8 mins total). So that leaves you with about 110 or so mins of redundant planning and cheesy one liners.

The acting and the characters leave a lot to be desired. Vin Diesel looks like he is trying to be a wannabe Vin Diesel from the first movie. He tries too hard to sound and look invincible and totally awesome with his final-word-type dialogues. Paul Walker makes his presence felt by flashing his nice smile at the camera every time he agrees (like he has a choice) with Vin Diesel’s confidence-oozing plans. Jordana (Mia) shows us how you can jump 50 feet into a makeshift favella home and still escape uninjured –  even while being pregnant.

Perhaps it is The Rock’s character that is the most hilarious and unnecessary. Seriously, his character has absolutely no influence in the movie’s story line, apart from a brief disrupting of their plans. And he seemed to be competing with Vin Diesel for cheesy and incongruous one liners and punchlines. The other female cop who supposedly has a tragic story to tell about how she lost her husband to the drug lord and that making her motivated to fight him seemed to be putting too much effort into her acting. It would have been better if someone just put up a message on the screen that read: “Ok. This female cop here has lost her husband to the drug lord. So she is motivated to fight him.”Oh and she is supposed to fall for Vin Diesel. But the chemistry between them is totally repulsive.

There are so many more sequences I can keep talking about. But I am getting tired of recollecting such intense mediocrity. And the worst part is that it has been getting extremely positive reviews all around. IMDB has it at 7.8. Roger Ebert gave it 3 stars praising the attention to detail in the story. ( I want what he was smoking when he wrote the review). I just found the movie retarded. Period.

Go watch it for yourself and feel retarded too. And hopefully you will do that BEFORE reading any review at all.

Updates: Des Moines 101

“…or how I got a job, got a car and got desperate…”

Ok. So I got a job, here in the US of A, the Land of Opportunity, the place where dreams are made, the place where you get to make a lot more money than you care to spend, etc. Well now that I have blurted out the reason why 99% of Indians come here to do their Masters, lets move on.

Yes, I have a job here and I have a job in Des Moines, Iowa. Don’t worry, I hadn’t the slightest knowledge about the existence of this place either. In fact, when I first applied for this position online, I thought IA referred to Indiana and was harbouring thoughts of watching the US F-1 Grand Prix sometime in the future. So when I was contacted and asked “Are you still interested in this position at Des Moines, Iowa?”, my immediate response was : “When on earth did I apply for a job in Iowa? What was I thinking?” (The fact that I got that job should make it clear that I did not actually say that out loud).

And so to anyone whom I shared this news with, their immediate response went something along the lines of

“Iowa? Dude what are you going to do in Iowa?”

But at that moment, I was just friggin’ happy that I had a job and didn’t care a damn about where I was headed.

So I arrived in Des Moines on a bright and sunny day. The next day I would realize that that was an anomaly. Cloudy, gloomy, cold, very cold, extreme cold and snow…lots of snow- now that got people to feel more at home. (Just suffice to know that I am not a big fan of snow). Well eventually, I got a place to stay and that too pretty close by to the work place. But perhaps the most significant part of where I am staying is that I now get to watch Premier League, Serie A and Champions League matches on a TV in my room. No more streaming issues!

And yes I eventually got a car too. And got a mega-awesome deal at that too. Brand  new 2010 Toyota Corolla! The biggest handicap of my past 1.5 years was now taken off of me. I was now able to actually go places. Well I didn’t really go anywhere initially. But at least I knew I could go somewhere if I wanted to.

Well that was about as excited as I got for the first few weeks in Des Moines, because after that, the reality of the place began to hit me hard. For some vague reason, and I noticed this only after 2 weeks in Des Moines, I had not met a single person who was older than 6 years and younger than 35. This appeared to be a very dangerous trend and it became even more scary when it eventually became the norm.

I found myself ‘hanging out’ with Indian families- people who had gotten married a few years back and had a toddler in their hands. – on weekends. Now don’t get me wrong. They are all nice people who helped me a lot in settling in here. But it is hard to miss the part wherein I DONT get drunk and let myself loose on topics which would perhaps give rise to an awkward silence among the ‘family’ members- you know..the kind of stuff guys of our age tend to talk about.

And its also hard to miss the WTFness in my thoughts every time it is drilled into my head that

“Des Moines is the best place to start and raise a family! You should really think about getting married soon!”

Thanks for the information. But I think I will pass on that one. No offence meant.

The way I see it, in all seriousness, when I was studying, I had all the freedom but no money. And when I get married, I will have money (or not) but (and) no freedom. These few years in between are the only times I get to have both money AND freedom. And I plan to make the most use of it.

And so my hunt to meet new people began. Initially, it was in slightly optimistic places such as bars. The closest I came to meeting somebody new this way was this very lively bartender at a British pub. (Not a good sign). Then it went a notch lower to just waiting to be introduced to some people of my age by the few people I already knew. And then when that didn’t work out, I hit the lows of desperation a.k.a online forums.

And trust me. That was NOT a good experience. It is really scary the levels to which people are desperate. Every time I realized that, I wanted to take a gun and blow my brains out point blank. It was almost like every time I looked at some person’s profile, some of my self esteem was getting sucked out. And so I put an end to it pretty fast.

But I was still desperate. Never had I drunk so many beers alone without anyone to talk to. Nobody to even have a normal conversation with. For someone who was surrounded by people of my age all the time for the past 6 years, it was a really scary picture that I was seeing myself headed towards. But in all honesty, there are a few things here in Des Moines I would not trade for anything. First up, the cost of living here is simply put, Dirt Cheap. Ok may be not that low, but definitely low enough for me to spend less than 1/3rds of my income on all my needs.

Which gives me a lot of money to go somewhere AWAY from Des Moines and have some fun. And which is exactly what ended up happening in the past one week. One week where everything went from rock bottom to super awesome and more! All that in my next Updates post. So keep reading….

MCC’s Cul-Ah! 2011: ROFLMAO!!!

Before I say anything, let me get the context perfectly clear here. I am right now in the USA and have been here for the past 1.5 years. I woke up today morning and on my news feed, I saw that MCC’s Cul-Ah had been going on since Monday. This brought back all the nice memories of the Cul-Ah! that I had been to when I was in my PUC. So I decided to give it a read. This post is a result of the profound WTFness that I experienced subsequent to reading through those articles. READ ON…

For the uninitiated, Cul-Ah! Is the annual cultural fest that is conducted by Mount Carmel College, Bangalore, at their own campus. Usually they hold it in the month of January and this year too was no exception. This fest is considered to be one of the best fests in the city and is in high demand. (Hmm…I wonder why..). Perhaps the fact that MCC is a girls’ college with a continued reputation of housing the best chics  in the city has something to do with that popularity. Anyways, I got to know about this year’s fest through this and this article on DNA.

So this year, MCC has gone on and made the effort to theme their fest. The theme chosen is “ELEMENTS”. According to Andrea, general secretary of Mount Carmel College students’ union,

Our college is completely eco-friendly, and hence we came up with this theme. Considering that this year is the year of ‘biodiversity’, we have begun a number of campaigns in the college that encourage students to be more eco-friendly and to save the earth. For Cul- Ah, therefore, we chose the five elements of our planet to define and categorise our events.

The United Nations has this to say about the International Year of Biodiversity:

….that humans rely on the diversity of life to provide the food, fuel, medicine and other essentials needed for life… this rich diversity is being lost at a greatly accelerated rate because of human activities, such as the expansion of cities and farming. International Year Of Biodiversity is aimed at raising awareness about the loss of animal and plant species and organizing action to halt it.

Looks like a responsible thing the fest organizers have done. Starting a number of campaigns and getting their main fest to be themed that way to create awareness for the ‘Year of Biodiversity’. Just ONE small problem I came across:

The Year of  Biodiversity was LAST YEAR, 2010!!!

Yes, yes..this is the point where you go WTF???!?!!!??

I mean, seriously, what were the organizers thinking? I can imagine people messing up on some small aspects of the fest, but screwing up the very premise behind the main Theme of the fest, now you gotta be really messed up to do that!

I am now trying to reconstruct the discussion that I believe, took place, during the planning of the fest (in 2010).

Chic1: Girls! We gotta do something different this time. Something that will capture the attention of everyone for a very good purpose.

Chic2: Save the Planet!

Chic3: Oh my God! That is soooooo original! Lets totally do it!

Chic1: Wait! Save the Planet doesn’t sound fancy enough. Lets give it a different name.

Chic2: Hey look! This year is ‘Year of Biodiversity’! We can use that as an excuse to get this totally original idea on to our theme! This is so awesome no??

Chic1 and Chic2: Yay! This is going to be the best fest ever!

Chic4 (with mega-inferiority complex issues): Excuse me girls… err..hmm… but I was just wondering.. ummm.. since we will be holding our actual fest, like, next year, you know, 2011, don’t you think we need to consider that also?

Chic1: Did we ask you your opinion?

Chic4: Err…I was just saying…you know, that you had to consider…

Chic2: Are you suggesting that we don’t know how to do this?

Chic4: I am sorry.

Chic3: Yeah! Who the f*** cares anyway? As soon as they see something even remotely associated with Save Nature stuff, they will think we are doing a very responsible thing.

Chic1: So where were we? Ah yes! So lets make the theme as those 5 elements that make up nature. Earth, water, fire, air and space.

Chic2: Oooooooh! I so love Captain Planet! Go Planet! This is sooo good!

*******************************

Moving on, we now come to the events. The events are categorized with respect to the different ‘elements’. Here is the idea behind the classification:

Fire will include high energy events like dance, mad ads and mock rock, whereas music and poetry are in the category of Air. Water, with its characteristic intelligence, will include events such as quizzes and pictionary that test your intelligence and creativity while events such as vegetable carving, cooking without fire and flower arrangement fall in the category of Earth.

And here is the clincher, really. If you were wondering what they came up with for the ‘element’ of Space, this is what the Gen-Sec, Andrea, had to say (brace yourself for the profound WTF moment):

All these events will be conducted in the element of space, which in this case is MCC.

You know… if you really wanted to find an excuse to somehow include that 5th element, I am sure there was a less retarded way to do so. Let me reconstruct the discussion that led to this:

Chic1: Ok, now that’s a great idea. Year of Biodiversity, and ELEMENTS! I think we are onto something totally awesome here. Now how can we structure these events so that all the 5 elements are covered?

Chic2: I think the best way to do that would be to classify the events among 4 of the elements and treat the 5th element as something that will encompass all the other 4! I am so awesome no??

Chic3: So for example, we can put our events in Air, Space, Fire and Earth, while saying that we are holding our fest under Water. And then we can say that this is symbolic of how global warming is going to get all places under water soon if we do not do something about it! Isnt that a great idea? We can also use the Global warming excuse to put Fire as the 5th element saying we can die of heat and stuff.

Chic2: Oh my god!! There are so many options here! Lets draw lots!

********************

Ok. So enough with that. Lets now consider the actual events and their classification. Honestly, I really don’t know where to start. Fire is supposed to represent High-energy events? When exactly did rewriting a rock song in a funny manner (Mock  Rock) become a ‘high energy’ event? And so poetry and music events are classified under Air? Oh I get it! The vibration of air is required to create any sound and so music events come under Air. What about poetry? Oh I know! You need air to breathe while you create poetry! Epic!

So Water has ‘characteristic intelligence’? Hmm..lets see. Googling ‘characteristic intelligence of water’ yields results describing the Goldfish and the Portuguese Water Dog. I am sure the organizers found a way to link both these innocuous animals with their events. So quizzes and Pictionary are supposed to test your intelligence and creativity? Ok..so then why is the Kannada quiz in Air and not Water? You suggesting Kannada quiz does not require any intelligence or creativity? (Kannada Rakshana Vedike anyone??)

In fact, here is my alternate proposal for classification. Fire is generated by sparks. So a spark of the mind is related to the Fire element. Spark of mind also gives rise to creativity and intelligence, as seen in lit events such as quizzes and such. So classify all ‘intelligent and creativity’ based events under Fire. Then look for the real dumb and retarded events. Like Antakshari, where only the dumb get excited playing. You can classify such events under Water. Why? Because water destroys fire, the spark, the same way the dumb cancel out the intelligent!

“I am so awesome no??!!!?”

It is fairly obvious what has happened. The organizers somehow want to tag their fest with some kind of a socially-responsible message. And once they do that, they had to find ways to relate each and every event to the theme somehow. And so they come up with these ridiculous ways to connect their fest with the ‘Save the Planet’ message. And they know nobody is going to really question it or think too much about it as it is, by default, supposed to generate a feel-good factor. This whole thing, I have to say, is a perfect scenario to explain the idea of Subjective Validation.

Moving on, lets look at the Twitter account that MCC opened up to publicize and market their fest. Not a bad idea as a lot of people use Twitter and word gets spread around faster through it. There are 12 tweets in the account, the last of which was on Jan 3. Now I am not going to comment on the inefficient usage of the account. Instead, the followers of this account tell a very good story. (At the time of posting this) There are 21 followers, some of whose descriptions are as follows:

  • I’m a 17 year old girl. I Love Music. Met Jesus when I was 11. Living life in His grace and love. Servant, Daughter, Sister, Friend. =)
  • hi im **** a.k.a chikku.. im a huge fan of linkin park and edwars cullen.. i love playing different sports….well thats it for now… cya later……:-)
  • everything must be proportionate. your chicken and your rice must both last till the end. one must divide the bites of chicken evenly among bites of rice

No comments.

Well, I guess I am done with the organizers and the college. I have nothing against them really. I am sure they had a great fest and a lot of people had a good time. Come to think of it, I clearly remember to have had a memorable time when I went to Cul-Ah! 2003 edition when I was doing my PUC at St. Joseph’s PU College. But all that aside, I really cannot tolerate mediocrity. And hence this post. But I am not done yet. So far, I took care of the college. Now let me turn my attention to the newspaper- DNA.

Substandard or unethical journalism is something that really gets on my nerves. I have written about them before here and here. And I continue to see this even today. The DNA journos Merlin Francis and Vidya Iyengar have written the two articles that I have quoted here. In each case, I would like to know what the journos treat as their standard.

First up, with Merlin Francis. This is the dude who has got the Gen-Sec of the fest to quote that the Year of Biodiversity is this year. And he just took it for granted, making zero effort to check the factual accuracy of what he was quoting in his final article. All he needed to do was spend 15 seconds to google ‘Year of Biodiversity’ and he would have everything he needed. But no! Why? Well, I guess the standards differ, don’t they?

And now, with Vidya Iyengar. Call me a stickler for accuracies, but I really have a zero tolerance for inaccuracies in newspapers. The Fashion Show event is listed under the category Earth in the article.

The theme ‘Earth’ will be reflected in a fashion show that will sport rich, Indian ethnic wear.

However, in the actual brochure, the event is listed under Fire. This may look extremely trivial to some. But there is no guarantee that the above line was not just made up to suit the article. Maybe it was the fault of the organizers who fed in wrong information to the journo. Or perhaps, the organizers messed up their brochure (in which case, I would not attribute any wrong doing to the said journo). But these factual inconsistencies are not excusable in any form.

However, there is an even more WTF thing involved in these 2 articles. The General Secretary’s name is said to be Andrea D’Silva as per Vidya Iyengar, while it is Andrea D’Souza as per Merlin Francis!! Now, seriously, who f***ed it up? Poor Gen-Sec. You have my sympathies!

And I guess I am done. I am feeling good. Having said that, let me also add that I would like to thank all those involved in this awesome mess for providing me ideal fodder for a  blog post! Please keep it coming…..

UPDATE: The MCC folks have left a few comments below (along with the inevitable brickbats). Read them for their response and how all the facts did NOT go into the newspaper article. Also, since I am exercising my freedom to criticize people here, I also realize that I am open to criticism as well. I will not be deleting any comments here, even if they clearly show me in bad light. I will probably not be responding to them.

 

 

 

Breaking News: India to start Kho-Kho WORLD SERIES on the lines of Baseball WORLD SERIES. Winners to be crowned WORLD CHAMPIONS.

In a major development to one of the few aboriginal Indian games that are still played, the newly formed Kho-Kho Federation of India had decided to conduct a Kho-Kho WORLD SERIES on similar lines of the Baseball World Series in America. The tournament will feature 8 city based teams which will be operated on the basis of a franchisee. The structure and the format of the series will be very similar to the World Series informed the President of the Federation.

The primary motivation for such a huge step was supposedly the frustration surrounding everyone involved with regard to the poor publicity and recognition that was offered to the game. A bunch of Kho-Kho enthusiasts decided to bring about some much needed change and so set about determining the best way to draw attention to the age old sport.

“We were thinking. What is the easiest and most effective way to publicize a sport that nobody cares about? The answer was not difficult to find at all! All we have to do is to become World Champions and then everyone will take notice of us and the sport will then grow!” said Kumar Vaidyanathan, one of the Kho-Kho enthusiasts.

When asked to elaborate further, Sai Kumar, another excited Kho-Kho player explained, “You see, this is best understood with an example. Do you know why Baseball is so popular in the US? It is because every year, one of the US based teams is crowned WORLD CHAMPIONS for winning the Baseball WORLD SERIES! This generates a lot of enthusiasm and excitement among its supporters and motivates the other teams to try for the position as well. This cycle keeps repeating and the popularity of the sport continues to grow- primarily because one of the teams in the tournament is going to be given the title of the World Champions! Similarly, we are going to establish a tournament wherein some 8 teams from various cities in India will compete for the title of World Champions! That way more Indians will take note of the game and it will get a much needed boost!”

When pointed out that you cannot become World Champions if only one country is playing in the tournament, Mr. Vaidyanathan replied, “That is the wrong perception! Look at the United States. They have so many games that are based on this format. Basketball with NBA, American Football with the NFL/AFL/Superbowl, Ice Hockey with the NHL, and Baseball with the World Series. In each case, the winner is treated practically as the World Champions!

You are asking me about the validity of this process? Screw validity! Just look at how crazy and excited the fans get when they realize that their city based team are the WORLD CHAMPS!! Even if they only beat their neighbouring city teams! Do you know how much this can do to Kho-Kho in India? So much revenue will come with increasing popularity and the sport will grow tremendously!”

“So you are saying that one Indian city based team will be crowned as World Champions because they beat another Indian city based team?” asked a curious reporter.

“Thats exactly how it works!” replied Mr. Vaidyanathan. “Just as is done in America, an Indian city based team is going to be crowned World Champions Kho-Kho for beating other Indian city based teams!”

“Yeah. I totally agree. The way the World Champions tag is justified in baseball is by saying that the best players in the world are playing in the World Series and hence they are entitled to the tag. Similarly, even we are getting the best players in the world to play in our tournament and we believe that the winners of this tournament deserve to be called World Champions!”, echoed Mr. Kumar.

Satish Rai, another Kho-Kho enthusiast quipped in, “Our players will eventually become as famous as Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees. They deserve that much recognition.”

One reporter immediately stood up and asked, “Who the f**k is Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees?”

Satish Rai gave a mischievous smile and continued, “You see thats the whole point. Nobody outside the USA has any idea about the existence of Brett Favre, Peyton Manning or Drew Brees! But all these people are ‘World famous in the USA’! Same way we are going to create a tournament which is going to elevate Kho-Kho players who are presently in some gully or village to become ‘World famous in India’!”

The initial bidding process for the 8 city based franchisees was largely dull as the format and the structure of the tournament didn’t strike a chord with businessmen. However, after hearing that the winning team will be given the title of WORLD CHAMPIONS, there has been a hectic bidding war between the business empires for the rights to own them.

One business magnate, who didn’t wish to be named, said “It is a very important thing this. It helps us to associate ourselves with a team that will be crowned World Champions! That is the pinnacle of branding for any company anywhere in the world! Of course Cricket is already a lot more popular in India. But think of it. Which company can associate itself with a team that can be called as the World Champions? Even the main sponsor of the Indian cricket team cant claim that as India have not been crowned World Champions since 1983. The IPL only crowns the winning team as IPL Champions. So this is a golden opportunity for any company to be able to sponsor a team that could possibly be called as the World Champs! No wonder there is so much competition going on for that.”

The Ministry of Sports also released a statement conveying its full support to the tournament. “We strongly support the idea that Kho-Kho become popular in India. This is a very quick and sureshot way of helping it gain more popularity-both in the short term and long term. In fact, the Government is now commissioning a committee to look into the possibilities of using the same idea for other not-so-popular games such as Lagori, Gilli Danda, Goli, Kunte Bille, Dabba ( a variant of Hide & Seek) etc. This will encourage children to excel at their sport with some kind of assurance that they can make a living out of it.”

SUPERSTAR Rajnikanth wasn’t available for comment.

Your Address in the USA

All of us have our own addresses. If an Indian is asked where he lives in their city, the response ranges from Bandra to Basavanagudi, from Gurgaon to Gorguntepalya, from T.Nagar to Thodesandhipalya (Ok that last one was made up). And if you are familiar with the area given as a response, you ask “Where in Basavanagudi?” or “Where in Thodesandhipalya?” (You really dont have to answer the last one). And if you are familiar with even the second response, you keep narrowing the location until you have convinced yourself that the other person is your long forgotten neighbor.

However, in the USA, things, as always, are a little different. Say you approach an American living in New York City, one of the largest cities in the world. And you ask him where he stays in New York. The most likely response you are going to get is “Oh I stay in Perry Street” or “My house is on Graves Avenue” or “I live right by Richmond Lane”! You see, the address of a house in the USA has just two things on it that help you to locate it in a given city: the house building number and the street where the house building is located. Thats it! So in an area of about 800 square kms, all you have with you to locate one single house is the name of the street its on??!!?? That surely helps doesnt it??? Its equivalent to saying “My house is next to my neighbor’s house” or “I am my father’s son” etc. It doesnt tell you anything useful.

Yes we all know there is this invention called GPS which can take you from anywhere to anywhere with just the street name as input. But seriously, what if you dont have one? Let me elaborate on this a bit. Imagine you have just arrived in New York City and take a cab to get to your apartment. You tell the cab driver “Take me to 4800 Eastland Drive” and just expect to be dropped off in front of your house? Well if the cab driver does just that, then either he has an awesome memory or his house is within a 2 block radius of your house. But then what happens if neither of the above “totally-possible” situations prevail? Then I guess you have to start looking for a map. Imagine this. You are in a cab and the cab driver spends the first ten mins just figuring out which part of the city he is supposed to be taking you!

Not implying that this is the only way things happen around here in the US. But seriously imagine something like that happening in India. I mean, you go and ask a Bangalore Auto Rickshaw dude to take you to 8th Cross Road, WTF do you think he is going to do? Of course he is going to look at you like you were born a retard and stayed that way for good!

Perhaps one of the direct consequences of American addresses having such small number of characters in them is seen when you are trying to fill out a form online- like an application for the college, GRE, TOEFL or any other thing that is based out of the US. You see the website creators make this sincere and totally pointless effort to restrict the number of characters in which you enter your address. So when your address goes into describing just your house number and street name, there really is no problem. However, unfortunately for all us Indians, this poses a problem. Especially if your address involves your house name, house number, Cross Street number, Main Street Number, Layout, Stage, Near some landmark, Block and lastly Area name- as is the case with most Indian addresses- you are in for a small problem! And it is really amazing how I have learned, over the years, to express words in much smaller forms without failing to convey its intended meaning!

Getting back to ground reality, more and more people are having GPS in their cars and it is available for dirt cheap prices at WALMART. But that still doesnt justify having only one street name to describe the location of your house in a mega metropolitan city. ( You might argue that the Pin code narrows it pretty well but seriously who knows about the postal code apart from the post men?) I sincerely hope I dont have to go through any circumstances involving hunting for ONE street name amidst hundreds if not thousands in a city.

Feel totally free to get fully emotional and sentimental about the American address systemand pass judgment on my assessment of it- but make sure you do that on your own blog.

Linux N00B

This is some thing that I witnessed a while back at a friend’s house. I would have preferred to make a comic strip out of this but then my laziness (as always) got the better of me. So here is a small conversation that took place.

Guy 1: What are you doing?

Guy 2: I am installing Linux on my computer.

Guy 1: Why does it take so long?

Guy 2: There are a lot of things you have to do yourself in Linux thats why.

Guy 1: Ok.

Guy 2: Have you ever installed Linux?

Guy 1: No never. But I am still confused. Why use Linux at all? Isn’t Windows sufficient?

Guy 2: Its a lot complicated than that. You wouldnt understand.

Guy 1: But I want to know. Why do you use Linux instead of Windows? What are the advantages?

Guy 2: Ok here is the thing. You can see Windows files from Linux but you cannot see Linux files from Windows!

Guy 1: Wait! I dont understand…

Guy 2: What dont you understand?

Guy 1: I mean…if you wanted to see Windows files, why see them from Linux? You can see Windows files from Windows itself right?!!??!?!

Guy 2: Its not like that…

Guy 1: I mean think about it. If you are going through all these painful and time consuming process of installing Linux in order to see Windows files through Linux, dont you think you are just wasting your time? If I wanted to see Windows files, I will access them through Windows itself!!

Guy 2: *Facepalm*. Make that *Epic Facepalm*