Keep the web free!

As a staunch an ardent netizen, I have been reading for sometime now, gruesome tales of censoring the web and my 4-letter vocab has two recent inclusions – SOPA and PIPA.

I was wondering if I was the only one to be overly concerned about the implications as I saw people on my social networks discussing ‘urgent and pressing’ matters like an asteroid that might collide with Earth a million years from now, global warming that might submerge all continents after we have reincarnated thrice and how contributing a cent towards the cause of world hunger will eventually solve the issue, if we are not already drowned by global warming or blown to smithereens by the asteroid.  😮

All this changed over the last few days when I noticed Piratebay hosting an anti-SOPA video in place of its logo on the homepage, Wikipedia blacking itself out for 24 hours and even almighty Google joining in the fray by blacking its logo out.

To profess my support, I Googled for a ‘wallpaper on free web, anti-SOPA’ but didn’t get anything at all except news sources covering the issue and story!! So I thought I will do my bit and came up with these wallpapers for most popular desktop, tablet and smartphone resolutions.  I agree they ain’t the best but it is a start. Maybe this effort (or the lack herein!) will inspire several of you to come up with better designs and messages – until we black out SOPA and its proponents permanently, desktop to desktop, mac to mac, smartphone to smartphone and tablet to tablet.

Here are some popular resolutions for your fave devices – if you want a specific resolution, kindly request in the comments and I will try and get you one soon. 🙂

Desktop::   800×600 | 1024×576  | 1366×768 | 1920×1080 | 2560×1600

Mac:: Macbook Pro | iMac

Smartphones:: iPhone 4 | Samsung Galaxy S | Motorola Droid | Google Nexus One | Samsung Galaxy Note

Tablets:: iPad | Samsung Galaxy

Facebook:: Profile Timeline banner

 

 

It took me four

Word count: 600 | Estimated time to read blog: 8 min

Image source: Leathersupreme.com

When I was a teenager, I had a great fascination for leather jackets. I found it a cool add-on to the denims I was sporting in those days and neither John Travolta nor Arnold Schwarzenegger told me anything otherwise 😉

The first one was purchased after a surprisingly lucky break with the exams – my parents (and to this day, I myself) couldn’t believe I got such marks and as per terms decided before the exams, were compelled to buy it for me. I felt as great in it as a hippopotamus in a steam bath – the weather of Manipal is just not suited to leather jackets. But it was ‘cool’, you know! And in a short while i had quite a collection. Until…
…Until the day when I learnt that some being had to pay with its life to make me feel cool. It was then that the whole fascination came crashing down. The jacket felt as soft, as wonderful and as warm as before but it wasn’t the same thing at all. It still was the best jacket brand in the world – no other brand came close to it but I didn’t feel cool wearing one anymore.

Now you don’t need to be a student of marketing to realize that what just happened was a transition from a mindless, sense gratifying consumer to an informed one. I couldn’t ignore anymore the fact that the creation of that jacket was possible only by the death of something, however far removed and unimportant to me.

I have similar feelings about fireworks and crackers. To me, they signify the death of someone’s childhood. I also don’t promote movies of directors who repeatedly portray violence and glorify gangsters. To me, they signify actual deaths in the society as cinema is a very strong influencer and by glorifying such acts, there will be at least one among the viewers who will go ahead and commit such acts as are glorified.

Maybe I am over analyzing things. True, if you look at everything this way, no form of consumerism is ever possible. But to me, there are some more glaring than others and I choose not to ignore them for a start.

Moreover, you and I have a responsibility towards society – in the real world and online. Our choice and behavior will largely determine the future of how we all live in this very society. And in that, we can choose to support a Hitler who will promise great things at the expense of someone or a Mother Theresa who will promise equally great things by involving everyone. And it is my opinion that great tomorrows come from being open and allowing openness. A tomorrow however great, achieved by curbing/eliminating something forcefully isn’t worth the sunrise that heralds it.

To me, it is a sign of greatness and confidence to include everyone despite difference of opinion, conflicting business interests etc for the benefit of the collective good. It is a sign of insecurity and doubt to forcibly snub and exclude someone, not to mention a disregard for the collective good. How can such a one lead?

In making our choices, we at some point in time should cease to merely evaluate wrt our senses and employ rationale. As Mahatma Gandhi said, “The real seat of taste is not the tongue but the mind”.

So how many leather jackets does it take you to realize that you must look beyond that cozy feel and the hep looks?

Now read the title.

Look who is tempting us with an apple again

Word count: 920 | Estimated time to read blog: 12 min

Say NO to iPad

It was in my second year of engineering that I fell in love. The internet was a growing phenomenon and fascinated me no end. So I enrolled myself for a web designing course and it was here that we first met. Soon I started spending more and more time with this new found love and since then, not a day has passed by without my expressing, in some way, my sheer fascination of it all. It is called Flash.

Now, apologies for all that melodrama in the above paragraph but if you do manage to get to the end of this entry, you might probably agree with my calling it so. If you think this is too long a note, please read the last line and that should do. 🙂

When I began learning Flash, it belonged to a less known company called Macromedia – in fact they created the product. What fascinated me as much as the product itself was Macromedia Flash’s awe-inspiring credo: What the web can be. That one sentence said a lot – about the company, its dreams, its potential and about the product Flash. And it did live up to that credo and if you are a guy/gal who has learned web designing the good old way starting with HTML coding on notepad, then moving on to Javascripting and then Flash, you will certainly appreciate the overwhelming ease and interactivity that Flash brought to the web. Remember, we are talking early 2002 here.

By the end of my 4th year, Macromedia was acquired by competitor Adobe and along with it went Flash, Dreamweaver and Fireworks to Adobe’s kitty which had but one feather in its cap thus far – Photoshop. And Adobe did take Flash to heights unimagined. Soon every website was being designed in Flash, college students did their presentations, even resumes in Flash, most front ends and UI designers bragged about their Flash skills so much so that even HTML itself was used to a bare minimum and that too, only to embed Flash files on web pages.

The rest is history. Adobe kept the show going and made the dream-like credo, “What the web can be” a perpetually improving and pleasing reality. With their vast repertoire of heavenly fonts, video rendering functions etc, the web became the beautiful, lovely and aesthetic place it is today that you and I enjoy. The games, the videos, the glossy animations and all other media rich content kept coming in and Flash made it possible without ever declaring or worrying that behind all that magic there was a product that most laymen didn’t even knew existed or bothered to acknowledge.

In its advancement, never did Adobe restrict any other technology or device. With a credo like that to keep up with, one couldn’t; one wouldn’t. Be it PHP, AJAX or even devices like smartphones, Flash merged seamlessly to provide the unique experience it did on the web. What’s more, Adobe added cross functionality across its own product range and the magic of desktop design products like Illustrator, InDesign and Photoshop could now flow in and out of Flash, making the web the far cry it is today from the days of HTML.

Without ever ruthlessly aiming for market domination at the expense of other technologies that improved the web and forever providing fantastic updates radically different from previous releases, first Macromedia and now Adobe, through Flash, made the web a lovelier, easier, pleasanter, richer and the most delightful experience it is today.

And today, one bearded son of a bitch dares to belittle this relentless and almost selfless contribution to the web by saying Adobe is headed to the grave. Just because he has had some market attention in the past 3 years and has sold a few million devices. That sob is Steve Jobs and hey it rhymes!

I have nothing against Apple devices – they are superb. The form-factor is lovely, the screen rendition amazing…in fact, the very things that Adobe and Flash stand for – beauty. Despite being a die-hard Google fan, I would kill for iPhone 4 and not the Nexus one. I also appreciate the fluidity of MAC OS and the utility of other devices like iMac, Time Capsule etc.

What I am against is the philosophy the company stands for which is evident in its actions: to cut down all others and promote only self interest, ethically or otherwise. More so, otherwise. Today’s declaration of Jobs sending ‘Adobe to the grave and that they have enjoyed their summer’ reeks of just that not to mention, a disregard to a great contributor to the web and allied technology and above all, to Beauty.

The mere act of iDevices not supporting Flash doesn’t spell doom for it; there are others that collectively outnumber Apple. But I dislike the spirit of not supporting Flash. It seems every 3 seconds someone is now buying the iPad. And that means every 3 seconds, someone is disregarding and forgetting all the beauty that Flash imparted to the web.

I for one am not buying the iPad. And if you consider yourself an admirer of beauty, a designer, an artist, a promoter of free thinking and to say the least a person who is grateful – you shouldn’t either.

It comes as no surprise that the last time someone tempted Mankind, it was with an Apple. And even today Satan is always dressed in black.

Say no to iPad.

PS: If you aren’t convinced about the last line, I’d certainly encourage you to read a more detailed explanation of the rationale. It has nothing to do with technology, it is simply a question of the mindset. Read more here


Is the sky bluer or the grass greener?

Word count: 1237 | Estimated time to read entry: 12 min

A few days ago, I was quite irked to notice the status message of one of my acquaintances over GTalk which went something like: “Women have to achieve twice as much as men to be considered capable. Thankfully, this is not very difficult.” Needless to say, the avower of such a message was a woman. (Thankfully, this is not very difficult to guess 😉 )

Even before I upturn a bottle of vinegar on the rest of this entry, let me inform the reader that I strongly detest debates on topics like – ‘women are better than men’ or ‘boys are less/more intelligent than girls’ etc. It is not that I don’t have any opinions on such topics nor am I overly enthusiastic to exhibit diplomacy and please both sides but purely because of the haplessness of such discussions. I am certainly not neutral; I just have a third opinion outside of the two that are being argued upon and hence this entry.

iStockPhoto

Pic Source: iStockPhoto

I came in contact with a few Women’s Rights Activists when I was a freelance features writer for The New Indian Express while working on an article that criticized some of the popular soaps being aired on TV. During this, I noticed that the WRAs not only waged a war for all of woman-kind’s rights but an alternate war over women who wore lipstick and skimpy clothes, on screen or otherwise, thereby stereotyping women. And in this battle they wanted ‘my help!’ in spreading the message. This notion of a warring faction internally at war with itself by seeking the help of one of the members of its ‘arch enemy’ didn’t make much sense to me. (And the very thought of women in lipstick and skimpy clothes disarms me, so what the hell do I wage a war with against them! 😛 )

When I joined TAPMI, there were a few outspoken ‘Women are Superior’ types in the class. During the debate sessions, I made a mental note of the most vociferous few who relentlessly argued on the topic, punctuating their opinions with a Indra Nooyi here and a Condoleezza Rice there. A few days later, we all had to take a bus on our way to the beach (for TAPMIans – QOTB) and as I had expected, these vociferous few were the ones who requested some of the guys to stand up to give them a seat! The arguments were left behind in the class and when it was time to display ‘equality’ by rubbing shoulders with us and bearing the rough ride of the journey by standing all the way, they chose to take the easy way out. One of the vociferous few asked me where my chivalry had gone, expecting me to offer her my seat. Instead, I pointed out that I was an ally of hers in her battle for equality; she has never spoken to me ever since but continues to be equally vociferous on the topic.

Another fallout of this battle is its effect on the English language. Writers like me have to be over-cautious to avoid the trap of ‘sexist language’ and make provisions for both sexes while citing opinions applicable to all of mankind humankind. (S)He has to take extreme precautions to avoid hurting the sentiments of her/his readers. This, combined with the fact that 90% of the editors of publications I have worked for have been women, makes it a lethal combination. One inadvertent male pronoun is enough to spill a gallon of edit ink on the write-up; two such and the groundnut seller’s stock of packing paper immediately increases.

But in my not-so-humble opinion, the very usage of such words denotes a sexist mindset. The deliberate reference to either sex by splitting the pronoun with a slash indicates that the writer discriminates between the two sexes and that very act, by definition, is sexist! A writer who has used a harmlessly generic ‘him’ might have the benign intention of involving every human being on earth but by mandating a split pronoun, a notion of sexism is actually forced. So with a lofty motive to actually end sexist language, it was in fact created. Very similar to the warring faction at war with itself and the vociferous few who turn tail when it comes to implementing the examples of their own classroom rhetoric, this is yet another self-contradicting aftermath of the ‘battle for equality’.

Anyone who doesn’t conform to the tenets of ‘Women are Equal’ movement is labeled MCP – Male Chauvinistic Pigs, by its confused followers. Here is one such reference on this blog targeted at me 😉 Such a reference reminds me of the movie ‘Taal’ in which Anil Kapoor proclaims in malicious glee, “Agar khud ko uncha dikhana hai, to doosron ko neecha dikhao…cut him down!” (Translation: If you want to show yourself as superior, show that others are inferior). If men appear as ‘excessively self-loving and greedy’ stereotypes to women, why can’t it be accepted and taken at face value? After all, men too stereotype women as ‘excessively conceited and forever nagging’ but none have so far coined a term, let’s say, FCB – Female Conceited Bitc**s, have we? 😉 😛

Unfortunately, one can’t claim to be equal by copy-pasting sentences from the internet as ones GTalk status message nor can battles be won by debates in classrooms or in mindlessly modifying pronouns. I wonder if any woman has protested against the rule that the first 3 seats in government run buses are reserved for women. Has any woman ever thought of forfeiting the quota reserved for women in all the government offices including the parliament? Preferential treatment is given only to those who are ‘considered’ weak and incapable to rise by themselves. In that case, reservations and quota are the first things women should fight against in their battle for equality because that is exactly what is to be defeated – the notion. I find it strange that many of the women are up in arms regarding the quota given to OBCs and SC/STs but are quite fine with the reservations and quota meant for women!

But as I said, I am neither for women fighting to eradicate this notion and be considered equal nor for men trying to counter react to this argument. I feel that men and women can never be equal and in so saying, I am not undermining the worth of either over the other.

Striving for equality only means that one has to sacrifice ones individuality to match the standards set by someone else. It is perhaps as ridiculous as the title of this blog entry because to create a perfectly scenic landscape, Nature chose to make the grass green and the sky blue. It would be quite a sight if all the grass were to turn blue in order to be ‘equal’ to the sky! And he enjoys the scene best who decides to accept the grass for its verdure in the same terms as the sky for its azure.

PS: For people, both men and women, who have missed the point altogether, I suggest you read this article I wrote for a management magazine on how feminine standards are a necessity to transform modern day corporate life and business mechanisms. (The magazine closed shop a few months afterwards but I swear my writings had nothing to do with it! 😛 )


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Now, look who is calling us third-world!

Word count: 550 | Estimated time to read entry: 7 min

In the midst of the US presidential elections, I was incidentally reading Mark Twain’s novel ‘The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn’. Readers who aren’t familiar with Mark Twain’s works might be interested to know that he describes a pre-Lincoln (readers who aren’t familiar with Lincoln might want to switch over to Britney Spears’ blog instantly 😛 ) era in the US where Afro – Americans were slaves to the “racially superior” whites and could be bought and sold in open markets – yes, women and children too.

Mark Twain portrays aspects of American life beautifully through the eyes of an adolescent, Huckleberry Finn in the eponymous novel. His constant companion is Jim, a runaway slave. Now had Jim been white, his running away would have been inconsequential. The fact that he was Afro-American was the only thing that made this otherwise trivial act a great crime.

More than a century has passed since Twain wrote this classic but the American mentality hasn’t altered much. Barack Obama was in the news not for all his achievements and embellishments (tell me frankly, how many do you know right now??) but because he is an Afro-American contesting for the post of the US president. From this viewpoint, I see no difference between Jim running away from his owner and Obama running for President! This aspect was most hyped by the US media. If I am wrong, then this election should have been like all other previous elections without any mention of race – which it certainly wasn’t.

America has imposed the ‘third-world’ country tag over India – a country living under the flimsy armor of technological advancement over a country that is eternally protected by its philosophy; a country that is not yet open to the idea of a woman President over a country that has had a woman Prime Minister decades ago; a country that wreaks immediate revenge on the innocent civilians of its enemy state over a country that tolerates and forgives daily misgivings on its innocent civilians by its enemy; a country that meddles with the internal affairs of other countries and hangs their ‘dictators’ after a ‘fair trail’ over a country that is perhaps a member of more mutual peace related committees than any other; a country that has enough and more nuclear power to destroy this galaxy over a country that voluntarily signs pacts against nuclear disarmament; a country that claims it has come a long way by electing a partially black President who is after all an American over a country that voted to power a non-Indian citizen naturalized by marriage; a country whose newly elected President’s principal aim is to nab Osama bin Laden despite an ailing economy over a country that is opening frontiers with its enemy by creating more direct buses to each other’s capitals and openly inviting them to singing competitions.

America is perhaps under the mistaken impression that technological advancement is the only advancement to be ever attained and having more guns and lesser tolerance qualifies it to brand itself as a developed nation. Countries that do not conform to this all-American notion are ‘third-world’ countries, however open-minded on other political, philosophical and humanitarian issues.

And by open-minded, I don’t mean Playboy or Naughty America!! 😛




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What do you want me to post here next?

 

Let’s face it. I have posted 7 entries in my blog this far and the topics have ranged from mocking my neighbor’s pettiness to excoriating authors and the media. Most of them are well over 800 words and would have necessitated your attention for at least 10 minutes and 2 mouse scrolls for going through the entire post. I sent you mails, messages or scraps intimating you that I have a new post in my blog but didn’t quite give you an idea of what you could expect.

What actually happened was that I invited you to read an entry on a topic I wasn’t quite sure you would relate to or appreciate. And you spent time, some brain cells and effort in reading an article which you weren’t sure would entertain or educate you. Doesn’t this asymmetry sound a tad too ridiculous?

You might be wondering, “Are you trying to tell me that I should know exactly what the article is even before I read it?” My answer to that is, “Maybe. Why not?” And the flip side of that question is, “What is it that you would want to read on, such that I can tailor my write-ups to suit your needs and tastes?” I think both of us – you as readers and I as a writer – should have the discretion to pose these queries to each other for a holistic information/opinion exchange experience.

Let me make it clear with an example. I am very much interested in cryptic crosswords. I could type away a 1000-word article on the simple charms and pleasures of solving a cryptic clue, comfortably ensconced in a couch with a bag of pop-corn and Yanni playing in the background. But considering my present set of readers, it would be a glorious waste. So if I send you an intimation saying that I have a new post on my blog, you might not read beyond the fourth line – which would mean I wasted my time or you could just linger on and finish the article and in the end, not like it very much – which would mean you wasted your time. So why endeavor to do something, the end result of which neither of us is sure of?

You needn’t be a web guru or a Silicon Valley expert to realize that I am actually talking of applying the principles of Web 2.0 in my writing. Blogging itself is hailed on as a key Web 2.0 bellwether, but in my opinion it isn’t fully so. The transfer of opinions and knowledge is still top-down – from writer to reader. Very few bloggers take feedback and work on it to suit their reader’s palates. If everyone is spitting self-specific opinions, who is to benefit from them? Shouldn’t it be a participative exercise rather than the largely anarchist model that is currently in vogue?

Time magazine momentously declared that the Person of the Year 2006 is “YOU”, considering the way you and I are interacting with each other, acting as local media hubs and using the Web 2ish internet as a platform. (Lev Grossman’s explanatory article is one of the finest I have read of late. You too can read it here if you haven’t already.) It is a giant leap from the way we used to access information yesterday and suddenly even opinions matter as much as facts. But then, if everyone opines who will listen? In the end we are only as deaf as we were before because of the din created by excessive opinions.

Why don’t we embark on a simple experiment? You guys tell me what you wanna read on next. Post all your ideas regarding topics, content, word limit, style and any other feature you want included. Send in your comments and I will try to incorporate them in my next article. You can also expect an explanation on why I chose what I chose. After all, the freedom is mutual isn’t it? So go ahead and opine. I am listening. 😉

 

The Media’s Mediocre Darlings

A few days ago, a leading daily carried an unusual article about Sonali Bendre adopting a dog. Reading this, I wondered if this is news at all. The sheer incongruity of the piece surprised me. This was a ridiculous example of the media’s tendency to publish anything that has to do with the glamour icons- an image the media itself has unnecessarily aggrandized.

The media of today gives undue importance to glamour and its disciples. Our newspapers give front page coverage to Aishwarya Rai’s injury, our TV channels telecast “item-bomb” competitions during prime time and our magazines depict Bipasha Basu and her ilk on cover pages. With the prevalence of such norms, fame has become synonymous with glamour. To be famous, the quickest route is through the glamour industry and it will be shorter still if you are willing to expose yards of skin. It has therefore become a self-fulfilling chain: the media’s preference for sex symbols and wannabe starlets donning skimpier clothes for the media’s attention.

Needless to say, both electronic and print media prefer the ‘gliterati’ to the ‘literati’. Sex appeal, estrogen/testosterone levels and on-screen unabashedness are slowly edging out talent, brains, values and character. The scientists, artists, writers and other intellectuals find no space in our newspapers and no channel allots enough time for their achievements. Our ‘reel’ heroes receive pages and pages of critical acclaim for their brilliant ‘acting’ but many of our real life heroes escape into oblivion. How many of us remember Bapi Sen, who died protecting a women being molested? A leading news magazine once declared Preity Zinta as a youth icon ‘for standing up to the mafia’. But how many of our policemen who die in not-so-glamorous encounters with the mafia are glorified that way?

Isn’t it small wonder then, that our primary school going brothers and sisters want to grow up to become John Abrahams and Mallika Sherawats? The children of today have no heroes with impeccable character to look up to- only sex idols with loose morals, thanks to our media. We as viewers and readers are helplessly at the media’s mercy. When such is the case, why be shocked and cry hoarse over the DPS MMS scandal? That is the inescapable logical conclusion to the media’s excess.