26 Jun 2007
Deliverance comes knocking
In the disguise of death
The uninvited guest walks in
And looks at me askance
Impatience glows in His eyes
As He, with air of indifference
Awaits to finish the errand
Lying low, beaten and helpless
On ground drenched in blood
I plead Him a few moments more
But He cares not, and I go
Watching with tear-dimmed eyes
The embers of fond memories
And the unsaid final words
Ye all the loves of life
The final sojourn beckons
Forgive me as I go thus
A silent, hurried, remorseful exit
To a world unseen and unknown
Leaving behind not a trace
Of either the here or the hereafter
24 Jun 2007
It seems that entertaining the masses has become the foremost objective of media. The Times of India is the pioneer in this regard of making entertainment more important than information. Sensationalism has taken the driver's seat, objective reporting be damned! Among the host of 24x7 newschannels, not a single one dares to not give in to the fixation for TRPs and upping the advertising revenue. Thanks to these eternally insomniac producers of kitsch, the word "exclusive" will soon join - if it has not already - those that drive a chap to the limit of anger.
In retrospect, the days of Doordarshan appear much better. Bland and limited footage, but non-intrusive and crisp. Just the way reporting ought be. Tight schedule and small teams meant they had no time to blabber about reality shows, bollywood weddings, and openings of superstar movies. No stupid talkshows, no cosmetic copy, and news was just news. I liked the Prannoy Roy of The World This Week and election analyses, not the one who does boring talkshow stuff now.
These days, there's no news - they are rather short films and docu dramas, complete with transition effects and background score. A few weeks ago when a bomb blast happened in Hyderabad, a popular newschannel aired exclusive footage of the blast! What surprised me most was the perfect placing of camera, its focus and angle to catch the sudden flight of birds at the moment of the blast. What are the odds for it being a coincidence that the cameraman was at the right place at the right time of an absolutely unpredictable event? Many people had raised this question but it proved futile, for nobody pursued it further. The unhealthy drive for sensationalising events and airing exclusive footage has gone to dangerous extent.
Even though the proliferation of channels generated employment for many, nothing has been done about assessing the quality of reporters. But then when money is all that matters, you can't expect them to do any better than roping in pretty young things, trained better in phony accent than fundamentals of reporting, and passing them as bright reporters who know their job. I don't have anything against pretty sights on the idiot box - it would certainly be exciting to watch them strip as they talk about fashion shows, stay-young tips and tricks, celebrity gossip and other such bullshit. But when it's about analysis of economic growth, refugees, Satyajit Ray retrospective, Beethoven's symphonies, I'd prefer a reporter with girl-next-door looks, brilliant at analysis, prudent and straight at reporting to a gorgeous babe passing off ridiculous conclusions.
They find scholars and academics boring. Let you be a celebrity and they will consult you for opinions on issues ranging from world peace to consumerism to communal riots to political ethics. If you attracted controversy, the more popular you will be in interview and talkshow circuit. That is why Rakhi Sawant gained more airtime - in main features, let alone filmi and gossip ones - by showing skin than Amartya Sen could manage by winning the Nobel. The scene is so appalling that I enjoy Cyrus Broacha's The Week That Wasn't better than I do any newscast.
Print medium still has a few better chaps, and that is definitely a consolation. In entirety, though, Indian media would need decades to achieve even a tolerable level of maturity. Till then, I'll do better using the idiot box to watch only sports and ads.
22 Jun 2007
It's that time of the year again when one is subjected to the grind of filling the appraisal forms. A process no sane person would devise and an exercise no sane person would enjoy doing. I didn't enjoy doing it, and I'm not sane. When I finished the ordeal, I felt whoever had invented copy/paste/edit option ought be awarded a Nobel.
Not all people dislike it. As it is designed to be, many people indeed find it the best chance to summarize their past year's perfomance to the management so to effect in a promotion or a hike. They believe that the bell curve - that Great Intellectual Fraud, according to Taleb - is a fair mapping of correct and absolute judgment. They have their reasons to take it seriously, so I don't intend to dismiss them.
What interests is the vagueness and absurdity of its design. There's this section that asks the user to rate his performance in different competencies against his expectations. First, these competencies are not measurable. These are rather 'perceived' - whether subjectively or objectively. Second, the rating is meant to be cumulative, spanning one year, but the options are appropriate only for events/instances. Thus, the 'above average' rating is ridiculous. Yes, the ratings are meant to be against your expectation at the beginning of the year in consideration, so higher ratings than average don't appear to be flawed options, after all. But careful examination reveals that it is indeed incongruous with labour profiles (well-defined roles, repeatable tasks, limited power, functions with accountability), which most in the MNCs are. They don't outsource ideas profiles yet. The profiles don't deal with much uncertainty, either, as those of, say, hijack negotiators, extreme weather photographers, etc that rely on above-ordinary levels of anticipation and demand sharp decision-making ability.
Your expectation varies depending on every performance. As you do better, you tend to expect more from yourself. Besides, with time, everyone becomes better at what he has been doing. In effect, expectation goes up incrementally. Expectation is nothing but a projection based on the inference of the past. It is inductive. As the sample size increases, your expectation would be according as your average scores. As the average goes up, so too your expectation. Performance in a single outing can be more or less than your expectation, and this, in turn, contributes to the 'average'. So, above-average ratings (exceeds expectations, outstanding, etc) fit only for instances rather than their collection. When one refers to cumulative rating and claims it is above average, it implies that he failed at assessing his capabilities realistically. Statistically, though, an above-average rating suggests brilliant performance!
Rating oneself is always a tricky business. The interpretation depends on various factors - how generous he is in defining what an achievement is, how encompassing his criteria are, and, importantly, how stupid the management is. The more 'above average' these factors are, the more favorable the interpretation would be of above-average ratings. Although the skill - or the lack of it - of the managment remains a constant factor for all subjects, the other factors vary. Eventually, the final rating turns out to be almost independent of the subject's projection.
All that impressive management bunk notwithstanding, it's just a game of instincts and biases. So there will be favorites and scapegoats. Scapegoats will, however, be very few, so the exercise works fine for majority and they are led to believe that the rating is an absolute mathematical equivalent of their performance. As a result, it stays. Ergo, no escape yet from those few minutes in the management cabin listening to flattery or abuse!
21 Jun 2007
There was a time, not many years ago, when life was simple. Then all friends, cousins, and all objects of affection grew to marriageable age. And everything changed. Well, at least for me. With the addition of spouses and, within a few years, babies, I began to realize I've a terrible head for names.
I seem to have no problems with the first level, though. As the levels increase, the recall value slides in inverse proportion. Ready availability of secondary memories - yes, the damn gadgets - doesn't seem to be helping much. Being genuinely fond of nephews, nieces and babies doesn't seem to be helping, either. A quick check revealed that I don't remember the names of spouses of almost 70% of the contacts. Remembering the sex of the babies and their names is proving to be an enormous task.
I play it safe by asking "How is hubby?", "How is bhabhi/she?" and "How is the baby?" Thankfully, it works because of their strong associations for "he", "she" and "the baby". But then all situations cannot be so favorable - there will be times when one has to mention names. When the babies grow up - which they seem to be doing quite good and fast - I need to refer to the baby in terms of boy/girl. As I show no signs of improvement, I'm sure I've to live through many embarrassing situations. May friends and kin be blessed with more forgiveness!
It can't be a problem with the memory, though, for it does fine - just like an average chap's would - with most information that matters. It's probably to do with my loathing for the institution of marriage and family as an entity. If this is true, I don't need a fix. Else, I do.
7 Jun 2007
The logo for Olympics 2012, London was released Monday, June 4. The spend was £400,000, and it took the best part of a year to be devised by brand consultants Wolff Olins. Organisers claim it is aimed at the younger, "internet generation". Based roughly on the figures 2012 and apparently inspired by graffiti artists, the image - which replaces an earlier logo devised for London's bid to host the Games - was hailed as "dynamic" and "vibrant" by these chaps.
Wolff Olins handled branding for clients like GE, Orange, UNICEF, Sony Ericsson, etc, so I expected a great work from them. Sadly, for £400,000 and a year's effort, the result looks, to my mind, unimpressive. A good logo design should fit across all media and sizes - from a pen-drive to coffee mug to aircraft fuselage; from post-it to billboard to 30x80 flash ad banner. This logo fails the test. Disappointingly so. A logo design is more straightforward for analysis than other forms, and if the shape itself doesn't impress, there's hardly anything to appreciate. Wolff Olins does quality work, so I'm surprised this was the best - for that unreasonably huge budget and long time - they could come up with.
Hardly any design professional liked the logo. Design guru Stephen Bayley dismissed it as a puerile mess and a commercial scandal. Although the feedback reflected mostly anger and disappointment, yet it wasn't bereft of sense of humour, as the following comments (Source: The Telegraph) suggest:
Now I actually found it funny. Perhaps I have a dirty mind but I see a lady (kneeling on the righthand side) giving oral relief to the figure on the left hand side. I assume that the designer is a 1st class con man and that Bliar & Coe are self-delusional idiots.
A cartoon character with ringlets.
Well, you know the old say, "Make love, not war". Just look at the logo for a second or two and you will see what I mean.
If I was Wolff Olins I would be hurriedly be displaying my other submissions on the web right now in a vain attempt to save my reputation by proving they were not all this bad.
- Heads Should Roll
Without the word "london" & the Olympic symbol you would have no clue what it was.
- Konrad Yearwood
I can vaguely see what the artist was going for in the "graffiti" style, but it honestly (and especially the logo video that was pulled) looks like very bad 1980's cheap graphic design.
- D. Mc
What on earth is the small square shape in the middle? Is it a full stop? If so, where does it belong?
- Emma Clarke
It looks rather like an abstract sex act don't you think?
Makes me think of sex, just like those ink blot tests the shrink gives me.
- Roger Feldman
Don't know why some people think it looks like a swastika - the swastika was a much better design.
- Steve Durnin