Tuesday, July 31, 2007

A linguisitically disoriented nation?

Read Seth Mydans's Dili Journal to find out how East Timor is coping with a switch to Portuguese as the official language as it tries to get rid of its colonial tinge (read as Indonesian influence). Nobody seems to be bothered that Portugal was the first to colonise East Timor - I guess it's the lesser evil of the two. The problem arises from the the belief that Tetum - the other language spoken there - is seen as "thin and undeveloped". This move to purge Bahasa Indonesian has caused great chaos in the lives of 800,000 East Timorese of which only five per cent speak Portuguese. Thankfully, India didn't prove to be such a linguistic bigot in 1947 like East Timor.

I wonder how smooth the switch from the Arabic script to the Roman one was in Turkey? Or for that matter, closer home in Manipur, from the Bengali script to Meitei? Do these switches achieve any good other than making a political point? The above article quotes the example of Azerbaijan where a simple change in the alphabet, from Cyrillic to Roman, has created a new class of illiterates.

Friday, July 27, 2007

iPhone Commercial

What's it that the iPhone can't do? This funny commercial has the answers. These days phones tend to be everything but a phone. My moble handset (Nokia 8250) is four years old and I hold on to it dearly because, ahem, it's a phone - not a camera, not a camcorder, not a video game console and neither a portable music player. Is your phone still a phone?

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Spanish cartoon "insults" the royal family

From the BBC:

Spain's High Court has ordered the seizure of all copies of a magazine that carried a cartoon of Crown Prince Felipe and his wife having sex.

The cartoon on the front page of the weekly satirical magazine El Jueves depicted Prince Felipe saying sex was the closest he would come to working.

It was published after the government announced it would pay couples nearly $3,500 for each new baby born.

The high court judge ruled that the cartoon insulted the royal family...

I am not to sure if the magazine merits such censure but its cartoon sure is funny!

Friday, July 20, 2007

Some outrageous Engrish signboards I found in my inbox today...

Thursday, July 19, 2007

What have been the stupidest fatwas?

It's the season of fatwas. Foreign Policy lists five of the wackiest ones:

1) Against Salman Rushdie by Ayatollah Khomeini
2) Prohibiting unclothed sex by Rashad Hassan Khalil, former dean of Islamic law at al-Azhar University in Cairo, Egypt
3) Denouncing Pokemon by Saudi Arabia’s Higher Committee for Scientific Research and Islamic Law
4) Proscribing polio vaccine by local clerics in rural Pakistan, and
5) On breast-feeding by Ezzat Atiya, a lecturer at Cairo’s al-Azhar University

Tajbakhsh and Esfandiari on Iranian TV

The two American-Iranian detainees have been shown on Iranian television for the first time after their arrest months ago.

BBC says the show, In the Name of Democracy, was an apparent attempt to implicate them in a plot to destabilise the government in Tehran. The programme alternated between their interviews and dramatic pictures of recent revolutions in Ukraine and Georgia to suggest there was a US-led plot to overthrow the Iranian government. However, the BBC's Jon Leyne in Tehran says they did not make anything like a confession. The academics talked mostly about academic conferences in the US, to which leading Iranians had been invited… Interviewed in comfortable surroundings, the two looked in relatively good health. Our correspondent says that more may emerge in the in the second episode of the documentary to be broadcast on Thursday. What is not clear, he adds, is whether this is a prelude to the academics being charged, or perhaps a way of preparing for negotiations or even their release. “


Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Random map surfing - Who speaks Bengali and where?

(Image from Wikipedia)

Nothing very surprising but for the dot lower right of Italy... What do you think? Don't really know which year is his map from but I guess that small pocket in Europe's eastern frontier represents the illegal/legal Bengali-speaking migrant population waiting to move into western Europe.

Thursday, July 12, 2007

A Jewish revival but without the Jews

(Photo from NYT)
As some Catholics revive Poland's once-vibrant Jewish culture with, among other things, a popular festival, people are debating whether Poland has finally come to terms with its troubled Jewish history or is it just commercialising its fading Jewish identity... More here.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Delhi Police or Racial Police?

Delhi Police has released a manual for northeastern students/visitors in New Delhi. The booklet is “full of well-meaning advice that should help these men and women blend into Delhi society despite the handicap of their ‘foreign’ features”. Shocking as they are, the rules even include suggestions on what they should eat: “bamboo shoot, Akhuni and other smelly dishes should be prepared without creating ruckus in neighbourhood”.

And all of it comes from a northeasterner! The introduction to the booklet, titled “Words to Seven Sisters (the seven northeastern states)”, has been written by the deputy commissioner (West Delhi), Robin Hibu, an IPS officer who is from the Northeast.


Nirmala Laiseram, who works in Delhi but is now vacationing in Imphal, said: “Girls from the Northeast wear the same kind of clothes worn by Delhi girls. So what is the big deal?”

Mukul Sangma, deputy chief minister, Meghalaya said: “There has to be a uniform code of conduct for students from all parts of the country. Why only the Northeast? This is being racist and this will further alienate the nation.”
More here.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Is jogging right-wing?

What's left for the French to deconstruct? French intellectuals are wondering whether jogging is a right-wing activity as Sarkozy indulges in it liberally and enjoys being seen doing so.

“Is jogging right wing?” wondered Libération, the left-wing newspaper. Alain Finkelkraut, a celebrated philosopher, begged Mr Sarkozy on France 2, the main state television channel, to abandon his “undignified” pursuit. He should take up walking, like Socrates, Arthur Rimbaud, the poet, and other great men, said Mr Finkelkraut. “Western civilisation, in its best sense, was born with the promenade. Walking is a sensitive, spiritual act. Jogging is management of the body. The jogger says I am in control. It has nothing to do with meditation.

Jogging is of course about performance and individualism, values that are traditionally ascribed to the Right,” Odile Baudrier, editor of V02 magazine, a sports publication, told Libération. Patrick Mignon, a sports sociologist, noted that French intellectuals had always held sport in contempt, while totalitarian regimes cultivated physical fitness.

More here.

"Celebrating the finest in journalism" - Really?

As a jouranalist, I am really sceptical how a jury that counts not a single journalist as a member can select the "finest" in journalism. I am referring to the annual Ramnath Goenka Excellence in Journalism Awards 2006-07.

The jury includes:

Bakul Dholakia (IIM Ahmedabad Director)
Deepak Parekh (HDFC Chairman)
Fali S Nariman (Lawyer)
Keshub Mahindra (Mahindra & Mahindra Ltd Chairman)
M S Swaminathan (Agriculture Expert)
Naresh Chandra (Former Diplomat)
N R Narayanana Murthy (Infosys Chief Mentor)
Rama Bijapurkar (Market Expert)
Shobhana Bharatia (Hindustan Times Vice-Chairperson)
Shyam Benegal (Filmmaker)
and Subir Raha (Former ONGC CMD)

The closest one gets to journalism is with Bharatia... but then god would need to bail out Indian journalism if she were to run the actual show of writing and editing. Didn't the Express Group find a single unbiased journalist to go with these names? Do we really lack such stalwarts? Journalism is also about good writing... Yet, not even a writer on the jury! And they say they will choose the "finest" in journalism! Yeah, right.

Why Bihar offers a beacon hope?

Where backward Bihar leads India...

Thursday, July 05, 2007

So, it WAS the oil?

Australia, its government has acknowledged, is in Iraq for oil!

Tuesday, July 03, 2007

America's most expensive residential property

(Images from NYT)
Accused of receiving "hundreds of thousands and millions of dollars" as secret payment for facilitating a defence deal, Prince Bandar bin Sultan, the former Saudi ambassador to the US, bought the most expensive residential property in the US. Bigger than the White House, it is yet to find another owner… It costs $135 million.

At 56,000 square feet, Hala is bigger than the White House, with a staff of 12. It has 15 bedrooms, 16 baths, a private barbershop and beauty salon just off the master suite and enough space for a party of 450 people. More here.

What's iPerbole?

The hype surrounding any product Apple unveils.
More definitions here.

Iran launches Press TV, an English channel

First of all, I have to concede the name seems very original! Couldn't the Iranian government think of a better name? Well, at least it attempts to build bridges between the press and broadcast media.... Jokes apart, what is it that Press TV will now offer us that Al-Jazeera or France 24 already doesn't?

For one, you can surely expect a non-Arab and pro-Shia perspective that Al-Jazeera necessarily doesn't offer. Mohammad Sarafraz, vice-president of Iran's state broadcaster said Press TV would offer an unbiased view, unlike al-Jazeera, which he said had supported the Taleban and the regime of Saddam Hussein. Programmes sympathetic to Moqtada al Sadr, therefore, should not come as a surprise. There are also plans for a programme called Children of War, which will examine the effects of war on children in Iraq, Afghanistan and Lebanon (all of which are countries with dominant Shia populations). A propaganda television channel has become a necessity for the Iranian government as it seeks to assert itself in the region. Not surprisingly, the headline on Press TV, as I write, reads: "Iran rejects US 'ridiculous claims'".

Meanwhile, one wonders whatever happened to Channel Asia, India's CNN/BBC that was supposed to portray India internationally? All we are still left with is the decaying Doordarshan and its decrepit radio counterpart, AIR.