Thursday, June 19, 2008

India has its nuclear deal, South Korea has one with beef!

It's nearing splitsville for the Left and the Congress over the nuclear deal. Meanwhile, an interesting development is playing out in South Korea that may have lessons for us and out politicians.

A repentant Lee Myung-bak, the president and former Hyundai CEO, has had to repeal a deal with the US he rushed into after widespread public protests. The deal would have allowed large-scale import of US beef into South Korea. Beef imports were earlier called off after a case of BSE or mad cow disease was detected and critics therefore said the PM had overlooked the health concerns of his people. The beef deal, the US had insisted, was a must is a bilateral free trade agreement had to be signed. "I and the government are deeply sorry" a frank Lee told his people in his address. The president said he "was in a hurry after being elected president, as I thought I could not succeed unless I achieve changes and reform within one year after inauguration. As a president, I did not want to miss this golden opportunity (the free trade agreement)." Quite a bold statement for a politician.

Mr President, the Korean people have a beef with how you work! (Image from BBC News)
Would a frank Manmohan Singh, like Lee, tell us why there’s such obsession with the nuclear deal? So much so that we be subject to an early poll? Energy security has a lot of other components that are not getting the same love and push from the PMO: increasing energy efficiency, the Iran-Pakistan-India pipeline being just two of them. So, is it really energy security that bothers the PM? And are there some “musts” we must give (or have given) to the US to have this nuclear deal?

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

The copy editors are dying. What about reporters?

Good copy editors have always been rare. But Lawrence Downes comments in the NYT that the entire species may be endangered now as newspapers cut costs and take on forms that have no place for the orthodox desk:

As newspapers lose money and readers, they have been shedding great swaths of expensive expertise. They have been forced to shrink or eliminate the multiply redundant levels of editing that distinguish their kind of journalism from what you find on TV, radio and much of the Web. Copy editors are being bought out or forced out; they are dying and not being replaced.

But in that world of the perpetual present tense — post it now, fix it later, update constantly — old-time, persnickety editing may be a luxury in which only a few large news operations will indulge. It will be an artisanal product, like monastery honey and wooden yachts.

If you need any idea of what the copy editor's job is, Downes has an answer:

As for what they do, here’s the short version: After news happens in the chaos and clutter of the real world, it travels through a reporter’s mind, a photographer’s eye, a notebook and camera lens, into computer files, then through multiple layers of editing. Copy editors handle the final transition to an ink-on-paper object. On the news-factory floor, they do the refining and packaging. They trim words, fix grammar, punctuation and style, write headlines and captions.

But they also do a lot more. Copy editors are the last set of eyes before yours. They are more powerful than proofreaders. They untangle twisted prose. They are surgeons, removing growths of error and irrelevance; they are minimalist chefs, straining fat. Their goal is to make sure that the day’s work of a newspaper staff becomes an object of lasting beauty and excellence once it hits the presses.

And what about the reporters? Are we endangered with the proliferation of citizen journalism?

Friday, June 13, 2008

Playing with my camera

A lucky shot of these beautifully dressed women at Akbar's Tomb in Sikandra...

Thursday, June 12, 2008

Censorship at the Taj Mahal?

Revisiting places often throw up new details that may have escaped you before. On a recent trip to the Taj Mahal, that's what happened to me. I, unlike when I was a kid (the last time I went to the Taj), headed for the stone tablets placed on either side of the main entrance to the monument. I was intrigued to see how a few of the engraved lines were covered using white paint. The one in Hindi had its paint peeling off, making it possible for anybody to read what the government wished to hide from its people and tourists from abroad (loose translation):

The Taj Mahal's upkeep was in safe hands even after Shahjahan's death. But that changed in the 18th century. Its ... (illegible) and sandalwood doors, cots, boards and other furnitures, lamps and lamp posts, ... (illegible), curtains, gem-studded artefacts and other items were plundered one after the others by the Jats, Marathas and the East India Company.

What's the harm in saying so if it is a historical fact? If it isn't, why was this etched in public by the government in the first place? History, as always, remains a toy in the hands of the government.