Sunday, July 29, 2007

Truly Epic Lulz

This is the funniest news story that I've seen in a long time, kinda like Brass Eye, without the satiric intent.

They are hackers on steroids, treating the Web like a real-life video game, sacking Web sites, creating chaos and disrupting innocent people's lives. Phil Shuman tracks down the 'hacker gangs' in this FOX 11 investigation.

In this video:

* Dancing Hitler
* Exploding car bomb
* What is Lulz?
* Gay Sex Pictures
* Human swastika on Habbo Hotel
* Internet Hate Machine
* Darth Vader voiceovers

Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Here's your answer Mr. Kalam!

MTV Youth Icon and former president of India, Dr. APJ Abdul Kalam shows his web 2.0 savviness by asking an online audience a seemingly innocuous question.

What should we do to free our planet from terrorism?

As someone who's been subjected to far too many fictionalised forwards about Mr. Kalam, a poster child for secularism, an immensely saleable character in the all India free markets BPO brochure for foreign investment, his last hurrah offended me as much as his ineffectual position and posturing in the parliament. He's using George Bush's evil-doer rhetoric before he throws the gauntlet for this high school debating contest: "When evil minds combine, good minds have to work together and combat. In this context, what are the out-of-the-box solutions to free the planet earth from terrorism?"

More offensive was the award winning entry by Sugato Mitra, who uses every cheap high school sycophant trick, like thanking the judges, teachers, countrymen for this glorious opportunity to win some brownie points. It's really annoying to see this asshole win, I've seen guys like these win all their life. This guy is better than a medieval bard at a royal court at fellating egos:

"First, let me wish Your Excellency a very happy and prosperous new year. I am Sugato Mitra, a 41 year old man from Durgapur in West Bengal. As a very ordinary citizen of this great nation, I consider it an immense privillege of mine to be presented with an opportunity to answer a question which happens to cross the mind of someone who is not only the Honourable President of India but also happens to be one of the greatest intellectual minds of this country."

I can imagine Abdul Kalam stifle a joyous tear and mutter to himself, "You had me at Your Excllency." For emphasis, our award winning entry uses it thrice.

In spite of this carefully worded bootlicking, he misses a few operative words, totally twisting the meaning: "When the World Trade Center came crashing down, the whole world condemned. But sadly, such reactions of universal solidarity are seen when terrorism kills innocents in India."

I guess he meant aren't seen. Hey, I know I'm being pedantic. My blog is full of typos which can be used to humiliate me, but what I really wanted to rail against, was the triumph form against content.

Look at his suggestions: "Voices should be raised when a powerful nation tries to bully a weak nation into submission and thereby open another front for terrorism. Such nations, however powerful, should be shunned by one and all."

Hey asshole. Guess what, we had protests all over the world from people, massive crowd rallies against the war in Iraq. We all forgot about it and went back to our jobs. Didn't do a goddamn thing. Shun these nations? You mean shun America? That PC you're using, that's primo American R&D that you took a bank loan for. What exactly do you mean by shun anyways? They're on the other side of the globe, and if you don't mean economic shunning, what other voice do you have for your dissent? Consumerism is your only vote.

He follows it up with a very Arundhati Roy exposition, drumming up a reply that translates to, "Yes, terrorists are a very bad thing, but the US is very bad too. Development. Education. Employment. That should solve everything." Look at his closer here:

"A check on the population growth, quality education and living standards, development and employment opportunities for the youth and respect for humanity and universal human values will ultimately wipe out terrorism one day."

Here's a history lesson for you. The Shah of Iran was the most pro development progressive leader that Iran ever had. He put all that oil surplus money right back into the system, introduced land reforms, industrialized the country, gave rights to women, improved literacy rates, gave free and compulsory education, introduced reforms that would allow members of Iran's non-Muslim minority to be elected or appointed to local offices. He was overthrown in 1979 and replaced by an Islamist theocracy.

But let me break each and every optimistic hope one by one.

A check on the population growth - Never gonna happen. Unless this implies nuking vast regions of this planet. The catholics are still pro-life and anti-abortion, the shiites think the same way too, the two big monotheistic religions are against buggery, so nyet. No chance.

Quality education and living standards - Living standards are directly correlated to energy abundance. One gallon of fuel has the energy equivalent of one man year of work. We've officially hit peak oil now. So not everyone's gonna be able to jump on this bandwagon, cause the bandwagon is short on gas.

Development and employment opportunities - Again, energy. Not enough to go around. If you mean sweatshop and slave labour, we will have more of that in droves, for sure.

Respect for humanity - Humans have a strange way of defining who is human. There were serious arguments by the scientific community a couple of centuries ago whether black people were human or not. Religion teaches us to love our neighbour and help the poor, but if he doesn't worship the same god as you, his humanity is highly subjective.

and universal human values - W

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

War Nerd - A modern day oracle

Patton once said, "War is a the greatest sport on earth", or at least that's what he said in the movie, all gruff voiced and alpha male. He was a man of action, all right. We worship the biggest killers in history, Achilles, Alexander, Leonidas, Attilla the Hun, Patton, we've had major motion pictures about all of them. Vin Diesel is coming out with a movie on Hannibal. There's an animated series on Saladin in the works.

If history hadn't glamorized war so much, would we be more peaceful as a species? I feel a bit awkward asking that, it's a bit like saying those columbine kids went on a killing spree cause of Doom.

But war ain't always glamorous. Heck, there's a lot of wars we don't wanna know about, or care to know about, because network TV has a weird way of filtering out the noise, especially if it is in Africa.

Which is why I'd like to write a gushing, glowing tribute to War Nerd. He's written about Congo, Darfur, Liberia, Togo, Haiti, Syria, and all the other B-list countries that you never get to hear about. Not out of empathy, just a nerd kink for a sporting activity that we've been doing since we developed thumbs.

He's no expert. He makes that very clear, he's a fat, overweight data entry operator in Fresno, California, whose only joy in life comes from reading up everything he can on war. But he's more refreshing than anything I've seen on TV or print yet. And I learnt a lot of things that I didn't know earlier:

Guess who invented the concentration camp? - The Brits.

What's the American military's greatest strength? - Logistics.

What's the only terrorist group with an Air force? - LTTE.

Why don't we hear much about the Carthaginian Genocide? - Cause they're all fucking dead.

Like I said, he's not an expert, just a fan. Wholesome Edutainment. I'll leave you with his accounts on the LTTE, Hezbollah, and wrap it up with his doctrine of Asymmetrical War.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Hitchens vs Religion

Wikipedia can lead to strange alleys - on a mental kink of some sorts, I was browsing through the Cliff Notes' version of Isaac Asimov's foundation series, a sort of a recap, because I only remembered bits of it, like Hari Seldon, the Mule, and that chick who could read your thoughts.

Turns out, Asimov was a big fan of Edward Gibbon, a raging supernova from the enlightenment era, and the Foundation series were a sort of an allegory, inspired by Gibbon's The History Of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Long title eh? Wait till you get to the book. Though I must say, for a man of that era, the book is surprisingly entertaining and witty. Digging out facts from the source - that's a polyglot's job - it's also tedious, it takes a lot of earnest hard work, the kind that my internet generation cannot possibly fathom.

Here's why I love this man - because in the 17'th century, he called it like he saw it. The Romans were never the same, he said, after they found Christianity. That got his book banned in many countries, mercifully there were no fatwas on him.

From this era, we've got Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens who're saying the same thing, except they're a lot more direct and blunt. Dawkins wrote The God Delusion last year, and it was a best seller, and Hitchens, one upped him with his book: God is Not Great: Why Religion Spoils Everything. Here's an excerpt.

I'm not buying either of these books, because they're both gonna tell me something I already know. But they'd make great gifts for any of your friends who are religious nuts.

A sincere question: how much of this can you really attribute to religion, and how much would you attribute to plain ol' human nature? We've been really vicious to each other since the dawn of time. Religion is just another reason for you to root for the home team.

I love my atheist friends. Goddamn, we need more missionaries who preach atheism. I'll close with a quote from Doug Stanhope.

"You never hear in the news, "200 killed today when Atheist rebels took heavy shelling from the Agnostic stronghold in the North."

Bombay's Unflappable Sprit

I just had to get out of my hibernation mode to comment on this sappy hammed up emo column by Adi Pocha. The column is topical, as most columns are, and you can almost hear the sad violin in the back ground as the local hobo-bard tries to make it sound like a tragedy. Adi Pocha wants to be the conscience of this city, only he has as much finesse as a 9 year old on a Bombay local singing tum to thehre pardesi .

"Our city is falling. Around our eyes and ears. Not in the dark of some silent night. But in broad daylight. While we wait at a clinic. Or eat pani puri after our evening walk. Or buy jewellery, maybe for our daughter’s wedding."

First of all, I hate these short stacatto burst sentences that every wannabe Chuck Paulanuik has started using. It's getting old. And then he goes into metaphorical warps of logic, like this:

"Meanwhile, of course, our city is falling. Crumbling slowly under the crushing weight of millions of individual dreams"

"For now it is held up teetering, only by the spirit of its people."

For those who aren't in Bombay, an old building just crumbled with the occupants still under it. There are plenty of buildings with old cracks, the only reason people are still there is cause of some ridiculous rent act fifty fucking years ago, because of which they have squatted on these properties with their extended families for their entire lives for a nominal sum, and they aren't even allowed to repair these buildings, because of some warped government laws that holds plaster more precious than human life.

I'm sure every TV channel is there to capture the melodrama, wailing mothers beating their chests and all. The media sales guys for these channels would be overbooked on the ad slots. And somewhere amidst all of this, they'd talk about the spirit of the mumbaikar, that hard as nails city rat who will voluntarily subject himself to crush density loads, back to work the next day because he's so badass.

I'm calling bullshit on that. This so called spirit of Bombay is the same bullshit that New Yorkers had post 9/11, some crap about bravery and courage in the face of adversity, when in reality, even the worst of Bombay is nothing compared to Chad, Algeria, Niger, Congo, Chechnya, and various other hellholes in which tribes rape and pillage each other for sport.

How hard is it to haul your ass to a job you don't like? People all over the world do it. We just got shitty infrastructure, and now it looks like we're getting proud of it.