Monday, August 24, 2009

Catching Jug by the jugular

Dear Jug, I have been reading your articles every week in the ToI for many many years now, and have thoroughly enjoyed several of them. I do disagree with you, occasionally - be it for your enduring desire to fish for loo humor or your polemic dismissal of certain "lesser mortals" (typically, the practitioners of the art of real-politik). But this article from you and the resulting comments on your blog have triggered me to articulate the view from the other in a game of chess. This view from the other side is both revealing and educational. So, without further ado, here goes...

1. Jug, would you sign a public-petition requesting/encouraging the venerable M.F Hussain to make a nude painting with Islamic religious characters in them? And do you have the balls to face the consequences?

2. Trivial as it may seem, choose between solid belief in economic progress vs. solid belief in "principles". Now, let's give them both a face or two - Narendra Modi vs Jyoti Basu. Or post-war Western Europe vs pre-war Western Europe.

Allow me to explain the "faces". The western European nations had been perennially at war with each other for centuries...until post-war economic prosperity overcame the need for war. West Bengal, on the other hand, has been in relative peace for decades under the principled governance of the comrades, but it sunk into increasing depths of poverty, eventually leading to naxalism and fire-brand politicians. In other words, prosperity leads to peace, and NOT the other way round. Shift focus now to Gujarat - there is a Modi who has been the face of the economic prosperity there - and he is only allowed to do his job if he gets elected. And to get elected, he needs to put on a mask - of hardline Hindutva. Only the naive will discount the utility of populism. For example, S M Krishna, arguably, one of the best/progressive CMs of Karanataka, was naive, and so he lost the elections. Modi is far from being naive. While one can easily disagree with the means he employs, one can hardly ignore the TINA factor. Also, it is important to balance the means with the ends.

3. Jaswant wrote a book, no one has really read it yet, but Modi banned it already. What do you see happening here? Is it merely a book being banned (yes, I have the temerity to slight this) ..or is it a wily move to gain points in the game of succession within opportunistic move which claims "I'm the undisputed leader of the new BJP". Was there not a similar raison d'ĂȘtre for previous "bans" which did not involve the BJP - for example, the banning of The Satanic Verses. In essence, the analyst is obliged to look beyond the obvious - to dig into how the ban would help the ban-ner. Jug, you have let down the analyst in you by limiting yourself to taking predetermined pot-shots at the obvious.

4. The attacks on the nuns, girls going to discos, students wearing jeans..for sure deserve to be condemned, in the harshest way. But the question that a responsible society still needs to answer is: Why do such things happen? The obvious answer is:For political gains. This leads us to question if we bestow leadership (political gains) only to those who demonstrate their darker sides. Or if the act of bestowing leadership is done largely by people who are impressed by the demonstration of the darker sides. What every arm-chair intellectual such as Jug(who blame the "rest of the world" for all the ills plaguing it), misses is: "I am responsible". Yes, I'm responsible for allowing leadership to be bestowed to goondas and hooligans of all shades. I come first. The rest of the billion plus people might similarly be at fault too...but I cannot shun my responsibility. Of course not being an arm-chair intellectual makes the acceptance of responsibility easier.

5. A heavy (ahem) subject to round up: India was born in relative innocence - "the soul of a nation long suppressed, found utterance". Well, what did it utter then, and what does it utter now? The media has been the public manifestation of that utterance. Just how many of us would not curl up in shame at the current state of the Indian media? Is there any self-respecting voice left in the media? Someone who can stand up (not only as in comedy) and apologize for this? Or, are they just too occupied blaming all and sundry, when not busy finding a pee-for-free place in Venice? Oops, did that hurt?

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Why widgets on TV dont make sense

Coffee is great, beer is great, and both have their place in our life.
A place that serves coffee, might, with some luck (and with incredible planning) also end up serving great beer - or the other way round. But what about a place that takes this idea to an extreme and offers a combi of coffee and beer, in one glass ? Wierd. Very. Almost like widgets on a TV!

Widgets are productivity apps - just like coffee. You use them during the day to stay alert - to keep a tab on stock (in the post-recession world), to follow a news story, to see's who's winning the game. We also drink coffee for daytime socialising with colleagues, associates, friends. Similarly with widgets, you might want to follow tweets of colleagues and friends, you might want to watch that hilarious vid on youtube (or poor you, yahoo video) following a tweet.

As the sun sets, you get home. You want to lean back on the couch, down a beer, munch some junk, and watch a movie or a soap. And even if you prefer/insist on being "online 24*7" spare a thought for the people who share your roof. The TV is not a piece of furniture in your living room. It is the lively center piece around which the family gathers every evening. That's where you have a snack, cuddle up with the loved ones, watch happy kids enjoying an re-run episode of Mr Bean. The evening is when I wouldn't want to be bothered with productivity apps, and there would be several families that actually consider productivity apps as a pollution of the entertainment experience.

Now that doesn't mean that there's no bridge between the internet and the TV. There is. But clearly, it is not widgets. Widgets are the point-of-sale gimmick that can help push products. What the TV consumer wants every evening is not widgets - it is her choice of rich content experience, that plays with good picture quality on the large flat screen. Preferably with not having to go to a PC to setup that experience or pay for it.

The internet is the largest store of information in the world. It is becoming the single largest store of all entertainment content too. The TV is the tap which you turn on for entertainment experience. Piping entertainment to that tap makes a lot of sense (and fills a need-gap). Piping information (or infotainment) is polluting it. The sooner the yahoos and chumbys of the world understand this, the sooner they are in profits. But wisdom (or even sanity) are not obligatory.