Tuesday, November 29, 2005

There's literature and there's bad literature

It was a dark and stormy night - The Bulwer-Lytton Fiction Contest
Jennifer stood there, quietly ovulating - The Lyttle Lytton Contest
Imitation Hemingway and Faux Faulkner Contest.
Bad Sex in Fiction Award. (no fixed website yet).

And the all time classic: What if the Lord of the Rings had been written by someone else?

Like Zorro

And he came hard in her mouth and his dick jumped around and rattled on her teeth and he blacked out and she took his dick out of her mouth and lifted herself from his face and whipped the pillow away and he gasped and glugged at the air, and he came again so hard that his dick wrenched out of her hand and a shot of it hit him straight in the eye and stung like nothing he'd ever had in there, and he yelled with the pain, but the yell could have been anything, and as she grabbed at his dick, which was leaping around like a shower dropped in an empty bath, she scratched his back deeply with the nails of both hands and he shot three more times, in thick stripes on her chest. Like Zorro.
I know that sounds like William Faulkner desperately trying to win the Bulwer Lytton Fiction Contest, but it's only an excerpt from
Winkler by Giles Coren, longlisted for the related Bad Sex in Fiction Award.

Monday, November 28, 2005

The greatest argument against having an apocalypse

Think of every movie you've watched or heard about which was set in a post-apocalyptic world. Here are a few: Radioactive Dreams, The Sisterhood, Ultra Warrior, The Postman, and arguably Barb Wire.

Now imagine: if you had an apocalypse, every damn movie would be like those.

Sunday, November 27, 2005

Is Mysore representative of India?

For those of you who don't know Dave Barry, here's a quick introduction. Dave's blog is light fun to read, with topics like terrorist squirrels, exploding animals, toilet malfunctions and other minor mishaps which somehow seem saner than most events in world politics.

But I digress. The topic of this post is that Dave has unofficially adopted the Star of Mysore as the representative Indian publication, and blogs about several news items reported therein. Most of these news items cause some bemusement not only to Americans, but also to Floridans; stories about illegal floors being demolished, stories about people named Snake Shyam catching sleeping pythons, and stories about the sale of cow urine in Madhya Pradesh. Not to mention the name "Mysore" in English.

This gives me a fun idea. Go ahead, try it out.

1. Pick a country. It should be as different from yours as possible, and you should also be willing to welcome whatever new you learn about it.

2. Pick a city or town in that country. Look at a map if necessary. Ideally, the town should not be big or famous enough to come to your mind immediately when you think of the country.

3. Find a local newspaper or other MSM outlet based in that town. Don't pick a newspaper which is circulated through the entire country. Pick something that has more news reports than analyses and editorials. Don't pick a special-topic forum or a blog for this exercise.

4. Add that newspaper's website to your bookmarks, and read the headlines regularly for 2 weeks. Blog about anything interesting, funny or new that you find.

Finally, compare whether you leraned more about the country than what you knew earlier. If you had any stereotypes, were they reinforced or were they dispelled?

For my part, I'm picking Coast Week, published from Mombasa, Kenya.

Saturday, November 26, 2005

Press #0#0#0#0 to speak to a human

If you've ever called customer service and been put on hold, you've probably fretted and fumed for a human.

Social problem. Technical solution. And incredibly useful at that: http://paulenglish.com/ivr/

Source: Guardian article here.

Addendum: How will the companies respond? If you think they will revert to humans, press 1. If you think they will not respond at all, press 2. If you think they will fight to declare this cheat sheet illegal, press 3. Leave a comment below to communicate with a human.

Deny that the problem exists

I once had a conversation with someone who was outraged that India has entire subcastes whose job it is to clean out toilets manually. (Here's an informative, if POV, introduction). The conversation digressed from real toilets to Indian railway tracks, where pretty much the same problem exists. I listen to his tirade for a while, and then I ask "How would you solve the problem?".

He blurts out, "All castes should spend equal time cleaning out railway tracks".

Then he realizes something, calms down and says, "No, I would develop a machine that could roll along on the tracks and clean them with high-pressure water".

I didn't tell him my thoughts, all of which dealt with the question "Why is human excrement present on railway tracks in India?". I personally would go with installing sewage holding tanks in all passenger compartments so that the waste can be disposed of in stations using suction hoses or something similar. Eliminate the problem. Or at least deny that it exists and see where it leads.

But what would I know? I'm just a humble engineering type who searches for simple technical solutions to problems. I see a filthy railway track and I look for ways to clean it up. What would I know about caste?

So this Chinese and this Indian walk into a bar...

...and each tries to outdo the other on negative pride. The Chinese guy says, "We had this toxic spill upstream of Harbin, which made its 9 million residents go without water for four days."

The Indian snorts derisively and says, "We've had that for years in Chennai, and we didn't even need toxic spills like you did!".

But is Chennai listening? Or any of the other places in India without water?

Friday, November 25, 2005

Air guitars, eBay and the economy

There have been several measures proposed to judge the health of a given economy, the most famous of which is the Hemline Theory, which states that stock prices rise and fall along with women's hemlines. (This is only a correlation, but some people have tried to postulate a causation along these lines: short skirts mean sales of accessories like epilators and stockings. Both are associated with good social life, hence also with sales of cosmetics, food and entertainment. All of which is possible only when the economy is good).

Anyway, here's a new one: "The health of the economy is proportional to the number of intangible items sold on online auction sites each day". I name this the "Air Guitar Hypothesis".

Here's what I mean:

1. Probably the earliest such event.
2. One of the most recent clones.

And if you find too many intangibles being traded on eBay, you should probably watch out for bad business plans and burst-prone bubbles.