Optimistic Cynic

Yeah Right!

Hating It: India TV

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Read this article about the extent of paranoia whipped up by some Indian media outlets about the Large Hadron Collider, and weep. Weep for the innocent and the naive who take everything shown and said on TV to be true. Weep for the state of journalism in the country. And pour some hate on the fraudster TV channel which is the main culprit in spreading this paranoia about the Large Hadron Collider.

In this village, a woman named Mukesh recounts what she saw on India TV, a Hindi news channel—once a black hole opened up, the earth would be consumed in one second, followed by the moon in another second and the sun in another six. It even set a time for doomsday—noon, sharp.

“This has worried us so much that we haven’t even eaten properly for the last few days,” she says. On Wednesday, “my son Rishipal has an English exam, so I have to send him to school. But I’m not sending him alone. I’m going with him.” And then, very businesslike, she asks: “Tell me, should we go into the hills? Is that safer?” [Live Mint]

My mother called me early yesterday morning to ask me whether the world is going to end at noon. She sounded quite worried, so I tried to reassure her. I hope I succeeded. But what about those mothers who don’t have engineer sons to call up for comfort every time this sort of nonsense happens?

The sheer outrageous nature of this channel’s coverage of events connected to LHC is beyond belief. I can’t find any clips on the web right now, but the excerpt above should give you a hint. Don’t forget that this coverage was backed with visuals from disaster movies, flash animation, terrorizing sound-effects etc. Read this for some more details.

Also, please take a look at the descriptions of some of the shows being promoted on the front page of this channel’s website:

To strike a balance between high tech modernization and astronomical calculations Sant Shiromani brings you GURUMANTRA with value added remedies of common ailments, foretelling future from Panchaang, and AAJ KA UPAAY. A perfect way to kick start your day.

Introducing you to your horoscope and numerological fortune, the proficient astrologer Acharya Indu Praksh reveals the connection between your celestial mechanics and the terrestrial dynamics. This daily dose of ‘Bhavishyavani’ aims to give you practical solutions to all your problems.Just dial 0120 – 2517251 and make a refreshing start to know your stars, just a phone call away.

‘Jai Shani Maharaj’ is a weekly show in which viewers get a chance to interact with proficient astrologer Dati Madan Maharaj Rajasthani Ji over telephone and get the solutions for Shani’s impact on their life. Just dial 0120 – 251 7 251.

Yes, that’s right: three daily shows devoted entirely to astrology. Yes, I know that a lot of people are superstitious and believe in such stuff. But must our media add to such nonsensical beliefs?

It looks like there might be some action taken against India TV and Aaj Tak for their alarmist fear-mongering. But the most effective action can only be taken by the viewers by refusing to watch such idiotic channels. You now have a channel which said that the world will end at noon. Well, it didn’t. Isn’t that proof enough that the channel was bullshitting you? Do yourself a favour and ask your cable operator to unsubscribe you from such feeds.

Update: There is a lot more evidence of sheer idiocy and inanity from India TV. Thanks to reader Amit Jain for the pointer in comments.

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Written by OC

September 11, 2008 at 2:01 pm

Posted in Television

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Questions For Sarah Palin

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Together at the Republican Convention 2008

Together at the Republican Convention 2008

Looks like everyone has a few questions to ask the Alaskan governor Sarah Palin, now that she has granted her first interview as the GOP’s VP-nominee.

Jack Shafer at Slate asks the following 10 questions:

  1. What Bush administration policy do you disagree with most, and what would you have done differently?
  2. How are you like Hillary Clinton?
  3. You’re running as a reformer, a crusader against the special interests and politics as usual. Setting aside for a moment Sen. Ted Stevens’ legal problems, should Alaska return to the Senate this Republican who has delivered more pork to his state than virtually any other elected official? Yes or no?
  4. Unique among all U.S. governors, you lead a state that shares a border with Russia, a sometimes hostile nation with a nuclear arsenal and new geopolitical ambitions. Given that, how do you evaluate Vladimir Putin?
  5. Do you still disagree with John McCain’s position that global warming is caused by man? If you’ve changed your mind in the last couple of weeks, please tell me why you changed your mind and when that happened.
  6. On the campaign trail or as vice president, will you try to persuade Mr. McCain to adopt your position on drilling in ANWAR? Or have you adopted his?
  7. Were you for the bridge to nowhere before you were against it?
  8. For most in the nation, you’re an unknown quantity. What questions should the press be asking you?
  9. What have you learned about foreign policy from John McCain since joining the ticket?
  10. Your son is being sent to Iraq. What is he fighting for?

He also has follow-ups to many of these questions. This is the list that I liked the most. As they say, read the whole thing [10 Questions for Sarah Palin]

The Foreign Policy magazine has put up a list of 20 questions they would like to ask her. Quite naturally, most questions on this list deal with foreign policy. I would have liked it more if they hadn’t included trivia-type questions in it (naming world leaders, listing books, is Iraq a democracy, which world leader would you meet first and why etc.).

Huffington post also has a list of 20 questions for her, but it seems to be unusually heavy on sensationalism.

The Anchorage Daily News, a newspaper based in Alaska, pitches in with 9 questions of its own.

Written by OC

September 10, 2008 at 7:29 am

Posted in Politics

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How Can She Slap, Sir?

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Apparently, there is this reality show called Dadagiri (TV’s meanest game show) on a channel called Bindaas. I’d never heard of either, till this happened (Via: Great Bong):

Part 1 – Prelude (01:03):

Part 2 – Real Action (02:18):

After being covered on TMZ, the video is a global hit and copies are available on virtually every video-sharing website.

Here is a short summary, if you can’t watch the videos for some reason:

The show pitches college students (contestants) against college bullies (hosts). Every round has different flavours of bullying (all intent on humiliation of contestants, basically). One of the hosts “Isha – The Goddess” – plays the role of the college rich bitch, who is supposed to insult contestants for their ugliness and for their lack of class.

She was doing her usual ‘your-sideburns-are-from-60s’ routine (Part 1, above) while the contestants managed to remain cool and didn’t respond to her comments. Infuriated (scripted, I think) she asked them whether they have tongues in the mouths (direct translation from the Hindi quip – ‘munh mein zabaan nahi hai kya‘). One of the two contestants said that they are quiet because they don’t want to talk to her. She barked at him to “fuck off”. The contestant managed a (weak) comeback of “you go”. Something cracked inside the hostess, and she slapped the contestant. Shocked, the contestant slapped her back (Part 2, above).

The other host then jumped into the fray to defend the hostess and started beating up the contestant who kept asking “how can she slap, sir?” Thereafter, the whole crew seemed to descend on the poor contestant and proceeded to beat him to a pulp. In the process, apart from getting physically thrashed, he gets thoroughly abused verbally as well. Expletives were all over the place, in Hindi and in English.

Now, quite obviously, the first slap wasn’t part of the script. That explains the reflexive return slap by the contestant. Moreover, he kept asking the host about the slap that he received. He has confirmed as much now (and is suing the channel):

“This incident occurred four months ago. The participants of the show had to pass through the litmus test of abuses and spats. And it was all scripted! We were all given our parts where 70 per cent was to be said as is and 30 per cent would be improvisations,” says Ravi. “There was this girl called Isha opposite me who was supposed to abuse me and I was to retaliate, but calmly. After a while when it came to improvisations, I presume she was out of words and came and slapped me hard. I was shocked and in the heat of the moment, I slapped her back. That led to the entire unit of about 70 people jumping on me beating me black and blue. It was a miracle in itself that I managed to escape from there,” he says. [TOI]

Legal tangles apart, I am on the contestant’s side on this one. She shouldn’t have slapped him in the first place. The rest of the crew had no right whatsoever to beat him to a pulp (he was thrown on the ground and kicked, and was reduced to tears). And the verbal abuse is just shameful, especially coming from a TV crew who are supposed to know better than to scream obscenities when the camera is rolling. Disgusting. Funny too, in a sad sort of way.

The channel, no doubt, is pretty happy with this turn of events. In fact, it probably deliberately leaked the clip to create controversy and raise TRPs.

PS: The incident has also become an internet meme. There is even a dedicated website, which sells “how can you slap” t-shirts.

Written by OC

September 7, 2008 at 1:16 pm

Posted in Television

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Actually, We’ll Run Out of Oil

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Via Something Like Life, and also via India Uncut, I reached the provocatively titled article We’ll never out by Donald J. Boudreaux (professor of economics at George Mason University). He is talking about oil.

He asserts that “economics assures us that we will never run out of oil.” Really?

He differentiates (rightly) between the physical and economic limits of exploiting the oil reserves. He asserts (rightly, again) that we don’t know how much oil there really is in the ground. However, he does admit that there is a physical limit on the amount of oil, even though we don’t know exactly what this limit is.

His argument for reassuring us about never running out of oil relies on an analogy:

Scenario One: You’re a mosquito on the surface of a balloon containing as much blood as an Olympic-size swimming pool contains water. You, hungry mosquito that you are, inject your proboscis into the balloon and enjoy a meal. By doing so you negligibly reduce the volume of blood in the balloon. Whether you know it or not, you can gorge yourself on blood from this balloon for the rest of your life and there will still be ample blood remaining to feed countless generations of your offspring.

Scenario Two: You’re a mosquito on a balloon the size of a pea. You eat a meal. The size of your meal relative to the blood-contents of the tiny balloon is large; you significantly reduce the contents.

By his own admission, he doesn’t know which situation we are in. He guesses that we are in an intermediate scenario, while being confident that we are definitely not in Scenario Two.

Note the complete absence of any pointers to supporting evidence. Without them, it amounts (roughly) to Argument from Authority (a professor of economics, who is talking about economics) which I am not a big fan of.

Point is, we could be like the mosquito in scenario one. That mosquito needn’t know that she’s atop a quantity of blood that’s practically limitless. If she’s informed that the amount of blood in her balloon is finite, she might needlessly worry that she’ll run out of blood. She might pointlessly reduce her consumption to avoid a mythical “end of blood.”

Again, I don’t know that we’re like the mosquito in scenario one — but no one knows that we’re not. A resource physically finite might be economically inexhaustible.

The assertion that “no one knows that we’re not” in Scenario One can be turned on its head and would apply equally well to Scenario Two (unless some evidence is presented, which wasn’t). So, what if we are really in Scenario Two, but sitting smugly in the false belief that we’ll never run out of oil? Not good.

If we are in an intermediate scenario, as he suspects, we would still do well to try to rid ourselves of our oil addiction and invest in alternative sources of oil. Why? Because the basic assumptions of Scenario One would fall apart in an intermediate scenario. The supply of oil would not be virtually limitless, and our consumption would significantly deplete the reserves. As a consequence, there would not be ample oil remaining to satisfy the needs of “countless generations” of our offspring. In other words, we’ll run out of oil.

Words like “never” and “countless” are not to be easily deployed.

I understand that he is just writing an article, not a thesis. There are word-limits and editorial deadlines to keep in mind. But, such articles, especially when coming from someone who is generally considered a figure of authority, run the risk of giving the layperson a false sense of energy security. The consequences can be serious. Already, Amit Varma’s maid agrees with the professor and is presumably not switching the lights off at night.

Written by OC

September 5, 2008 at 8:34 am

Posted in Economics

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