Housing Husbands…

I want to buy a house. I’m a single, salaried (ahem well-salaried) woman. I need a home loan. I did some research. Turns out Indian banks will give me a loan that is roughly five times my annual income. Unfortunately for me, the value of the property I intend to buy, is more than five times my annual income.

In order to enhance my loan amount I can do three things: a) find a better paying job and then apply for a loan, b) get a better degree and c) find a husband. Let’s let point ‘a’ be for the moment. I always knew MBAs had a distinct advantage in the world, but having a husband? Oh how biased is the world against the single woman.

So now I want to buy a husband.

I can’t be the only single woman in the world who needs an enhanced house loan. I wouldn’t at all be surprised if there was an informal market for husbands. Imagine….

A market where one could pick a husband by his loan-enhancement capability. The MBA men will be the most pricey. The market would then be flooded with fake MBA types – enter rating agencies to certify the authenticity of house-loan-enhancing-would-be husbands. Such a rating agency would work exactly the way a credit rating agency does. When the size of the market grows and banks finally catch-on, the government will abolish the husband requirement.

Why then make husbands a housing-loan enhancement criteria in the first place?


The ‘I Hate Vista Snowball Effect’

Last week I became a part of the Snowball Effect group on Face book. The group is trying a social experiment to illustrate the snowball effect which is the long-standing phenomenon that people follow what others do.

The ‘Mojave Experiment‘ put together by a Microsoft research team illustrates this idea nicely. The “Mojave Experiment” is an attempt to find out –

What do people think of Windows Vista® when they don’t know it’s Windows Vista? We disguised Windows Vista as codename ‘Mojave,’ the ‘next Microsoft OS,’ so regular people who’ve never used Windows Vista could see what it can do – and decide for themselves. …

Results from the experiment indicate that over 90% of users rated Vista much better than they did based on preconceived notions.

For most part, Vista works very well for me- sure it has annoying parts like every Windows system has had in the past, the real question is; Are we all sheep?

A Calvin-Hobbesian Eulogy

Last night a friend and I were talking about comic strips. Those used-to-be mandatory humour inserts in newspapers that have now almost all but vanished or been relegated to awful tabloid style sunday supplements.

 I grew up on comic strips having spent many a lovely rainy afternoon curled up with Asterix and Obelix on voyage to Corsica, later I moved to Dilbert and the Weasels with a growing empathy for his cubicled existence, replacing Catbert with the many managerial attitudes I have known and disliked.

The most evergreen memory has been Calvin and Hobbes. I remember teaching English with Calvin and Hobbes and Political Philosophy too. This is hardly surprising considering that Calvin is easily the greatest political philosopher ever. There have been hundereds of comic strips in newspapers so far, several terrible or just about average,  and some so absolutely brilliant that I collected them and made scrapbooks for summer school projects.

Bill Watterson is one of my all-time heroes and I wish sometimes that there was a tad more (yes I know there are thousands of strips!), the world for sure is a much saner place with the tiger and the boy. There’s something about Calvinian hometruths and Hobbesian aphorisms…

The real beauty of the twosome is in that unique form of  impudence, the curious situations they get into and the enduring alliance between the brat-pack; terror-child, genius and his pretend tiger living in fantasies that both you and I share.

Splng Mstacks

For a laugh:

Spelling Poem

Eye halve a spelling chequer
It came with my pea sea
It plainly marques four my revue
Miss steaks eye kin knot sea.

Eye strike a key and type a word
And weight four it two say
Weather eye am wrong oar write
It shows me strait a weigh.

As soon as a mist ache is maid
It nose bee fore two long
And eye can put the error rite
Its rare lea ever wrong.

Eye have run this poem threw it
I am shore your pleased two no
Its letter perfect awl the weigh
My chequer tolled me sew.[hat tip: to the link below]

The power of the parody

Parodies are funny. Sometimes they serve a larger purpose– like rooting out a fear from the human psyche. Look at Charlie Chaplin for instance, who does his moustache remind you of? Hitler. What did the long years of silent comedy actually do? It set out to and succeeded in ridiculing the Hitler phenomenon…Religious parodies too, though perhaps not at a similar scale are tools to re-think the whole supernatural ideal. One such is the Church of the SubGenius, which originated in the 80's largely on the internet and in underground pop-culture circles. The pamphlet of the Church of the SubGenuis is pure genius and reads thus:

"The Church Of The SubGenius is an order of Scoffers and Blasphemers, dedicated to Total Slack, delving into Mockery Science, Sadofuturistics, Megaphysics, Scatalography, Schizophreniatrics, Morealism, Sarcastrophy, Cynisacreligion, Apocolyptionomy, ESPectorationalism, Hypno-Pediatrics, Subliminalism, Satyriology, Disto-Utopianity, Sardonicology, Facetiouism, Ridiculophagy, and Miscellaneous Theology." Much of this is a parody of the new age terms and organised religion, a refuge for people who cannot be a part of the mainstream…. Ahem! The Church of SubGenius further is the only for-profit religious organisation that claims to be "Proud to pay its taxes", making people pay to become lifetime members! 🙂 One of funniest that I've seen is Monty Python's Life of Brian.

Then there is the Flying Spaghetti Monsterism, it is typically depicted as a clump of tangled spaghetti with two eyestalks, two meatballs, and many "noodly appendages," here in a parody of Michelangelo's The Creation of Adam, featured much on Boing Boing…. :D. This came at a time when George Bush was seriously considering offering 'intelligent design' as a companion course to evolution. Much like offering astrology as a science in India not so long ago….

Anyway the point being that I am a sworn devotee of the Invisible Pink Unicorn Cult. The cult is as Steve Eley describes " "Invisible Pink Unicorns are beings of great spiritual power. We know this because they are capable of being invisible and pink at the same time. Like all religions, the Faith of the Invisible Pink Unicorns is based upon both logic and faith. We have faith that they are pink; we logically know that they are invisible because we can't see them."…. Yeah! Its a reminiscence of the atheistic days. That was before love happened. 😀


Take That!

I was born into ideology–just like John Robbins of the Baskin-Robbins legacy and like him destined to rebel. I was also brought up on books and so cultivated by default a taste for literature, the arts and such. Along with that came a disdain (for no apparent reason of my own) for all that was economic or business oriented. My family is small and their tradition socialist, not just any variety–and certainly not ‘Utopian Socialism’ or ‘Stalinist’–a sort of ‘Leninist-Marxist liberal’ viewpoint and the only thing I knew about it was that it was left of the political spectrum.

At that age (around fourteen), you want to believe that adults have nothing further to teach you and that you know pretty much all that one needs to know to get around the world—boys, looking good, reading, faffing and the ability to wangle a part-time job. So I never asked what the deal was with socialism and all the other ‘isms’ that floated around dinnertime conversation in the cultured household of two mini-celebrities of journalists and a budding communist-cum-activist for a sister.

The first time I got jolted out of my apolitical bliss was when I bought my first mobile phone. My father (a man I love and respect more than most others) labeled it elitist and a symbol of the bourgeoisie. At that point, I was rather unsure of what ‘bourgeoisie’ meant but I was sure of was this: I liked mobile phones as much as I liked good books, alcohol, discothèques, expensive clothes and making a profit only for myself. So that made me capitalist-ish, right of the center if you can visualize the political spectrum. I, however, was still an enthusiastic part of every human chain that protested nuclear weapons, brought stray animals home and vociferously demanded that the Muslim maid of the house eat at the same table as us.

Six years hence, post-Marx, Lenin, Karl Popper, Sartre, Nozick, Friedman and an insufferable course at philosophy, I am more informed (and, yes, I have concrete political viewpoints) but no less certain about what my political ideology is. Funnily enough, I know what it ought to be in terms of outcomes.

When I say I know what the outcomes are, I mean I know what the elements of my vision for society are and I have my rationale. I know what my version of society will look like if I were to piece together civil society right from the start. I know for example that I do not trust the notion of ‘government’, to go back to first principles—a single authority, a monopoly (public or private, social, economic or political) if you please. I know that free speech, livelihood, minority inclusion and reproductive rights are my top concerns. I know I find nothing more revolting than pogroms, arsenals (especially nuclear), sectarian violence, gender bias and war. If you looked carefully, you would find a curious amalgamation of anarchy, capitalism and socialism right there.

So what am I? A green, a red, a blue or a white? An objectivist, subjectivist, libertarian, neo-socialist, retro-capitalist, social-individualist, extropian, futurist, cypherpunk-cyborg, eco-feminist, anarcho-capitalist or just someone with weird political fetishes?

My point is rather obvious, which is to say that it is rather difficult to straitjacket ones politics to fit a set of articulate but nevertheless inadequate set of bullet-pointed agendas. Why? Because, despite what we like tell ourselves, the personal is the political. Your politics is your set of beliefs, your desires and your customized road map to getting there. More importantly it is uniquely yours, you come upon it in ways that no one else could have because your experiences are uniquely yours.

There, however, is more to this argument, one that has wider and deeper implications for all that is political. Politics is the process and method of gaining or maintaining support for public or common action and by virtue of that it applies to every single thing within the structure of society it governs–how you redeem services, provide services, transact and interact.

To assume then that the political has to do solely or even largely to do with governments is at best faulty and at worst dangerous. Politics applies to all human group interactions including but not limited to corporate, academic and religious. Most vitally, politics is about the acquisition, application and distribution of power, i.e. the ability to impose one’s will on another. This could be everyday decision making or it could have to do with party politics.

There is another discipline to which my definitions would apply rather neatly as well, that of economics. In fact, political theory and economics are not mutually exclusive entities despite their being taught so in a vast majority of educational institutions. Economics deals with a different notion of power–the capacity to trade and use money to fulfill desires. It is as much of a study of people and their behavior as any other social science. Political economy is then what ties these together—the ‘on what’ of budgeting and the ‘who’ of governance.

And these ought to be and in fact are everyone’s concerns. This is why the outraged squawk of the average middle-class Indian when I attempt to take a stance on issues “Don’t politicize the issue yaar, people are suffering as it is…�? makes me pause in bewilderment. Isn’t this exactly why people are suffering? Because most people aren’t political, the few who are– practice party politics that has little to do with real social or economic reform, policies or governance that impacts your life in any significant way.

Ought the state to decide on what terms you can trade, what property you can own and what schooling your child has? Ought it to decide what films and advertisements you can or cannot watch? Must the state lay down the moral regime for a social collective to submit to?

What would it take to shake a languishing sea of humanity into an organized, demanding civil society movement? Specifically, what would wake the Rams and Salims of India out of their stupor to take charge of their own lives and rights? How many more Narmadas need be dammed, how many more Gujarats need to be crafted and carried out? How many more Kashmirs must we create, how many more Pokharans must we blast?

No one with a conscience can be apolitical and yet if you claim to be—then that is your bias. We may not be participants in the planning. But, if we are (and I believe we are) beneficiaries in any sense, then is it not time we took the responsibility?

This is why we must have a place at the policy tables, you and I. This is why we must devise a third way. We don’t have to choose between a unilateral world and terrorism, between the architects of the Gujarat pogrom (BJP) and those responsible for the Sikh riots (Congress), between free-market + war and license-quota raj + status quo. This is not what political choice is about. The real political choice is about governing yourself, building a democracy on liberal foundations and minimal control from a superstructure.

To this end, we must de-recognize political ideology from the pre-determined agendas of political parties. We must disassociate politics from social abuse. This will be the next revolution.

Laughs on the net

Once in a while one comes upon a gem on the internet- a little spark of ingenuity combined with a sense of humour. Here is one of those …. “Alas, the page once here has gone astray; there’s nothing more that I can do or say. Did you type it wrong or did it move? The document is probably at the Louvre. A wicked pox on those who are to blame; without a doubt, their heads are hung in shame. Perhaps another link would aid your quest, or would you rather stare at Chris’s chest? Our site is filled with fun from stem to stern – so stick around, there’s plenty more to learn. With help abound since nineteen ninety-six, the Gnomes have a knack for wicked picks. My sonnet, thus, was crafted just for you; There’s nothing more that I can say or do….”