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  • I read the news today, oh boy. Four thousand holes in Blackburn Rovers' defence. Other journalists are bound to pinch and twist John Lennon's words, as I have done, in describing Blackburn's 1-7 defeat to Manchester United. There will probably be a few chicken jokes thrown in as well. The 27 November encounter was, after all, only the second game after the team's takeover by Venky's, an India-based producer of broilers, hatchlings and powdered eggs. Venky's obviously found it easier to buy into the EPL than the IPL. The firm's surprising acquisition underlines an issue that's been discussed with increasing urgency in recent years: What is English about the English Premier League?

    A similar question could be asked about the town of Blackburn. One of the earliest cities to experience the benefits of the industrial revolution, it flourished as a textile centre operating within a classical imperialist paradigm: importing raw materials from India and exporting finished goods to that same

    Read More »from Of Football, Potholes and Britishness
  • The modern world is an excellent place, but it has its disadvantages. As Sonia Gandhi points out, greed and graft are on the rise, and this puts the principles of independent India in danger1. There are less than one thousand five hundred tigers left in India. And of course our ancestors never had to deal with the news constantly talking about Dolly Bindra. Despite the excellent things we have today - low fare airlines, online radio, and Sushil Kumar - in many ways we are worse off than we were fifty years ago.

    One of the ways in which we are worse off is that our movies no longer have vamps. Yes, they have item numbers, but the vamp in her own right has vanished. The situation isn't as bad in Hollywood, but the golden age of the femme fatale is over. Sure, femme fatales make an appearance every now and then, but by and large the manic pixie dream girls have taken over.

    This is tragic because every time a movie comes out without a vamp, we lose the

    Read More »from Where Have All The Bad Girls Gone?
  • From the time of Cicero to Messrs Strunk and White and beyond, we've been told that effective communication eschews the ornate. In other words, write simply and plainly. The writer and critic William Zinssner made students at a Columbia University seminar recite the following, which just about sums it up:

    Short is better than long.

    Simple is good. (Louder!)

    Long Latin nouns are the enemy.

    Anglo-Saxon active verbs are your best friend.

    One thought per sentence.

    Certainly, one is all for clarity of expression, especially when it comes to insurance policies or home loan documents. With fiction, anyone trying to plough through the late novels of Henry James would wish that the Master had adhered to the piece of doggerel above.

    George Orwell famously asserted that "good prose is like a windowpane", and there are many such as V.S. Naipaul who have taken this dictum to heart, producing passages of stunning clarity. In the hands of some, a paring down of the unnecessary makes for limpid grace:

    Read More »from Window pane versus stained glass
  • The Thunderous Silence

    Indian journalism stinks right now.

    A few weeks ago, a plagiarism controversy broke over at India Today. Content theft is alarmingly common in Indian publications, but this was different because it involved the editor. Aroon Purie's bylined editorial had lifted a few sentences, verbatim, off a piece written on Rajnikanth by Slate journalist Grady Hendrix. In Twitterverse and the Blogosphere, parallel universes that mainstream mediawallahs generally manage to ignore, poop hit the fan. Eventually, Purie came out with an explanation that was at once shameful and shameless: he was jet-lagged, he said, and someone else had written the piece for him. Hendrix duly ridiculed the explanation (scroll down to his comment here).-- it couldn't have been very hard to mine it for humour.

    There were three issues that Puriegate highlighted. One, Indian publications don't give a damn about plagiarism, which is a sackable offence in any respectable publication in the West. Over the years, established

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  • The Illusion of Low-Risk

    "A person often meets his destiny on the road he took to avoid it." - Jean de La Fontaine

    Funnily, the above quote came to me through a recorded movie; I am not really fond of French poetry. But it triggered a thought - that this seems to be what we're doing in the whole financial world recently, and as an addition, it seems like we expect to die before we meet our destiny.

    Take Aditya Birla Money. According to Forbes, ABM sold investors a "risky options strategy" called Options Maxima as a safe investment; and later, when the market took a steep upturn, lost 103 crore rupees! The problem? The feeling of high returns for low risk. In the last year prior to September, the market had stayed in a fairly narrow trading range, so it had been very profitable to write "option strangles" - positions that would make money if the market stayed in that range but lose an unlimited amount if it went beyond. From October 2009, I have heard of brokers and high net worth individuals doing this as a

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  • A few days ago, the Ayatollah crossed a line.

    In an open call to action, Ayatollah Syed Ali Hoseyni Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, declared that "no virtue is better than rescuing nations from the demonic clutches of hegemonic powers, and no vice is worse than depending on and serving hegemonic powers." The nations that, according to the Ayatollah, needed rescuing were first Palestine, but also Afghanistan, Pakistan, Iraq and Kashmir. By including Kashmir in that list, he breached the defensive perimeter of India's foreign policy.

    See, the Indian politician -- as opposed to the Indian strategic analyst -- doesn't care much on what other countries say and do in other countries. India's political leaders are seldom consumed by the strategic implications of Iran's nuclear shenanigans, its support for Hezbollah and other terrorist groups and even its longstanding confrontation of the United States. When it comes to foreign affairs, you are likely to find them thinking and acting on

    Read More »from Will the Ayatollah step behind the line?

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