Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Of Politicians, Pundits & Polls........!

Well, another Presidential debate went by. Entertaining? Yes! Enlightening? NO!!
I watched the debate on CNN because I think that is one of the more fair news channels, not completely, but light years ahead of Fox and MSNBC.

I can never understand the squiggly lines at the bottom of the screen. These are presumably "uncommitted" voters, with dials in their hands which they are supposed to twist on every point or comment the candidates make. But I don't see how 35 voters can ever be extrapolated to the entire electorate.

And the pundits! The so called experts of their respective parties. I don't know why a respected network like CNN would bother asking opinions on a candidate from these 'experts'. Does anybody believe that these individuals would ever say a word not complementing their candidate? And it does not matter one bit how their candidate actually did. The networks should just have real, neutral experts like David Gergen.

And the spin rooms! That really does make my head spin. The fact that we do actually call them 'spin rooms', and still waste network time and insult the intelligence of the electorate, amuses me. So what are we expecting here? Bobby Jindal suggesting Gov. Romney was not that great tonight? Or John Kerry saying that President Obama was too aggressive? That day will never come and we all know it. We know what these politicians are going to say post Debate, before they actually say it.

Look, President Obama won the second debate as clearly as Gov. Romney won the first one. Just admit it and deal with it, no matter which party you belong to. The dizzying array of "scientific polls", confuses me even more. Ninety nine percent of the people have already decided whom to vote for. Unless some skeletons come crashing out of one candidates closet, the voters are already decided. Each individual has one vote, and it can't be split between candidates like the polls are split on economy, defense, foreign policy etc etc. So just one polling question should be enough-- "Overall, after considering everything, whom are you likely to vote for?" So CNN, don't waste time and effort on the percentages!

People who have not been able to decide by now, with all the information they have, are unlikely to be swayed by one more debate. I guess they will decide on Nov 6th, depending on how the weather is that day!

By the way, I know whom I am going to vote for, but I am not telling. That is why they call it the 'secret ballot'.

Sunday, June 10, 2012

'Smart' Marketing

We live in a marketing blitz world. And it works! I know because I have 'Starbucks' quite frequently, paying about 5 times the price for coffee that I can practically pick up for free anywhere else. But it wouldn't have the 'Starbucks' logo. We have 'smart' phones, that give us a world of information. Most of the time a lot more than we need. There is a barrage of statistics to convince us all to go someplace or to buy something. A lot of times statistics are used as a drunken man would use a lamp post --- for support, rather than illumination.

And as some of my friends and I were discussing a couple of days ago, we also have 'smart' water! I don't know if the water is smart, or maybe it is supposed to make the consumer smart. But one thing is for sure -- the person who buys smart water, is perhaps not so himself! And have you heard about the face "Mud Mask"? There is a huge industry thriving on people (mostly ladies) wanting to put mud on their faces! Apparently to get a better complexion. Mud?! Really...........? Making you want to paste mud on your face -- now that is real marketing. Seeing those fancy ads for toilet paper almost makes you want to wear the toilet paper!

Have you seen some of those before and after pictures? Here's what the "Fitness" advertisers would do to the Statue of Liberty -----

 Before and after succeed at fitness

 Now don't get me wrong, advertising is required to make any business a success. Running a business without advertising is like winking at a girl in a dark room-- you know you are doing it, but nobody else does. But we, as consumers, have to be 'smarter' than the 'smart' products.

"Advertising may be described as the science of arresting human intelligence long enough to get money from it." ~ Stephen Leacock


Monday, May 28, 2012

"Everything will be alright in the end...."

This weekend we saw a movie --"The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel". The movie is mainly shot in India, around and in Jaipur. One of the main characters, Dev Patel (of the "Slumdog Millionare" fame), plays a young, energetic hotel manager. He has a favorite line in this movie -- "In India, we say that everything will be alright in the end, so if it is not alright now, it means this is not the end!"
Such a simple statement, but reflects so much hope and optimism. I am from India originally, and it has numerous problems, both economic and social. In spite of that, I am always amazed how easily people living there accept life as it comes.

A lot of it comes from faith. Faith in God, in the future, in the people, in the system..... it does not matter what you have faith in. It just gives you something to latch on to, to look forward to. Faith makes things possible, not easy. We still have to work to get to our goals, still have to roll up our sleeves and sweat it out. And as it invariably happens, when there are challenges along the way and things seem tough, faith makes you believe that "Everything will be alright in the end...........". And that in itself, implies optimism.

Optimism is the integral part of having faith. It is difficult to pry one from the other. Depending on our personalities, the glass can be 'half-full' or 'half-empty'. Whether you are an optimist or a pessimist or a realist, please watch out for the opportunist!
 (By the way, the movie is good, catch it if you can.)


Sunday, April 15, 2012

The dilemma of Chopsticks!

A few days ago, we were invited by our friends to go out for dinner at a Chinese restaurant.
"Its going to be authentic Chinese food," my friend said.
"Authentic?" I asked. To me, all food that has "noodles" on the menu is authentic Chinese food.
"Yes," he said. "This restaurant is run by a Chinese family, and its all real authentic cuisine."
"Good," I said. "I'm all for it. Lets go."
Once we were there, I realized that my friend hadn't been kidding. It took about half an hour to order. The aroma in the restaurant was delicious and I couldn't wait to start. There was only one problem -- there were no forks, spoons or knives. Only chopsticks! And I don't know how to eat with chopsticks. And I was very, very hungry. My friends and my wife started eating, and they were managing well.  And the food looked delicious. So I tried. But I wasn't very successful. I was chasing the food on the plate with my chopsticks more than eating it! 

The waiter noticed my predicament and slid over with the necessary cutlery.
"Thanks," I said, "I am not good with chopsticks."
"I noticed," he smiled, "I am not either. I grew up here."
"I thought guests did not have the option of cutlery in this authentic Chinese restaurant," I said.
"We do make exceptions for certain guests ," he said, with a wink.
"For guests who are hopeless with chopsticks!" I laughed.

I came home and researched the history of chopsticks. I was amazed at the amount of material available on the net on how to use chopsticks. Most of it is funny, targeted at people who want to appear 'cool' by using chopsticks! Western civilization has moved on, and has adopted Chinese food, but not chopsticks. For those of you who want to be 'authentic', please copy and paste this URL clip in your browser. It is funny, but with a message.

"I find chopsticks frankly distressing. Am I alone in thinking it odd that a people ingenious enough to invent paper, gunpowder, kites and any number of other useful objects, and who have a noble history extending back 3,000 years haven't yet worked out that a pair of knitting needles is no way to capture food?!" ~Bill Bryson


Sunday, April 1, 2012

The Friday Fantasy Fallout!

I am feeling a little depressed since early this Saturday. Ever since I checked my Lotto ticket numbers and realized that I was not one of the winners, I felt a little let down. I missed out ....again! And I wanted to use most of the money for charity anyway (after upgrading my house, cars etc. of course!)

All my plans and dreams have sort of fizzled out, and I am getting ready to go back to work tomorrow. But I am feeling better now, since I realized that my chance of winning the lotto was infinitely small. But that didn't deter me from spending some money and start dreaming. I even convinced my wife to go get some tickets! But is it bad to dream a little in midst of our busy lives? I really don't think so, even though the chance of that particular dream coming true was 1 in 176 million! You know, the chance of being struck by lightning twice in a day is about 1 in a 100 million, and for our golfer friends, the chance of back to back hole-in-one on consecutive Par 3(s) by an amateur is about the same! 

But human nature, in general, is optimistic. Some people did win, didn't they? So why not day dream for a bit, even if the chance of making it is exquisitely small. Because one thing is sure -- if you don't buy the ticket, the chances of winning are "zero", and a 1 in 176 million chance, no matter how small, is still more than "zero" . You see, a pessimist sees only the dark side of the clouds, and mopes; a philosopher sees both sides, and shrugs; an optimist doesn't see the clouds at all - he's walking on them!

"Thought is the labor of intellect, daydreaming is its pleasure!" ~ Victor Hugo

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Schizophrenic Tomatoes........!!!

Are tomatoes just tomatoes? Well, it's not that simple. Seems to me as if tomatoes have a multiple personality disorder. Are they a vegetable, or a fruit? Botanically, tomato is a fruit, but it is considered a vegetable for culinary purposes...and there's another but.....but it is consumed and served most often in the world along with salad! It got so confusing at one point in American history, that a suit was filed in the US supreme court in 1893 to settle the issue of  "fruit vs vegetable" (Nix v. Hedden, 1893). The court ruled that "The Tomato" should be considered a vegetable for customs tariff purposes. That concludes today's history lesson!

As if there was not enough confusion about this fruit/vegetable controversy, I came to know of another use of this quaint eatable. Are you ready for this?  As a face and body paste! I kid you not. I was at an impeccably organized Holi (festival of colors) party last weekend. There was splash of brilliant and bright colors, good food and spectacular weather. And towards the end, there were certain brave people who ventured on to the "Tomato Pit" to get socked and soaked by fresh, ripe and organic tomatoes.  After a few minutes of complete mayhem, most people were walking around smelling like ketchup and "Bloody Marys". I stayed clean because I can run fast!

I researched a bit more and was pleasantly surprised to find out that my friends and I were not the only ones throwing ripe tomatoes at each other! Tomato festivals are a permanent feature of many communities and cities all around the world, especially in Europe. Spain probably has the biggest tomato festival of them all,  "La Tomatina", celebrated in Bunol every year.

I guess the tomato is a tomato, after all. Depending on how it is used on a particular day, gives it a purpose and meaning for that day. That extrapolates well to so many events in our lives. We could take any event in our lives, and interpret it with whatever attitude we want to. Every peak in our life needs sobriety and humility, every trough is an opportunity to prove our strength & ability. We cannot direct the wind, but we can for sure adjust the sails.  

Here's a picture from the festival "La Tomatina"