Wednesday, February 28, 2007

Microsoft Word = Dumbass

So I'm writing a paper only be given one of those red squiggly lines telling me I've misspelled a word. It turns out, the spelling is completely fine but that Microsoft Word doesn't think "conflictual" is a real word. I shake my head and move on. A couple of paragraphs later, the same thing happens. Again, I check the spelling and again, it's completely fine. Microsoft Word, you see, doesn't think "primitivity" is a word either. This, by the way, from the same program that acknowledges "Chandrasekhar" is a real name (try typing it; it won't give you the red squiggly line). How can you know about "Chandrasekhar" but not "conflictual"? I can only conclude that an Indian with a really bad vocabulary designed the version I'm using.

Help Needed

I'm too busy to read bullshit financial news so I would appreciate if one of Five Rupees' twelve readers could give me a four sentence explanation of what the hell is going on, a three sentence explanation of if and how this is different from the 1997 Asian financial crisis, a three sentence explanation of if and how this is different from the stock market crash of the late 1920s, and a one sentence prescription on whether or not I should begin to hoard bread. For all the random and sometimes useful information I furnish you with, it's the least you people could do.

Conspiracy of the day
Whether be it the migrating Muslims or those Muslims who are at the moment living in India, they can clearly remember that such cruelties were performed by their Indian brethren with the use of knives and daggers. But the way the massacre operation was performed on Samjhota Express clearly points the fingers to a pro-Jewish organisation because in this operation there was less terrorism action that one could have expected under such a situation than the barbaric action that was actually involved. The way the bodies were mistreated that any person can feel nothing but awfully ashamed of and disgraced.

If you take an in-depth look at this incident and impartially analyse the whole scenario, you would not help but strongly believe that the Indian government must be behind all this.

From a letter in Dawn today. Not quite sure how "pro-Jewish" elements figure into the analysis, but maybe that's because I haven't given it enough thought.

Tuesday, February 27, 2007

Quotes of the day

You know that famous proverb "Give a man a fish and you feed him for a day. Teach a man to fish and you feed him for a lifetime"? Well, a former resident of Mogadishu has something along the same lines for Nicholas Kristof (don't bother clicking if you don't have NYTimes Select).
If I use a dollar to buy food, then tomorrow I have nothing. If I use a dollar to buy a bullet, then I can eat every day.

Ah, Somalia. Kristof is treated to more pearls of wisdom from Dahir Rayale Kahin, the President of Somaliland, which isn't even a real country.
There is a proverb in our country: ‘You can wash your body only with your own hand.’

Clearly, this Dahir fellow's wife is quite the prude.

Excerpt of the day
Thus, starting in 1979 under military governments, Argentina and Brazil managed to carry out a rapprochement process that bore concrete fruits within six years, changed mutual perceptions, and finally set up a durable, 'strategic alliance': Mercosur.

Andrea Oelsner in Two Sides of the Same Coin: Mutual Perceptions and Security Community in the Case of Argentina and Brazil. I don't know about you, but the last time I had concrete fruit, I ended up with bleeding gums and had to go to the dentist.

By the way, I should add that mainstream IR scholars with a constructivist bent (Wendt, Katzenstein, et al) are seriously missing the boat by not looking at South America. Typically, constructivist scholarship in IR has tended to focus on two issues: the change in the political landscape of Europe, and the end of the Cold War. Both are good cases but are also somewhat overdetermined, that is to say, there exist a number of other causes of these events which can stand up to empirical scrutiny just as strongly as constructvist explanations (especially in the Cold War case). South America, by contrast, is begging to be looked through a constructivist lens, mainly because the hegemonic theories (Neorealism, Liberal Institutionalism) have little or nothing to say about (a) the long peace on the continent that has existed since the late 19th century (there have been only four interstate wars among South American states in the last 120 years, and three of these - Peru/Colombia in 1932, Peru/Ecuador in 1941 and Peru/Ecuador again in 1995 - saw less than 1500 people die) and (b) the beginning and deepening of warm relations between Argentina and Brazil in the last quarter of the 20th century. Very few scholars have tackled (a), which is one of the reasons I wrote a paper on it last quarter and might make it a MA thesis/dissertation topic. A few more have tackled (b) but from a regional politics perspective rather than an overarching theoretical one that speaks to ongoing ontological debates within IR. The point is that there is plenty of intellectual space here, space that I fully intend on exploiting.

Sunday, February 25, 2007

Defending the ICC? Someone's Got To Do It

Here's Tim May, mouthing off:
We're very seriously worried that a few countries are playing too much cricket. It's our ongoing battle with the ICC. Australia will play India 21 times in the eight months from June this year. From the perspective of players and spectators, it's going to dampen your interest. And it detracts from the commercial value of the product. Vision has been lost about what's important and what is not.

You know what? It is crazy that Australia and India will play each other 21 times in eight months. But the schedule is not the ICC's fault. The culpability lies with the respective boards, easily the two most money-grubbing in the game (if you need evidence for that statement, consider Australia's ridiculous annual exercise of taking 12 matches to trim a three-team competition down to a two-team one and India's six- and seven-match bilateral ODI series every home season). Let this point be clear: the ICC only requires teams play each other twice every six seasons, once home and once away. Now, if the Australian and Indian boards want to capitalize on the fact that they are huge draws for each others' crowds and television marketers, then that's their prerogative. Just don't lash out at the ICC. After all, seeing as how India and Australia played each other in Australia in 2003-04 and in India in late 2004, the ICC doesn't require a series between the two sides until the Australian summer of 2008-09 (and it certainly doesn't require the aforementioned six-week long triangular ODI series). So, please, Timmy, direct your ire at your board and the BCCI. The ICC get plenty of flak, much of it deserved, but they're not to be blamed here.

Saturday, February 24, 2007

Really? Are You Sure? Well, That Really Is an Astute Observation!

With Dwyane Wade getting injured the other day, questions naturally arose as to how/if Miami would survive/make the playoffs. Steve Kerr answered the question in a column, saying Shaq "must play well". Charley Rosen also wrote a column, and what do you know, he also thinks Shaq has to play well. Not to be outdone, Marty Burns wrote in his column that the Heat's fortunes are now in Shaq's hands. Thanks, guys! Maybe next time you can devote your columns to whether or not the sun rises in the east or whether or not France is in Europe.

Friday, February 23, 2007

The National Basketball Association?

With Wade out (possibly for the season) and the Lakers in a slide, there are only two viable MVP candidates left: Nash and Nowitzki. While it is extremely difficult to decide between the two at this point (my vote, for the record, would go to Nash), there is one thing that bears mentioning: if one of these two wins it this year, it will mean that in the last six seasons, only one MVP (Garnett in '04) would have been born in the U.S. Interesting little factoid, yes?

Thursday, February 22, 2007

Irony Alert

Guess who's coming to our campus to give a talk? Richard Perle. Guess what his talk is on? Middle East peace. I have just one question: isn't Richard Perle giving a talk on Middle East peace kind of like Paris Hilton giving a talk on celibacy?

Wednesday, February 21, 2007

Is Pranab Mukherjee Allowed to Ride Roller Coasters?

You tell me.

Photo credit:

Tuesday, February 20, 2007


In trying to introduce topic-by-topic labels to this blog (which you can see to the right of this page), I obviously pressed a button I shouldn't have, resulting in this blog looking like it does and not like it used to. I don't think it's a particularly big deal, it'll just take some time in getting used to. And no, I don't know how to change it back because I don't know how I changed it in the first place.

I'm in the process of going through all the archived posts and putting them in the categories they need to be. I've done with just less than a third of our archives (starting with the newest posts). Hopefully, it should be done in a couple of days.

Quote of the day
Minutes before the blast, they were all playing, shouting in the coach, my wife and I had to forcibly ask them to sleep. Barely had we fallen asleep when we heard a loud roar. I opened my eyes, it was very difficult, I saw my children slowly dying. Blood was streaming from their faces, the blast had occurred right near their berths.

Rana Shaukat Ali, a passenger on the Samjhauta Express, who saw five of his six children die in front of him.

Let no one miss the symbolism of a train from India to Pakistan being the site of a truly horrific terrorist act. Just less then sixty years ago, there were more than a few trains headed in the same direction that saw more than their share of violence and carnage.

If there can ever be a positive aspect to a tragedy such as this, it is the fact that both sides are seeing they have a lot more to gain by working together than by needlessly pointing fingers at each other. The response by both sides, for once, has been measured and mature, though I don't think it's entirely cynical to suggest that it would not have been so if so many Pakistanis hadn't also been victims. In any event, I'm glad to see both governments dealing with this as a human tragedy first and a political event second, at least publicly. I'm also glad to see the determination by both sides to not let this derail the peace process underway.

Saturday, February 17, 2007

Quote of the day

So Ewa Wisnierska, this German paraglider,
got caught in a storm and was kicked up to a height of 30,000 feet or, in other words, the cruising altitude of commercial airliners. Somehow, some way, through the cold, the lack of oxygen and a blackout, she survived. This is what she had to say:
I could hear lightning in front of me, behind me, around me. I was shaking and everything, but I thought I just need to fly straight and get out of this cloud. I thought I need to go down just to warm up. I could see the Earth coming [on her way down] - wow, like Apollo 13 - I can see the Earth. I don't know who to thank, I thanked the angels, but I don't believe in God.

Is it just me, or is that last sentence the funniest thing ever?

More On Fox News' Daily Show Spin-Off

Slate has an article on the "1/2 Hour News Hour". Said article contains a Youtube link to segment of said show. My only advice is that you proceed with utmost caution: if you have any medical conditions which are exacerbated by incredibly bad, just plain old crappy-ass "comedy," then do not, I repeat do not, click on that link. I swear I was actually cringing when watching it - thank God it was just over two minutes long.

Look, I know I hate right-wingers. But I would like to think that if they came up with something funny, I'd be able to laugh. But this show...dear God, I'm simply at a loss for words. I actually am at a loss for words; after typing "But this show" in the previous sentence, I stared at the screen for three minutes before giving up.

Of course, the crappiness of the show won't preclude it from being immensely popular. Conservatives will tune in to the show in droves simply because they're sick of being made fun of for six years. When the show is skewered by the critics (if the critics can bring themselves to watch it, that is), there will be more of the same victim-complex-based paroxysms of self-pity by Red Staters, who will cry and shout that liberals can only find things funny when the humour is directed at conservatives, that they can't take their own medicine, that all culture critics are part of the evil liberal media and that the show, in fact, is funnier than The Daily Show and The Colbert Report combined. Liberals will try their best to ignore the show, and would be able to do so if it weren't for the constant and shrill cackling of the laugh track and the people who watch Hannity and O'Reilly, and will be drawn into a meaningless and futile shouting match of who's funnier - liberals or conservatives. Said shouting match will result in Red Staters feeling smug (because they will actually think that they won said shouting match, not to mention the fact that they will actually think this abomination of a show is funnier then TDS and TCR) and liberals feeling sorry for the Red Staters for having the capacity to hold such daft opinions on the constitutive aspects of humour.

I cannot wait for Stewart's and Colbert's take on this show. The thing is, this show gives them so much material to work with that they might simply suffer from a comedic overload and not be able to make fun of it the way it deserves to be made fun of. Then again, one could say that about the Bush administration too, and they seem to have done fine with that, so maybe I'm worrying for nothing.

Friday, February 16, 2007

There Are Some Things In Life That Simply Won't End Well...

...and therefore should not be attempted. For example, you should never try to take down the Corleone family. You should also never get into a "your mother" joke slanging match with my friend Saad. Finally, you should never, ever, EVER create a satirical news show in opposition to Jon Stewart and Stephen Colbert. You're playing with the big boys there, bros, and let's just say that in a three-horse race, you're likely to get the bronze. Especially if you're a bunch of nutjob right wingers who wouldn't know funny (or smart) if it bit you in the ass.

Thursday, February 15, 2007

Help Needed

I was hoping one of Five Rupees' twelve readers could clear something up for me, because I am majorly confused. My question is this: in the likelihood that some fairly plausible events unfold in the next two weeks, is there anything stopping Pakistan from having a squad of 13 players in the West Indies, which will include one fast bowler (Umar Gul) who's injured or, at best, coming back from a 2-3 month layoff due to injury, one spinner (Danish Kaneria) who's played seven ODIs in three years, one seriously out-of-form medium fast bowler (Rana Naved), one keeper (Kamran Akmal) who's apparently forgotten how to keep (not to mention forgotten how to bat), one opener (Imran Nazir) who didn't play in the national side for three years, was recalled for five games and went on to fail in four of them, and a middle order that, for all its records and pedigree, seems to play as if only one of them needs to play well in every game?

I'm not particularly bothered about questions of form. That comes and goes. But this Shoaib-Asif situation is really worrying/interesting/funny. Consider this: They have both been selected in a squad of 15. They both, according to a doping expert, still have traces of Nandrolone in their body. This is why the PCB is using "secret" doping tests this week (how fucking secretive is it if a blogger sitting in Chicago knows about it?). The plan is that if Shoaib and Asif still have nandrolone in their blood, they'll be replaced, lest the ICC test them before the World Cup and ban them for however long they deem fit. How will they be replaced? Apparently, the ICC has given permission to the PCB that they can replace any of their players from the squad if they are injured. Let me emphasize: there is no "if your guys have Nandrolone in their blood, they can be replaced to obviate the ICC drug testing procedure" clause. So in the event that Shoaib and Asif do test positive in the "secret" tests, what the hell does the PCB do? Go to the ICC and lie? Tell them they are injured when at least one of them (Asif) is clearly not? The PCB does know that the ICC has a technical committee for assessing injury replacement requests right? That committee will presumably take one look at Asif and start laughing at the notion that he suddenly developed an injury after the conclusion of the South Africa tour (keep in mind, he played the last ODI even though they were rumours he was suffering from a niggle). At the very least, they will have their own doctors, medical experts and physiotherapists who will check Asif and/or Shoaib for signs of injury. Right? What am I missing here?

So in case Shoaib and Asif test positive again (which, again, is quite likely), how does the PCB send a squad of more than 13 players to the West Indies? How will that work? Someone please explain this to me, because to be honest, I'm completely lost.

Wednesday, February 14, 2007

You Win Some, You Lose Some

On the same day that the U.S. reached an agreement with North Korea that calls for the latter to close its main nuclear reactor in return for aid, President Bush severed diplomatic ties with a long-time ally. Busy day for their diplomats, I guess.

Tips From a Burglar

What is the best thing to do to avoid having your money stolen? Why don't we ask a burglar?

“If I can’t find money and valuables in the normal places I usually find them, I would continue to tear the house apart until I found something. Remember, the first rule is to to steal money and valuables. We’ll keep looking until we find something.”

Your best strategy, then, is to actually leave some money in obvious places for the burglar to quickly find (the same applies if you keep all your money in the bank). This can not only save your other stash of money, but may actually keep the burglar from destroying your place as he looks for where you have hidden your money.

This is actually very similar to what I once read on Metroblogging Karachi (I might have even posted it here, don't quite remember). Anyways the Metroblogging Karachi guy was talking about how to best avoid getting your cell phone stolen, seeing as how approximately 100 are stolen in Karachi every day. He basically said that when driving, you should have two cell phones in the car. One should be a cheap-ass, third-hand phone that costs no more than Rs. 1000. The other one (the phone you actually use) should be in your glove compartment and turned off. That way, if someone points a gun to your head, you just give him the cheaper phone and drive off.

The question most non-Pakistanis (maybe non-Karachiites) would ask in response to that would be: "Why bother with the cheap phone at all? Why not just keep your real phone in the glove compartment, turned off, and then if you get held up, claim you don't have a phone?" Becuase then you're liable to get shot. The guy pulling out the gun wants something for his efforts. If you claim that you don't have a phone, he's either going to think you're lying (everyone has a cell phone after all) or that you deserve punishment for making him go through this trouble without any reward. Either way, you're playing a pretty dangerous game which you really don't want to do. Not for something as meaningless and ultimately replaceable as a cell phone.

By the way, the whole getting shot thing is no hypothetical. I've heard and read stories where people have been shot (dead) for either (a) resisting or (b) saying they don't have a cell phone. But, hey, at least Karachi has some nice beaches, right?

Monday, February 12, 2007

There He Goes Again

Remember when I linked to a column by Irfan Hussain in which he only talked about what he'd been eating for the last few weeks? Well, check out he begins his column this week:
I have been commanded by my dear friend Ijazul Hassan to write about parathas and malai this week.

I love Irfan Hussain. At least he closes his column with a discussion on something other than his culinary habits.
Talking of drink, I was heartened to note that some Muslim taxi drivers at American airports are refusing to accept passengers with duty-free bags containing liquor bottles. The reason these drivers give is that transporting people who drink alcohol is against Islam. Excuse me? I do not recall any mention of yellow cabs in the scriptures. And who offered them a drink anyway? Perhaps these cabbies should refuse to carry non-Muslims altogether. Of course, it is Muslims (this sinner among them) who are often seen carrying the heaviest duty-free bags. Or passengers hailing a cab should be asked to recite the Kalima. What next? Will they start asking couples for marriage certificates?

But seriously, it is these same taxi drivers who then complain of the rise of Islamophobia in the West. Hell, if a cabbie refused to drive me just because I was carrying a bottle of Scotland’s finest, I would be mightily pissed off. Just who do these jokers think they are?

In the UK, if a cabbie refuses to pick up a passenger, he can be reported to the authorities. How would Muslims react if cabbies at Heathrow or JFK airports refused to drive them into town because they wore beards and burqas? The way things are going, this kind of discrimination isn’t far away.

It is this sort of in-your-face attitude where the most bizarre version of Islam is provocatively brandished that is leading to the widening gulf between Muslims in the West and their host communities. Many Europeans and Americans feel they are harbouring a fifth column in their midst. And the way many Muslims behave now, who can blame them? While people are generally polite and politically correct, there is a growing resentment against the increasing militancy and shrillness in the Muslim community.

New York vs. London

There was a great article in The Guardian a couple of days ago which I forgot to post. Well, I'm posting it now. The article was basically prompted by a report by that big-ass consultancy firm all these corporate types want to work for - McKinsey - which said that New York was in danger of losing its financial capital status to London. Anyways, it goes from that to a wider discussion on the merits and demerits of each city.

It's hard for me to comment with any degree of certainty on this either way. For one thing, I've never lived in either city; I've only visited both, New York substantially more than London (I've been to the latter only twice, that too for a week at a time). For another, there's actually very little to choose between them, at least for me. If I were forced to pick, I'd say London, but that's less an issue of New York vs. London and more an issue of New Yorkers vs. Londoners. When I'm in New York, I can palpably feel the arrogance emanating from the average New Yorker. It's not even the arrogance per se that bugs me, but the reason for the arrogance. Simply put, New Yorkers think they are cooler than everyone else only because they happen to live in New York. They attach a great deal of importance to the fact that they happen to live on that relatively tiny land mass when evaluating their self-worth. This results in a vicious cycle, because they start to believe their self-proclaimed coolness, thus upping the value they place in the city, which in turn results in them feeling better about themselves. I never really got that impression when I was in London, though again I should provide the disclaimer that I haven't been to London nearly as many times as New York.

Look, I love New York, I really do. My girlfriend lives there, one of my closest friends lives there, it's got great food, great nightlife, parks, museums, and anything else you could possibly want in a city. I would absolutely love to live there, if and when I get the chance. I'm just saying that I'd rather live in London (if I could afford it, that is - the article mentions how London is substantially more expensive than New York).

Plus, don't forget, London offers three things that New York doesn't. One, a chance to play hardball cricket at proper grounds with outfields and indoor nets. Two, a clean, efficient subway system that actually stops at all the stops it's supposed to for most of the year. Three, travelling to Europe, Africa and Asia is a hell of a lot easier from London than it is New York. If you have two days off in London (and the money), you can simply get up and decide to go to Istanbul for the weekend or to Paris and the Loire valley for a couple of days. In London, you have the world at your footstep. In New York, you have Virginia and Florida at your footstep. You decide which is better.

More On Morbidity

So yesterday I got thinking that perhaps I should construct an easy-to-use morbidity scale so that I (and you guys) can see exactly how morbid I am (and you guys are). Here's how this is going to work. I will assign numerical values to various stages of depression/morbidity/melancholy. I will then list my ten favourite books and assign morbidity values to them. I will do the same for my ten favourite movies. I will add my book-morbidity score and my movie-morbidity score, divide by two, get my average morbidity index, and see where I rank on the aforementioned depression/morbidity/melancholy scale. Readers are welcome (in fact encouraged) to see how they fare.

Here's the depression/morbidity/melancholy scale, going from lowest to highest.

0-10: Waking up after 9 hours of sleep, watching Pakistan beat Australia in a 5-test series with Asif ripping through their lineup in the decider; meeting Malcolm Gladwell, Arundhati Roy and Jon Stewart for a three-hour brunch; going to Qazi Hussain Ahmed's house and giving him a slap; flying to Denver in a private jet where you're Iverson's personal guest for Game 7 of the NBA Finals in which he goes on to score 73; getting back on your jet, flying to Seattle/Chicago and attending an acoustic jam featuring Billy Corgan and Eddie Vedder (and no more than 40 people in the place); getting back on your jet, flying to Paris where you have a dinner date with Alessandra Ambrosio in a shoo-shoo restaurant in the 8th during which she says the words "Honey, the Victoria's Secret people let me keep all the stuff from the last photo shoot, do you want me to try some of it on tonight?"

11-20: Writing a book that both the critics and masses love. Retiring and living off said book's royalties.

21-30: Drinking a chilled glass of water when you're really thirsty (I know you know that feeling).

31-40: Lying to someone's face about something important and getting away with it.

41-50: Watching Seinfeld reruns.

51-60: Getting to a light just as it turns red.

61-70: Opening your pack of cigarettes at 3 a.m., seeing none in there, slapping your head, realizing that you were meant to buy a pack earlier, resigning yourself to the fact that no shop/paanwaala is close enough to where you live /open at this time, having to wait until the next morning for a drag.

71-80: UChicago students in week 9 of the quarter.

81-90: Bangalore, 1996 (Did you guys know Jadeja's mother is a whore? No? Well, she is.)

91-100: Finding out your girlfriend/boyfriend cheated on you. With your best friend. In your house. While you were in the bathroom.

Now, to see where I rank on the above scale, I'm giving my favourite books and movies morbidity ratings. For books, High Fidelity is a 0 and The God of Small Things is a 10. For movies, Home Alone is a 0 and The Green Mile is a 10. Alright, onwards we march. Here are me ten favourite books (in no particular order) and their morbidity ratings:

1. The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger - 1
2. The Plague by Albert Camus - 8.5
3. All Quiet on the Western Front by Erich Maria Remarque - 9.5
4. Crime and Punishment by Fyodor Dostoyevsky - 7
5. The God of Small Things by Arundhati Roy - 10
6. The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini - 7
7. The Unbearable Lightness of Being by Milan Kundera - 8
8. Midnight's Children by Salman Rushdie - (uh, really have no idea what to give this one. Let's just give it a 5)
9. 1984 by George Orwell - 9
10. All the King's Men by Robert Penn Warren - 6.5

Now to the movies, again in no particular order.

1. Pulp Fiction - No idea. Honestly no idea. 5 it is.
2. Philadelphia - 7
3. Forrest Gump - Again, no idea. It's funny, but people keep dying. 5 once more.
4. The Green Mile - 10 (I also promise that's it for Tom Hanks...three out of the first four is good enough, my friend)
5. Harold and Kumar go to White Castle - 0
6. A Few Good Men (it's cheesy now, but that's only because (a) everyone's seen in 17000 times and (b) it's hard to take any movie with Tom Cruise in it seriously anymore. But people forget how great this movie was when it came out) - 3
7. Zoolander/Anchorman/Dodgeball/any other movie with that cast - 0
8. The Shawshank Redemption - 5 (yes, it's a happy ending...but have you forgotten what it takes to get there? Plus the old dude friggin' hanged himself)
9. Hotel Rwanda - 9.5
10. La Reine Margot (I swear I'm not trying to be pretentious by including a French film. I actually really liked this movie. Promise) - 9

So what's my depression/morbidity/melancholy score? Averaging out my book and movie preferences, I get a morbidity index of 62.5, which means I'm permanently in a state of having run out of cigarettes. Which is fine, becuase I quit smoking a while ago.

Come on, twelve readers of Five Rupees! Calculate your morbidity index and compare your score with your favourite blogger's!

Sunday, February 11, 2007

Did You Know the American Flag Now Only Has 15 Stars?

Yup, it's true. If you don't believe me, check out this story in the Daily Times.

How Do You Know When a Blogger is a Political Science Grad Student?

When he writes the words: "This post will tackle the conviction that..." It's a blog post, John, not an APSR piece. Not yet anyway.

Saturday, February 10, 2007

More Non-Morbid Stories

Well, story anyway. A Bangladeshi cab driver in New York found a bag of diamond rings, a laptop and business papers in the trunk of his cab. He went to great lengths to trace down the owner to return the goodies to her. He's now being honored by all and sundry, including it is rumored, Mayor Bloomberg.

By the way, my quota for feel-good stories for the week is now up. Next time, you can expect a post on Darfur, Rwanda, the Holocaust, Hiroshima or Shoaib's thinning hair. I'm also done linking to BBC stories for a while - they've enjoyed a disproportionate share of Five Rupees' love lately.

Friday, February 09, 2007

This One's For F-Machine

You want non-morbid posts? I'll give you non-morbid posts. Here's perhaps the most famous photograph taken of Paris by Willy Ronis, who's still alive and kicking (I think he's more than 90 years old now). It's taken from the Bastille, which might explain its title: les amoureux de la bastille.

By the way, I think f-machine has hit on something. Why do I love morbid topics so much? I was thinking about this when posting this photograph too. When I went to a Willy Ronis exhibition in Paris, my favourite photograph out all of them was of this family at a Holocaust memorial with their backs turned to the camera. There was a girl, around ten years old, and what must have been her grandparents. You couldn't see their facial expressions (like I said, their backs were to the camera) but the girl had her arm on one of them (forget which one) in a sort of consoling gesture. I wish I could do it justice but there's a reason they say a picture speaks a thousand words. It remains the most powerful photograph I've ever seen. Ever since that day, I've looked for hours and hours on google but I can't find that one photograph. I should've just ripped it off the wall at the exhibition and ran. But then French policemen would've chased after me, and we know that doesn't end well for young Muslim males. Or, as it turns out, for the policemen.


Normally I'm not one for emotion or sentimentality but I have to say, even I found this kind of moving. Archaeologists in Italy have found two skeletons hugging each other. Either they died really happy or really sad.

Tuesday, February 06, 2007

Old Wars Die Hard

You know how the Korean war is still technically not over? Well, as it turns out, World War II is not over either - at least for one American air force pilot. The Onion reports.

Lesson In Perspectives/Excerpt of the day

Before you read this passage, you have to know two things (sorry if you already know these two things; don't mean to insult anyone's intelligence here). One, World War I was the first war which saw the widespread use of the machine gun, an excellent defensive weapon that kept advancing armies at bay. Two, the first few battles of the war were among the bloodiest in history, with hundreds of thousands of troops dying in single battles. Alright, onwards we march (no pun intended).
There can be little doubt that these men [British and French soldiers in World War I] believed in the justness of the allied cause, but after a few months at the front, the average infantryman understood that a frontal attack on German lines could not succeed and that he probably would be cut down within minutes of leaving his trench. Soldiers who may still have harbored hopes for success at the Somme [about 100km from Paris] were quickly disabused. More than twenty thousand British soldiers were killed on the first day of the battle, most in the first hour of the attack.

One British brigadier described the participation of his troops in one such advance with a perverted sense of approval:
They advanced in line after line, dressed as if on parade, and not a man shirked going through the extremely heavy barrage, or facing the machine gun and rifle fire that finally wiped them out...[I] saw the lines which advanced in such admirable order melting away under the fire. Yet not a man wavered, broke the ranks, or attempted to come back...[I] have never seen, indeed could never have imagined, such a magnificent display of gallantry, discipline and determination.

A British sergeant, on the other hand, described a similar attack in quite different terms:
This was a stupid action, because we had to make a frontal attack on bristling German guns and there was no shelter at all...We knew it was pointless, even before we went over - crossing open ground like that. But you had to go. You were between the devil and the deep blue sea. If you go forward, you'll likely be shot. If you go back, you'll be court-martialed and shot...What can you do? Even before we went over, we knew this was death...It was ridiculous. There was no need for it. It was absolute slaughter.

From Benjamin Valentino's Final Solutions: Mass Killing and Genocide in the 20th Century (great book, by the way, even if it is on somewhat of a morbid topic). Anyways, the British dude should consider himself lucky - if he turned back, at least he'd be court martialed before being shot. In World War II, Russian troops were under instruction to shoot their own men if they retreated from Hitler's army. Good times.

Chicago = Hellhole

When I said it was cold in Chicago, I wasn't kidding. It's gotten to the point where, even if I don't have food in my fridge, I rationalize my way out of going to the grocery store by telling myself things like "Missing two meals won't kill you, but this cold might". At least it's supposed to warm up tomorrow, with a high of -8 and a low of -17. I think that last sentence may well be the most depressing one I've ever written.

Photo credit: Scott Olson/Getty Images

Monday, February 05, 2007

Quote of the day
They have restored their family honour - the deceased deserved to die.

A resident of the village of Khatan, speaking of two brothers who smashed their sister's head with a brick and then strangled her because she chose to have a consensual sexual affair. For choosing the quote of the day, it was a tough one between this and what one of the killers said: "We have done no wrong and the law will not treat us unkindly."

Sunday, February 04, 2007

More On Racism

If I didn't think that Herschelle Gibbs saying "Fucking Pakistanis, go back to the zoo" was racist, then I'm certainly not going to think that Joe Biden describing Barack Obama as "the first mainstream African-American who is articulate and bright and clean and a nice-looking guy" is racist. Tell you what, though, I can definitely see how it pisses black people off when one of them is described as "articulate". Eugene Robinson definitely was in his column a couple of days ago (pissed, that is, not articulate. Though I guess he was articulate too). As is this the author of this piece in the New York Times. By the way, I love the fact that when Biden called Al Sharpton, among others, to apologize, Sharpton told him that he takes a bath every day. That should have been quote of the day. I also love the fact that Chris Rock, many years ago, had a routine about this very phenomenon (though I think for him, the gripe was "well-spoken", not "articulate"...for whatever it's worth).

Saturday, February 03, 2007


Sorry for not posting much recently. I enjoy working on Five Rupees a lot more than you enjoy reading it so trust me when I say it's not because I don't want to, but because I simply have too much work to do. This quarter is absolutely insane. Anyways, the programming schedule is that I'm going to try and get out a Shoaib post tomorrow night but other than that I can't promise much more than what you guys have been getting the last few days. In about six or seven weeks, I should have more time to work with. So unless something major happens (I mean really major, like Musharraf getting assassinated) or unless a story is really funny/interesting, you won't be hearing much from me. I'm sure you'll survive.

Speaking of survival, guess what the temperature is today. Minus 13 centigrade. On Monday, the high is supposed to be minus 15. Ah, January/February in Chicago. What a lovely, lovely time in a lovely, lovely place.

Update: When I said I'd try to get a Shoaib post out by Saturday night, what I meant was that I would try to get a Shoaib post out by some indefinite time in the future. Sorry for the typo.