Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Wimpy liberals and strong conservatives stereotype turned on its head

Drudge Report linked to a funny story today. A study has found that whiny insecure kids who run to the teacher with complaints grow up to become conservatives while confident, resilient, self-reliant kids grow up to become liberals. This turns the wimpy liberal/strong conservative stereotype on its head.

The whiny kids tended to grow up conservative, and turned into rigid young
adults who hewed closely to traditional gender roles and were uncomfortable with

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging
loose, turning into bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests. The girls
were still outgoing, but the young men tended to turn a little introspective.

Sweeeeeeeeeeeeet! Of course, as with everything that sounds sweet to the ears there will always be caveats, which will ask you to take the news only after adding salt that will spoil the sweet taste. For instance the study is limited to the Bay area, the sample size isn’t representative of the whole country yada yada yada. The study does not mean that nursery school teachers in the conservative Red States are cursed with classes filled with little proto-conservative whiners.

Another way of saying it is that self-reliance predicts statistically about 7
per cent of the variance between kids who became liberal and those who became
conservative. (If every self-reliant kid became a liberal and none became
conservatives, it would predict 100 per cent of the variance). Seven per cent is
fairly strong for social science, but it still leaves an awful lot of room for
other influences, such as friends, family, education, personal experience and
plain old intellect.

Those caveats can be brushed off by liberals by saying that they are like the warnings you hear after drug ads. Do not take the pill if you have liver problem of heart disease. Common side effects are mild and may include diarrhea and vomitting etc. That stuff is supposed to be ignored while regaling in the pure mellifluous flattery that this study is, if you are a liberal.

The confident kids turned out liberal and were still hanging loose, turning into
bright, non-conforming adults with wide interests.
...insecure kids look for the reassurance provided by tradition and authority, and find it in conservative politics. The more confident kids are eager to explore alternatives to the way things are, and find liberal politics more congenial.

Chew on that you sissy Charles Krauthammer. I've got to go… There is much boasting to do and friends' legs crying to be pulled.

Monday, March 20, 2006

She would have made Ayn Rand proud

Some time ago Nilu switched from posting nasty and provocative comments on other bloggers and initiated an interesting discussion. He asked his readers to name their favourite character in Mahabharat and explain the reasons for their choice. Karna was of course excluded because then the topic would have been entirely Karna-centric.

A very interesting discussion brewed in the comment section and a few of the commenters mentioned Gandhari as their favourite. Nilu did a second post asking readers to come up with a character analysis of their favourite women characters in Mahabharat. I was really looking forward to reading about Gandhari as I hadn’t given much thought to her character before this. Unfortunately that post didn’t get much response.

However, his post prompted me to think about women characters in Mahabharat and the first one that came to mind was Ganga. I wouldn’t say she is my favourite, but she is definitely the most intriguing of them all. I still vividly remember how as a kid I felt extremely uneasy while watching the initial episodes of Mahabharat on Doordarshan. Ganga used to take her newborn babies and cast them into the river and return smiling to Shantanu, her husband. I couldn’t fathom the motives and was too young to understand the story completely and felt extremely scared.

As with most Indian mythological tales the story owes its twists to curses. Ganga has promised to help Vasus, who have been cursed to lead the lives of men upon angering Vashishta rishi. She agrees to be their mother and kill them as soon as they are born so that they can return to their heavenly existence without spending time on earth.

Strip the epic of all the mythology/curses etc. and then look at Ganga’s actions. If one overlooks the fact that she drowned her children to help the Vasus get rid of Vashishta's curse, then Ganga comes across as someone who is ruthlessly, unambigiously selfish. Her conditions for marrying Shantanu may put any present-day pre-nuptial agreements to shame.

O king, I shall become your wife. But on certain conditions that neither you nor anyone else should ever ask me who I am, or whence I come. You must also not stand in the way of whatever I do, good or bad, nor must you ever be wroth with me on any account whatsoever. You must not say anything displeasing to me. If you act otherwise, I shall leave you then and there. Do you agree?

She has Shantanu by the balls and despite him being the king, she is the one whose dictats are followed. She definitely knew how to keep a man under her toes. He does not even utter a word as she drowns seven of his children for the fear of her deserting him. This gives you an insight into her complete hold over him. By keeping Shantanu guessing about mystery surrounding her actions, she adds to her allure.

Imagine what it must have taken to be such a free bird for a woman in the era of pativrata naris like Draupadis and Gandharis. In C Rajagopalachari's version, one gets an insight into her motives behind drowning her children. It is sinister to say the least.

"O great king," she replied, "you have forgotten your promise, for your heart is set on your child, and you do not need me any more. I go.

Ganga comes across as someone who is ruthlessly selfish and someone who wont share her love no matter what. No character of Ayn Rand comes this close in their selfish love. In fact, Ganga is the quintessential Ayn Rand character. In a way it can be looked as if she leaves because she realises the king loves the child more than herself and her conception of love has no place for sharing. A truly fascinating woman!

Do contribute your take on women characters in the epic in the comments section, especially those of you who like Gandhari. I am really curious to know which aspects of her character you guys find so admirable.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

Cartelian logic: 101

Chapter 1: Longest leap of faith axiom by Libertarian blogger and renowned Cartelian Aadisht

you find this advertisement tasteless then you belong to a certain 'leftist religion' that venerates poverty.

But wait! The lesson in logic is not over yet. Did you know that you are also a condescending prick who looks down upon liberalisation, just because you find that Brand Equity ad tasteless? No! It's elementary my dear Watson. Benevolent human beings that the Cartelians are, they enlighten you advertisement-haters about 10 Commandments of your religion they have oh-so-helpfully compiled. Don't you see the obvious logical inconsistency in that position? Sigh!

What would this world have come to had we not had the Cartelians to remind us of our elementary lessons in logic!

Therefore students the next time you decide to find an advertisement tasteless, you better check with the High Council of the Cartel about its stance, unless you want to be derided by them and their numerous 'enlightented' followers and forced to join as members of this ghastly leftist religion.

Update 2: My comments are back online at Aadisht's blog.

Update: Aadisht has clarified his stance here. He only meant to call out the three bloggers he had linked to and wasn't trying to forcibly convert the rest of us who also found the ad offensive. So the charges against him under the anti-conversion law have been dropped. I have many issues with his clarification and have left a detailed comment there. Those interested may read it there.

Apology: Drunk as I was in my zeal to score cheap debating points I saw things which were never there in the first place, I must apologise to Aadisht for misrepresenting him. He never called anyone a 'leftist fool.' I have said he did while responding to Kya yaar tu bhi in the comments section of this post. I have removed the following line from the post. You illogical dumbos, don't you understand that you cannot hate that ad and yet profess to be in favour of liberalisation. I very clearly misunderstood and unintentionally misrepresented him on this one.

Monday, March 13, 2006

D.C. bloggers' meet

The Washington DC Bloggers Meet held in the food court of Union Station was a grand success. And if you are brushing this off as an expected statement coming from a not-so-famous blogger going gaga after meeting veteran popular bloggers, take your news straight from Greatbong himself. Even he concurs about the meet's success. In fact the first sentence is his quote. And no, this time round he is not being sarcastic!
From left: Sunil, Ujval, Michael, Arnab, Chetan, Ravikiran, Piyush and Arzan (click to enlarge)

The meet started at 12:00 p.m. but I got there horribly late even for someone swearing by Indian standard time. But it paid off. I got the best seat at the table. With "Happy Birthday" boy Ravikiran to my left, Michael Higgins to my right and Arnab the Greatbong bang in front of me, I felt as if I was at the head of the table had a wonderful time. I sure do hope certain qualities of people you interact with actually do rub off on you. Because if that is true, the quality of writing on this blog is going to hit the fan.

As far as reconciling online personas with real life faces go, my guess about how Ravikiran may be in person went for a complete toss. Going by the short, pithy and insightful sentences explaining serious policy issues in a dispassionate manner on his blog, I had expected him to be a very serious looking guy with a moustache who cracks Mallu jokes with an expressionless face. Apart from the bit about moustache, I was proved wrong on all other counts. He greeted me with a warm disarming smile that had no trace of any pomposity or arrogance, which many people have accused him of online. He said that his objective was to get me drunk so that I start speaking in long sentences and everyone gets to know what actually went into the making of the longest comment. We got to hear the 'You don’t come to the cartel, the cartel comes to you' explanation upon being asked about the necessary and sufficient conditions regarding its membership from one of the most prominent cartelians himself.

While in case of Ravikiran, my online perception of him had tough time conforming with reality, in Arnab's case it was exact opposite. He came across exactly as he does on his blog. Enthusiastic, funny and eager to discuss diverse topics, he is as eloquent while discussing as his writing on his blog. He talked about a range of topics, which included Mithun, his latest post on terrorism and the trolls on his blog. Ganguly posts and their responses and behavioral characteristics of his trolls, who never fail to crack me up with their inability to process sarcasm and their angry-to-the-point-of-frothing-at-the-mouth responses were also dissected.

Michael had done a wonderful job at organisation. Beginning from the choice of the venue to minutiae like table signs, it was obvious that a lot of thought had gone into the organisation. The clinching evidence of course was Ravikiran’s birthday present. Along with a delicious cake with gold coin shaped chocolates on it, Michael had also got Ravikiran flushable wipes to reassure him that not all Americans are crazy and that the market here does offer a choice for those who are worried about America's 'toilet gap' with Japan. Michael regaled us with stories about cricket and the first match he had watched. He has blogged about it. His interest in cricket and his knowledge of the game is awe inspiring.

The most amazing feeling was when I realized that I felt surprisingly at home amongst bloggers whom I had never met before and some of whose blogs I hadn’t even followed. I suppose just the shared experience of blogging and having followed some prominent blogs is enough to feel that connection.
Ravikiran grinning as he shows off his birthday present

I am thankful to Arzan for driving down to D.C. and bringing Ravikiran along with him. I had read Arzan's comments on Sepia Mutiny and loved the image of the bike as the header image on his blog. Arzan impressed me with his enthusiasm. He seemed genuinely upset with US Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) as he recounted his experiences there. He has a blog post comparing Indian Regional Transport Office (RTO) with DMV.

Seema was the sole representative from the other half ;). We discovered that both of us are alumni of the same university. She has studied International Development. Given that there were very few Indians that I met at my university during my time there, it came as a nice surprise to meet an Indian alumna and that too at a bloggers’ meet. Piyush Gupta was the political junkie at the meet. He spoke animatedly about following the due process of law, corruption and sparred with Ravikiran regarding the need for primaries in the Indian political system. You could feel his intensity and passion and desire to do something about the state of affairs in India throughout the meet.

Eswaran, who commented on Ravikiran's blog during the longest comment controversy was curious to see me and Ravikiran interacting together. He semed well-versed with all the happenings in the blogosphere and I was surprised that he did not have a blog himself. He seemed to have followed almost all the blogs I had. Him, me and Arnab got extra time to spend together as we came together by the metro. Yourfan and Yourfan2, the two famous commenters on Arnab’s blog would have reason to be jealous of Eswaran. He stays in the same apartment complex as Arnab.

Unfortunately I didn't get a chance to interact much with Ujval, Vinay and the two Sunils. I hope that it happens at the next bloggers meet. Of course I wish to to interact through their blogs.

Thanks Michael and Arnab for organising this event and everybody else who attended the meet. Count me in for any subsequent meets. Finally in Amit’s words, ‘fun did come’ and I had nice time flirting with her at the meet.