allVishal is now on Twitter!

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I‘m not an early adopter. I’m not even a late adopter. So I’m probably the last person on the entire interwub who’s signed up to Twitter, but now I have!


Electrical Shenanigans

Illustration from a 1933 German book on the dangers of electricity, featuring a drunk youth peeing on a power line from a bridge

Right, so usually I’d just link to this in my Google Reader Shared Items blog, but one particular picture in this set was too good not to highlight. Just look at it. I want it blown up and put on my wall.

The rest of the set is here


My Google Reader Shared Items Blog: Now with Added Value!

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Just wanted to give you guys a heads up that I’m now using the Share With Note feature on my Google Reader Shared Items, so in addition to the widget in the sidebar providing you with the latest links on stuff I’m browsing, you can now check the blog itself (or subscribe to its own Atom feed) for little notes by me on each item (I’ll try to write more than just, “Cool, lookit!” — I swear!). I generally share things that I hope readers of this blog will like, so lots of stuff on design of all kinds, illustration, photography and of course, lots and lots of weird stuff.

You can access my Google Reader Shared Items Blog by clicking here.


Vogue India and the Offensiveness of Poverty

Allow me to rant.

Vogue India ran a photo-spread in their August issue featuring high-price luxury fashion accessories as modeled by people who — oh, what’s the word — are poor. This apparently caused some controversy. Mind you, these models were not just poor, but barefoot and missing-their-teeth poor. So poor that photographers from around the world come to India to take gripping, black-and-white shots of them in their state of bare-footed no-teethedness (sans Fendi clutch bag, of course), to highlight their, um, pooritude.

Now, frankly, I’m appalled… but not for the reason you think.

You see, I have no problem whatsoever with Vogue India’s photoshoot. I don’t care that they put 10,000 dollar accessories in the hands of people who make less than $1.25 a day (Who! Have! No! Teeth!). I don’t have a problem with these people being shown as poor as they usually are, except flashing a pair of designer sunglasses.

I do have a problem with people thinking that this is somehow offensive to the poor people. Oh, it’s offensive alright — it’s just offensive to people like you and me who buy and read Vogue (I have, and the Indian edition is quite nice). It’s people like us who actually know what a Fendi bag is, know that it costs 10,000 bucks and know that we’ll probably only ever buy a knock-off. It’s people like us who think poor people should only be seen in gripping, black-and-white documentary pictures in National Geographic or some exhibition.

Because — tell the truth now — you wouldn’t bat an eyelid at a young, skinny, urban person with a 10K bag in a magazine spread. Do you ask yourself, “Gee, I wonder if that model can actually afford that bag she’s modeling?” No, of course you don’t, because she looks like she can. She’s looks like a perfectly normal, upper-middle-class person who can afford a bag like that, or at least a knock-off. Heck, she can at least afford to eat badly all her life and then have her teeth fixed by a dentist, and isn’t that what’s really important? That she has great teeth?

How is a barefoot Rajashthani farmer any less of a viable fashion model than a size zero caramel-skinned Mumbai model who scrapes together her monthly rent? Because the latter fits in with your cushy world-view of how things should work?

I’m sorry, but a photoshoot in Vogue is neither going to solve nor exacerbate the problem of farmer suicides in rural India, so please don’t demean them (the farmers) by waving that flag around. And luxury brands are not tossing and turning at night in a moral quandary over how they’re going to sell their gold-dusted open-toed shoes in a market where poor people who can’t afford their brand exist. Last time I checked, there are people in the US and Europe who can’t afford it, and luxury goods are still for sale there.

Have you heard of this crazy new invention? It’s called Money. Works a little strange, but you’ll get the hang of it.

(see, told you this was a rant)

Of course, it’s not like Vogue is completely blameless. Firstly, they’ve dropped the ball by not crediting any of the models in their shoot (a courtesy they would show to most professional fashion models no matter how big or small). And when pressed for a response, the editor launches into some kind of biz-speak prattle about the ‘power of fashion’ and how they aren’t trying to make a political statement or save the world. Well, yeah, you’re bloody Vogue, we got that. But like it or not, a statement you have made, and it would help if you could have at least kept a well-prepared, intelligent retort ready for when this thing came up.

So, in summary:

– Fashion mag takes pictures of poor people with silly bags they could never afford.

– Everyone in a city gets upset that they’re seeing people they’re used to ignoring (except in gritty black-and-white shots) holding bags they secretly wish they could afford.

– People who can actually afford said bags are wondering where they can get that sexy ethnic turban the guy is wearing (HINT: Not at Louis Vuitton, baby).

– Creative types are wondering if the poor people are dirt cheap and where they can round up some for their latest campaign.

– Business people decide to comment on the issue by regurgitating every cliche in that last paperback on modern India they half-read on a plane once.

– All people born to be offended, are, and proceed to tack on their pet hot-button issue to things and generally tut and frown.

– As for the actual poor people, well, I have no idea what they think of the whole thing. Most of the people in the pictures are either smiling or bemused — bored, even.

I’m an outsider. I’m not one of them in the only way that actually separates us (financially), and on a cultural level I don’t think they give two hoots. I don’t care when some other middle-class Indian (as most models actually are) totes a Fendi bag in a photoshoot, so do they care when somebody (hopefully) pays them to do the same?

I’m not offended that someone did this. If anything, I applaud it (the photos are beautiful). I’m not offended that there are still poor people in the world while others can afford 10,000 dollar bags. Hey, I can afford tons of crap that other people can’t, and I still can’t afford a bag like that, so where on the levels of entitlement to being offended do I fall? I find all of this amusing and baffling and just a little bit sad.

Mostly, I’m just offended that you’re all still a bunch of idiots.

Google Chrome & the Power of Comics

Over the next few days you will hear a lot about Google Chrome, the new web browser from the internet behemoth. I’ve tested it out and am happy to report that it’s quite nice. Of course, I’m a long-time Mozilla Firefox user, so the transition has not been very stark. But if you’re one of the poor people who still use Microsoft Internet Explorer (or worse, if until now you didn’t even know what a web browser is and that there are mutliple available ones), then Chrome will be a revelation.

Even for me, the new browser is an intriguing new beast. It’s very quick, intuitive to use and so far does things well. I can see myself using it for most tasks, at least those that don’t require certain firefox plug-ins that I’m used to (but there will no doubt be equivalents for them in Google Chrome eventually), and I’m very happy that there is now a new robust, polished open-source browser. Competition and choice can only lead to better products in this regard.

But as impressive as the browser is, it is not the thing that I really wanted to blog about here. For you see, the most impressive thing about Google Chrome for me today is the fantastic comic that serves as an introduction to it.

The name Scott McCloud should be familiar to most comic book geeks such as myself. The author of seminal works like Understanding Comics has carved a name for himself as true master and expert of the comics medium. Who better to explain a new web browser; an application that’s so simple to use it’s invisible, but is so complex underneath that entire careers can be dedicated to it? Scott McCloud, of course.

I love how he manages to represent even the most arcane programming concepts in a fun and exciting way (helped, of course, by the words from Google Chrome’s programming staff), how there’s a single narrative thread but multiple voices from members of the team — this is a feat you can’t really achieve as well in video, for instance, but as a comic it works great. Alan Moore has always maintained that comics as a medium are rich beyond measure, that there are things you can do in it that you can’t do in a movie or a book. I can think of several examples of Moore’s own work to support this, but Scott McCloud’s introduction to Google Chrome is a shining example too.

So even if you don’t give Google Chrome a spin (I highly recommend you do), please do check out the comic that goes with it. It’s simply superb.

Get Ready for Comic Konga 2!

It’s been far too long since I’ve posted here, and even longer since our first Comic Konga! Half a year has gone by in the blink of an eye, and so I thought it would be best to get back into blogging by jumping in at the deep end with another CK.

CK2 will begin July 7th (that’s Monday after next) and run until the 11th (that Friday). The rules are the same as last time: five days, five comics (in whatever way you define a ‘comic’) posted to your blog or online space of choice. A free-form festival of graphic delights, hosted by your truly.

You have about twelve days so that should be plenty of time to come up with ideas, doodle, and even prepare your finished comics. If you’re participating do drop me an emial or a comment here (don’t forget a link to where you’ll be putting the work up!).

See you then!

Earth Vs The Legion of Lightbulbs

Yesterday was Earth Hour in several places around the world, including here in Dubai. Not much happened, though a few buildings did turn their external lights off. One lovely radio jockey suggested that the best way to spend the hour was to turn off all the lights, fire up some candles, snuggle up with your significant other on the sofa… and watch a romantic movie on DVD (preferably on your big screen HDTV).

Take that, energy conservation!


Elsewhere people in India were complaining that cities like Mumbai were not on the bandwagon, and shame on them for not participating in this noble effort. Um, yeah, except that cities in India go through almost daily scheduled power cuts, most of which last for longer than an hour. There is a prevailing view from what I can gather, that by shutting off our light bulbs for an hour every year, we will all be directly saving the earth.

This, as far as I know, is not strictly true. Most power stations around the world run on fossil fuels; in them power is generated and thrown out onto the grid. If we aren’t using it, they do not actually store any unused energy in large batteries somewhere. If the power companies got together and said, “okay, in order to save the earth we’re going to shut down our power supply for a few hours,” everybody would be up in arms. But that’s really the only way the current electricity supply model is going to help.

Then there’s all the energy that went into publicising the Earth Hour event itself; multi-storey billboards, the energy to light them for days leading up to yesterday, t-shirts and caps, concerts and karaoke and whatnot. The Earth Hour site itself declares it a ‘carbon-neutral’ event in its faq (and also addresses the power issue with what amounts to an “Um, yeah, we know.”) but doesn’t say much else about it. Are they policing every floodlit billboard around the world?

I applaud the idea as a PR exercise, certainly, but I do feel that the execution is little more than a token gesture, and everyone around the world has just jumped on because it’s a lazy, easy way to think we’re making a difference. It’s like every Indian I’ve met who expects the government to solve all their problems personally, in the same way a 5 star hotel might, because, “they voted. (harrumph!)

Conservation and reduction of our energy usage is a vital thing, but we can’t pat ourselves on the back and get back to our wasteful lives just because we shut off the garden light for an hour.


Book Excerpt Tag Meme

I was preparing the photos for this week’s Ten Rupee Book Club post when I remembered that Dan was tagged with this meme, and I hadn’t done it yet. The Rules:

1. Pick up the nearest book.
2. Open to page 123
3. Find the fifth sentence.
4. Post the next three sentences.
5. Tag five people and post a comment here once you post it to your blog so I can come see!

Now, having not just one but seven at hand posed something of a problem. They were all technically ‘nearest’ to me, and all but one of them had enough pages to satisfy criterion no. 2. None of the books had the same problem Maija encountered with Good Omens either, so I was stuck. Having to look through them for the book post anyway, I figured I’d do quotes from all seven books, subsituting a quote from page 12 rather than 123 from the one that was slim. Consider this a teaser for the whole post (which should be done by tomorrow). Here goes:

1. Our Friend the Atom

“Before Biologists had tracer-atoms it was difficult for them to study living organisms. To do this they had to kill their test animals, and test plants had to be cut up. With tracer-atoms they can now study the living body in action.”

(On tracer atoms and their uses in food science)

2. Paracelsus: Magic into Science

“One was the most balanced mind of his time, scrupulously weighing each word, the other a mystic, rash of judgement and fond of speculation. The one lived with books, the other considered life the only book of value. Necessarily their relations were cool.”

(On the differing characters of Erasmus and Paracelsus)

3. Penguin Science Survey 1965

(Unfortunately this is a table regarding a Orbiting Geophysical Observatory, but I’ll see what I can do)

“Stabilization and Attitude control

Weight (lb.): 138

Main body orientated towards earth and space.
Solar paddles point towards sun.
Inertial wheels, gas jets, horizon scanners and sun sensors.

4. Science: The Soviet Union, Today and Tomorrow

“Antitritium and Antihelium are substances of the anti-world, which existed only in science fiction until they were obtained with the help of the Serpukhov accelerator near Moscow. Georgi Flyorov’s laboratory is the birth place of elements 104, 105, 106 and 107 of the Mendeleyev Periodic Table, chemical elements unknown in nature. The list of such major scientific advances in the Soviet Union is a fairly long one.”

(This is from page 12 of the slim, mostly-pictures book)

5. Giants of Science

“Water is a compound of two gases, oxygen and hydrogen. This was too much to accept for the scientists of the day, one of whom said, “This arch magician so imposed on our credulity as to persuade us that water, the most powerful natural antiphlogistic we possess, is a compound of two gases, one of which surpasses all other substances in inflammability!”

(From the chapter on Antoine Laurent Lavoisier)

6. A New School Biology

“The achenes fall apart, and are dispersed by the action of the wind upon the awns. The fruit of many Compositae (a cypsela) bear an apical ring of fine hairs (the pappus) which enables them to be wind-dispersed. In the Dandelion a long pappus stalk develops as the fruit ripens, and this lifts the pappus above the top of the fruit.”

(From the Chapter, ‘Dispersal of Fruit and Seeds’)

7. The Experiment

“He imagined her lovely head dutifully bowed, as though praying, over a microscope, a long yellow lock of hair prettily swinging down beside the brass eyepiece, her impatient fingers combing the hair back, out of the way. He envisioned her as a shining Joan of Arc of science, unselfishly dedicated to a cause, tired to the bone but unflagging — stubbornly brave. He remembered the fair silken down on the slender nape of her neck and felt a sweet pang of lust mingled with pity.”

Come back soon for the next Ten Rupee Book Club post!

Dance Dance Meri Jaan!

[This started out as a comment on this post on Aishwarya’s blog which references this ‘blessay’ by the inimitable Stephen Fry, but it ran a bit too long so I figure I should post it here]

Apparently when I was younger I had a good sense of timing (in the back row of a filmi group dance performance), but this comment came from my mother, so I can’t believe it entirely despite her generally pragmatic view on things.


These comments, my own hyperactive nature and my shyness led to many an afternoon spent bouncing around our cavernous Muscat house to an imaginary soundtrack and my own improvised moves. Is it any wonder that Fame is one of my favourite movies?

Then I turned 12 and dancing became that thing you did with girls you had the hots for. But this being the early 90s the jeans were tight and the sleeves pouffy, so we looked like two penguins saying goodnight (Also, Glen FRIGGIN Medeiros: argh!).

Since then Hip Hop happened (we still called it rap and R&B back in my day, younguns) and the term booty entered our vocabulary. It seemed like far too much exercise, and besides, this is the kind of stuff we in the civilised East had rightly left behind a decade ago. I was back from my short preteen sojourn into ‘normal’ society so I thankfully missed all of this. I do not think I would stand before you today as the crazed lunatic I am if I spent my sixteenth year bopping to Jeniffer (pre-J.Lo) Lopez’s Waiting For Tonight.

Still, Hip Hop isn’t all bad, really*.

*(okay, so my definition of hiphop is not very traditional)

I don’t dance anymore. I haven’t had the opportunity, and ten years of being generally inactive means I wouldn’t want to attempt it without getting into better shape, or I’ll risk major (or at least irritatingly long-lasting) injuries. The urge is still there, and I suppose if I were to reclaim my body-as-temple and pursue a sport, it would be some kind of mad and wonderful mix between parkour and, um, this.

I would be so legend.


Anybody have €2.3 million?

Now this just isn’t fair. Somewhere in Italy is a fantastic looking monastery up for sale. It’s got eleven bedrooms, twenty-six hectares of land, a stable converted into a restaurant with a professional kitchen, and it was recently fully restored.

It costs about three-and-a-half million dollars, and you might think that’s a lot of money, but really, it’s a steal*. You know what I could get for that much in Dubai? A decent four bedroom villa in a cubbyhole ‘planned’ community. In India I may manage to get a three bedroom apartment in South Bombay. God only know what kind of matchbox that money would buy in London or New York.

*(Not that I have the money, and any attempts to amass such an amount would require actual stealing, hehe).

Beyond that, the property is clearly begging to be turned into a quiet out-of-the-way hotel. If I tried to open something of a similar size in Dubai I would need about five times as much money, and about ten times for Bombay. And none of them would have the kind of view this place has.

Of course, if it seems too good to be true then it probably is, otherwise why would such a tempting looking thing be unsold, and that too found on the freaking interwub?

Ghost Infestation. Has to be.

….Still, very, very tempted.


When You Kissed Atmo

Oh my.

Steven Brust, he of the magnificent Vlad Taltos books, has just released a Firefly novel.

The best thing is, My Own Kind of Freedom is a fanfic. Yup, completely unauthorised, and released under a Creative Commons licence. Apparently it ‘demanded’ to be written, which always results in the best stories, I find.

Your moral and religious standpoint on Fan Fiction may preclude you from greeting such news with joy. Me? New Steven Brust work. New Firefly work. For FREE. How can that be a bad thing?


Girls with Guns!

Usually these sorts of things get plugged in the “Things that Catch My Eye in Feeds” section that’s under the big orange RSS graphic (and indeed it is), but I felt that in this case, a link deserves further highlighting.

So click here for Rachel Papo‘s beautiful photo-set on the women of the Israeli Air Force, Serial No.3817131.