Friday, June 20, 2008

Briefly mentioned

You've heard it before so I won't say it again. I'm tied up with stuff and I've falling back on posts. So there. Meanwhile, some of the interesting things I've come across posted below for your perusal

1.[From FT] Lucy Kellaway on office barbs: Corporate life can be fun. Ask Lucy. In this brilliant column she gives a rundown of the euphemisms hurled at you and what they really mean. I've been fortunate to have worked for a largely-no-bullshit organisation which worked on a bulwark management principle of "Positive feedback is assumed. Negative feedback will be conveyed." (Yes, this has been told to be by my one-time boss). Nowithstanding that, one of my favourite barbs was "We should also look at..." and variations like "Why don't you talk about..". (v. similar to "Have you thought about.." mentioned in Lucy's column). Go read and add your own.

2. [From the BBC]: 50 office-speak phrases you love to hate: Reminds me of what I'd posted here.

2. [From FT] David Simon's interview: The Wire (recommended by my good friend Purush) was arguably the best serial on American television in recent times. And only HBO would air it. I've seen Season 1 on DVD and am waiting for my DVD-wallah to update his library with subsequent seasons. I liked this interview for its descriptions of the series..
The Wire will have none of the trite improbabilities that carefully pilot most movie and television dramas towards their wholesome dénouements. It speaks of a society that is riven, rabid with corruption and frequently wrong-headed. Nothing if not ambitious in its scope, each series treats a different aspect of American society in its overarching narrative: starting with the drug scene, then taking on unemployment, local politics, education and ending with the media.
..and this haunting quote from Simons:
Why doesn’t he write a boy-meets-girl story? “No, I wouldn’t be any good at it.” He says he has problems with female characters. “My strongest female character so far is a lesbian [Kima Greggs, one of The Wire’s police officers].” So where does a viewer find hope in his stories? “In the actions of individuals. In those characters in The Wire who rear up on their hind legs against injustice. The mere act of standing up and speaking for something that is right is a fundamental human victory, even if nothing comes from it.”
3. Back to something funny. I don't know if this is truly Rocky J's blog, but who cares. This is a hilarious post on how Rocky J convinces Vinod Khanna to make a movie on two warring brothers and one South African telecom company. Howlarious. Much fun much required when the markets are causing muchos grief.

4. [From Bloomberg] One more on the markets (via The God in the Middle East): A high-profile analyst at a multinational brokerage ends a 12-year career. During his stint, he also wrote an anon London newspaper column making fun of analysts. Predictably, he's writing a book, which includes this bit:
At one point, Jones, who's been negotiating to switch firms, gets a phone call with an offer: basic pay of 100,000 pounds ($197,000) and two guaranteed bonuses of 250,000 pounds.

``What a total buffoon!'' Jones says of the person making the offer. ``These total losers think that I'm worth almost 700,000 pounds over the next year-and-a-half. Don't they realize I'm just a stoner hippy who got lucky?''
I'm thinking Jack Welch.

5. And finally via The D Man: The Trident at Nariman Point, Mumbai, like you've never seen it before. Hell, even I want to take a photo like that.

Sunday, June 01, 2008

On lifts

Firstly, it's 'lift'. I've never heard anyone in Bombay calling it an 'elevator'. So it's lift, not elevator (I mean, imagine Adnan Sami going "Elevate kara de").

My favorite lift story is when we were at this friend’s house. While leaving, I stuck my chewing gum on the "G" button (I figured ground floor’s the most used one) of his lift. I shaped it around the white button, stuck it and left – much disaster, agony, gaali-galoch in his housing society followed. Yes, that was a very tough patch for our friendship. Poor guy.

So, this post is about lifts and the fact that I've been kinda fascinated by them. Terrified of escalators (for which I'm duly mocked at by family and friends), but kinda fascinated by lifts. As a kid it was the whole Superman thing - entering a lift with normal clothes and flying out of the terrace, all caped and red undies and stuff (ok, the undies didn't figure then). As an adolescent, well, if you've heard Aerosmith, you know what I mean. And now - or at least till I worked at an office - I've been fascinated at the great Indian lift culture.

I think lift culture forms an essential part of societal norms and urban life. As long as you are in a mode of transport, there is an established code for behaviour. In a local train you move towards the door when your station's about to come. If you're driving, you stick to certain lanes (yeah right). If you're in a bus, you keep your money ready when the conductor's around. You know, there's an order, a discipline. Small things that keep life in a city calm and peaceful. More importantly, it's part of an important mechanism for survival (or as I know it - getting to office on time.)

I've observed some cogs in the wheel of this lift culture machinery. You know, some trends and types. Like this.

1. The dash - Even before you enter your lobby, from the corner of your eye you notice that of the four lifts in the lobby, only one is boarding - and people are rushing in. This gets out the Carl Lewis or P. T. Usha in you. This is the single most important dash of the day. If you rewind the moment, you can see yourself, in full formals, running, chest heaving, drops of sweat falling off the brow, running to that one lift. Think Chariots of Fire. Think glory, think victory.

2. Being Noah - In the absence of a lift-man, if you happen to be the one near the dashboard, then you, yes you are the man. Sure, others will jab your six packs trying to push the floor button and someone from the back will shout "Boss, jara 10th floor". But dude, you are Noah. This is your ark. You have to herd everyone away from the flood. In short press "door close" and let's move it. Oh and don't forget the expression of Carl Lewis on the other side as the doors close. He didn't make it, I did. Life hai.

3. Low life - May the Lords despatch to hell those who press the "up" button when they want to go "down". May he have fungus-infected underwear for the rest of his life. So the door opens and you see this guy who asks "Neeche?". It brings out the Uruk Hai in you. After all, there is no stretch of logic to justify an action like that. Motion is simple. Up is up and down is down. This lift can't go down mid-way, when it's going up. And certainly not when Mogambo is in it. Now die, filthy mortal. You say "No" calmly. Humanity wins.

4. Desperado - See, pressing the "Lift" button 534 times in 10 seconds won’t get the lift to you quicker. No, really. There's electronics, physics, hydraulics, engineering going behind that door, behind that button. Stuff you won’t understand, stuff that has made people Noble laureates. So it doesn't matter if you keep pressing. I know you belong to an era of collapsible gate lifts when you'd shout out "Lift" and lo and behold, like a nymph from the skies, like an apsara, a lift would float in front of you. No. It's not like that any more. So wait. Be quiet. Save the energy.

So, these were my few observations. Love to know yours.

And if, like me, you’re looking for the answers to these questions:
1. Oh horror, my lift’s falling and I’m going to die. Should I jump out just before it hits the ground?
2. Oh horror, my lift’s….should I just hug the floor of the lift?

..actually even if you’re not thinking those questions, just read this excellent New Yorker piece on elevators, “Up and down: the lives of elevators by Nick Paumgarten”. Brilliant stuff.