May 29, 2005

Dan Brown And The Art Of Guerilla Marketing!

I read the “code” because of church-going friends who recommended it to me with a sly wink. Strangely, I was disappointed with the book and a few other novels by Dan Brown. Strange because I am a religion-basher and like nothing better than to read/talk about the atrocities committed by religions through history. So even though the books were fairly stupid (both in terms of suspense and storyline) I should have still liked them for the religion bashing it had. But I figured out the true intentions of the guy!

Dan Brown always portrays situations in this way. Catholic church was bad in the past (preferably a few centuries ago!) and hounded a few small groups of artists and other such intellectuals. But, today the church is pretty decent. I mean I don’t find too many villains associated with present day catholic church in his books. Even if there are a few current church-villains, they are demented souls usually acting for themselves and not for the church. Even these few church-villains usually figure out their mistakes and do penance at the end. The majority of the current church officials are decent people who are saint-like in their devotion to god and humanity!. On the other hand, groups of intellectuals that were persecuted by the church long ago have now transmuted themselves to become powerful, evil groups full of wrath towards the church.

So basically baddies are these groups, which seeks violent revenge, not the church!

Hence, he succeeds in doing what the church always wanted to. He portrays the non-believers as seeking to wrestle control of the human destiny for their own purposes. They are diabolic and await a chance to deliver a final crushing blow to the church. At the end of his novel he often exonerates these groups but by then the harm is done. The reader who becomes so engrossed in the novel will continue to believe in these conspiracy theories.

And then he has a number of historical-curiosities (surely assembled by an army of research assistants slogging past midnight?) to make the book interesting and “different”

I conclude that when Dan Brown was writing these conspiracy theories (and getting millions hooked onto it), he was indeed in the midst of a conspiracy theory. But one in which he himself is the conspirator. My hypothesis (un-tested!) is that Dan Brown is part of a conspiracy with Catholic Church.

Why should church have an interest in the conspiracy?

The church loves him! After all, he is the best thing to have happened to the church after they stopped burning witches in the middle ages. Seriously, church is facing serious problems. Dwindling number of regular worshippers and even people who say they are Christians is a fact of life in the western world (particularly in Europe).

The backyard of catholic church (Italy, France, Spain etc.) is disappearing in the midst of public apathy and increasing secularist credentials of the governments. Further, the church is getting battered from all sides because of its anachronistic stand on social issues such as sex scandals in the church, abortions, female priests, condoms as an tool to prevent aids and finally its condemnation of homosexuality.

Believers are declining; church attendance is falling (hallelujah anyone?) and then comes this Dan Brown! What happens then? The entire f***** Christian mythology is played again and again. All the idiots read the books thinking how they are delivering a blow to the fat cats in Vatican! And what are the fat cats doing? They are laughing their way to the pulpit!

As far as marketing goes, no publicity is bad publicity. Especially for an organization which is struggling to stay relevant. And after the Dan Brown version of science fiction u hear about all these tourists visiting all the locations mentioned in his books (mostly church-connected). Church would hope (correctly I guess!) that at least a few of these gullible visitors could be lured back into its fold.

The crafty cardinals go ahead and denounce these books (thereby ensuring that every one would read it!). How the church would love if Dan Brown became big enough to suppress the other real issues, which it doesn’t like to address.


PS: The accusations made in the above blog are the fantasies of a fervent atheist/agnostic soul. I cannot be sued by any parties mentioned in the blog as I will easily get off on the “insanity” defense :)

PPS: At least no one can complain that reading habits are coming down. Look at the website of the hallowed physics lab, CERN (which is prominent in the book Angels and Demons) and you see that the poor guys even had to issue a “Fact vs. Fiction” report on the book.

May 24, 2005

Class Matters!

I have been busy for the better part of the last two weeks what with a one week vacation to kerala and some work!. The vacation was very interesting and i probably will write something about it soon (IF i dont get lazy again!)

anyway the last few days i have been following this series in New York Times and i thought i would share it

Class Matters

basically, this series is an exploration into the role that "class" plays in today's life in the USA. It shows (though occasionally unconvincingly)that the class difference has widened today in the US as compared to the second half of the last centuary.

A very interesting set of articles. I wish some newspaper in India would do something similar!(Hindu, Express..are u guys listening??). My first guess would be that there are a lot of parallels with the indian society as well. Ability to reach prestigious institutions and study prestigious courses seems to define the career path of most youngsters today in India. And ofcourse the upper middle class (and higher classes) have an advantage in this situtation. so it could be that the class divide is increasing in India as well


May 09, 2005

V for Victory! M for Mother!

Mother's Day (May 8th) comes just after the Victory Day for World War II (celebrated on May 7th in the west and May 9th in the former USSR)

It might well be a coincidence as Mother's Day was celebrated even before WW II but it is also apt that it comes immediately after V Day, in memory of the millions of mothers who lost their sons in the great war.

WW II in a nutshell

Generally, it is accepted that history is written by the victorious. Even in that cynical mood, i have to conclude that WW II was the last great war where the fight was actually "Good vs. Evil".

First world war was just a fight between two sets of armies (both of which were after territories in Asia and Africa) while most of the other major wars that i can recollect (including several that India fought) were mostly territorial/politically motivated.

WW II showed us the extremes of evil that mankind, if left to its own devious leaders, can reach. It showed us what racism and religious persecutions can lead to. It showed us how even a methodical, logical nation can become subservient to a megalomaniac. But it also showed us how nations can unite (albeit in their "national" interest) and people come together to fight the evil.

Ultimately, WW II also allows us to hope for mankind's future because just when the "good" had no more beaches to retreat from, no more bunkers to hide in, no more food to feed on and no more ammunition to fight with, THE TIDE TURNED.

So let us salute the heroes who won the world for us 60 years ago and keep our minds (and knives!) sharp so that evil never ever becomes so BIG

ps: and forgive me mom, for even on Mother's Day only these depressing thoughts come to my mind :)

May 03, 2005

Extinct Species To Endangered Species

Environmental degradation is a fact of life; so is species moving into the extinct list.

But once in a while, against the flow, few previously though-to-be extinct species turns out to survivors; albeit in small numbers. recently two such magnificient creatures moved back from the extinct list to the endangered list

Angola's Giant Sable Antelope

Arkansas Ivory-Billed Woodpecker

These two incidents are a joyful occasion; but it should not turn us away from the challenges of eco-conservation. Just imagine that we are being given a second chance to do better; there may not be a third chance!

May 02, 2005

Contribution To Feminism; Indian Way

FM Raises Tax Rebate For Women

I am no male chauvinistic pig; atleast i believe so!

I am always for female liberation and "freedom from kitchen" for our women folks so that they can contribute to the society. I believe that "man" kind was always afraid that the "better half" is actually better than us and hence tried to oppress them (meaning remove them from the labour market!).

Now that i have my presented my strong (and suitably liberal i hope!) leanings on the issue, i will come to my problem

For a long while, according to indian tax laws, women have had a higher income level when tax kicks in. Is this India's contribution to gender equality? if so what does this achiveve? i dont see this contributing anything to gender equality. why should a women who earns as much as a man pay less in tax?

Sure, the facility is available to senior citizens too but there is a difference. For one, senior citizen benefit is gender neutral; secondly senior citizen benefits make economic sense because most of them have are no longer earning so their income is basically from their savings.

people talk about positive discrimination for the disadvantaged (they compare reservation policy with the tax laws). But is this positive iscrimination? i dont think so!. Because this partial tax exemption works only for women who have taxable income. What about the women who do not come under the tax bracket at all!. My disgust at this law is because
1) This benefits the women who are economically well off; not the poorest of the poor women. Any positive discrimination should be directed at the poorest (or atleast should benefit them too if selective targetting is difficult)
2) This is not positive discrimination at all anyways. positive discrimination is something which gives people an opportunity (like reservation in schools/colles or for a job). The tax benefit does not offer any opportunity; it just offers benefits!

Ofcourse, Indian political discourse/media talk rarely talks about such "imploite matters". But can somebody explain the logic of this to me? it sure escapes me