Wednesday, February 27, 2008

Moview Review: National Treasure: Book of Secrets

Cliched scenes, too-clever-by-half dialogue, lame sidekick, over-the-prime hero, a plot that requires one to a) leave one's incredulity at home with the family dog and b) be the village idiot to find interesting -- you name it, National Treasure has it. The saving grace is the climax; not a particularly engaging one, but nonetheless a huge improvement when compared to the rest of the movie.

Some scenes that stand out for all the wrong reasons:
  • The ease with which the sidekick hacks into Buckingham Palace's network
  • Photographing the wooden piece by making use of the camera at the traffic light (and of course getting the $%@^ sidekick to hack into the police database to retrieve the photograph)
  • The absolutely irritating conversations between Ben Gates' parents

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Playing the stock market

From William Blum's Anti-Empire Report:
...there are numerous significant information gaps and misconceptions in the choir's thinking, often leaving them unable to see through the newest government lie or propaganda trick; they're unknowing or forgetful of what happened in the past that illuminates the present; knowing the facts but unable to apply them at the appropriate moment; vulnerable to being led astray by the next person who offers a specious argument that opposes what they currently believe, or think they believe. The choir needs to be frequently reminded and enlightened.
He might as well be talking about the financial press. I have been following the stock market for the last month or so (not to mention losing some money as well), and the one thing that struck me after reading the daily reports on movements of the Sensex is how the reporters unquestioningly quote the market players' take on things. You either find incredibly banal, motherhood statements like "More than 50% of India's exports are to the United States" (to account for the fall in the stock prices of companies which rely on exports for their revenue -- conveniently forgetting that the same companies' shares rose yesterday when the state of the American economy was practically the same as today), or plain deceitful stuff like the now-infamous "decoupling" theory.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

SMS Polls

Deccan Chronicle runs an SMS poll everyday, asking for readers' opinions on one of the burning issues of the day ('Do u thk v shd lynch SRK pblcly or in prvt?'). Now, what kind of folks take part in such polls? It's not like all the entries are placed in a lucky draw or something. If people still send in their votes, it's either because they are interested in shaping public opinion (i.e. vested interests), or they think voicing their opinions will lead to a more informed public discourse.

Both of these reasons don't seem plausible to me, especially in light of the poll numbers; invariably the percentages are too round for my liking, like 60% ayes and 40% nays: it's exceedingly unlikely that the total number of votes was a multiple of 100. Yeah I know, the stated percentage can be reached for any total, say, 50 (30/20), but this actually leads me to my postulate: I suspect that the totals are usually less than 100. Knowing DC, I wouldn't be surprised if they were actually in the single digits -- a DC reporter, his editor and the typesetter voting 'Aye', and said reporter's wife and dog voting 'Nay'.

A look at the results of yesterday's poll: 76% for 'Yes', 24% for 'No'. Hmmm, what's the smallest number that yields whole numbers for these percentages? 25, I think. I bet the DC folks are jumping with joy.