Wednesday, January 26, 2011

Kids Say The Funniest Things

1. Jack was watching his Mom breast feeding his new baby sister. After a while he asked: "Mom why have you got two? Is one for hot and one for cold milk?"

2. Melanie asked her Granny how old she was. Granny replied she was so old she didn't remember any more. Said Melanie, "If you don't remember you must look in the back of your panties. Mine say five to six."

3. Steven hugged and kissed his Mom goodnight. "I love you so much, that when you die I'm going to bury you outside my bedroom window."

4. Brittany had an earache and wanted a painkiller. She tried in vain to take the lid off the bottle. Seeing her frustration, her Mom explained it was a childproof cap and she'd have to open it for her. Eyes wide with wonder, the little girl asked: "How does it know it's me?"

5. Susan was drinking juice when she got the hiccups. "Please don't give me this juice again," she said, "It makes my teeth cough."

6. Danni stepped onto the bathroom scale and asked: "How much do I cost?"

7. Tammy was with her mother when they met an elderly, rather wrinkled woman her Mom knew. Tammy looked at her for a while and then asked, "Why doesn't your skin fit your face?"

8. Mark was engrossed in a young couple who were hugging and kissing in a restaurant. Without taking his eyes off them, he asked his dad: "Why is he whispering in her mouth?"

9. Clinton was in his bedroom looking worried. When his Mom asked what was troubling him, he replied, "I don't know what'll happen with this bed when I get married. How will my wife fit in?"

10. James was listening to a Bible story. His dad read: "The man named Lot was warned to take his wife and flee out of the city but his wife looked back and was turned to salt." Concerned, James asked: "What happened to the flea?"

Google Bomb - When life is plagued by cyber-slamming

Google is the world's top search engine used by millions each day. Anyone can be defamed easily, all searchable through Google. Author Sue Scheff talks about the Google Bomb and its impact on our life.

The Internet as a technology for information and quick, inexpensive communication may be fascinating for millions around the globe, but if put to malicious use against someone, it can be a paralyzing weapon.

That is what happened in the case of Sue Scheff, author of Google Bomb (HCI Books, 2009). In her book, co-authored with lawyer John W. Dozier, Sue tells the story of her victimization through serial defamatory attacks on the web that destroyed her professional career and trampled her personal reputation as well as her social life. Just by Googling her name, or that of her organization, countless people could mark her and her organization as evil entities, all because of false, malicious, and unchecked accusations (and even effusive abuse) made against her by someone who failed to use her for her own vested interests.

In today’s world, Google has become the measure of one’s reputation – hence the term “Google Bomb”. Standing up against the coercion, however, Sue finally won the historical $11.3 million defamation suit against the culprit responsible for her loss. It was very informative talking to Sue for an interview to run in the journal Recovering the Self (Vol. 3, No 1). Following is a slightly abridged version of Sue's interview.

Ernest: And to tell our readers, what were your feelings when you were attacked online out of malice?

Sue: The first time I realized that I was being attacked virtually, it was a feeling of helplessness and hopelessness – you literally are powerless to the latest and greatest educational tool - The Internet. Since then, I have received literally hundreds of emails from victims that have had the same exact feelings; in a way, it is comforting that you are not alone and have a very real sense of ruin. The fear is overwhelming; trusting anyone goes out the window; anger is a bit covered up by the sense of being powerless to do anything about it; so you become more scared than angry. Of course I was upset; however, the fact that I became paralyzed to move forward in life limited my ability to work for fear of my client finding the horrors online, as well as losing potential clients was nothing short of devastating. I literally closed my office, started working from my home, and had tendencies of agoraphobia. Leaving the house was very difficult for me.

Ernest: Your organization PURE also suffered heavily due to the cyber-slamming targeting you. How did the defamation campaign on the web affect your social life?

Sue: As I stated above, my life became limited to my home. My only time out would be with one friend who knew and understood what I was going through. I feared meeting any new people; I feared being Googled. My guard was always up and always on the defense. Basically, in answer to your question, what social life? That is stolen from you when you are virtually destroyed. After speaking with others that have been through this, it is very common. You never want to give your complete name and you even have thoughts of changing your name, which I never did but seriously considered it at one point.

Ernest: Did you think of reporting to police or taking any legal action immediately after you learnt about the cyber attack?

Sue: At the time my attacks were happening, I actually went to the police three times. I was basically told there was nothing they could do about it. As the attacks worsened and started attacking my family as well as posting private information about my kids, I found a lawyer immediately. At one point, I received a death threat and my attorney contacted the FBI that actually told me to go to the police again. I did and they did file a report since I had the agent’s name and number; however, it really didn't do much, except give me a sense of protection that if something did happen to me, I was able to file a prior report of the threats. It should be noted that when you hear experts say “go to the police”, it may be different now, but back in 2003-2007, they basically said they could do nothing.

Ernest: When you finally got a lawyer to help you, were you confident that the legal system will do you justice?

Sue: Seriously? I am not sure anyone truly has 100 percent confidence in the justice system, but I knew I had to do something. My life was being destroyed, my organization P.U.R.E. was running on a thread, my reputation was basically trashed, and I found myself being swallowed up by my own home and drowning in depression and helplessness. I don't think I had a choice and had to take a leap of faith and hope so that I would have my name cleared (be vindicated). It isn't a secret that defamation cases can be extremely difficult, as well as invasion of privacy; however, I felt I had an exceptionally strong case. There were flat out lies about me that were intentionally and maliciously posted to ruin me. I had clearly been hit by Internet Defamation and Invasion of Privacy and could prove it. I recommend that before anyone hires an attorney, they need to be aware that it is a costly experience and listen to your attorney; if he/she feels it doesn't constitute defamation, you may as well save your money. Usually a free consultation can help give the lawyer an idea if there is a case. They will also ask you if the defendant has assets (money) for you to collect if you do win, or whether you are doing this for principle. Be aware, principle can cost you a lot of money; so this is a personal decision.

Ernest: Even after winning the case in the court, the cyber attacks against you continued, and you turned to ‘ReputationDefender’ for help. Tell us a little about such companies that help protect one’s online reputation.

Sue: I always say that my attorney, David Pollack, vindicated me in court and ‘ReputationDefender’ revived me virtually. What many people don't understand is that winning a verdict, of any amount of money (and it wasn't all about the money), is only part of the resolution. What do you do when the world's largest tattoo machine won't let you forget the slander? It was a fluke that, around the same time I won my lawsuit in 2006, ‘ReputationDefender’ was just starting up. I am proud to say that I am one of their first clients and felt I had to give them a chance. Michael Fertik, the founder, called me personally, did his due diligence on my case, to determine I was not a child abuser (as the defendant wanted people to believe), and he went to work on showcasing the good work P.U.R.E. does and my work as a parent advocate. They teach you how to maintain your online presence; they created websites with my information and helped create a realistic view of who I really am.

In other words, my real life was meeting the digital world without the slime and grime that my defendant wanted people to see. This was not an easy task and took months to do. Even today, you can find the negative stuff, however many can read through the vengeful posts. Personally, in today's virtual world, I believe all businesses need to consider a reputation online management company. My only experience is with ‘ReputationDefender’, and I do consider them the pioneer of these types of services.

Ernest: Okay Sue, near the end of your book, you suggest that unless parents can teach their children the proper use of technology, like the internet, they shouldn’t allow them using new technology at all. So what are some of the basic things about the Internet that everybody needs to teach the young in their family?

Sue: Most important is to teach your kids, especially teens, what you post today, may come back to haunt you tomorrow! Keep your social networking sites clean. Stay out of chat rooms that are not monitored by someone you know (such as a school); predators are all over the Internet; you never know who is truly behind that screen name. I know many experts will say to keep the computer in a public area of your home; that is great advice, but I believe that in reality, the Internet is all over, whether they are at the library, on an iPhone or Blackberry, at a neighbor's home, or an Internet Cafe's.

So your child needs to know about the dangers that lurk online whether they are at home or elsewhere. I also believe that they need to learn about not engaging in cyberbullying, sexting, or other harmful, hurtful acts online. If they are being attacked, they need to understand they have to tell an adult immediately. They should not engage in it or forward it on. Education is the key to safety online. Cybersafety should start at home and parents need to be part of it.

Ernest: You also took the issue of internet defamation to the Congress. What did you ask for in this regard and what became of it?

Sue: Unfortunately, legislation for Internet Defamation and Invasion of Privacy is dragging. As the Congresswoman said, she completely understands the issue, and worked diligently on the Protect our Children Act (HR 3845) Against Internet Sexual Predators in 2007. Sadly, I don't see much happening in the area of protecting adults and businesses that are being ruined by a few keystrokes and clicks of the mouse. With more cases being addressed in the headlines, such as Google having to disclose the name/IP address of a perpetrator is definitely a start. I do believe that eventually there will be laws in place, but for now, it can be costly to defend yourself.

Ernest: You know that Google is still the top ranked search engine with respect to online traffic. What advice would you offer the potential victims of Google bombing?

Sue: The most important piece of advice anyone should take, once they realize they are being attacked is “don't feed it or fuel it!” Never engage, never respond! Many people think that if they can explain their side, or counter their attacker, that the readers will see there are two sides to the story. What you are not realizing is that you are only feeding the attacker and he/she will always come back, and usually worse; as hard as it is for you not to defend yourself, don't. If it is on a public forum that has Terms of Service (TOS), review them; see if they are violating any of them; and kindly write a professional letter how the post has violated their TOS and ask for it to be removed. If they are threatening in nature, always be sure to print them out, and speak with law authorities about it. Hopefully you can file a police report. If it reaches a point that it is escalating and effecting your business or life, you may want to consult an attorney.

Ernest: Thank you very much Sue for your precious time. Any final thoughts you’d like to share with our readers?

Sue: I always tell people to learn from my mistakes, and I have made a lot of them. You need to be proactive in maintaining your virtual image, because if you don't, you never know who will. It can be time-consuming; however, it is worth it when you think of the consequences. If you can hire an online reputation management company, that can make it easier, but you can also do it yourself with a bit of time and energy. Remember there are a lot of free services out there that can help you get started. On page 206 in Google Bomb, you will see 10 steps you can use to get started.

Dummies’ guide to Indian Art

The earliest gallery of Indian art spread across several of the 30 caves near Jalgaon in Maharashtra. Bombay’s JJ School of Art sent a team to copy the luminescent Buddhist murals because they were getting destroyed due to lack of care. The decade was the 1930s. It’s a Unesco World Heritage site today (read: attracts quite some dosh), but most of the damage has been done.

Poser:  Only when a British officer (Capt Morgan) lost his way in the bushes did we get to know of the caves again, didn’t we?

Bindu to bindi:  The artistic passport back for artists of Indian origin settled abroad. Searching for Indian motifs, Syed Haider Raza struck upon the tantric bindu and made half his career off it. British-bred Bharti Kher was struck by the irony of a “sperm-like bindi” on a woman's forehead and has started making an oeuvre using its myriad possibilities.

Poser:  Who paid a record price for Kher's bindi-skinned elephant? (Answer: Kiran Nadar, R7.5 crore)

Cartoons:  The tradition was started in India by Gaganendranath Tagore in the first decade of the 20th century. By 1916 he had published a decade’s cartoons in a book, Birpubajra, the first such collection in India. Later, it became a pocket of laughter in newspaper pages. A recent show on the interplay between the line and text showcased Sarnath Banerjee, who has expanded the form of sarcasm in graphic novels.

Poser:  Were the cave painters in Bhimbetka caricaturing their lives?

Devi, Sunayani:  Among the earliest Indian women who painted for art’s sake. Influenced by uncles Rabindranath and Abanindranath Tagore, she persevered at her craft for 15 years during which she is said to have painted every day. In 1927 her works were exhibited in London by the Women’s International Art Club. She was called ‘naïve and primitivist’ by some, but extolled for her ‘fresco-like textures’ by others.

POSER:  Did you know Sunayani Devi exhibited with some Bauhau artists in 1922?

Ecole des Beaux-Arts, Paris:  Where several Indian artists headed to hone their skills an age ago. The enabler was a generous grant from the French government. In 1932, Amrita Sher-Gil was among the first to go. In 1950s, after receiving the coveted critics’ award at the School, Syed Haider Raza found a confidence in his own works that proved invaluable. Today, more than 20 artists of Indian origin — including Sakti and Jayasri Burman, and Velu ‘Paris’ Viswanathan — are based there.

Poser:  Did you know Raza has two properties in France: an apartment in a converted nunnery in Paris and in Gorbio near the Mediterranean?

Framing:  A specialist’s job mostly done by non-specialists in our country. With frames of some artists getting ever larger, the cost of framing some of these works may, in sheer input costs, be much more than any other cost. Not just aesthetics, but the longevity of a work may depend on it.

Poser:  Did you go to a ‘specialist’ for this show of yours?

Gallery:  It’s the institution that has nurtured modern art worldwide. In India, it has bloomed rather late. In Delhi, the Dhoomimals started selling artworks from their stationary shop in the 1930s. Their nephew Viren Kumar started on his own not long after. In Bombay the Artist’s Centre, earlier the salon for the Bombay Art Society, was one of the first.
Poser: If there were no galleries earlier, why did Abanindranath Tagore show an ‘art gallery’ in the backdrop of a 1920s’ frame?

Husain Horse Syndrome:  Anjolie Ela Menon’s term for clichés Indian artists fall for — seemingly inevitably. Maqbool Fida Husain must have drawn hundreds of horses over the years. Others have made careers out of tiffin carriers, bulls and even shutters. The list is endless.

Poser:  Isn’t an artist’s style his most basic limitation?

Index:  The Osian’s-ET Index is to the Indian art market what the Sensex is to the stockmarket. Seems absurd? Here’s more. It calculates according to the price movements for the works of 50 artists chosen across generations. That’s not all: it takes per-square-inch prices. In an unregulated, unstructured market, it’s a desperate attempt to make sense to number-crunching bankers.

Poser: Is the index the reason all Indian art investment funds collapsed?

Jangarh Kalam:  Stands for the dodgy divide between traditional crafts and modern art. Bhopal-based painter J. Swaminathan was struck by the works of Gond tribal artist Jangarh Singh Shyam. One JS nurtured the other and threw up the question: why is his art not treated in the same league as the modern painters’? Later Jangarh Shyam travelled the world, showcasing in prestigious venues such as Paris’s Pompidou Centre. And a tribe of artists was born in and around Bhopal who have continued to work in the style, or kalam.
Poser:  Do you call a traditional artist’s frame ‘contemporary’ just because he painted it yesterday rather than ages ago?

Kala Ghoda:  The south Mumbai precinct which is the only one in the country that’s remained arty over decades. The Progressive Artists wrote their manifesto at the Chetna restaurant and the salon artists hob-nobbed around. Later came the Jehangir Gallery and others. The National Gallery too settled next door.

Poser:  Several artists have done the iconic black horse mural at Kala Ghoda over years. Whose is the latest? (Answer: Sunil Padwal)

Lithograph: Literally ‘printing with a stone’, it’s a technique developed in late 18th century. In the 19th and early 20th centuries, India was one of the largest hubs of lithographic print-making, mostly working on religious subjects. Such presses flourished in Bombay, Kanpur, Lahore, Lucknow and Delhi. In recent decades, artists such as MF Husain have tried their hand at it.
Poser:  Which was the largest centre for lithography in India? (Answer: Lucknow)

Miniature: The biggest gift of Sher Shah to Indian art. When he pushed out Humayun for a few years, the Mughal sought refuge in the Persian court. On return, he brought back two artists specialising in the form and started the tradition here.
Poser: The sheer amount of miniatures he commissioned should make Akbar the biggest collector this side of Kabul, no?

New media: Bored with ‘old mediums’ such as oil-on-canvas, this is what every art college student today wants to dabble in. So souped-down cars, food ingredients, animal carcasses, electronic parts or motion sensors can be counted as arty mediums today. But the ‘new media’ epithet is as broad and as bland as ‘world music’.
Poser:  Despite this new media hoopla, more than half the shows around the world still sport canvases, don’t they?

Orientalism:  ‘Look east’ policy adopted by several groups of artists. But be careful where you are looking from. Not long after ‘Japonism’ was a wave in Paris, the Nandalal Bose-led Shantiniketan artists fell for the same fever. But the Saidian politics of the term can also be applied — gingerly — to find-your-roots revivalism/primitivism at home.

Poser:  Subodh Gupta is using Korean materials for some of his works. Does that make him an ‘orientalist’?

Prices: The biggest subject of conversation at parties. The prices of modern and contemporary have moved up in lurches over 50 years, aided in phases by hungry collectors such as Chester Herwitz and Masanori Fukuoka. Before that most of the steady buyers were either foreign diplomats or rich Parsis. In the 1990s a local market emerged and auction houses came in. Only recently have industrialists such as the Nadars and Malvinder Singh really opened up their purses.
Poser: Why do Chinese expats pay more for their country’s art than NRIs do?

Quranic art:  Thanks to the Islamic stricture of non-formal representation, the Indian subcontinent has one of the richest traditions of calligraphy. The struggle for ascendancy between different scripts such as the Nashtaliq and the Kufic is represented near the Qutub Minar. The National Gallery hosts a whole section on it.

Poser:  When calligraphists outline forms through texts does it amount to disrespect of the tenets?

Retrospectives:  In the last dozen or so years, the National Gallery has hosted less than a dozen ‘retrospectives’. But what makes a retrospective? Is it a representative selection during an artist’s lifetime or a posthumous archive? By the former measure, Ram Kumar, 86, has had five ‘retrospectives’ — the first one in Calcutta three decades ago and the latest one a month ago in Delhi.
Poser: The only retrospective of Nandalal Bose’s works came a couple of years ago. That too in the US. What will it take for us to recognise our artists?

Sculptures:  Santhal boy Ramkinkar Baij revolutionised Indian sculpture in the first half of the 20th century after being brought in untrained to Shantiniketan. Far from the days of stone, bronze and cement, today there’s more use more papier-mâché, fibre-glass and steel.
Poser: Is it a sculpture or an ‘installation’? (Ask pointing to a non-decipherable, multi-media, 3-D artwork)

Tagores: The first family of modernism in India. Rabindranath started painting, rather than doodling, at the ripe age of 63. But brother Gaganendranath was already counted as India’s first Cubist and Abanindranath among the first artists inspired by Japanese prints. Yet, on a trip to Japan Rabi wrote to Abani: “There’s so much to be seen here... I wish you guys would travel out of the country and see what’s happening around the art world.”

Poser:  Wasn’t it their wealth that allowed the Tagores to lavish attention on the arts?

Utilitarian: The style of architecture that brought modernism to the practice in India. It was heralded here by Charles-Édouard Jeanneret, a.k.a. Le Corbusier. He was inspired by the modernist dictum, ‘Form follows function’. Through the decades a Soviet Socialist overhang, lack of funds and mediocrity conspired to create ghastly ‘post-utilitarian’ offices. The results confront us
Poser: Is Charles Correa the only one who successfully adapted Modernism for India?

Videos:  Cheaper technology enabled it as an art form in the 1960s. Andy Warhol is said to have shown video art in the early 1960s. The difference with films is that video art need not depend on cinematic conventions. It came to India mostly in the 1990s. The Video Lounge, a first at this year’s Art Summit, is showing works by New Zealand-based Nandita Kumar and UK-based Otolith Group, among others.

Poser:  Do you prefer single-channel videos or double-channel ones?

White wine party:  The chatterati event that’s taken over from book launches and the reason you need to read this A-Z. Swill the papery white wine poured by the gallery hosts and throw at them some of our posers. The good thing is, unlike at book launches where they refuse to open the bar before boring you with book readings, the wine here flows from the start. Salud!

Poser: Have you ever been to an art opening that didn’t serve wine?

X-ray test:  An old way of checking for fakes using the same machine that outlines your innards. Used to detect underlying layers of painting or preparatory drawings — especially for old masters such as Raja Ravi Verma who sketched outlines first. Other techniques include (visual) dating of the canvas and pigment testing (old, natural, granulated pigments versus synthetic, smooth ones). But such dating techniques fail when the copy is by a contemporary.
Poser:  Can anything substitute an expert’s eye when it comes to spotting fakes?

Young turks:  The first modern artists’ collective formed in the early 1940s, predating the Progressive groups of Calcutta and Bombay. They were encouraged by Charles Gerrard, then principal of the JJ School of Art, to hold their first show in 1941. The group included PT Reddy, MY Kulkarni, AA Majeed, C Baptista and M Bhople, artists who regarded themselves as being in modernist opposition to the more Victorian and Edwardian stylists. Ironically, their form of modernism was later challenged, successfully, by the Bombay Progressives led by FN Souza.

Poser:  Was it the Bombay modernist movement that inspired the artist ateliers at the Bhulabhai Desai Institute in the 1950s?

Zoetrope:  A cross between the magic lantern (‘bioscope’ in Indian towns and villages) and the carousel for showing slides. A great way to showcase your work. Bangalore-based designer Somesh Kumar has made a prototype for artists to do just that.
Poser:  Do you know zoetrope literally means the ‘wheel of life’?