Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Miel’s Story: why JK Rowling is OK!

There’s a part of me that is livid with the whole marketing razzmatazz of the Harry Potter phenomenon. Young children desperate to own a copy even when they can’t read more than primers.

And then I spoke to my niece, Miel, all of eight. She’s now a big girl. When she’s bigger, she’ll read all the Harry Potter books. She still bought her own copy at Landmark, Chennai. And she sent me these few lines on her experience:

"I woke up at 5 o’clock and I rushed to Landmark, I got the Harry Potter book and I was so excited I got a tattoo. Then I was with my friends Nihara and all. Then I had a hat, a black hat with stars on it. I felt so happy when I got the book that I had to jump! And I got my pictures taken and I had to feed a SS Music girl with cake. I can’t read the book but I read some words in it. "

Harry Potter got Miel excited; got her so happy the she had to jump.

And I think to myself, what a wonderful book.

Even if I haven’t read a single Harry Potter.

Tuesday, July 24, 2007

Of cricket and eyesight

Cricket teams on the verge of winning have considerably better eyesight than cricket teams on the verge of losing.

Thank God for lightmeters.

And rain.

Monday, July 23, 2007

Bloomsbury WILL announce 8th Harry Potter or new series by Rowling

Because the franchise is too big, and makes far too much money for Bloomsbury and Rowling to walk away from.
It’s na├»ve to believe that they would throw away the considerable investments made in both Harry Potter and JK Rowling. The 8th Potter book, if ever written, will sell like hotcakes – as will the first book in a new series “by JK Rowling, the author of the Harry Potter series”.
If I were Ladbrokes, I’d open books on both, the 8th Potter and the first non-Potter Rowling.
And I hope they would acknowledge the fact that they got the idea here.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Of Harry Potter and Scotch whiskey

We’ve all heard of how more Scotch is sold in India than is bottled in Scotland.
Now, if this report on ibnlive is to be believed, more than a few million copies of the latest Harry Potter have been sold in India.

“In India, pre-release orders have run into several millions and bookstalls will open by 0600 hours on Saturday so that everybody can have access to the book on the same day. Separate stalls have been set up for those who have booked their copies in advance. Over one million copies have already been sold online.”

So says ibnlive.
The problem is, according to friends in the publishing industry, less than 2,50,000 copies of the book have been imported into India.

Tuesday, July 17, 2007

Do we know it all? Of Fest-O-Comm and Santosh Desai

Last Sunday, I decided to forgo bridge and Bacchus and instead conduct a day-long session on event management at Pune’s Symbiosis Institute of Media and Communications (SIMC).
One thing led to another, and the students wanted to discuss their annual event, Fest-O-Comm – and the biggest problem confronting them.
The Symbiosis credibility and reputation ensures that the most successful professionals from the fields of media and communication are always willing – calendars permitting – to visit the campus to deliver lectures, be on panels, and so on.
The problem is, Symbiosis has an auditorium that seats 650, and SIMC has only 150 students (both seniors and juniors put together). How does one fill up the auditorium so that, say, a Piyush Pandey or a Rajdeep Sardesai is not offended by empty seats?
SIMC invites colleges from across the country to take part in the fest and, yet, it is an uphill task to get the audi filled to the brim.

And the students are a worried and despondent lot – and I hope I’m able to find a viable solution to what is surely a vexatious problem.

And I think about all the seminars and symposia and talks I’ve attended in the past few years. And I am reminded of the poor attendance at a Santosh Desai review of the year gone by when hardly anyone who was anyone was there; of seminar rooms at FICCI Frames attended by audiences in single digits; of a Subhas Ghosal Foundation lecture delivered by Javed Akhtar given a miss by industry stalwarts.

Does nobody want to learn anymore?

Monday, July 16, 2007

Harry Potter: the end is the beginning

On July 21st, a few million kids worldwide will buy a copy of the new Harry Potter, and a few million parents will buy a copy of the new Harry Potter for their few million kids.

And the sum total of these few million will become more than a few million, and these more than a few million owners will read the new Harry Potter back to front immediately after having a copy in their possession.

Because the first level of cool will be the ownership of the book.
The second level will be the knowledge of the ending.

And the second coolness will be achieved only by reading the book back to front.

And don’t be surprised if you quiz a few people who claim to have read the book in a few hours and none of them knows how the book began.

Sunday, July 15, 2007

Buy the new Harry Potter! Get fame, free!

Today’s consumerised society presents any number of get-famous-quick ops.
And the next one is imminent.
Be the first one to stand in a queue (it won’t be a queue yet) for the new Harry Potter. My advice: start tomorrow morning (Monday).
I guarantee you that the major news channels, the major newspapers and the major dotcoms will interview you immediately. Perhaps the international wire services will as well, and you could feature in a story in England or in America as part of a larger Harry Potter story – to prove that the Potter phenomenon works even in countries like India.
Yesterday, a news channel covered a Lagaan promotion at Landmark bookshop LIVE for over an hour! That’s potty.
And now they’ll go Potter.

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Schizophrenia at ibnlive

This is getting ridiculous.
Three senior staffers at CNN-IBN blog on Rajnikant and Sivaji on ibnlive. First off, it was Anuradha Sengupta, who called the film crap – and Rajni fans came down on her like a tonne of bricks.
Next it was the sports correspondent, Sanjeeb Mukherjee, with a poorly written piece that borders on the irresponsible and the inflammatory by making the whole Sivaji phenomenon an Aryan-Dravidian polarisation. The post drips with thinly veiled sarcasm and a childish attempt at transliterating the Tamilian’s English accent, and ibnlive visitors came down on him like another tonne of bricks.
Finally, it’s Jhoomur Bose, Features Editor, who writes a blog in praise of the superstar. To prove her sincerity, she takes a cheap dig at the Big B, and underlines that she believes Rajni is a national, and not just a south Indian, superstar.

And none of the three bloggers knows Tamil. One claims openly that she knows but a few words. Despite reading Jhoomur’s post twice, I can’t be sure that she has even seen the movie.
This is madness.

Is there a method to the madness, Rajdeep?

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

QOTD: Can polls get stupider than this?

CNN-IBN is conducting a poll (here we go again, back to my pet peeve), that will identify India’s sports icon.
And I wanted to vote for Vijay Amritraj, but he wasn’t on the list of nominees. Neither was his brother Anand.
And I wanted to vote for Sania Mirza, but she wasn’t on the list of nominees.
No sign of Wilson Jones or Michael Fereira, though Geet Sethi is there.
Three cricketers are nominated, but not Bedi, Prasanna, Venkat or Chandra.
No Ramesh Krishnan, nor his father.

And get this one: Not a single hockey player. Zilch.

And the poll is completely ridiculous at the moment of writing (click here to see current status), with Sachin Tendulkar a runaway leader, with 84% of the votes cast. Currently Gavaskar brings up the rear, with a mind-boggling 0.29% (yes, that’s zero point two nine per cent) of ibnlive’s visitors opting for him.

Here’s my Question of the Day: Can polls get stupider than this?

Monday, July 09, 2007

A foretaste of times to come

A month or so from now, NDTV's Lifestyle channel will be available to all of us. And another few special interest channels from the same stable.
So will a number of niche channels from TV18, and from Peter Mukerjea's INX Media (oops, that should read Indrani Mukerjea).
So will a zillion lifestyle programmes on various channels.

So will a zillion niche and special interest magazines.
And in this wonderful age of consumerism, Indians will consume almost anything, which is good for the economy and good for special interest media products.

And one of my favourite media products, The Onion, gives you an idea of times to come.

The Onion

New Pompous Asshole Magazine To Compete With Cigar Aficionado

NEW YORK-Upscale consumers who enjoy cigars, wine, and "all the finer things in life" will have a new magazine to enjoy beginning next month when Pompous Asshole hits the stands.

Go on, get out of here and click on the Onion link!

Of sobriety and text messages and the real wonder of the world

You cannot make a man sober by act of Parliament, goes the old adage.
Governments, over the decades, have failed to accept this simple truth.

And you cannot make a wonder of the world by totting up text messages.
You cannot make Shilpa Shetty a great actor by totting up text messages.
You cannot make Sanjaya a great singer by totting up text messages.

Consumers, over the next few decades, will fail to learn these simple truths.

And media houses and telecom companies, over the next few decades, will make fortunes because, as Barnum might have said a few decades ago, a sucker is born every minute.

And that, my friends, is a wonder of the world.

Sunday, July 08, 2007

How hooked are you to blogging?

This is my 200th post, and by a bizarre coincidence, I stumbled upon a site which checks out how addicted one was to blogging.

71%How Addicted to Blogging Are You?

Of course the survey is rubbish, but so is most of media and advertising.

But... how addicted are you?!!

Friday, July 06, 2007

The reader as judge, jury and executioner

CNBC TV18’s Anuradha Sengupta blogs about Rajanikanth’s Sivaji and calls it crap. The blog is inundated with comments (the last time I visited it, the count stood at 1250+), most of them from irate Rajni fans. Anuradha posts a reply, and the reply is bombarded by comments. More of them supportive and understanding her stand that the original post was a personal comment on the film, not a professional review, but a number still vitriolic.

I read and re-read her original post to try and understand what it is that Rajni fans were so upset about. It’s like people being upset if I said that I didn’t like the food at Bade Miya’s (I don’t; I think it’s overhyped crap).

If I did say, and I do, that the food at Bade Miya is crap, it does not
a) stop those who think Bade Miya rocks from going there
b) make Bade Miya go out of business

Just as those who think Sivaji is a great movie have a right to their opinions, so does Anuradha who thinks differently.

The worry, and the reason for the post, is the mob mentality that took over – some going so far as to threaten Anuradha with bodily harm. Increasingly, aided and abetted by live news television, the mob is becoming judge, jury and executioner.

And it’s bad enough that the media is becoming judge, jury and executioner too.

Yesterday I borrowed liberally from a post by Jamie Lee Curtis for mine; today, I link to a terrific piece in the Onion on trials by media. Does the spoof entertain me? No.

Does it frighten me? Yes. As do the reactions to Anuradha’s post.

Thursday, July 05, 2007

Because there are audiences -- and they are entertained

It’s always fascinating when I read something written about another country and another culture and discover parallels to what is happening in India. Here’s a great instance.
Till last night, Jamie Lee Curtis, to me, was a successful actor – no more than that. After stumbling upon a blog post by her, she’s much more than an actor – she’s a deep thinker and a brilliant writer and commentator.
And there’s so much in her post that could be transported out of the America that she writes about to the India that I live in that you know that globalisation rules; trends in media, especially television, are the same everywhere.
Curtis is baffled by the success of, and audience fixation with, reality-elimination shows – as I am. The truth, however, is that there are millions of viewers everywhere who feed this monster and the format is here to stay.

Snippets from her post:
“There I was trying to celebrate with my friend when my eye kept being pulled to the set on the wall. There were some chefs on the screen, all standing with their hands clasped behind their backs, at attention, as a panel of people (who are they?) told them mostly bad things about, I assume, their food. I knew they weren't nice supportive comments as the camera was close on the chefs' faces and they looked scared and sad. They were then marched in and out as a group until one woman was asked to leave. She was crying, packing up her knives. It made me so sad and sick to watch. Why was I drawn to this? I didn't want her to lose...did I? Do I? I don't even know her. Why would I wish her harm?
I understand there are many of these shows now. All "elimination"-based and faux reality. Real like a firing squad. I understand there is a good side, a jubilant winner getting their shot at fame and fortunes, but the bulk of the watching, I gather, is some communal elimination where the audience gets a hand in the stone-throwing. It begs the question of why we feel the need to watch this. Are we all so unhappy in our own lives we need the fix of watching another human go into the gladiator ring and come out a bloody, eviscerated mess? What does Russell Crowe scream in Gladiator -- "Are you not entertained"?
I am not entertained….”

The full post, here. Go there, get entertained.


Monday, July 02, 2007

What we must do to save the game: cricket

With thanks and apologies to Adrian Proszenko, who wrote this piece, and, where I copy-pasted this from.

Read the piece below. Replace all ARL with BCCI. Replace News Ltd with BCCI. All emphases in the article mine.

BULLDOGS legend Steve Mortimer has called for News Ltd and the ARL to hand over control of rugby league to an independent commission to ensure the future of the code.

Mortimer described the NRL as a "dysfunctional" ruling body hamstrung by the self-interest and political agendas of its co-partners that wasn't serving the best interests of the game.
The former NSW and Australian halfback has outlined his rescue plan for rugby league to The Sun-Herald, which revolves around the establishment of a nine-person board to head up the independent commission. He said the game was in disarray and the new body's top priority would be to solve the current problems, including:
- Putting an end to the spate of mid-season player movements
- Slowing the exodus of players to Super League
- Preventing the AFL from making further inroads at grassroots level
- Saving the game from dying in country areas
- Making rugby league a truly national game.

Mortimer has been disillusioned with the NRL's lack of leadership and the general direction of the game for many years. But the final straw was the disruption and fan outrage over mid-season player movements and signing announcements, which reached its lowest point during Craig Wing's very public decision to join South Sydney from next year.

"I fear for our code," Mortimer said. "The game will never die, but it will never thrive until we put the game's agenda before our own.
"We're coming up to 100 years of celebration of rugby league [in 2008] and I believe the greatest gift the game can give itself in its centenary is the establishment of an independent commission.
"The ARL must relieve itself of duty, while News Ltd is either bought out of the game or asked to step away.
"The only agenda for the commission would be to grow the game, while right now everyone has their own agenda. I don't believe a publishing company should run the game, while the ARL hasn't moved with the times and have a lot of people in it for themselves.
"I love the game and that's why I'm speaking out now."

Mortimer said News Ltd had brought much-needed commercial expertise and business acumen to the game following the Super League war. However, he said it was inappropriate for a media company to run the game and said that long-term broadcast rights could be offered as an incentive to relinquish control.