Wednesday, September 28, 2011

The 'Fake' Cities of Syria's Unrest

It’s been reported briefly by a number of news outlets that a documentary/news show in Syria recently suggested the unrest currently taking place there is not really happening. Instead, they allege it's actually being staged in cinematic replicas of Syrian cities for the Al Jazeera news organization.

That's right: fake cities, built in Qatar by Al Jazeera, occupied by hordes of actors, under the direction of filmmakers to create a false impression of what’s happening on the ground in Syria. Or at least that’s the spin.

Or perhaps more accurately, propaganda. As this post from The New York Times mentions, the station that ran the allegations on September 9 is closely tied to the ruling regime of President Bashar al-Assad.

“Addounia TV is owned by Mohamed Hamsho, who is the brother-in-law of Maher al Assad, the commander of Syria’s Republican Guard and the brother of President Bashar al-Assad of Syria.”

The post also links to this video of the broadcast, subtitled in English by a YouTube channel called the Syrian Interpreter and aptly titled "Addounia TV hitting the crack pipe, 9 Sept."

The segment claims that movie-set versions of Syrian cities and public squares have been constructed with the help of American and French directors to dupe the global audience. It’s also suggested that a similar illusion was created in Libya.

“The world and the Libyans were deceived by those replicas that Tripoli fell. With those replicas, Al Jazeera will continue media fabrication and cinematic tricks by shooting scenes of big defections from the Arab Syrian Army and shooting scenes of clashes between some elements who claim being defectors and elements from the regime.”

The report also claims that Al Jazeera has had replicas built of Al Asi Square in the city of Hama, the Clock Square in Homs, and some of the neighborhoods in Idlib. Unconvincing zoom-ins of satellite images purport to back up these allegations.

The construction of a fake city—let alone multiple fake cities—would be a major undertaking. The sheer scale of it makes even the suggestion almost laughable. It calls to mind the climax of the 1974 Mel Brooks film Blazing Saddles, in which a fake version of a town is created to fool a band of thugs intent on terrorizing the locals into leaving. Or the fake war created for TV in Wag the Dog. Or even the theory that the moon landing was filmed on a soundstage.

But if such a monumental building project were to take place, a pretty surreal alternate reality could be created. Maybe the Syrian government could even follow its own line of reasoning and build some fake cities to counter the fake cities they claim Al Jazeera has built. Instead of “staged” conflict, they could film a smoothly-functioning government that respects the will of its people. In Syria right now, a film set in a fake city might be the only place to find such a thing.

--The Atlantic Cities.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Man who tricked Al Capone and sold the Eiffel Tower... twice!

Victor Lustig was born in 1890 in what is now the Czech Republic. As a youngster he studied languages. He also studied people: their habits, mannerisms, and especially their weaknesses, and decided to do something in that field instead. By the age of twenty he was a confirmed conman. By the age of thirty he was a confirmed wanted man on the run from police in several European countries. He started over again in the United States and called himself 'Count' because it sounded important. One dupe he conned was Al Capone; the most dangerous criminal in America at that time. The Count knew that the crime lord couldn't be taken in like the others; he would get revenge. Lustig devised something different for the underworld boss.

 The count asked Capone to invest $50,000 in a swindle that he claimed he was working on. Lustig promised to double his money in sixty days. The homicidal Capone gave the cash - and a warning of what would happen to Lustig if there was a double-cross. Lustig let the money sit in the bank for sixty days. At the end of that time he went back to Capone with a look of disappointment. He told his investor that the deal feel through. Just before Capone was about to explode, Lustig handed back the $50,000. The crime boss was so impressed with Lustig's honesty (?!) that he rewarded the conman with a thousand dollars. Which is what Lustig expected Capone to do! 

In 1925 Lustig was back in Paris with his new friend Dapper Dan, relaxing at an outside cafe. They were in need of money just as they read in the newspaper that the Eiffel Tower was in need of repairs. While others said what was really needed was to tear down the 985 foot structure. Almost immediately the Count thought up a scheme; he would sell Paris' most famous landmark to a scrap metal dealer. He gave himself the title 'Deputy Director-General of the Ministry of Mail and Telegraphs'. Dapper Dan would be his secretary. They typed-up letters with Lustig's title printed on them and mailed them out to the five leading scrap metals dealers in Paris. They were asked to come meet with Lustig and his secretary at their room in the fashionable Hotel Crillon. The buyers were told that it had become too costly to repair the Eiffel Tower and that the 7,000 ton steel structure would be sold to the highest bidder to be torn down. They were also told to keep the meeting secret; if the public found out too soon there would be an outcry. The secret bids meant nothing to Lustig. He talked to each client and picked out the man most likely to fall for the scam; the one who seemed most anxious to get ahead.

A week later the chosen victim, Monsieur Poisson, showed up at Lustig's place. He was handed a phony contract that stated that he owned the Eiffel Tower while Lustig was handed a real check. The Count and Dapper Dan quickly cashed their earnings and just as quickly fled France for Austria. Lustig never did say how much he got paid for France's top tourist attraction. Resting in Vienna they scanned the newspapers to see if Poisson went to the police; he didn't. Poisson was too embarrassed to tell anyone what happened. After a month's vacation Lustig and Dapper Dan decided to do it again. This time they used the same techniques but with different results. The scrap metal dealer who was fleeced reported his loss of $100,000 to the police. Once again the Count fled to America.

This time on America, the law caught up with Lustig when he tried to pass off counterfeit dollars. In 1935 he was sentenced to twenty years in Alcatraz prison where he died from pneumonia in 1947. While in prison he was protected from harm by orders from another prisoner... Al Capone.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Memoirs of a Summer Internship.....

            Technically, I was supposed to write a report on my training and how it went… but since the college didn’t require me to submit one, Desai sir left it to me. Last day I went to him and asked him, “Sir, should I write a report…?” he said in his own patented way, slightly lifting his shoulders upto his neck “Tumhari marji, tumko likhna hai to likho nahito dekho bhai …”. And obviously I didn’t write one…ya what the hell…..
            So there it goes………it was May 2010……there is this company  Mukand at kalwa , where I was inducted for a 25-day training program. Dad got in some jacks to get me in and, there I was standing at the gate of this very very old steel plant which was supposed to be one of the best of its contemporaries. On the first day itself I realized that the first headache I would have to face was the Vitawwa bridge to get there…..for those who are unfamiliar, it is basically a bottle neck under a railway track that leaks of its antiquity. Ok, done with the bridge I am standing in front of this large gate that reads ‘MUKAND’ and I see a lot of workers going in and coming out. I step in; make the gate pass as I’m not yet registered and head towards the HR office. As I walk through the premises it gave me this old feeling of what I was wanting to have the most in my college days; a cool and calm campus long way to the main building. It was a quiet place. The HR office was real creepy…although the HR place is supposed to be the most well groomed place it was a huge turn off. I got it and was kindly escorted by Naveen and got my things done there. Some old guy introduced me to the company and told me that they were putting me in the KSP Mills division wherein I would have to do a lot of documentation work…..sad…I wanted to go on the shopfloor…. Ok , they were basically the ones who decided where to put me in , so without any further questions I headed out. Naveen made a gate pass for me which I still have with me, I was supposed to return it while I left. Some sluggish guy took me to the admin office where I got my id card with just a roll no. written on it and nothing else. It was actually meant for my attendance that was not at all significant and for my meals that were at a ‘very subsidized rate’ as quoted by Naveen. The meals were actually very very inexpensive; in fact I’ve never had a full lunch at INR 6  In my entire life.
            Done with my joining procedure I was taken to the so called KSP Mills division. It was a nice place, seemed perfectly like a factory, just what I wanted. I entered the technical cells office and omg, the look that everyone had on their faces was unforgettable. They were blown off their heads. No one actually knew that a girl was coming for training. It was like I was the only girl at the shopfloor in all the three mills, that ofcourse led to a lot of interesting stories. I met Desai sir, a very sweet and kind gentleman. He gave me a review of the entire company.
            Basically the company derives its name from its founder whose name was MUKUND, but as it was a very old company, the British came in and named it MUKAND, that way they could pronounce it better. So the company was first established at Lahore in Pakistan but after the partition took place was shifted to kurla and then reshifted to kalwa , hence is called the Kalwa steel plant (KSP). The plant has basically 3 divisions- Kalwa Steel Plant(KSP), Machine Building Division(MBD) and the Electrical division. The mbd guys did most of the machining works. They had very huge machines but was a comparatively smaller section of the plant although they had a new section coming up right near the gate. They basically made EOT cranes and large machine parts like level cranes that are found at ports and large crucibles for furnaces. Our KSP division had many sub-divisions like the Steel Melting Shop (SMS), the bar mill, the blooming mill and the wire rod mill. It also had a short time cycle furnace which I never got to visit. KSP has a lab of its own wherein a lot of NDT and DT apparatus cold be found. I basically worked at the wire rod mill technical cell.
My co-workers were very kind towards me but ofcourse I need not mention the reason. There was Prasad Menon at the M7 level, Desai sir and Choudary sir at the M2 level, Junaid sir at the M1 level , Vaibhav sir at the asst manager level, Sugandhi sir at the junior manager level, Mankar sir was the foreman and Vitthal sir also the same, S R Patil sir and Sawant sir at the draughtman post. I had 3 othe trainees working with me there. There was Deepak from VJTI production engg 4th year, he was there for six months as a stipendiary sandwich trainee: then there was Pawan who was an MBA Operations Research student and Arvind (Alvin…from Alvin n the chipmunks….that’s the name junaid sir n me kept fr him ) from Manipal production engg 4th year as non-stipendary sandwich trainees.
It was mostly me, Deepak, Pawan, Junaid sir and Vaibhav sir working together or so. We had lunch together and mostly hung out there, but we also did a lot of serious work on the Shear Machine. Pawan was really calm and cool; he bothered less about his work as he was there for only a few more days. Deepak really troubled me and got me into every kind of trouble that he could think of and I could not. He had a lot of practical knowledge and often bombarded me with a whole lot of questions about things which I never even heard of in the past. It was really tough on some occasions and I would often feel really low. But I’m thankful to him for exposing me to the actual office politics that I’m likely to face in the near future when I would set foot in the market.
The plant was a really old one and used mostly obsolete technology. Tasks that were generally to be done by automation were mostly done by hand. It was although advantageous for me as I got know what the task was actually about….i got to see the core of every mechanism. I mostly worked at the wire rod mill and spent most of the time there. It basically produced steel rods and wires of diameters ranging from 5mm to 32 mm. the steel bars commonly known as charge were first heated well in a BRF(Billet reheating Furnace) also known as the Walking Hearth Furnace. It derived its name from the fact that the billets were moved forward with the help of a walking hearth that had a crank and lever mechanism below the hearth of the furnace. The furnace had 4 zones- preheating zone, heating zone and soaking zone. There was an atomizer at the injector of oil……n so on n so forth….
It was a pleasant and informative experience altogether and I’m really thankful to my seniors for letting me in and showing me around the place. I’m actually looking forward to my next training…..

Sunday, November 21, 2010

It all started with a BIG BANG!!

I caught up with the second season of the famed geeko series....The Big Bang Theory...liked the title track very much.....

Our whole universe was in a hot dense state,
Then nearly fourteen billion years ago expansion started. Wait...
The Earth began to cool,
The autotrophs began to drool,
Neanderthals developed tools,
We built a wall (we built the pyramids),
Math, science, history, unraveling the mysteries,
That all started with the big bang!

"Since the dawn of man" is really not that long,
As every galaxy was formed in less time than it takes to sing this song.
A fraction of a second and the elements were made.
The bipeds stood up straight,
The dinosaurs all met their fate,
They tried to leap but they were late
And they all died (they froze their asses off)
The oceans and pangea
See ya wouldn't wanna be ya
Set in motion by the same big bang!

It all started with the big BANG!

It's expanding ever outward but one day
It will cause the stars to go the other way,
Collapsing ever inward, we won't be here, it wont be hurt
Our best and brightest figure that it'll make an even bigger bang!

Australopithecus would really have been sick of us
Debating out while here they're catching deer (we're catching viruses)
Religion or astronomy, Encarta, Deuteronomy
It all started with the big bang!

Music and mythology, Einstein and astrology
It all started with the big bang!
It all started with the big BANG!

Friday, November 19, 2010

101 ways to annoy people...

    1. Sing the Batman theme incessantly.
    2. In the memo field of all your checks, write "for sensual massage."
    3. Specify that your drive-through order is "to go."
    4. Learn Morse code, and have conversations with friends in public consisting entirely of "Beeeep Bip Bip Beeep Bip..."
    5. If you have a glass eye, tap on it occasionally with your pen while talking to others.
    6. Amuse yourself for endless hours by hooking a camcorder to your TV and then pointing it at the screen.
    7. Speak only in a "robot" voice.
    8. Push all the flat Lego pieces together tightly.
    9. Start each meal by conspicuously licking all your food, and announce that this is so no one will "swipe your grub".
    10. Leave the copy machine set to reduce 200%, extra dark, 17 inch paper, 98 copies.
    11. Stomp on little plastic ketchup packets.
    12. Sniffle incessantly.
    13. Leave your turn signal on for fifty miles.
    14. Name your dog "Dog."
    15. Insist on keeping your car windshield wipers running in all weather conditions "to keep them tuned up."
    16. Reply to everything someone says with "that's what YOU think."
    17. Claim that you must always wear a bicycle helmet as part of your "astronaut training."
    18. Declare your apartment an independent nation, and sue your neighbors upstairs for "violating your airspace".
    19. Forget the punchline to a long joke, but assure the listener it was a "real hoot."
    20. Follow a few paces behind someone, spraying everything they touch with Lysol.
    21. Practice making fax and modem noises.
    22. Highlight irrelevant information in scientific papers and "cc:" them to your boss.
    23. Make beeping noises when a large person backs up.
    24. Invent nonsense computer jargon in conversations, and see if people play along to avoid the appearance of ignorance.
    25. Erect an elaborate network of ropes in your backyard, and tell the neighbors you are a "spider person."
    26. Finish all your sentences with the words "in accordance with the prophesy."
    27. Wear a special hip holster for your remote control.
    28. Do not add any inflection to the end of your sentences, producing awkward silences with the impression that you'll be saying more any moment.
    29. Signal that a conversation is over by clamping your hands over your ears.
    30. Disassemble your pen and "accidentally" flip the ink cartridge across the room.
    31. Give a play-by-play account of a persons every action in a nasal Howard Cosell voice.
    32. Holler random numbers while someone is counting.
    33. Adjust the tint on your TV so that all the people are green, and insist to others that you "like it that way."
    34. Drum on every available surface.
    35. Staple papers in the middle of the page.
    36. Ask 1-800 operators for dates.
    37. Produce a rental video consisting entirely of dire FBI copyright warnings.
    38. Sew anti-theft detector strips into peoples backpacks.
    39. Hide dairy products in inaccessible places.
    40. Write the surprise ending to a novel on its first page.
    41. Set alarms for random times.
    42. Order a side of pork rinds with your filet mignon.
    43. Instead of Gallo, serve Night Train next Thanksgiving.
    44. Publicly investigate just how slowly you can make a "croaking" noise.
    45. Honk and wave to strangers.
    46. Dress only in clothes colored Hunters Orange.
    47. Change channels five minutes before the end of every show.
    48. Tape pieces of "Sweating to the Oldies" over climactic parts of rental movies.
    49. Wear your pants backwards.
    50. Decline to be seated at a restaurant, and simply eat their complimentary mints by the cash register.
    51. Begin all your sentences with "ooh la la!"
    53. only type in lowercase.
    54. dont use any punctuation either
    55. Buy a large quantity of orange traffic cones and reroute whole streets.
    56. Pay for your dinner with pennies.
    57. Tie jingle bells to all your clothes.
    58. Repeat everything someone says, as a question.
    59. Write "X - BURIED TREASURE" in random spots on all of someone's roadmaps.
    60. Inform everyone you meet of your personal Kennedy assassination/UFO/ O.J Simpson conspiracy theories.
    61. Repeat the following conversation a dozen times: "Do you hear that?" "What?" "Never mind, its gone now."
    62. Light road flares on a birthday cake.
    63. Wander around a restaurant, asking other diners for their parsley.
    64. Leave tips in Bolivian currency.
    65. Demand that everyone address you as "Conquistador."
    66. At the laundromat, use one dryer for each of your socks.
    67. When Christmas caroling, sing "Jingle Bells, Batman smells" until physically restrained.
    68. Wear a cape that says "Magnificent One."
    69. As much as possible, skip rather than walk.
    70. Stand over someone's shoulder, mumbling, as they read.
    71. Pretend your computer's mouse is a CB radio, and talk to it.
    72. Try playing the William Tell Overture by tapping on the bottom of your chin. When nearly done, announce "no, wait, I messed it up," and repeat.
    73. Drive half a block.
    74. Inform others that they exist only in your imagination.
    75. Ask people what gender they are.
    76. Lick the filling out of all the Oreos, and place the cookie parts back.
    77. Cultivate a Norwegian accent. If Norwegian, affect a Southern drawl.
    78. Routinely handcuff yourself to furniture, informing the curious that you don't want to fall off "in case the big one comes".
    79. Deliberately hum songs that will remain lodged in co-workers brains, such as "Feliz Navidad", the Archies "Sugar" or the Mr. Rogers theme song.
    80. While making presentations, occasionally bob your head. like a parakeet.
    81. Lie obviously about trivial things such as the time of day.
    82. Leave your Christmas lights up and lit until September.
    83. Change your name to "AaJohn Aaaaasmith" for the great glory of being first in the phone book. Claim it's a Hawaiian name, and demand that people pronounce each "a."
    84. Sit in your front yard pointing a hair dryer at passing cars to see if they slow down.
    85. Chew on pens that you've borrowed.
    86. Wear a LOT of cologne.
    87. Listen to 33rpm records at 45rpm speed, and claim the faster speed is necessary because of your "superior mental processing."
    88. Sing along at the opera.
    89. Mow your lawn with scissors.
    90. At a golf tournament, chant "swing-batabatabata-suhWING-batter!"
    91. Ask the waitress for an extra seat for your "imaginary friend."
    92. Go to a poetry recital and ask why each poem doesn't rhyme.
    93. Ask your co-workers mysterious questions, and then scribble their answers in a notebook. Mutter something about "psychological profiles."
    94. Stare at static on the TV and claim you can see a "magic picture."
    95. Select the same song on the jukebox fifty times.
    96. Never make eye contact.
    97. Never break eye contact..
    98. Construct elaborate "crop circles" in your front lawn.
    99. Construct your own pretend "tricorder," and "scan" people with it, announcing the results.
    100. Make appointments for the 31st of September.
    101. Invite lots of people to other people's parties.

Wednesday, November 17, 2010

Prayer Before Birth

A piece of work by Louis Macneice, this is by far the best poem i've read. It was a part of our syllabus in 12th ISC, i fell in love with the poem the first time i read it.... I'm surprised it has managed to stay with me all these years...could'nt help but compile it here...
Written by Anglo-Irish poet Louis McNeice (1907 - 1963) at the height of the Second World War, In the poem, Louis MacNeice expresses his fear at what the world's tyranny can do to the innocence of a child and blames the human race "for the sins that in me the world shall commit".

I am not yet born; O hear me.
Let not the bloodsucking bat or the rat or the stoat or the club-footed ghoul come near me.

I am not yet born, console me.
I fear that the human race may with tall walls wall me, with strong drugs dope me, with wise lies lure me, on black racks rack me, in blood-baths roll me.

I am not yet born; provide me
With water to dandle me, grass to grow for me, trees to talk to me, sky to sing to me, birds and a white light in the back of my mind to guide me.

I am not yet born; forgive me
For the sins that in me the world shall commit, my words when they speak me, my thoughts when they think me, my treason engendered by traitors beyond me, my life when they murder by means of my hands, my death when they live me.

I am not yet born; rehearse me
In the parts I must play and the cues I must take when old men lecture me, bureaucrats hector me, mountains frown at me, lovers laugh at me, the white waves call me to folly and the desert calls me to doom and the beggar refuses my gift and my children curse me.

I am not yet born; O hear me,
Let not the man who is beast or who thinks he is God come near me.

I am not yet born; O fill me
With strength against those who would freeze my humanity, would dragoon me into a lethal automaton, would make me a cog in a machine, a thing with one face, a thing, and against all those who would dissipate my entirety, would blow me like thistledown hither and thither or hither and thither like water held in the hands would spill me.

Let them not make me a stone and let them not spill me.
Otherwise kill me.

Sunday, November 14, 2010

November Rain....

There is this very beautiful thing about the rains....each and every drop of pure and chill-cold water that falls from above is so fulfilling and so cherishing....Nature is so well spun, each and every season has a nouvuae riche sensation, as if the universe is tangled into such a bondage of complicated and mystified secrets, one could hardly imagine.
I love the rains especially when it rains off-season - an element of surprise, and usually when it does so it rains pretty heavily. Today was one such day, it rained, and , it rained well....the drops were so heavy and gravid...when they fell fell on my face, it took me to surprise to how easily and beautifully each and every single drop of the crystal water demeaned the heavy discontentment that hung around me that moment. It all reminde me of the very well known GnR tune.....

When I look into your eyes
I can see a love restrained
But darlin' when I hold you
Don't you know I feel the same
'Cause nothin' lasts forever
And we both know hearts can change
And it's hard to hold a candle
In the cold November rain
We've been through this such a long long time
Just tryin' to kill the pain
But lovers always come and lovers always go
An no one's really sure who's lettin' go today
Walking away
If we could take the time to lay it on the line
I could rest my head
Just knowin' that you were mine
All mine
So if you want to love me
then darlin' don't refrain
Or I'll just end up walkin'
In the cold November rain

Do you need some time...on your own
Do you need some time...all alone
Everybody needs some time...on their own
Don't you know you need some time...all alone
I know it's hard to keep an open heart
When even friends seem out to harm you
But if you could heal a broken heart
Wouldn't time be out to charm you

Sometimes I need some time...on my
own Sometimes I need some time...all alone
Everybody needs some time...on their own
Don't you know you need some time...all alone

And when your fears subside
And shadows still remain, ohhh yeahhh
I know that you can love me
When there's no one left to blame
So never mind the darkness
We still can find a way
'Cause nothin' lasts forever
Even cold November rain

Don't ya think that you need somebody
Don't ya think that you need someone
Everybody needs somebody
You're not the only one
You're not the only one