The Faithful Hound

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

The solution to all the world's problems

The three word answer? Abolish paper currency. If there were no paper money and all financial transactions were conducted directly between personal, institutional and governmental bank accounts then there would be no scope for money to change hands without leaving a trail.
Politicians could not accept bribes in secret, criminals would not be able to steal or profit from illegal activity, charitable contributions could not be siphoned before they reach those in need, terrorists would not be able to get their funding without exposing their patrons. In short, the world will be a better, though slightly big-brotherly, place.
Certainly there are pitfalls. All the fringe illegal activities that we indulge in will be curbed. No buying soft drugs, no bribing the maitre de for a good table, no friendly gambling, no prostitution (not that I advocate it, but I'm pro free market on everything), no cheating on your taxes and no underage drinking. And if you're a beggar - tough break pal, get a job.
But I think that it's a small price to pay for an incorruptible government, a dis-incentivized criminal population and the disappearance of black money from the third world.
Sure the logistics are massive, but technology makes it easier and cheaper than you would think. Every human being would have to have a centralized bank account and a small hack-proof wirelessly accessible memory device to store their account information. When a financial transaction has to be made, the payee would enter a passcode into his device to view his account balance, select the paid party's device (in a similar manner that bluetooth enabled cell-phones currently recognize each other), select the amount to transfer, confirm the transaction and he's done. The device synchs up with the central bank using the nearest Wi-Max network and everything is squared up.It will be a large initial cost, especially to get the technology and infrastructure in place in the poorer parts of the world, but once it's done the rewards will more that pay for themselves.
Why am I rambling on about this? I just spent half an hour rummaging through my desk drawers to come up with the change I needed to get my afternoon sugar rush out of the office vending machine. When I got there I found that one of my coins was a Canadian quarter that the machine disdainfully returned to me while keeping the rest of my money. Time to move on I say. I've had enough.

Friday, December 01, 2006

How droll

Iain Hollingshead, the winner of the British Literary Review's 14th annual Bad Sex in Fiction Award, accepted the 'honor' very gracefully. His novel Twentysomething won the award for its dubious erotic imagery, including the line "...and everything is pure white as we’re lost in a commotion of grunts and squeaks, flashing unconnected images and explosions of a million little particles", as well as a reference to "bulging trousers".
Mr Hollingshead commented "I was delighted to be the youngest ever winner of this prestigious award and hope to win it every year. I even got to meet Courtney Love, although I was disappointed that dinner for two wasn't part of the prize. Instead, I have an alabaster statuette of Hermes' foot on my mantelpiece. I am very proud."
Thank God for the British. Their self deprecating sense of humor, good sportsmanship and general refusal to take themselves too seriously is something that the rest of us can learn a lot from.
Can you picture an aspiring Indian author's reaction if he had the same distinction bestowed upon him? I cannot imagine it being a very pretty sight. Our thin skin and self important posturing deny us the pleasure of laughing at ourselves.
A recent article in the Economist spoke of the stark differences in the personal ads placed in the US as compared with those in the UK. The American versions spoke of 'physically fit, good looking bankers who enjoyed long walks on the beach' while the Brits (who are terrified of making self serving observations that are not ironic) usually poked fun at themselves while making subtle, humor wrapped references to their own virtues.
The dearth of good humor probably has its roots in the media. In India comedy was historically used to entertain the masses, while the upper crust believed that laughter was undignified. As a result comedy in Indian cinema or television rarely ascended the plane of Mehmood or Tun-Tun making funny faces as they slipped on banana peels.
American media did once have a decent sense of humor but, as Hollywood went commercial, the search for higher revenues resulted in the creation of products that appealed to the lowest common denominator. The difference between the US and Europe when it comes to comedy today is the same as the difference between the chocolates across both continents. American chocolate is much more in-your-face than its understated European equivalent. It is mass produced and goes with a 'sweeter the better' philosophy. A hint of bitter is too much of an acquired taste for companies to cater.
Does anyone else feel that mainstream American entertainment has completely lost its subtle edge? Was Rodney Dangerfield the last comic in this country who realized that saying nasty things about yourself is much funnier than saying nasty things about other people? And could someone please tell Alanis Rain-on-your-wedding-day Morissette that she has no clue what the word irony means?