Thursday, February 16, 2012

Exploiting Bloggers..

Recently many corporations has found out about the potential of blogs in promoting their products. Blogs can be effective in sending a message out and enhancing the brand value by mouth to mouth publicity. So many of them organizes meets and contests for bloggers, making them write posts about their products. The publicity that blogs   give for their products may be worth thousands or even millions, but mostly what the blogger gets is a pittance. A lunch for a meet or a consolation price. I have seen many sites offering money for writing about products. Most of them are American and European sites. In India, this trend has not caught up yet it seems. Though I have seen many who condemns it, I personally feel there is nothing wrong in doing it provided it is mentioned in the post that the blogger has received a remuneration for his service. But I had received some offers by mail where the promoters wants it cheap. I will reproduce one such email conversation below. I wanted to get the promoter's final response before posting it, but I don't think he will reply me. If any reply come I will update it later. 

The First Mail:

Hi Harish,

This is about the bollywood film brought about by ***** – the first ever bollywood film auditioned on facebook. You have been approached because your blog fits into our consideration set of auto / gadget / film / youth category. We would like to reach out to our target audience through your blog.
This is an example of how everyday people like you and me were given an opportunity to star alongside one of the bollywood heart throbs – ***** . Shooting of this project is complete and the film is scheduled to release within the next 1 month.
If you are interested in covering the story, please get in touch with me. We would provide images and teaser videos to go along with the content. We could also discuss benefits for you and your readers.


My Reply:

Hi *****,

Thanks for considering my blog for your requirement. If what I know is

right, this is not a regular feature film, right? It is a short movie.

If I am promoting it in my blog what is in it for me?


His Reply:

Hi Harish,
Yes, it is a short film, first of its kind in Bollywood.

What’s in it for you? 
 ****’s PR mechanism is working full time to ensure that the ******* gets a super duper release. This film is a world’s first, first time that a bollywood film was auditioned on faceboook, first time that many aspiring middle class youth got an opportunity to act in mainstream cinema and experience the whole process of movie-making first-hand – this campaign will not only help ***** to promote the contest and itself but it will also help you to get a better visibility and search ranking.

As a token of appreciation we would like to offer merchandise like T-shirts for you and your readers. Additionally, we can offer limited number of premiere passes for you (depending on availability) and first hand updates, pics and the rest!

Please note that we will also be releasing an official trailer for the movie in the coming weeks.
My Reply ( The Final One):

Hi *****, 

I have a problem in doing it. One thing is that it is backed by ***** and ******, heavy duty PR works spending lakhs of rupees are going on and you want me to put a promotion in my blog free of cost. I am not interested in your T shirts or passes. Second thing is your assurance that I will get more visibility and search ranking which is just a hoax. If I want more visits, I have lot more better options than this. 

You guys are exploiting bloggers by luring them into doing thousands of rupees worth of promotional activities for a pittance.
I would have done a free promotion if a groundbreaking movie was made by a bunch of struggling movie aspirants with no money to spare for  promotion. Just out of my passion for movies... But not for a big corporation trying to promote its business using its brand ambassador. Definitely not for free. 

Get me an offer that I cannot resist or count me out...
I am still waiting for his reply.... 

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Comrade Jesus, Reverent Marx and Black Mass

One controversy that ruled Kerala for the last couple of weeks was the attempt of Communist party to hijack Jesus Christ to their side. This happened when, on the posters displayed in public places announcing a party convention, along with the stock presence of Marx, Lenin and the like, Christ was also given a place. Church and staunch Christian believers raised their objections and were concerned that this was a move to influence Christian voters. The Party declaration claimed that Christ was also a Communist because of his ideology that favored the downtrodden. Everyone suddenly joined sides, as is usual in Kerala, and there was a lot of mud slinging for days together. 

I personally feel that CPM had in their minds the votes of Christian community, because they had used the same ploy before by giving place in party posters for Swamy Vivekananda and Sree Narayana Guru when there was a fallout of Hindu voters when BJP came to power in center. That time also the social reformist ideology of these great men was used to justify the addition.

The attempts to marry Communism and Christianity is not new. There was a branch of philosophy called Christian Communism which says that teachings of Jesus Christ is essentially Communist in nature and Christianity in its pure form is communism. Present Christian Communists trace back the ancestry of the philosophy to the period of Apostles. They believes that Capitalism as a social system is evil and it should be forcefully converted to Socialism and then to Communism, but they disagrees in the way this has to be achieved and the resultant community has to be organised.

A few weeks back I was reading this interesting book called Black Mass by John Gray that tried to find the similarities between many of the important movements in human history, millenialistic movements as he terms them, and how they have made us, especially the West far away from confronting any situation realistically. It is an alternate reading of history. According to him all the modern religion and philosophy has a Utopian solution for all the problems. Through a struggle, it may be violent or not, the entire system is toppled and a new system will emerge and from then on wards everything will be ideal. This is the basic ideology of modern religions like Christianity and radical Islam, Enlightenment movements of Europe like French and British Revolutions, Communism and revolutions in Russia and China and a recent example being the crusade of US and UK for importing democracy to third world countries. All these movements make their ultimate goal an unattainable Utopia, and the price to achieve it will be tremendous. And as it is an unattainable goal, the result will be doom. 

As for what to be done to counter the work of Communist in Kerala to drain the believers, Church can consider recommending sainthood for Karl Marx. Or better will be for Karat and Achuthanandan...

Monday, February 13, 2012

Book Review: Teens Talk Growing Up

I had read the first book that started it all, Chicken Soup for the Soul, many years back. The book was an inspiring and entertaining collection of small stories, memoirs, poems and extracts from books. After that came a deluge of Chicken Soup titles that catered to any particular section of readers, like men, women, expecting moms, teens, Indians… When Blogadda suggested this book, Chicken Soup for the Indian Soul: Teens Talk Growing Up for review, I was more interested to find out how the format has evolved through years. 
Authored by Jack Canfield, Mark Victor and Aarti Katoch Pathak, this book as the name suggests, caters to Indian Teens. Teen age is an intermediate period. Teen agers are part child, part adult. They do not have the emotional maturity of adults, nor are their mind free of worry like kids. They start feeling the burden of responsibilities, they does not want parental discipline, they are anxious of getting judged by friends on beauty, brains and riches. And they are always with a point to prove to the world, their peers, teachers and parents which makes at least some them termed rebellious. There is a story in the book were the metamorphosis of an ugly caterpillar to a beautiful butterfly is compared to the blooming of adolescence to youth through teens. I think that metaphor sums it up aptly.
This book is a collection of 101 stories, each about the experiences of teen life, about the angst and troubles faced while growing up, penned by people from all the walks of life. Among the contributors there are movie actors (Sushmita Sen, Amrita Rao), sport stars (Geet Sethi, Sushil Kumar), Fashion designers (Neeta Lulla), movie directors (Tarun Mansukhani), writers (Harsh Snehanshu), Army men, home makers and many teen agers themselves writing about their bitter-sweet experiences of teen age. All the stories are exceptionally well written in a language easily appealing to youngsters, even to preteens who want to have a preview of what lays ahead.
The book is divided into 7 parts. The first part, Facing the Challenges, deals with the many challenges thrown at the teens by the world. Success in exams and sports and challenges in choosing a suitable career path is highlighted in these stories. Second segment Family Ties is about the value of the support system provided by parents and relatives while tackling the teen life. Many lives are turned for better when a father or mother or both stood for what is right for their kids and saw that they achieved it. In the third segment named Going Beyond Prejudice, the stories deal with several prejudices teenagers faces from their peers and even teachers, like that of color, race and economic situation. The fourth segment, In a Lighter Vein has stories that are humorous in content. 

Life is a Teacher is the segment that deals with the bitter lessons that life teaches in the cross roads of life and how it can be turned to the advantage. The penultimate segment called On Dreams and Passions, points out the value of having dreams, making these dreams our goals and achieving them by working towards it. The final segment called Teens today has stories that come straight from the hearts of teenagers. 
All 101 stories, as I had told before, are motivating reads. But on the flip side, one thing that this book lacks is variety. Most of the stories targets on effective usage of teen age to build a good career, academic or in sports. Topping the chart and winning the competition is seen as the most important goal in teen age. But I feel that though it is important to be topper, equal emphasis should be made in other areas of life. For example, it is in teenage that may important developments of sexual changes in body and mind happens, which does not find much scope in this book. Another point is that almost all the stories belong to upper middle class kids residing in urban areas. What about lower middle class and poor ones, and those living in villages? No attempt is made to represent them here.  Even with these shortcomings, I feel this serving of Chicken Soup is quite good for consumption. 
This review is a part of the Book Reviews Program at Participate now to get free books!

Wednesday, February 8, 2012

Four Books From The Most Receptive Language

I always have great regards for my mother tongue, Malayalam and its tradition of rich literature. Malayalam is not an old language. It is in fact a mixture of Tamil and Sanskrit that emerged hardly a few centuries back in its current form. But one reason for the growth of Malayalam as a language was its receptive nature. Compared to other classical languages, Malayalam always opened its windows to get itself influenced from other languages and cultures from the beginning. On one side a culture of accepting and appreciating the translations of classics from other languages, both Indian and international exposed our writers and readers to the latest trends of world and national literature. On other side the trend of Malayalees going out of state (and out of India) for earning their livelihood opened doors of new experiences for writers to explore. In this post I would like to write about four Malayalam books written at different times that I read recently. 
Kakkanadan was one of the fearless sound of modern Kerala. He wrote powerful novels about the political and social reforms of sixties and the uncertainties that preceded. I read his novel Ushnamekhala (Humid region)  a few weeks before his passing away. Ushnamekhala details the life of an idealist young man who believes that Communism is the only cure of oppression and feudalism. He works hard with his comrades for the realization of that goal, but circumstances, the death of his father and extreme poverty suffered by his family, makes him to abandon it midway and abscond to a city. He makes it big there, but his conscience never give him peace. After long time he returns to his village to find that the party which he believed will be the cure for oppression is on the way to become the biggest oppressor. 

Avanavante Aanandam Kandethanulla Vazhikal (One's own means to find his pleasures) is a path breaking novel by C V Balakrishnan. The novel explores sin and sexuality. It deals with a man's worries about his impotency and his journey to recover his manhood. With the rural Kerala of sixties as the background, the novel develops like a mythical story. The novel begins with a man reminiscing his first experience with a woman, in his childhood. In between legends and superstitions he is on his sinful way to get back there. An accident with a snake woman makes him impotent. Worried he tries anything possible to get it back. The novel is based on the childhood of the novelist. According to him these are visions that formed when children looked into life of adults and adults went on their adulterous life without knowing they were being observed. Children made stories of what they saw and these are what resulted. 
Kodakara puranam (The Epic Of Kodakara) is originally a blog by Sajith Edathadan, who calls himself Visalamanaskan, The Broad minded. When the blog about the humorous experiences of the writer in his village and in Middle East where he works, became a hit among malayalee diaspora, they published the selected posts into an immensely comic and satiric book. The language is pure oral Malayalam, the style is simple and engaging, stories are intriguing and blunders are that happens to us quite often (though we never admit like Sajith).

Aadujeevitham (A goat's life) is a book that created quite a stir recently. This novel, written by Benyamin, is about the life experiences of a man who worked in Middle East as a slave. He reaches there through a visa send by his relative. His sponsor takes him to the middle of a desert and makes him to work among goats and camels. This was in contrary to what was told to him. The novel details his step by step transformation from a normal human into goat like creature and the subsequent escape. The novel contains all the heat that Najeeb experienced in the desert and makes the reader experience it again. Told in simple prose devoid of any plot techniques or other gimmicks, this book is like a rod of red hot forged steel. I expected it to be like The Alchemist, but it is better and a more satisfying read. .  

Saturday, February 4, 2012

Two book reviews for BookChums

Almost two months back I received a mail from asking my interest in doing book reviews for them. Now how will I say no to an offer that will get me free books...! It took some time for them to start the program. By January first week I got the two books that I have to review by post. I am posting an excerpt of both the reviews and the link. Please have a look:

Review of Scammed: Confessions of a Confused Accountant:

Usually my primary consideration while selecting a book to read is the name of the author. The name of the author gives a lot about the book. Now when you have a book written by Anonymous, it is all for a toss. When I took Scammed: Confessions of a confused accountant to read I was walking on a non comfort zone because it was written by an anonymous person. I hoped it was as interesting as its title. And my verdict is that it delivers. Of course it is not a masterpiece, but an interesting read that will not tax the reader much. Like if you are free for a couple of hours on an afternoon, or you are on a long journey, you can depend on this novel to pass your time. 

Scammed is the story of Hitesh, an accountant with very minimal social skills, a boring job with no promotions on sight, ignored by ladies, harassed by his boss and rebuked by parents. When he audits an automobile company, he finds that it is on its way to dogs. The management of the company itself is eating the pies. Hitesh exposes them, embarrassing his boss and delighting the owner of the company, who is a ruffian named Venugopal Reddy. On personal terms, Hitesh gives some suggestions to Reddy regarding the business. Reddy asks him to be the CEO of the sinking ship. Hitesh charges in to start a new venture, Super cabs with the funding from Reddy and his friends. He tastes success due to his hard work and diligence and along the way achieves everything that was eluding him when he was a common accountant. But like all good things, Hitesh’s lucky run also ends abruptly thanks to the enemies he made on the way. Accused in a financial scam and left alone by all whom he thought close to him, he has to escape from the long hands of law. 

Read the full review here.

Review of The Newsroom Mafia:

The Newsroom Mafia is the second Indian novel that I read in recent times with the term newsroom in the title. The first one, also a debut novel written by a professional journalist centering on her life in newsroom, was a very readable novel. But the associations that come with the term newsroom is much more serious and demanding because the effect of media in the activities, decisions and opinions that we make in our life is large. Thus when someone attempts to tell a story about newspapers or media in general, the expectations become humungous, which was not met in the novel that I read before. For that reason I had an apprehension while taking The Newsroom Mafia by veteran journalist Oswald Pereira for reading. 

But the novel delivers and how! The Newsroom Mafia, as the name indicates is a story based on the intrusion of crime into fourth estate. What strikes the reader hard is the fact that news can be manipulated for devious ends. The story set in eighties is chilling real. The characters are multi layered and drawn from life. The motives, the master plans, the encounters every thing is life like. Oswald Pereira has used his three decades of experience masterfully in crafting this page turner. 

Read the full review here.