Monthly Archives: September 2012

The Obligatory Facebook Rant

So apparently, the maximum number of Friends you can have on FB is 5 000. (They discovered this in 2010, but I hope most of you live under a rock like I do so this is news to you too.)

I have more than 800 friends on Facebook. Many of those people, I have no intention of ever speaking to ever again. Some of them, I’m not sure I know them: after two or three nickname changes, it’s impossible to keep track. (This guy tried out a social experiment on FB and the results were hilarious.)

I was one of those people who joyfully switched over to Timeline in March- only to see my entire, embarrassing Facebook history.

Out went the ridiculous high school photos. And the angst ridden updates of whatever hormone fuelled emotional crises your average 17 year old goes through.

And so began a more cautious approach to this social media business. And now, I no longer know what to do on Facebook. In between having 100 and 800 friends, it lost much of it’s social value for me.  For me, FB is not even really a place I use to keep in touch with friends.  You meet someone and they add you the next day, even though you will never see them again and you have no reason to keep in touch. That creepy guy from the office sends you a request…and you have a couple of mutual friends. Okay, add them on. The idiotic classmates you can never have more than a five minute conversation. On there too. Your little sister’s best friend? Yep, accept.

The result? My Timeline is an apocalyptic wasteland populated by people who post endless photos of their food, uniform party pics and passive aggressive updates aimed at their significant others. (This guy though, may be putting in a bit too much energy on hating though)

Why do I need to know this?

I have only ever defriended one person in my life, and that is because her photos had me wondering if she was running an escort service on the side. I don’t unfriend people on Facebook for the same reason that I never throw away business cards: you never know when you might need it.

Like the rest of you prisoners, I probably won’t ever have the guts to deactivate my account: the most I will do is unsubscribe to all my high school friends’ newsfeeds (and all those people who use FB to spread posters advertising this weekend’s ‘hottest’ party).

Because the one thing that FB is good for is pure, unadulterated stalking. (And occasionally breaking some news days after Twitter has.) It’s a gigantic database of everyone you ever knew, and many who you actually don’t.  And it’s fertile ground to ‘investigate’ your ‘friends’ lives, success and general state of mind.

So until Apple and Facebook come together and force us to sell them our first born sons, let’s all enjoy keeping tabs on people we don’t really like and maybe stop sharing so many terrible self taken pics.

(this post came after a vigorous debate on the merits of using Facebook with one Just Jere.)

India: A Reading List

A lot of the time, I prefer the company of books to that of real people. I’m not ashamed to admit it because I know I’m not the only one.

I especially like reading books about the places that I am in – its fun to see stuff that you read about in the book, or to have things that you did not understand explained to you by your friendly, non judgemental author.

Here are my favourite books about India:

1. Midnight’s Children (Salman Rushdie)

I ‘discovered’  this guy by accident last year (in the way you discover someone who has a Fatwa on him, has won the Booker Prize at least once, been knighted by the Queen and generally stays in the limelight by trying to go visit Pakistan and India every couple of years.)

Salman is not the easiest author to read, and he has a tendency to  go off on a tangent that shows his absolute mastery of the English language but also leaves the reader hopelessly confused. But Midnight’s Children, I think, is one of his easiest books to read. (It’s also the one that won him the Booker Prize.)

It tells the story of India from Independence, covering India’s most important events after the British left.(But with a LOT of poetic licence.) Apart from vivid descriptions of Mumbai and Amritsar, the book gives a general understanding of India’s thorny issues (Looking at you, Pakistan…) This is how I learnt that Indira Ghandi is not related to Mahatma Ghandi decades after the rest of the world. And also why she was assassinated by her body guards.

He kept me laughing out loud through out the book by mercilessly poking fun at Indian cultural quirks and oddities.

Oh, and I’m pretty sure that ‘Heroes’ ripped off on his plot and characters.

2. Shantaram (Gregory David Roberts)

Lots of Westerners go to India to ‘find‘ themselves. Some of them end up writing nauseating, self indulgent books that are then adapted into embarrassingly clichéd movies.

Not Greg. He lands in Mumbai on a fake passport after breaking out of an Australian jail. When his money runs out and his visa expires, he moves into the slum with his Indian friends. Life happens to him and he finds himself working for the Mumbai Mafia, after almost dying in an Indian jail.

As a wanted man, Greg doesn’t have the time or the luxury to be condescending towards India.  You don’t get that weird attitude that spoils many books about the developing world by Westerners who have decided to settle there.

(Binyavanga explains this kind of rubbish very well here and  an Indian guy vents here.  Also this insane woman’s story.)

He is busy navigating the Indian underworld, and his book is full of interesting characters that smash the stereotype of Indians as peace loving zen masters who wouldn’t hurt a fly.

Despite too many annoying bits of wisdom and pseudo-philosophy to justify his bad life decisions, I thought this book was a really clear view of Indian culture, language and society.

3. The God of Small Things (Arundhati Roy)

This one also won a Booker Prize. It’s based in Kerela, a state in the South of India.  It follows two kids growing up in the 1960s, their terrifyingly dysfunctional family and how rapidly their lives completely go to shit.

This book is pretty heavy – its set in the 1960s, and she really goes into how messed up and nasty the caste system was. It also deals with ‘inappropriate’ love. I was pretty depressed by the end of the book.

Apart from that, it was the first, and only book I have read that describes south Indian history, culture and politics. (Kerela has a communist government.)

4. The Liquid Refuses to Ignite (Dave Besseling)

Dave thought he wrote a book about spiritual enlightenment, but it’s really just a log of his life as a long-term traveller. (Yes, that’s a thing and I met one in real life too!)

He writes about sniffing coke in Japan, getting trashed in Budapest, bar hopping in Thailand (complete with a ladyboy story) and supposedly finding spiritual enlightenment and food poisoning in Varanasi, before supposedly having a life shattering epiphany in Kathmandu/Nepal.

It’s a terrible book, full of fake philosophy and a disappointing ‘climax’. But I included it in my list because his booze soaked journey appeals to the drunk in me, and it has one chapter about Indian ball scratching styles that had me weeping with laughter.

So there you have it. Nothing too strenuous on the mind. Any suggestions?