Friday, 22 April 2011

Single Square Character

The wicked trick the manufacturers and governments now play on our minds is: if you subscribe to GPS tracking you can find out where your children are, where your stolen cars are, and—in case you are struck with amnesia—find out where you have been in the past few months.

The lure makes us suspect waywardness in our children, casts aspersions on the spouse’s fidelity and on the imagined thievery and knavery of society. But we need to ignore the suggestions of businessmen with trans-national interests and instead pay deeper attention to what parents always say and how older siblings warn us.

Students need to worry about their grade, jobs and, most of all, the debt they are incurring through the bloated over-priced elitist education system. Today’s young executives think that just by owning iPhones they will magically have job offers come to them or be able to Google-search for their soul-mates in cyberspace. For the health conscious, this obsession with apples—I mean, the Apple iPhone—will not keep the proverbial doctor away but rather invite sick patients from cyberspace, commonly known as hackers.

Recently, I got into a discussion with a young lady in a public transport when she enquired if I were using the latest Nokia set. Who in his right mind would not treat such probing with disdain?

“It’s just a phone! But why do you ask?”

“The first things I notice are: the phone, the shoes men wear, their clothing”.

“That is too much observation for a single evening but it’s nice to know that you remain faithful to your true nature. What brand is your landline phone at home?”


“May I know the model number?”

“I don’t know, umm——”

“—because you’re not supposed to know! How does knowing the model of my mobile phone make my life better? It’s just a phone that gets my voice from here to there. And besides, if I lacked good conversational skills or a gentleman’s manners, how would this or that phone truly help me?”

The conversation ended abruptly when the train arrived at my stop sooner than I expected and the lady escaped the humiliation of answering my questions. There was no hat on my head that I could tip so I just waved my Nokia whatever at her.

London is being the most ‘watched’ city on the planet. On an average day, one is seen at least three hundred times by secret cameras which now use face recognition software and predict if someone’s nervousness is natural or a precursor to some imagined horrific incident.

Modern means of communication are a treasure trove for the intelligence agencies and government officials who wish to track the citizens like Big Brother does in the novel called ‘1984’. It is now possible to ‘get’ anybody the government does not like or agree with, under the broken umbrella of ‘possible links with terrorists’.

In the name of convenience and the magic of technology, slowly the massive hard drives of these wonder toys we cannot live without have taken over our brains. One’s personal information, banking details, passwords, messages, emails, browsing history, pictures, videos, to-do lists, appointment schedules, everything lives inside these little monsters. Add to this the ridiculous carrot now being dangled in front of the forgetful ‘sheeple’: GPS that reveals where one has been. Nobody is safe from governmental snooping anymore.

I propose this scheme ought to work in reverse for the benefit of mankind. To begin with, the hard-working citizens would like to know who our tax-imposing leaders meet with, from which rat-holes they emerge from and where they suddenly vanish, what routes they follow while travelling, and what do they discuss behind closed doors while selling us to the IMF, the World Bank, or to the USA. This is of vital importance because these men in sharp suits continue to destroy our national interests—not to mention what is left of our ability to earn livelihoods as approved by God.

If incomplete means NOT complete, independence should mean we are still dependant. Our misrepresentatives remain protected by the police, the armed forces, and by the agencies whose job it is to protect the citizens from domestic and foreign devils.

The bad folks can now take complete control of an iPhone by merely text-messaging inconspicuous SMS bursts that will hijack it to control all the functions. The hacker can then send more text messages to hijack even more iPhones. What is the way out? If you receive a text message containing a single square character, immediately turn off your iPhone because the time has come when someone will take over every iPhone on the planet. New iPhone 3GS’ data encryption can be cracked within a few minutes using freeware, hence, avoid using the iPhone for business purposes.

Oddly enough, some jester in our government suggested a few months ago that ‘ordinary folks must not possess mobile phones and only the parliamentarians should be allowed the privilege to carry them’. As of this writing, our brainy Interior Minister has ruined the lives of mobile phone service providers by asking them to ensure compliance with a million of his impractical directives. This just might be the continuation of the hare-brained proposal we spoke of earlier.

So let the parliamentarians have these phones, and the citizens the trackers which should record their locations and display them on giant TV screens placed in shopping malls. So thoroughly entertaining will their idiocy be that there will be no need to watch one hundred cable channels at home.

Citizens must have full access to unencrypted files (labeled ‘consolidated.db.) inside the iPhones of these efficient gentlemen and which store huge lists of geographical locations with time-stamps. Instead of wasting resources on tracking 6 billion Earthlings, it is more practical to track lying politicians whose global population may not number more than 250,000 in this ‘always-connected’ world of over 100 million iPhones and 15 million iPads. If these bold proposals are turned into law of the land, my Orwellian dreams will at last come true.

Critics point out that Apple is possibly ‘violating the Wireless Communications and Public Safety Act, which allows telecom carriers to provide call information only in emergency situations. By asking for permission to collect location data, Apple may be trying to get around its legal obligations, by asking people to give up privacy rights they don’t even know they have.’

A great advantage of citizens tracking the politicians will be that the law will be seen chasing after genuine scoundrels instead of providing them full protocol and finally producing in court the electronic records of their official iPhones. This will keep the lawyers, the judges and the jailers happy for the next five billion years or until the sun dies as a star, whichever comes later.

Fantasy aside, what is the way out of this digital hell, this gadget lust created by the privileged few and passed on to the rest of us? Don’t buy these expensive spying devices, and don’t carry them everywhere.

I have reason to suspect that a near and dear one will buy me an iPhone as a present on my next birthday. I am confident this person will not mind if I tied the device to our footloose dog’s hindquarters in order to trip up the tracking system.

Actual 'spy' map of an iPhone user in California, courtesy of WIRED magazine.

Monday, 11 April 2011

A Faceless Friend

It is spring time. I see the birds and the bees doing their song and dance routines, and I think it is time for me as well to hammer out a few songs.

Hurry, the quills, my lute!

I have been writing since a long time now and it does not bother me if my words, set to hummable melodies, do not climb the global music charts.

Do we fall in love so that others may grade our emotions? Love is not a classroom with a strict teacher or a carved-in-stone principle. Love has a roof that reaches up to the heavens, with its own secret book written daily using the blood of longing; its roll-call register shows there are more absentees than those present. Love cannot be caged or bottled up but, mercifully, it can be expressed.

The reader is advised not to concern herself with speculating about who the supreme rejecter might be in this song. She could be anybody or nobody, or somebody-turned-nobody.

I am unable, as of this writing, to post a video of the song that might showcase the rhythm or the melody to which the lyrics are set. One need not imagine that this is a rock anthem set to a fast beat with distorted guitars. Far from it! It is a sensitive mid-tempo pop song that might be labelled ‘adult contemporary, MOR (middle of the road)’.

The interesting thing about the composition is that the guitar is not played in standard (EADGBE) tuning but utilizes the D-modal (or Celtic) alternate tuning that produces far more interesting tonal textures, poly-chords and bass lines. It helps me play the guitar finger-style instead of using a plectrum.

There is only one verse in the song, and then the chorus, followed by a bridge that re-connects with the chorus. And it all fades out like most good things in life usually do.

By all means, imagine the song like a video in your mind and send me a copy when you are done. Of course, until our last breaths, we are never done.

A Faceless Friend


You can’t buy what they don’t sell
Or don a feeling on your empty shell
Rules for fools break my spirit down
As you happily sound a death knell

    For you my lonely struggle
    Is a laughing matter, pure trouble
    En route to your moral high ground
    A thorn in the side, an obstacle


A faceless friend I am
From the great beyond
I get no love from you
Only sophisticated taunts

    A faceless friend I am
    With endless wants
    Turn your face around, create
    Your perfect right from two wrongs


You want no waves of rascality
Only graveyard calm, tranquillity
With civic sense you slice me down
Into a one-sided plurality

    Your cup, my storm, and dire warnings
    I miss the good of your good mornings
    My simple gift was no poison pill
    But the drug of love so habit-forming

[Repeat CHORUS and fade…]

Copyright ©2011 Tahir Gul Hasan