How to write your own biography in Wikipedia. From the renowned author of “Deconstructing Quantum Sufi-Yoga”

Last night, the benevolent god mahi-mahi came to me in a vision and instructed me in a mix of Urdu-sounding Hindi, Hindi-sounding Urdu, Klingon, and C++ to form the Khudbakhud Uttarvedantic Wikipedia Society, a charitable organization exempt from US federal income tax under section 501(c)(3). As you know, articles in the online encyclopedia Wikipedia are among the top hits in internet search engines. The goal of our tax-exempt Society is to create our own biographies in Wikipedia and pass off to family members, jealous colleagues, prospective employers, and random, uninterested Facebook friends as evidence of our great standing in science and letters. In this guide, I will lead you in the art of creating your very own personalized Wikipedia autobiography.

One way to get on Wikipedia is to to actually do something worthy of recognition. You could write a bestseller or come up with a major scientific discovery and the world would most certainly notice. Someone would write a Wikipedia entry for you. But let’s be frank. I’m writing a blog and you’re sitting here reading it. Frankly, it ain’t gonna happen for either of us. Fortunately, Wikipedia is written by people like you and me, and so there are tons of mediocre people (just like you and me) who are writing their own over-hyped articles on Wikipedia as we speak. And even if you did have the talent to do something worthwhile in life, why would you take the trouble anyways? It is much easier to become notable through Wikipedia than to become notable and then get on Wikipedia.

Here are the steps to creating your own autobiography on Wikipedia:

Step 1. Start websites with legitimate-sounding domain names. In the mafia, you need a shop to act as a front. In the web popularity game, you need to get your name out on Google by posting comments with your name on as many websites and blogs as possible and starting a few fake websites of your own. If you’re a scientist, write about how great you are on your fake website New Sceintist, which sounds a lot like New Scientist. Steal html templates if you can. If it looks similar, it is just as good. Most people can’t read, so who will notice?

By getting your name out in cyberspace, you’re increasing your hits on Google, a primary index used to determine if you’ve done anything worthy of Wikipedia.

Step 2. Make a list of important-sounding fake publications. This is the most important step. If you’ve ever written anything in life, you need to put it on Wikipedia. For example the essay you wrote on the cow in primary school should be written up as A post-modern analysis of the sociological and economic importance of Bos indicus var. dudhwali in the South Asian subcontinent. Anything will do, but you will need to use words such as “deconstruction,” “post-modern”, “quantum”, “paradigm”, as well as a smattering of South Asian keywords (preferably with religious connotations). That way later if your article is tagged for deletion, you can always challenge the Wikipedia editors. If they dispute the South Asian part, tell them they are perpetrating colonialist stereotypes. If they attack the science, appeal to the art. No one on the planet understands both Derrida and Bose-Einstein statistics.

It is as easy as 1-2-3. Follow my example. By putting some very esoteric words in the title of this article, I am enhancing my own reputation as a pundit. Web aggregators will pick it up and soon enough I will be known as an expert in Deconstruction, quantum mechanics, Sufism, and yoga. Repeat after me: “I am as smart as I fake myself out to be”.

If you haven’t done anything creative in your life, then use the approach of making up something extremely important. For example, say that your magnum opus is A Long History of the World (Vol I-XX). Always use Roman numerals for volumes and throw in some French or Latin if possible. If challenged to produce your work, say that it was originally written in a now-extinct Andamanese dialect and that the editor is being a racist, Eurocentric pig. If you’re a woman, claim to be the poor victim of a male-dominated society. You can’t lose!

Step 3. Create an account on Wikipedia. You’ll need an account to look legit. Without one, editors will flag your IP address. Choose something distinguished such as Rabindranath_Tagore or S_Radhakrishnan and put an embellished resume up on your page. For example, if you know that Achtung is not the sound of a German sneezing, mention on your page that you have native-level comprehension of the German language.

Step 4. Find a list of editors you can win over. For the most part Wikipedia is edited not by professional experts, but by hobbyists who know all the levels in Tekken, but not which side of the bread is buttered. Win them over by commenting on their personal pages. They don’t have money, power, or social lives. I mean, why else would they write for no recognition or money?

Step 5. Make some very basic edits on other Wikipedia articles. If the first thing you do is to write your own article, people will get suspicious. Do some very basic copyediting on one of the thousands of incomprehensible articles on the site first.

Step 6. Steal the template for an existing high-quality Wikipedia article on someone you admire. Wiki-markup is easy, but stealing is easier. Take an article written about a famous person in your discipline and use it as a template. It will have all the category tags built it and it is as easy as “plug and play”.

Step 7. You are who you want to be, so write creatively. Journalists are very good at this, but everyone should be instinctively good at using weasel-words. Use “many”, “most”. and other non-specific words to blast across how awesome you are. As you write, think carefully. If you ever sent your flop book to someone, say it was “well received” (omitting the fact that the postal service is efficient). If your mother really liked your painting, say “many experts found it breathtaking in scope and originality.” If you know multiple languages, then use non-Roman script for your works. Again, you are working on the vanishingly small odds that there is someone who is both a polymath and a Wikipedia junkie.

A final word of advice  for those lucky few in positions of power. Get your employees or students to do the work for you. Say that you are just about to work on their annual performance review or grade their test papers. You’ll be surprised at how common people who don’t deserve to be on Wikipedia grovel just to keep us celebrities happy!

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

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How to make medical decisions based on Bollywood movies

A few days ago, I wrote a short medical article on how Bollywood was an excellent source of information on how to treat bullet wounds. Based on the excellent feedback I received, I decided to search for a suitable venue for publication in a scholarly medical journal. Physicians and life scientists generally use PubMed, a comprehensive database provided by the U.S. National Institutes of Health.

In searching the database, I came across a medical article published in the March 2010 issue of The Journal of ECT entitled  “The depiction of electroconvulsive therapy in Hindi cinema.” You probably didn’t know this, but  electroconvulsive therapy or ECT is  popularly referred to as “shock therapy” in Bollywood movies.

Who knew?

The authors of the medical research article, all Indian physicians, felt that Hindi movies were a source of misinformation on shock therapy. To remedy the injustice, they first identified 13 Hindi movies between 1967 and 2008 “based on inquiries with e-communities, video libraries, and other sources.” These 13 movies were then listed in Table 1 of the research paper. The movies identified in this research were Jewel Thief, Raat aur Din, Khamoshi, Yarana, Arth, Coolie, Damini, Raja, Dastak, Har Dil Jo Pyar Karega, Kyon Ki, Woh Lamhe, and Manthan Ek Kashmakash (starring the other Sanjay Kumar and Anisha Babi if you insist on knowing).

The authors state that “between 1967 and 2008, 13 Hindi movies contained referrals to or depictions of ECT.” I hope they had good reasons for excluding Pagla Kahin Ka, Khilona, and Dhara , all of which that have explicit referrals to ECT within that time-frame.

Shockingly, the authors found inaccuracies in the depiction of ECT in Hindi movies. Who would have thought?

The authors also provide a thorough discussion of the implications of these inaccuracies. Two points are worth quoting from the abstract of the medical article.

“Although the inaccuracies are a cause for concern, we suggest that because Hindi cinema is generally hyperbolic, the public may be willing to distinguish real life from reel life when facing clinical decisions about ECT.”

Hindi cinema, generally hyperbolic? Although I probably couldn’t recognize a hyperbole if it burst out in song-and-dance wearing a tomato red chiffon sari, it is possible that the authors’ comment might be a slight understatement.

“Nevertheless, considering the potential for harm in the dissemination of misinformation, filmmakers should exhibit a greater sense of ethics when creating impressions that might adversely influence health.”

Shame on you Hindi filmmakers for not having any ethics! Priyadarshan, I know you probably haven’t had time recently to browse through issues of The Journal of ECT, but I really must protest. This sort of ignorance on medical matters clearly will not do!

The public deserves better.

More Bollywood Science here.

Disclaimer: These are my personal views and do not necessarily represent the position of my current or former employers. I am not a physician and have no knowledge of ECT so my comments should be taken with a pinch of salt. Fair-use rationale of images: All images are low-resolution and used only for purposes of demonstration for no monetary gain where a free equivalent is not available. Copyright of original works resides with the original creators.

© Text, 2010-2012, Anirban

How to treat non-lethal bullet injuries: lessons from Bollywood movies

Abstract: There is currently insufficient detail on how to perform emergency surgery for ridiculous bullet wounds that result from confronting Hindi film villains in everyday situations. Therefore, a clinical survey was undertaken with the purpose of identifying acceptable medical procedures compliant with known Bollywood practices. Two case studies presented here demonstrate that despite identical etiology, disparate outcomes result from the state of inebriation of the patient during the medical procedure. Here, the “daru kharab cheez hai” (liquor is evil) theory is validated using the popular Bollywood actor Dharmendra as a test subject. Therefore, it is the recommendation of the author that caretakers use alcohol only as a local disinfectant in order to avoid unnecessary molestation of health-workers. It is hoped that the research presented here will ultimately lead to a renaissance in modern health-care.

Figure 1: Successful surgical procedure for ballistic trauma

Introduction: The goals of this study are two-fold.

One of the least appreciated concepts in modern medicine is the “daru kharab cheez hai” theory widely prevalent in Hindi films (Vide Anthony Gonsalves et al. 1977). Briefly, this theory states that filmi heroes perform uncommon and unnatural acts under the influence of alcohol, which they would otherwise avoid. However, alcohol is also widely used in Hindi films as a local disinfectant for emergency surgical procedures and to prevent hypothermia after song-and-dance routines in Switzerland. To address this disparity, a comprehensive review of the wide body of relevant Bollywood filmography was performed.

The second goal of this study is to recommend appropriate field practices for treating trauma injuries. Filmi heroes are known to be exceptionally prone to non-fatal ballistic injuries suffered from poor aiming at close quarters by villains and/or their cronies. These injuries can be identified by a simple chemical examination for tomato sauce or water-soluble paint.

Methods: One filmi hero, Dharmendra, referred to colloquially as Dharam Paaji (D.P.), was subjected to different ridiculous, but non-life-threatening injuries (Vide: Kartavya; Shehezaade). A knife was sterilized by the acceptable method of heating on stove. The heroines (Rekha and Jaya Prada, respectively) were then instructed to remove the bullet. In the control study, D.P.  did not drink any alcohol, whereas in the experimental analysis alcohol was taken by mouth at the dose of one bottle of Old Monk desi rum and one bottle of VAT69 blended phoren scotch.

Figure 2: Validating the "daru kharab cheez hai" theory

Results and Discussion: The results presented herein (Figures 1 and 2) unambiguously establish the benefit of using the “knife to wound” method for treating bullet injuries.

Based on the results presented, the author would like to caution against allowing the filmi hero to imbibe alcohol during the 24 hours before or after the surgical procedure as it can result in undesirable outcomes.

Acknowledgments: The author wishes to thank the makers of Kartavya and Shehezade for sharing of materials and methods.

Mandatory Disclosure: No animals were harmed during these experiments.

References:  1. All images are low-resolution and used only for the demonstration of the purpose of the study. Copyright of original works resides with the original creators.

2. The text is subject to copyright (registration in USA and India) and cannot be used without prior permission from the author and publisher (A.M.).

More Bollywood Science here.

10 lines from Hindi movies that warn of imminent danger

I am no astologer and the following lines from Hindi movies may seem quite harmless, but they are ominous. If you’re unfortunate enough to say any one of these lines, you’ll suffer the consequences I mention.

  • Babuji, kya sheher ke saare log burre hote hain? (Dad, are all the people from the city evil?)

Two hours later: After a decade-long misunderstanding, your love-child sings a sappy song that brings you back together with your lover.

  • Daulat se sabh kuch kharida ja sakta hai (You can buy everything with money)

Two hours later: After losing your family in a natural disaster, going blind, and begging for forty years, you are reunited with your family on your death-bed. The same thing happens when you say main bhagwan nahin maanta… (I don’t believe in God…)

  • Itni raat gayi kahan ja rahi ho meri rani? (Where are you going so late in the night, my queen?)

Ten minutes later: The hero comes out of the woodwork and ends your diabolical laughing, lip-licking, and chest-scratching by beating the crap out of you.

  • Tu chinta mat kar, main teri school ki fees bhar doonga (Don’t worry… I’ll pay your school fees)

Two hours later: Your brother shoots you down like a dog on the street for not turning yourself in to the police.

  • Agar mujhe kuch ho gaya to meri biwi ko yeh chitti pouncha dena (If anything happens to me, make sure my  wife gets this letter)

Two hours later: Dressed in a white sari, your widow collects a gallantry award on your behalf during Republic Day.

  • Saab, hum unionwaale garib zaroor hain, lekin izzat se jeena chahte hain (Sir, the workers of this factory might be poor, but we’d like to live with dignity)

Two hours later: You son, Vijay, finds the factory-owner (who is actually the leader of a global smuggling ring) and avenges your death.

  • Chalo hum tum picnic pe chalte hain… (Let’s the two of us go on a picnic)

Two hours later: Your kid ends up hating you for what you did years ago on that stormy night. Often goes together with line 1.

  • Mere khilaf is gaon mein koi kuch nahin kar sakta (No one can do anything against me in this village)

Two hours later: The son of the farmer you murdered in broad daylight leads a peasant revolt and burns down the haveli you live in.

  • Main bhoot woot nahi manta (I don’t believe in ghosts)

Two hours later: You admit to your possessed wife that you killed your mistress, and then you die a gruesome death in the woods next to your haunted bungalow.

  • Mujhe nahin lagta tum zindagi mein kuch kar paoge (I don’t think you’ll ever achieve anything in life)

Two hours later: Your son proves that you are a royal idiot by becoming the most successful businessman, singer, sportsman, or patriot since Independence.

© 2010-2012, Anirban

Food at the cultural divide – the burrito and the salad sandwich

There is a very poignant scene in Mira Nair’s cinematic adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri’s novel, The Namesake. Having recently arrived in the United States, Ashima Ganguli, finds Rice Krispies in the cupboard and proceeds to eat it as she would the Bengali snack, jhalmuri. Watching the film again, the scene reminded me of a moment of culinary awkwardness I faced years ago when I arrived in the United States for higher studies.

I will never forget my first encounter with the burrito. For those unfamiliar with Mexican cuisine (or American variants), a burrito consists of a flour tortilla wrapped around fillings consisting of rice, beans, and meat and vegetables. To elaborate further, the flour tortilla is the closest relative of the desi roti you will come across easily everywhere in North America. I had no problem eating either the tortilla or the fillings. In fact, I quite relished it. My issue was with the packaging. In India, I had grown up eating rotis alongside rice, but the concept of filling a roti with rice was very alien to me. For the longest time, I had a hard time wrapping my head around the whole idea!

If you’re from India and you’ve never come across rice packaged inside a roti, how would you feel about eating a burrito?

I am sure North American readers will wonder what the big deal is here. Well, let me pose a similar scenario. Would you eat a sandwich that didn’t have a patty, but instead had a salad inside? I am not talking about a tuna salad or a chicken salad, but a house salad. Sure you might be able to get one easily if you wanted to, but if you’re not vegetarian the thought might seem offbeat to you.

Then, it will surprise you that the most American of all establishments, McDonald’s, sells a sandwich in India with primarily lettuce, tomato, onion, and salad dressing. Called the Salad Sandwich, this entree item sells  where a large chunk of the population is vegetarian and has no problem eating a salad inside a sandwich bun.

How would a culinary creation like the Salad Sandwich do in the land of the Big Mac?

Hmmm… now there’s a thought!

Footnote: Now if you really want to taste a mainstream dish that boggles the senses, I’d recommend fried ice cream.

Burrito image:  http://www.flickr.com/photos/sweetonveg/ / CC BY 2.0

Salad Sandwich Image © McDonald’s India. Fair-use rationale: not-for-profit commentary of product using a very low-resolution image.