Friday, June 20, 2008

A fortune in the attic?

When I first came to the land of liberty, I discovered something rather quickly. There is a ton of “junk” here in this country that is perfectly good and useable, and which would be very valuable to lots of people around the world.

This astute observation was made on my second day in the States, when I was in the balcony of my apartment, observing the trash dumpsters visible from there. Two college kids were moving out of their apartment, and by the time they left, they had left behind an old (but working) television set, two excellent lamps, an old (and working) microwave, and some still useable furniture. I was astounded by the fact that these seemingly useful things would just be left behind. No one threw away furniture or *gasp* a television set. If you had an old TV and wanted a new one, you took the old one to the store, and the store owner would take your old one and give you a new one with a 15% discount. That was how you upgraded electronics.

And that was when I learnt one of the first rules of living in a consumer paradise. In order to live the American life, one had to buy lots of stuff continuously, but remember to upgrade constantly, and get rid of the old stuff. There is a sequence to getting rid of the old stuff as well. First it goes into the closet, then it moves into your garage, and finally it goes into the dumpster.

Not too long after that, I learnt that there was a corollary to this rule. If you happened to forget to clean out your garage, and kept your old stuff really long (say till you had grandkids), that stuff (actually useless in the modern world) would suddenly become valuable.

Only, instead of calling it junk, you would now call it a “collector’s item”, and you could sell it on eBay for a small but tidy fortune. What’s more, you can pass of just about anything as an antique or even better, a classic, on eBay. There are actually people here who will pay m-o-n-e-y to buy your old trash.

And this means there is a slim chance that I might have a fortune in my hands. And I have to thank my dad for this. Here’s why. My father had always been an enthusiastic adopter of technology, and eagerly bought the latest and best in electronics in the ‘60s and ‘70s. In his possession are 30 year old typewriters made by Brother, or a fine collection of LP record albums, or better still, an 8 mm and 16 mm film projector (and 8mm films), or a spool audio recorder. And all of them have been used but stored in perfect working order in their original packaging. The last time I looked, people were selling “vintage” 8 mm film projectors for $125 or thereabouts. The typewriter sold for $50 or more.

Add all of these together, and there’s a small fortune waiting for me, all tucked away in some shelf somewhere in our home back in India.

There used to be a time when I made fun of my parents storing their old and used electronics. I take all of that back, and hope they keep it safe and sound so that I can sell them all after another 10 years, by which time they will be absolutely and completely useless, and worth a fortune.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Where fanatism takes us, and a new SciFi story contest

For your viewing pleasure, a video from one of Carl Sagan's shows.

While some religions pretend today that there was never any wanton destruction of knowledge or (different) thought because of their "peaceful" message (and other religions still continue to unleash violence in the name of eternal peace), ALL organized religion has always been guilty of fanatism. There is much for us to remember in Sagan's words here.


And here's an announcement. Selva, who blogs at The Scian has announced the Scian Science Fiction short story contest.

Go on, take up that pen (or keyboard) and start working on your SciFi masterpiece.

Monday, June 02, 2008

Another edition of Pragati out

The June issue of Pragati, the excellent monthly Indian National Interest Review, is out. There's plenty of outstanding reading material there. Amongst the articles is a book review by me, adapted from an older post of mine, on the traditions of recording history in South India (the book is "Textures of Time"). This present version is more polished and concise (and adapted to a magazine format), and might be more entertaining reading.

Anyway, go here to download and read the latest excellent issue from Nitin Pai and co.