Landlines are back in demand across Pakistan, given the frequency of cellular service shutdowns for fear of terrorist attacks

Mobile phones go silent

The people of Pakistan resort to landlines due to the frequent shutdown of cellular services.

Landlines are back in demand across Pakistan, given the frequency of cellular service shutdowns for fear of terrorist attacks. Just these past couple of months has seen at least three occasions when cellular services went on the blink for the entire day on the orders of the federal government, forcing people back to their forgotten landlines.

This past weekend, too, cell phones went silent in nearly 50 cities of the country for two-and-a-half days owing to the gatherings that move in a procession as part of the mourning period of Muharram. The move drew widespread criticism from citizens already upset with the prolonged ban on YouTube.

Blocking cellular services ahead of any occasion that could draw congregations is now becoming something of a norm in Pakistan to the extent that before Eid-ul-Zuha last month people could be seen exchanging landline numbers feverishly in anticipation of the shutdown. Prior to that, there was a blanket blockade on cellular services as violence escalated across the country in protest against the anti-Islam film Innocence of Muslims.

At least in Pakistan, it is not yet time to say goodbye to the good old landline, which had been lying forgotten in some corner of most homes.

-ANITA JOSHUA

Pursuing boredom

Having done all they could to make the year’s most “boring” conference as mind-numbing as possible, its organisers looked forward to sitting back and enjoying a big yawn. Instead, they found themselves struggling to keep out gate-grashers apparently dying to be bored to tears. “Yes, it’s true that tickets for the conference have sold out,” said James Ward, the brains behind “Boring 2012” held in London recently as people queuing up outside the venue speculated about the most boring thing that could happen to them.

“Maybe it (the queue) just goes on and on and at 5 p.m. they’ll let us out the other side. That would be really boring,” said one man wistfully.

The annual Boring Conference “dedicated to the celebration of the prosaic and the mundane” is a uniquely British eccentricity described by its inventors as a version of counter-culture — an attempt to offer relief from the hype and noise of modern society. “Boring is the opposite of that — it’s slow, makes you think more. It’s about stillness and patience,” said another. The agenda, which was deliberately designed to generate boredom, included discussions on yellow parking lines, self-service checkouts, hair-dryers, hoovers and shop fronts.

Conceived in 2010 as a joke on Twitter, it has become so successful that companies are lining up to sponsor it. And people willing to pay £20 each to be “bored”.

-HASAN SUROOR

Left with a “red” face

The Onion has a good laugh at Kim Jong-un’s cost.

People’s Daily, the official newspaper of the Communist Party of China, is not a media outlet that is known for having a sense of humour. Most young Chinese wouldn’t even think of picking up a copy of the newspaper, which is known for carrying, on a daily basis, long-drawn-out speeches of State leaders hailing the merits of Socialism, or 1,000-word-long announcements detailing the latest government support policies for animal husbandry. So when the newspaper recently published on its Chinese and English-language websites an article from The Onion, the American newspaper known for its satirical (and, needless to say, made-up) dispatches, more than a few eyebrows were raised.

The piece in question was a slide-show carrying 55 photographs of North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, dubbing him the “Sexiest Man Alive”. The Onion had carried a spoof report, describing the pudgy dictator as a “Pyongyang-bred heartthrob” and “every woman’s dream come true.” Alas, the editors of the People’s Daily, however, puzzlingly (for anyone who has bothered to google “Kim Jong-un”) failed to realise the report was a spoof. The website quoted verbatim, without any hint of irony, The Onion report: “Blessed with an air of power that masks an unmistakable cute, cuddly side, Kim made this newspaper’s editorial board swoon with his impeccable fashion sense, chic short hairstyle, and, of course, that famous smile.”

After dozens of international media outlets gleefully reported on the People’s Daily website’s gaffe, the slideshow was taken down the next day. But not before The Onion had a good laugh. “For more coverage on The Onion’s Sexiest Man Alive 2012, Kim Jong-un, please visit our friends at the People’s Daily in China, a proud Communist subsidiary of The Onion, Inc.,” The Onion wrote, adding: “Exemplary reportage, comrades.”

- ANANTH KRISHNAN