Review of Divine Elemental by Kulpreet Badial

Review of Raywat Deonandan’s Divine Elemental

by Kulpreet Badial
Feb 6, 2010


This is a delightful read. The locale is Bihar in north-eastern India and the cast of characters is not quite what one might expect. Kalya, a Canadian, is out to find her roots and place in the world. Iskander, another westerner, is an entomologist studying wasps and in a manner typical of graduate-students, does a lot of exploratory research in areas that are directly-related to the topic of their thesis. Greek History. Meaning of Life. The interconnectedness of it all. And he is high on local booze for the most part; resulting in some amazing vignettes of stream of consciousness type writing:

Iskie looked upon this world without the benefit of a Lamas observant discipline, but rather with the time-dilation effects of premature drunkenness.

The book starts with a ghost-tale and for some time it is a bit of a struggle to come to grips with the setting and the believability of the characters. But science comes to the rescue. The best writing comes in various discourses where science clears the mist like only science can. It is here that the writing is precise; the logic unflappable and the characters are in their element.

The scientist on romance:


Romantic love –its desperation, futility, ecstasy and agony– is best observed amongst the insectoid angels.


On infidelity :

One part of the biological imperative is to obtain the best possible genes for ones offspring while simultaneously securing the best resources from ones mate. You see? Often that combination requires infidelity.

I have to remember this one.


On religions:

Christian, Islam and Judaism were all desert religions whose fundamentals were established upon Vulcans searing Middle Eastern forge, hence insisting upon their austerity, their hallucinogenic contradictions, and their water worship, despite the inapplicability of such things to the myriad environments to which the faiths had spread. Madness, it all was madness.


Write fiction in English and set it in rural Bihar. It is a challenge that could easily see the best of even the established literary stars fail miserably. The author cheats somehow by transplanting his characters from the west but once you give him that, the rest is fantastic. The chemistry works; and so does the entomology. Hell, there is even a bit of casual sex with a woman amazingly liberal for the eco-system of the place. I grew up in a place like that and we had none of that; but then again, maybe there was.

I will let the author have the last word:


It is the arrogance of men that prevents them from perceiving the imperceptible, from allowing themselves to consider that which is not obvious.


Read it. Divine Elemental is unconventional, edgy, funny. And you will learn a thing or two about the amazing sex-life of the fig-wasp.




Kulpreet is an Ottawa-based tabla player and all-around gadabout. Visit him at Tandoori Beavertails.




Required Reading for the Gadget-Obsessed

by Andrew Currie
Any endorsements of, or complaints with, products mentioned in this article are based solely upon the author’s personal experience…




I recently traveled to Montreal to experience my first JUST FOR LAUGHS festival. Feeling a little humbled that I was there to observe rather than to perform, I decided to take along a gadget sure to impress every Hollywood bigshot I’d meet — a state of the art PCS phone, nay, a smart phone, with the ability to receive email forwarded from my ISP. A toy like that would surely go further toward getting me a big development deal than any public display of talent ever could.

What happened instead was that I spent much of the weekend wasting time, money and alienating my friends, because my smart phone didn’t work. Inconceivable as it may seem, the impossible was true: technology had let me down! In my own little world I had experienced firsthand a meltdown of Y2K proportions. I’m not necessarily pointing any fingers toward the wireless carrier that sold me this phone, though I will say that their name rhymes with “hell” and that their website is here.

But I am asking myself “Did I really need to have email forwarded to my PCS phone?”.

Here’s another clue that will steer you in the direction of my obvious premise…

Like thousands of others, a buddy and I scammed a couple of free tickets to the recent COMDEX show in Toronto. I walked into our downtown convention centre eager to see the crme da la crme of smart phones, the Qualcomm pdQ, a phone so damn… smart that a PalmPilot hides within it.

I headed straight for the booth of the only Canadian carrier to support this amazing new device (care to guess who that might be?), only to find out that the folks there couldn’t give me a demo because of a fire that had screwed up their wireless network.

As I held the lifeless pdQ in my hands, I asked someone how much a working model would cost. Time suddenly stood still when I was answered with the words “… About a thousand bucks”.

Did I really need a phone with a PalmPilot hiding within it?

I decided that I didn’t, and opted instead to fork over $200 for an older Palm and $150 for a non-emailable PCS phone. I’m using the other $650 for rent. My PalmPilot Pro was state of the art two years ago, and works great with my two-year old Macintosh. My Clearnet Nokia phone is a brand-new model, but is cheap enough to replace in the event that I lose it, or if someone reading this article decides to rob me. And if I’m pining for forwarded email I can always substitute good ol’ fashioned text messaging, itself a technology two years old.

If you’re going to buy new gadgets, you might as well do it on the cheap, because there will always be something fancier coming down the hype pipe. This can be done in one of two ways. You can go for hardware of the disposable kind, usually identified by funky colours or a small “i” in front of its name. Or you can take to the “previously cared for” market, and join the fuddy-duddy set, sitting on your porch in your rocking chair rambling on about how much better gadgets were in the old days. Chances are, you can still get those “old days” gadgets brand-new!

– AC

Andrew Currie is a Toronto-based actor, writer and comedian. His television show, Improv Heaven & Hell, can be seen in Canada on the Comedy Network.>


Size Is Not Destiny, Regionalism Is by Indira Rampersad

Size Is Not Destiny, Regionalism Is

by Indira Rampersad
Sep 27, 2007


This article was originally published in the Trinidad Guardian and is reproduced here with the author’s permission.

Was it sheer coincidence that an alleged plot to blow up a fuel supply to JFK airport by some geriatric Caribbean terrorists had dramatically unfolded before our incredulous eyes just over a week before seventeen Caribbean leaders flocked to Washington D.C. in a combustive burst of tropical exuberance to participate in the Conference on the Caribbean a 20/20 Vision (June 19th-21st, 2007)?

Organized with near-military precision, the conference was the product of the collaborative efforts of the caucus of Caribbean Ambassadors to Washington, the Caricom Secretariat, the IDB, the World Bank, the OAS and the U.S. government. The title 20/20 Vision was appended for two reasons: first, the organizers hoped to assess the issues of the region with the clarity of perfect vision and second, they are determined to have them resolved by the year 2020. The three-fold Expert, Diaspora and Private Sector forums collectively and critically addressed anything and everything that are of concern to the region including, trade, investment, finance, energy, education, crime, security, diaspora and deeper, thicker, faster and denser integration through the Caricom Single Market and Economy (CSME).

In the U.S., we frequently hear that all politics are domestic. The bombshell terrorist plot exploded in timely fashion to be a convenient diversion from the doldrums into which the current Bush administration has sunk itself. That same week of alleged Caribbean terrorism, the U.S. media was having a field day with the minority AG Alberto Gonzaless catastrophic dismissal of three minority judges. Then came allegations of the U.S. decision to fund Sunni insurgents in Iraq. Not surprisingly, Bushs approval rating continues to slide to an all time low. It is rather curious though, how quickly the analysts were able to prepare their media speeches on Caribbean terrorism and make the link to Islamic fundamentalism. The message is clear. Whether in the Middle East or in our tropical paradise in Americas backyard, the issue of the day is American Insecurity.

Seemingly oblivious to Americas grand designs, our leaders and professionals from the region and the U.S. diaspora embraced the conference with passion, zeal and true Caribbean fervor. Even with the monumental Washington obelisk towering over our heads like a giant phallus, Jamaicas Prime Minister, Portia Simpson-Miller, insisted that Size is not Destiny, Regionalism Is. But the call for a new Ship Rider agreement in the interest of regional security, this time on Caribbean terms and conditions, gave credence to the age-old adage that its not the size of the ship, but the motion in the ocean that really matters. The Titanic may have sunk, but our incessant navigation for regional security has not.

So far, the Caribbean conference has received virtually no attention from the mainstream American media. Our seventeen Caribbean leaders could not compete with Israeli Prime Minister, Ehud Olmert, for Georgies and the medias attention. United in their deep and abiding commitment to eradicate those extremists and radicals who use violence and murder as a tool to achieve objectives, the unholy alliance between Bush and Olmert is reinforced by Americas unrelenting support of Israeli occupation of Palestinian land.

But it gets curiouser and curiouser. Clearly, Olmerts visit was well-timed. The 2008 election drums are rolling in the U.S. Hilary and Obama have already raised millions for their respective Democratic campaigns. And though money has never been a major problem for the Conservatives, the enormous contributions of the powerful Jewish-American lobby to the Democratic Party is no secret. Indeed, it is larger than the financial contributions from any other ethnic Political Action Committee in the U.S. Yes, all politics are domestic.

It was clear that American insecurity rather than regional security was the issue of the day when our leaders met with Bush on Wednesday, June 20th. Hoping to repeat at least some of the gains of Reagans Caribbean Basin Initiative (CBI), their reasonable demands for more aid, trade, preferential treatment and investment from Uncle Sam, more than likely fell on deaf ears. Bush was more preoccupied with the Caribbeans relations with Venezuelan firebrand, Hugo Chavez and Cubas indomitable Comandante, Fidel Castro. Why?

Recently, at the meeting of the Caribbean Studies Association in Bahia, Brazil (May 28th-June 1st), I attempted to explain the Logistics Behind the Illogical U.S. Cuba Policy in the geopolitical context of both U.S. domestic politics; Manifest Destiny which justifies American expansionism; and the 1823 Monroe Doctrine the historic mission of the U.S. to ward-off European powers and protect what it considers its sphere of influence in the region. In a post-Cold War era, it seems that Americas worst fears are justified. The capitalist superpower has failed to castrate Castro for forty-six years and is now forced to confront an unenviable leftist political milieu in its own backyard. Ironically, it is taking place in the absence of a Soviet Union and 17 years after the Cold War has ended. A neo-Monroe Doctrine targeting the socialist ideology, rather than European powers, is not only timely but an imperative for the U.S. Cubas Fidel Castro, Venezuelas Hugo Chavez, Bolivias Evo Morales, Brazils Luis Inacio Lula da Silva, Argentinas Nestor Kirchner, Ecuadors Rafael Correa, Uruguays Tabare Vasquez, Chiles Michelle Bachelet and Nicaraguas Daniel Ortega, all veer toward the left. Some such as Chavez, Kirchner, Ortega, Morales and Correa have overtly expressed anti-imperialist sentiments and resentment for the Washington Consensus. Vasquezs first announcement upon election victory in 2004 was the restoration of diplomatic ties with Cuba. Correa quipped that Chavez calling Bush the devil, offends the devil.

Yes, all politics are domestic. Strong anti-Castro Republican representation by hardline, right-winged Cuban-Americans in South Florida has facilitated the perpetual tightening of the ridiculous embargo on Cuba, particularly in election years. They constitute the second most important campaign financiers in the U.S., superseded only by that of the Jewish-American lobby. The latest 2004 and 2006 Reports of the Commission for Assistance to a Free Cuba, detail the tenets of the draconian policies which currently govern American foreign policy to the island. Their objectives closely mirror those of Monroe Doctrine of 1823 and its later Amendment in 1904 in the form of the Roosevelt Corollary.

Fortunately, the cojones of some of our regional leaders, are still intact. It is the fearless and dynamic Guyanese and Soviet trained Bharat Jagdeo, who took the Bush by the horns in his defense of the Caribbeans relations with Chavez and Castro for which Bush expressed open concern. It is in our national interest to have relations with Venezuela and Cuba, he explained to the distraught Bush. Just as it is in your interest to have relations with un-democratic Saudi Arabia. He should have added and socialist China which incidentally, is the largest trading partner of the United States.

The astute Jagdeo must have long realized that despite the myriad of issues on the Caribbean agenda at the Conference, the only real concern of the U.S. with regards to the region is the formidable expansion of the leftist Castro-led Axis in Latin America to other Caribbean countries. After all, Jamaicas Michael Manley (1976-1980), Grenadas Maurice Bishop (1979-1983) and Jagdeos predecessor, Cheddi Jagan (1957-1964, 1992-1998), have all flirted outrageously with socialism in the past. Jagdeo must also be acutely aware that herein lie the Caribbeans trump card for invaluable aid, trade security and preferential treatment from the United States.

But even without an expansion of the Castro-led Axis into Caribbean waters, a U.S. accord with regional governments which affords the superpower easy access to the region under the guise of Caribbean terrorism would fulfill the historical objectives of Manifest Destiny and the Monroe Doctrine. It would also divert from the catastrophe in Middle East in a desperate bid to win invaluable electoral votes in the 2008 elections. Yes, all politics are domestic.

Sadly, American paranoia has reached such mammoth proportions that it seems to have been transmitted even to the Caribbean Diaspora in the U.S. I was privileged to be sponsored to present a paper at the Diaspora Forum of the Caribbean Conference on Crime as an Obstacle to Diaspora Investment. The paper necessitated a series of unstructured and semi-structured interviews with members of the Caribbean business diaspora in Miami, Ft. Lauderdale, Orlando and New York. My findings reflect a highly successful but suspicious, traumatized, disappointed, cynical and angry Caribbean-American business disapora which has not fully assimilated into the mainstream American cultural and political milieu. At the same time, the majority are not prepared to return or invest in the region mainly because of the spiraling crime rate, inadequate returns on investment due to the currency exchange rate and lack of well-paid and professional job opportunities. Yet, paradoxically, they harbor a lingering nostalgia to return to the tropical homeland.

If anything, our leaders three-day dedication to regional issues in Washington has heightened awareness of their seeming commitment to improving the quality of life in the region. They assured and reassured us that the DC Conference is not just shop talk. So, even in the absence of any real American interest in developing the region, if at least two of the proposals on the regional agenda should indeed come to fruition in the short or medium-term, we can concur unhesitatingly, that the Conference has been a resounding success. By now, Caribbean leaders should know that the onus is on them to collectively take the initiative for the regions development. For Size is not Destiny, but Regionalism is. And as far as the United States is concerned, all politics are domestic.


Dr Indira Rampersad is a fellow at the Department of Political Science, University of Florida.

Mass Communication trends, traits and theories by Debanjan Banerjee

Mass Communication trends, traits and theories

by Debanjan Banerjee
June 14, 2007

This is an original Podium article.


The term mass communication is a term used in a variety of ways, which, despite the potential for confusion, are usually clear from the context. These include a) reference to the various activities of the mass media as a group, b) the use of criteria of a concept, massiveness, to differentiate among media and their activities, and c) the construction of questions about communication as applied to the activities of the mass media. Significantly only the third of these uses do not take the actual process of communication for granted.

Mass Communication is often used incorrectly to refer to the distribution of entertainment, arts, information, and messages by television, radio, newspapers, magazines, movies, recorded music, and associated media. This general use of the term is only appropriate as designating the most commonly shared features of such otherwise disparate phenomena as broadcast television, cable, video playback, theater projection, recorded song, radio talk, advertising, the front page, editorial page, sports section, and comics page of the newspaper. In this usage mass communication refers to the activities of the media as a whole and fails to distinguish among specific media, modes of communication, genres of text or artifact, production or reception situations, or any questions of actual communication. The only analytic purpose of the term serves is to distinguish mass communication from interpersonal, small-group, and other face-to-face communication situations. Another use of the term involves the various criteria of massiveness, which can be brought to bear in analyses of media and mass communication situations.

These criteria may include size and differentiation of audience, anonymity, simultaneity, and the nature of influences among audience members and between the audience and the media.

Live television spectators of recent decades may be the epitome of mass communication. These may include such serious events as the funerals of Indias Late Prime Ministers Mrs. Indira Gandhi, Mr. Rajiv Gandhi, or Martin Luther King Jr., and such entertainment spectaculars as the Olympic Games, World Cup Soccer, and the Academy or Grammy Awards. These transmissions are distributed simultaneously and regardless of individual or group differences to audience members numbering in several tens or even a few hundreds of millions. Outside of their own local groups, these audience members know nothing of each other. They have no real opportunities to influence the television representation of the events or the interpretation of those representations by other audience members.

By contrast the spectator for most cable television channels is much smaller and more differentiated from other audience groups. The target audience for newspapers, magazines, and movies is less simultaneous, again smaller and more differentiated, and there is the potential for a flow of local influences as people talk about articles, features and recommend movies. But compared to a letter, phone call, conversation, group discussions, or public lecture all of these media produce communication immensely more massive on every criterion.

All of the criteria used in defining mass communication are potentially confused when one is engaged in a specific research project or critical examination. The most confounding problem is encountered when determining the level of analysis. Should the concern be with a single communication event or with multiple events but a single communication channel? Should the focus be upon multiple channels but a single medium? Does the central question concern a moment in time or an era, a community, nation, or the world?

Here Radio provides an excellent example of the importance of these choices. Before television, network radio was the epitome of mass communication; it was national, live, available and listened to everywhere especially in a country like ours. Today it is difficult to think of radio this way because the industry no longer works in the same manner. Commercial radio stations depend on local and regional sources of advertising income. Essentially all radio stations are programmed to attract a special segment of a local or a regional audience, and even when programming national entertainment materials such as popular songs, stations emphasize local events, personalities, weather, news, and traffic in their broadcast talk. Radio is an industry characterized by specialized channels each attracting relatively small, relatively differentiated audiences. But the average home in the developed nation like US and its developing counterpart India have at least one and even more than that in compare to television sets. Cumulatively the US and Indian audience for radio is just as big, undifferentiated, and anonymous as that for television. Is radio today, then a purveyor of mass communication? It depends on whether the concern is with the industry as a whole or with the programming and audience of a particular station.

Most uses of the term mass communication fall into one of these first two categories, either to refer to the activities of the mass media as a whole, or to refer to the massiveness of certain kinds of communication. Both uses have in common that they take issues of communication for granted and instead place emphasis on the massiveness of the distribution system and the audience. Attention is given to what are called the mass media because they are the institutional and technological systems capable of producing mass audiences for mass distributed communications. Communication, then, ends up implicitly defined as a kind of object (message, text, and artifact) that is reproduced and transported by these media. For some purposes this may be exactly the right definition. But it diminishes our ability to treat communication as a social accomplishment, as something people do rather than as an object that gets moved from one location to another. If communication is people something do, then it may or may not be successful, may or may not be healthy and happy. If communication means, to share for example rather than to transmit then what, if anything of importance is shared when people watch a television programme.

Scholars of mass communication are often more interested in communication as a social accomplishment than they are in the media as mass distribution systems. This interest is based on an intellectual independence from both existing habits of terminology, and most importantly, from media institutions as they exist.

What is communication theory?

Communication is a tricky concept, and while we may casually use the word with some frequency, it is difficult to arrive at a precise definition that is agreeable to most of those who consider themselves communication scholars. Communication is so immensely rooted in human behaviors and the structures of society that it is difficult to think of social or behavioral events that are absent communication.

We might state that communication consists of transmitting information from one person to another. In fact, many scholars of communication take this as a working definition, and use Lasswells maxim (who says what to whom to what effect) as a means of circumscribing the field of communication. Others suggest that there is a ritual process of communication that cannot be artificially abstracted from a particular historical and social context. As a relatively young field of inquiry, it is probably premature to expect a conceptualization of communication that is shared among all or most of those who work in the area. Furthermore, communication theory itself is, in many ways, an attempt to describe and explain precisely what communication is.

Indeed, a theory is some form of explanation of a class of observed phenomena. Karl Popper colorfully described theory as the net, which we throw out in order to catch the world to rationalize, explain, and dominate it. The idea of a theory lies at the heart of any scholarly process, and while those in the social sciences tend to adopt the tests of a good theory from the natural sciences, many who study communication adhere to an idea of theory that is akin to that found in other academic fields. Nonetheless, when evaluating the strength of a theory, the criteria commonly found in the sciences, and derived from the scientific method are often broadly applicable.

Evaluating theory

What makes a theory good? Six criteria might be said to be properties of a scientific and authentic theory. The terminology presented here for the students is drawn from Littlejohn, Theories of Human Communication, but a similar set of criteria are widely accepted both within and outside the field of communication.

  1. Theoretical Scope: How general is the theory? That is, how widely applicable is it? In most cases, a theory that may only be applied within a fairly narrow set of circumstances is not considered as useful as a theory that encompasses a very wide range of communicative interactions. The ideal, of course, is a theory that succinctly explains the nature of human communication as a whole.
  2. ppropriateness: Theories are often evaluated based upon how well their epistemological, ontological, and axiological assumptions relate to the issue or question being explained. If a theory recapitulates its assumptions (if it is tautological), it is not an effective theory.
  3. Heuristic Value: Some theories suggest the ways in which further research may be conducted. By presenting an explanatory model, the theory generates questions or hypotheses that can be operational zed relatively easily.
  4. Validity: It may seem obvious that for a theory to be good, it must also be valid. Validity refers to the degree to which the theory accurately represents the true state of the world.
  5. Parsimony: The law of parsimony (Occams razor) dictates that a theory should provide the simplest possible (viable) explanation for a phenomenon. Others suggest that good theory exhibits an aesthetic quality, that a good theory is beautiful or natural.
  6. Openness: Theories, perhaps paradoxically, should not exist to the absolute exclusion of other theories. Theory should no be dogma: it should encourage and provide both for skepticism and should to whatever degree possible be compatible with other accepted theory.

Moreover in the context of social sciences, we may find different theories that each explains a phenomenon in useful ways. There is value in being able to use theories as lenses through which one can understand the world together with other scholars. So let us discuss in nutshell the most rational and relevant communication theories in this regard.

1. Agenda Setting Theory

The Agenda-Setting Theory says the media (specially the news media) arent always successful at telling us what to think, but they are quite successful at telling us what to think about.

Theorists: Maxwell McCombs and Donald L. Shaw
Date: 1972/1973

2. Cultivation Theory

Gerbners cultivation theory says that television has become the main source of storytelling in todays society. Those who watch four or more hours a day are labeled heavy television viewers and those who view less than four hours per day, according to Gerbner are light viewers. Heavy viewers are exposed to more violence and therefore are affected by the Mean World Syndrome, an idea that the world is worse than it actually is. According to Gerbner, the overuse of television is creating a homogeneous and fearful populace.

Theorist: George Gerbner
Date: 1976

3. Cultural Imperialism Theory

Cultural Imperialism Theory states that Western nations dominate the media around the world, which in return has a powerful effect on Third World Cultures by imposing them Western views and therefore destroying their native cultures.

Theorist: Herb Schiller
Date: 1973

4. Diffusion of Innovation Theory

In the Diffusion Innovation theory, communicators in society with a message influence/encourage people that have strong opinions through the media to influence the masses.

Theorists: P. Lazarsfeld, B. Berelson, and H. Gaudet
Date: 1944

5. Media Dependency Theory

This theory states that the more dependent an individual is on the media for having his or her needs fulfilled, the more important the media will be to that person.

Theorists: Sandra Ball-Rokeach and Melvin DeFleur
Date: 1976

6. Media Equation Theory

This theory predicts why people respond unconsciously and automatically to communication media as if it were human.

Theorists: Byron Reeves and Clifford Nass
Date: 1996.

7. Spiral of Silence Theory

The Spiral of Silence Theory explains why people often feel the need to conceal their opinions/preferences/views/etc. when they fall within the minority group.

Theorist: Elizabeth Noelle-Neumann
Date: 1984

8. Technological Determinism Theory

Technological Determinism state that media technology shapes how we as individuals in a society think, feel, act, and how are society operates as we move from one technological age to another (Tribal- Literate- Print- Electronic etc.,)

Theorist: Marshall Mcluhan
Date: 1962

9. Functional Approach To Mass Communication Theory

There are five functional approaches the media serves users: surveillance, correlation, transmission, entertainment, and mobilization.

Theorists: Harold Laswell and Charles Wright
Date: 1948, 1960

10. Human Action Theory

Human behavior can be predicted because people make choices with a purpose about their actions. Behavior is chosen by individuals to reach certain goals.

Theorist: P. Winch
Date: 1958

Apart from these there are many more important theories such as Uses and Gratification Theory, Cognitive Dissonance Theory, Communication Accommodation Theory, Expectancy Violation Theory, Face-Negotiation Theory etc, needed to be discussed. Rest assured, I will keep my promise in my next article provided you grab the given one first. Please do not cram better to conceptualize. Happy reading


Beniger, James R. Toward an Old New Paradigm: The Half-Century Flirtation with Mass Society. Public Opinion Quarterly (New York), 1987

Blum, Eleanor. Basic Books in the Mass Media. Urbar Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1980.

Curan, James, and Michael Gurevitch, editors. Mass Media and Society. London; New York: Edward Arnold, 1991

Jensen, Joli. Redeeming Modernity: American Media Criticism as Social Criticism. Newbury Park, California Sage, 1990

Katz, Elihu. Communication Research since Lazersfeld. Public Opinion Quarterly (New York)

Mass Communication Review Yearbook. Newbury, Park, California, Sage.

McQuail, Denis. Mass Communication Theory: An introduction. London; Newbury Park, California, Sage, 1987.

Schramm, Wilber Lang. Mass Communication: A Book of Readings. Urbana, Illinois: University of Illinois Press, 1960

Turow, Joseph. Media Systems in Society: Understanding Industries, Strategies, and Power. New York: Longman, 1992.

An introduction to Mass Communication and Mass Media, Prof. Manohar R. Wadhwani,

Sheth Publishers, Mumbai. India


Debanjan Banerjee is Senior Lecturer of Media Studies, West Bengal University of Technology, Calcutta, INDIA, and is pursing his PhD. in Mass Communication. He has an extensive experience as a Columnist and a Journalist, and is a regular contributor of features and articles to leading Indian dailies and magazines.

Nineteen times out of twenty?

Nineteen Times Out Of Twenty?

by Nick Barrowman
July 29, 2004

In the aftermath of the recent federal election, the near-universal cry in the media has been “What went wrong with the political polling?” Indeed, with opinion polls in the weeks prior to the election suggesting a dead heat between the Liberals and Conservatives, what can explain the fact that the Liberals captured 135 seats while the Conservatives, who had at one point dared to hope for a majority, only managed to get 99 seats?

Explanations put forward for this turn of events include wild last-minute swings in voting preferences, deliberate withholding of opinions or even misinformation by polled subjects, and inadequate polling methodology. Each of these factors may play a role, but there is a simpler reason why predicting Canadian election outcomes is so hard: our riding-based electoral system is fundamentally unpredictable on a national level.

Political polling methodology is based on sound statistical principles, which justify the oft-heard claim that “the results are accurate to within 4.5%, nineteen times out of twenty.” This degree of accuracy requires a random sample of 500 Canadians, which is easier said than done. Reputable polling firms painstakingly follow carefully designed protocols to ensure the validity of the results. This is an expensive process but it produces accurate estimates of voting preferences at the national level.

However, predicting the number of seats each party will win in the House of Commons requires information about voting preferences in each riding. And national opinion polls provide little insight on a local level.

Our first-past-the-post system can produce striking divergence from the popular vote at the national level. For example, it is theoretically possible for two parties to evenly split the popular vote yet one party to win all but one of the 308 seats in the current parliament. To see how this could happen, suppose that party A beats party B by a single vote in each of 307 ridings, while in one riding party B beats party A by 307 votes. While this is an extreme example, it illustrates the sometimes surprising mismatch between popular vote and seats won. It also shows how our system can amplify miniscule voting shifts to produce dramatic changes in the distribution of seats among political parties. This engenders a fundamental lack of predictability.

Carefully designed polling in each riding would permit much more accurate seat predictions, but consider the cost: to achieve the same margin of error as a national opinion poll would require a random sample of 500 voters per riding, for a total sample size of more than 150,000 people. This would be exceedingly expensive and in practice, rigorous polling is generally limited to the national level and a few key ridings.

Under proportional representation, the issue of predictability vanishes: seat counts correspond directly to the popular vote. Of course, proportional representation introduces its own set of challenges, and which system is better depends on many additional considerations. Public debate on our electoral system should continue.

In our present system, it’s time we all recognized that national opinion polls give us at best a rough idea about the number of seats each party will likely win. Hand-wringing about the perceived shortcomings of opinion polls misses the point: it’s the system, not the polls.



Nick Barrowman, PhD, is the Director of Biostatistics of the Chalmers Research Group at the Children’s Hospital of Eastern Ontario.

Review of The Second City: Backstage at the Worlds Greatest Comedy Theater


Review of Sheldon Patinkin’s The Second City: Backstage at the Worlds Greatest Comedy Theater

by Rolf Achim Kanjilal
September 8, 2002

As we grow older, from our innocent teens to our restless college years and onward to our staid married years and then into our thirties and parenthood, we see trends and fads come and go, and we become more experienced, more intelligent and more mature individuals.

Sometimes, we need someone or some group of people to help us through the hard and difficult times, to help us understand just whats going on in our lives and in the lives of those around us. The comedy cabaret, a cultural mainstay, is such a place a place of persons and of special people, who help interpret the thoughts, feelings and trends of the day. In particular, theres The Second City, with its rich Chicago heritage and established cadre of alumni.

The Second City, perhaps above all other comedy cabaret franchises or improv stages in North America, is the lifeline of North American comedy / satire for the younger generation (of persons 20 to 35 years old). It is also the cultural milieu for the older and more seasoned performers associated with it (now writers, producers, directors, television stars and movie stars), to battle with ideas and with each other. The mandate is to work with one another to come up with some ad-hoc expression of the topic under review during a skit or play. Something not always possible or easy.

The book (essentially a photographic history) opens up with the history of The Second City during the 1960s and with history of its predecessor, The Compass (1950s). The reader is introduced to the humble and impoverished beginnings of both cabarets and given brief individual synopses by Dan Aykroyd and Alan Arkin and others about the state of SC afterward. There are plenty of pictures, black-and-white and colour, and the pace of Patinkins writing is lively and to the point. He is an authority we can give credence to and trust. We are taken through the evolution of the Second City, from its Compass origins in the 1950s onto the SCTV television screen of the 1970s and further onward to the improvisation schools of the 1990s.

The CDs are well-paced and make for entertaining listening, ranging from the Brest Litvosk skit with political satire about China-Russia relations to an interview with potential football players at Chicago University to closing Canada off to crossborder traffic to early work done about IQ-testing during performance reviews in corporations. Included, is rare footage and the actual audience response and applause from the performances.

As far as coffee-table style books go, the size and length of the book are appealing. Photographs are interspersed with commentary on nearly every page, showing the artist grappling with the essence of his art improvised comedy. One can see the tension and suffering among the Second City hopeful, right from the 1950s conservative to the 1970s hippy to the 1980s yuppie and so on Some of the persons associated with SCTV and SC are perhaps given short shrift, but the main players and the founding fathers are in the spotlight and receive their fair measure of attention. Theres the legendary Paul Sills, hard at work, banging out script on his trusty typewriter against all odds seemingly, theres the iconoclastic Del Close gazing hypnotically ahead full of energy and at the top of his acting game, and theres more current alumni like the dearly departed John Belushi, lampooning the focal figures of their day such as Mayor Richard Daley of 1970s Chicago, Page after page of upfront comedy, photo after photo of the best of Second City alumni in action, giving the reader a quick, vivid and accurate overall picture of what went on in The Second City. Not just in Chicago and at its founding, but also during each decade since, and in Toronto, and in modern Chicago, in New York and in Detroit and on television (SCTV). Even across the pond in London, England! Where The Second City enjoyed a 9-year run among the tough and demanding British audience.

For those of us who see the Second City players close up, in their private moments or even on stage: auditioning or rehearsing or performing, we can benefit from a reading of The Second City: Backstage, and get a better view of whats going on to understand the sometimes bitter and fragile world of comedy. For others who have grown up with The Second City and its players, this is fine souvenir of the comedy cabaret of our day and days gone by. For the reader new to improv-based comedy, this is a good and thorough (for a coffee-table book, at least) eye-opening introduction to the cultural phenomenon known as The Second City and the medium of expression called improv-based theatre. Its a good photo-biography and overview. Its a good book.

Some of the players are no longer with us. Some have not lived up to expectations. However, more, are successes in the theatre and television. More still, are respected for their dedication, resourcefulness, talent, knowledge and professionalism in North American theatre. The whole roster up to and including 2000 is here for you to see, along with detailed credits and acknowledgements to all concerned with The Second City improvised theatre.

Long live an improv that seeks to break down the misunderstanding of modern life , the coldness of the technological age, and the immorality of our information age!

Rolf Kanjilal lives in Toronto.

Review of Tamarind Mem



Anita Rau Badami’s Tamarind Mem

by Nalini Warriar

March 13, 2002


Badamis first novel, Tamarind Mem, is a short but sweet read. It is separated into two parts: one narrated by Kamini; the other by her mother. As the story unfolds, Kamini, who has just recently moved to Canada from India, calls her mother from the silence of her basement apartment. The words of the mother, Saroja, reach across the oceans and stir up memories in the daughters mind.

Kamini is of an indefinable age when her sister, Roopa is born. She looks like a sweeper-caste child, the grandmother proclaims, laying down the childs destiny in a society where black is not beautiful. Kaminis Ma pushes her to studystudystudy even though all she wants to do is to read Mills and Boon romances. Her Ma wants her to be a doctor or an engineer like she herself was not able to. Constantly trying to divert Mas attention from Roopa, Kamini gets very adept at playing Dadda against Ma knowing that a chasm gaped between my parents, a hole so deep that even Dadda with his engineers hands could not build a bridge to span it. At first Ma talks while Dadda locks himself into a tight box of silence. This changes over the years. Ma in turn builds her own abyss of silence that grows around her with each year of marriage. With her childish intuition, Kamini is aware of the threat hovering over her: Ma might leave her marriage and with it, Kamini, behind.

Roopa, the sister with no imagination, has made her destiny happen. We see little of Roopa who does the unspeakable and marries a meat-eater and runs away to the USA. Kamini herself wishes to go to a university as far away from Madras as possible for Mas constant unhappiness runs like a dark thread through our lives.

In the second part of Tamarind Mem, Saroja brings into her marriage her tamarind sharp tongue. Theres something wrong with the women in this family, she tells her grandfather. When called upon to explain, she says, all they did was to have children and gossip. They are like cows. Saroja narrates her life to her travelling companions, weaving in and out of the present.

That first night with a husband who is only 6 years younger than her father, Saroja wonders if he notices how soft her skin is. She holds her breath while he fumbles with the hooks on her blouse. Once, his voice cracks open a command and then it is silence. And even though Saroja is brought up in a society where you never tell your child how clever or pretty she is because such a blatant admission would surely summon up the worst of imps and goblins, she waits for her husband to stroke her face, to tell her how beautiful she is. She believes it is his duty towards her, his wife, for hadnt she kept her skin soft and hair fragrant for him, this faceless man in her dreams? He calls her Ay and before the birth of the children, she never uses his either. After the birth of Kamini, Saroja calls him Dadda, a word she can utter without feeling discomfort. Now marriage is not escaping from one locked room into another, wandering in a maze forever and hitting my nose against closed doors. Now marriage is a silent war, for Saroja holds her tamarind tongue. And the silence fills the empty house.

With the death of Dadda, Saroja escapes her prison. With her daughters gone, she doesnt belong to anyone, for she too has reached that stage in her life where she can only turn the pages of a book already written, she does not write. Paul da Costa plays a brief role although he does a terriblehorrible thing from Kaminis point of view. From Saroja we learn that she wants him. But she remains the perfect memsahib. And the few paltry sentences that tantalize the reader do little to quench the thirst.

Nalini Warriar is a molecular biologist and author from Quebec City. Her first book of short stories, Blues from the Malabar Coast, will be published in April 2002 by TSAR Publications.


What Are You Prepared To Do About Terrorism?


by Rodney Porter

Oct. 26, 2001

Editor’s Note: this article was written and submitted on Sep. 15, 2001, just days after the Sep. 11 terror attacks on New York and Washington. Due to an email foul-up resulting from our relocation to Washington, the article was not received by The Podium until late October.



Terrorist attacks– killing and maiming were something I grew up with in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I became numb to it after a while, especially as a reporter. The magnitude of the incident in America is incomparable. Yet spare a thought for US action before joing the band of followers.

Firstly, the US has been involved, I claim interfered, in overseas terrorism, in Northern Ireland for years, appointing the American George Mitchell as the independent negotiator. The Clinton, Bush and Reagan administrations were also happy to get involved without invitation. When a Catholic was bombed by a Protestant, or vice versa, he appealed for discussion, encouraging talks rather than retribution or retaliation.

Yet now Bush declares retaliation will be taken on the perpetrators. How many people need to be killed in a terrorist attack for action to be taken? Two or two thousand?

Secondly, when Bush declared that terrorism would not be tolerated, did he really mean countries where votes would not be affected or the US Senate would not be irritated? How many Arab-Americans sit there compared to Irish-Americans? What about the Republican and Loyalist terrorist groups who are responsible for the deaths of men, women and children?

Will Bush help annihilate all terrorists or just those that bomb America? What about other democratic, peace loving countries? Also, remember yesterdays terrorist, todays president just look to South Africa.

State funded terrorism? How many fund raising trips in America does Sinn Fein go on before people wake up? Americans are not used to terrorism on their own doorstep. America is a modern Roman Empire.

My heart is heavy, my mind is numb. For others who also lost a friend or family member in the attack, my heart goes out to you. Terrorism is not new. Many people have felt the toll of the terrorist bullet and bomb before. I have heard empty rhetoric many times and seen votes; money and power get in the way.

What are you prepared to do?