Next BC Open QuizThe Boat Club Quiz Club, Pune is organising two quizzes on Sunday, July 1, 2007. The morning quiz is for schools, while the afternoon quiz is open to all. Entry is free. Both are general quizzes. All the details are available at this link.
Jun 20, 2007
Periya pepper-o-nii?This is a true story.
I am sitting at home when the phone (yes, the honeycomb phone) rings deep somewhere. Never a good sign.
After a hunt decidedly not as cool (am I turning into "Sivaji"?) as Brad Pitt in Seven - but then I haven't had my head broken by (let's keep this spacee blank, shall we? wink wink), I locate the buzzing instrument. The questioning greeting that is the modern "Hello?" emerges.
"Is this J. Ramanand?". Yes, it is. Pray proceed.
"I'd like to order a pizza please".
I think I was entitled to the short-to-medium pause that followed.
"Ok, now, this is a prank, isn't it?"
A pause, matching the earlier one in its intensity.
This is 9xxxx xxxxx, is it not? And J. Ramanand?. Yes indeed. Go on, tell us your story.
I found this number. From Google. Is this not Domino's Pizza?
I am busy leafing through my list of known habitual jokesters, and none of them. Only nervous laughter wins. "No, someone's played a prank on one of us" (is that the best you can do? Scratch "courage under pressure" off the resumé.).
I'm very sorry, came an apologetic tone.
I think and I think and I think who could have pulled this one off. And then I smash the palm against the head. Scratching the chin with Occam's Razor helped. Look at this as a sample. That site is full of such stuff.
P.S.: I did try several combinations of keywords and some of them did put the site(s) in the top 20 results. But how dumb would you have to be to call any random number on a page of search results?
Jun 19, 2007
Silk and SteelDavid Gower, a distinguished member of that almost-golden generation of English cricket which provided us with some of the most newsworthy and whiskers-championing players in a long time, writes in fond tribute to Sir Ian.
In style and temperament, the easygoing Gower was the rambunctious Botham's polar opposite, except perhaps in cocking a snook at the establishment. They also remain among the top choices for voices you'd like to hear in commentary during a Test match: perhaps we should have an English ex-player commentary-coach for those who haunt us from the heights of the box in India.
Jun 18, 2007
Show and Tell1. The History Channel promotes a programme called "History of Rock" using a very clever version of Stairway To Heaven arranged as a Hindu devotional. Very nice. (Couldn't find online.)
2. The Heartthrob of Human Resources has an animated promotional for the upcoming filmic-ode-to-Jumaniijii featuring himself. It's quite hilarious to watch, what with "HR 2" over-compensating for the original's moroseness in the smiles-department.
3. Read the comments on this page about CV-inflation confessions. Very funny.
Jun 15, 2007
Sivaji for President?I haven't followed the news since last evening, so in the morning, I look at my complimentary copy of Mid-Day. The front page has a feature on how Rajnikant used treatments to go "fair" for a song. I almost miss what is for me the biggest news of the day: Pratibha Patil's surpising entry into the Presidential race. But then imbalance is restored with a story about Rakhi Sawant, alleged Rajnikant fan.
The "news" channels are predictably tripping over themselves to cover the big buzz of the day. There are correspondents in multiplexes as far as Gurgaon. Improbably though, the NDTV man covering the representative Chennai multiplex is called Thapar
Thapa (which is like sending someone called Chokkalingam to cover the ritual sacrifices of the tribes of Papua New Guinea). Clearly not a local, he calls the movie "The Sivaji" and says the number of prints clearly shows the "magnanimity" of the scale of distribution. Sigh.
The problem here is that none of these Ground Hero reports tells us anything useful. Now, I am as curious as some half a billion others to know how the film has turned out, but this coverage is as illuminating as a few simians typing away at word-processors in Wingdings. The only salvage of the morning: a snap interview of Rajnikant at the airport, declining to be compared to Amitabh B ("he's the Emperor, I'm the King, if at all I am one") - remember that an Amitabh film is also releasing today - and refusing to get into the "when politics" question, which was summarised by the piece-to-camera as "Rajnikant talking about his political ambitions" or some such.
In the midst of all this, I desperately want to know more about the lady most likely to be the first woman President of India (take that USA and France! ;-)). But no. I guess we get the news we deserve, or at any rate, we get the news someone thinks we deserve. Is it possible for a channel to take a deep breath and say, right, all this hoopla is fine, so give the Tamil flick a 5 min report, but let's get back to more important things, shall we? Or perhaps, those of us unpaid unemployed who sit in front of the TV on a Friday morning are indeed interested overwhelmingly in movies and not politics. Stick the Prez in the evening, the real men and women will be back by then.
Finally, the Shiv Sena gets the last word. When contacted on their stance on recent developments regarding Marathi pride, a spokesperson said: "We fully support it. This is a matter of the pratibhaa of the maraaThii maaNus.". He said that Shiv Sainiks have been told to go out there and fill the multiplexes and chant Jai Shivaji each time Rao-saheb twirls a ciggy (just menthol, don't worry Mr. Ramadoss). On Pratibha Patil however he simply said: "kaay?".
Ok, I did make that up. But it's getting harder to tell.
Jun 14, 2007
WoodEd poetryAn exercise in blanket-verse; can be set to tune as required.
If you'd like to know more about how this poem was created:
Don't be inadequate anymore
Try and see if you like it
Help is on the way
Tell me more
[Chorus: Don't be inadequate anymore...]
You asked for it
Remember to tell me later
Share this with them all
Hope she is the one!
Finally found this here
[Chorus: Don't be inadequate anymore...]
Can you imagine you are healthy? :-)
Thank you again!
He simply looked bored :-(
[Chorus: Don't be inadequate anymore...]
Okay, I write bad poetry, but don't blame the above on me. I just went through about 50 emails in my Spam folder, and picked out 18 subject lines from them. I didn't even mess around with the ordering or spelling - honest. All I did was break it up, and add some punctuation. This is one-pass poetry at its finest - it's wonderful how coherent it all is. Works great as a pastime. Give it a shot.
Other relevant bits from my 'collection'.
The pressures of being a 'S(h)ivaji'Many movie-watchers, especially outside Tamil Nadu, sneeringly say that no Rajnikanth movie ever really flops - the fans make sure of that. To an extent this is true - the "initials" are so immense that even Yash Raj may permit their golden jaws to unclench in awe for a moment. However, what we don't realise is the colossal pressure that the crew of a Rajnikanth movie must be under.
Perhaps the closest sense-making analogy is of the legendary pressure in Pascals that Sachin Tendulkar was said to have played under in the previous decade. The men behind the next Superstar movie have to first match and then exceed expectations. The poor performance of Baba threw a hurricane of flak down the doorstep of even the likes of A.R.Rahman; what's more, a dent in Rajnikanth's own powers had been made - it was felt his personal leanings towards spiritual subjects have unnecessary interfered with the image that his fans claim as their own.
But now that is all gatam, gatam. With Chandramukhi having set the stalls afire, all doubts were vanquished. Tomorrow, the collective efforts of Shankar, AVM, A.R.Rahman, a host of lyricists, actors, and finally the man himself in his 100th Tamil film, will be on display for a teething mass of salivating addicts. So let us remember the little things that they've got to improve upon, the Rajni records and trivia: the new Rajni moves, the "punch dialogues", the intro-song, the beats, the comic timing, the moments when gravity is sent on a paid vacation, the hairdos. This is a tough act to follow.
And if you haven't seen the killer move at the end of this trailer, you can click here, sit back and enjoy the fun.
You and quizzingDo you like going to quizzes but are diffident about participating because you don't know how well you'd do? Do you think you'd like to quiz, but are not sure what to expect? Did you try quizzing but had a boring time at all the quizzes you went to? If so, we'd like your feedback here (it is a somewhat long post).
Jun 13, 2007
The RecoGraphI am a compulsive list-maker (of movies I've seen, books I've read, people I've known at certain places). In recent times, I've graduated to collecting more and more data about myself. Of particular interest right now is recording how I am led to books, music, or films based on the recommendations of others (however, still in the realm of dream-ware)
Some recommendations turn out to be more precious than others, lending greater worth to the recommender. Recommenders can be people one knows, newspaper columns and TV programmes, blogs etc. A graph of recommended elements and people who pointed to them could be built. I don't know if anything useful will come out of this, but it just sounds like something interesting to know.
While on the subject, I wonder if secretly, I want to become like Gordon Bell. The data collection is the most painful bit.
Jun 12, 2007
Feeling highYou arrive in front of the lift. There is no one else nearby. By application of the little brain bestowed upon you in a rare combination of natural benevolence and your ancestral genes, you infer that to proceed to a floor above, you need to summon the elevator by pressing a simple button. It glows in acquiescence.
But very soon, your solitude is rendered null and void. You are in the midst of "someone". "Someone" pauses, and then proceeds to jab the shining lift's button. If they didn't have their back to you, they'd have noticed your face was replaced by a question mark.
If you were so inclined, you would wonder: how insignificant you are, that this person took one miniscule look at you, and in that fading moment, decided that no mechanical pulley-system was going to obey your microbial commands, and that it would be best for all of you that they showed the elevator who was boss.
But no, you wouldn't think like that. You are too 'normal' for that.
Jun 11, 2007
Red Faces and AcquisitionsInteresting developments in cricket today. First, Graham Ford does the smart thing and turns down the India coaching job. Smart, given his current job profile and that his employers love him so much, his family condition, and the lurking turmoil under the sheets in India. So does this mean John Emburey becomes coach by default - a real twist for those (read Sunil Gavaskar and co.) who apparently didn't want the job to fall to Ford uncontested. Do they swallow pride and confess that Emburey was hardly the best man for the job, given his pretty poor coaching record, and this was just a political move; or do they continue living in dreamland? Perhaps it'll be an Indian coach after all - what fun!
In equally interesting news, ESPN acquires Cricinfo. Have to wait and watch to see how this affects the site. For one, most of the images are owned by Getty Images. Will that change when they move to ESPN? Perhaps the images will be sold along with the property.
Oh, and Chanderpaul continues to script another twist in the infuriatingly unpredictable story that is West Indies cricket.
Victoria no. 203 - a singleton object?Strolling past many Victorias yesterday, I noticed something that made my trivia-overdosed heart beat rapidly: a Victoria with the number 203. What the...!
When scepticism returned to her little seat in the cranium, I wondered: are there many such Victorias exploiting the number? (and we haven't yet hit the remake). Or did I see the only Victoria no. 203 doing the rounds? Can someone switch the lights on this matter?
Jun 10, 2007
I need protection. Jai Maharashtra.A*bhi*jit* Pha*nse of the BVS, after an evening out gently informing Internet cafe owners in Bombay reveals that:
... his group was developing a special software that Internet service providers could install to block any message containing certain words and phrases such as "I hate" or "I despise".Yikes! I'm the owner of a "hate" community too, which is called I Hate Orkut Scraps, which the kind people behind the social networking site have kindly allowed to co-exist with other similarly silly communities owned by other fellow loonies (a quick search reveals over 1000 results for "I hate something" communities). I think my face has an inevitable date with a new kind of beauty regimen consisting of tar and paint.
This kind, anthrophilic face of the Shiv Sena is a revelation. Their crusade to eliminate hate and derision brings tears to my eyes. Eternal Happiness of the Mindless Mind.
Of affairs pastAs I never tire of saying, I belong to the TV generation. The TV was my centre of gravity, its centripetal force always sucking me back and suckling my focus. As I heard someone say, if there was a fire, I would first go looking for the TV. If you've seen Raghu "Romeo" protect his set from the rains, you'll know what I mean.
However, some TV serials are best left locked in the nostalgia chest. Releasing them into the open can lead to immense dismay. Especially, when old DD favourites are making their way back. We get teary-eyed at the thought of them, but sometimes when we watch them, the nose crinkles automatically.
Happily, this fate escapes Yeh Jo Hai Zindagi: playing on Star Plus these days, the sitcom that probably was the first to introduce canned laughter to our screens still retains its charm. This Kundan Shah and co. series had some excellent actors like Shafi Inamdar, Swaroop Sampat, Rakesh Bedi, and Vijay Kashyap, not to forget the clever hook of Satish Shah playing a new role in every episode. I don't know how the old Karamchand would have stood up to post-modern scrutiny, but the new visitations of the carrot-chomping sleuth are quite ghastly.
The early days of Star Plus showed us a lot of classic sitcom fare from the US and Britain. The Yes Minister series is airing on The History channel these days, while The Wonder Years and Doogie Howser M.D. appear on Zee Cafe.
While on the subject, read George's evocative post on catching reruns of The Wonder Years on telly.
Jun 9, 2007
Learning to think like a computer scientistA recent Language Log post talks about studies that attempt to understand how members of a profession learn to think in ways that helps them effectively practise their work. The focus was of course on the use of language (examples of studies in Law and Medicine are given) in reasoning in the field.
Which books would be the counterparts in computer science? I remember reading a book called Programmers at Work by Susan Lammers (reviewed here), which featured interviews with 19 leading programmers. It was a fairly engaging read, if I can trust my memory. Programming Pearls is a popular classic, where author Jon Bentley patiently explains the process of analysis a problem and deducing a solution, however magical it may first seem.
Jun 8, 2007
Jun 7, 2007
Indian Jans and the Saving of the TajApparently, I'm one of the few million reasons why the Taj Mahal is not going to be one of the New Seven Wonders of the World. The Times of India puts it as follows: "the Taj is slowly slipping out of the reckoning because Indians couldn’t be bothered enough to vote". That's right, blame it on web-connected lazy-arses like me.
The campaign to "unite for the Taj" has made the news in the last couple of weeks, A.R.Rahman has composed a ditty to boost publicity of the event, email campaigns are going out, and inevitably some landed in my inbox. So do I care whether the Shah Jahan paean to romance has a podium finish? - nope, I don't.
How does it matter? The Taj Mahal is easily one of the most visited monuments in the world, and lack of inclusion on some list is hardly going to affect its status as a must-visit. BTW, the compilation of the list has taken 7 years - why should something as simple as such a list take so long and be subject to mass voting? Perhaps they could merely take the average tourist figures for each monument and rank.
Judging by the fact that only 1 out of the previous 7 wonders is still standing, it's probably for the best that the Taj stays out - there's no good coming out one being on a jinxed list as that. The worst ramification of the new 7 Wonders announcement could be a DVD re-release of "Jeans", with Prashant and Mrs. Baby B, showing us around the latest winners. BTW, this is a serious indictment of Indian IT skills: what happened to those scripts that last put us in this Top Ten?
More seriously, the facts that the Taj is rapidly yellowing, industries continue to pollute the Yamuna at the back, and that Mayawati might not be implicated in the Taj corridor case should be doing the rounds. Here, I confess to my guilt: I am one of the many million reasons why the Taj could be slowly slipping out of existence because Indians couldn't be bothered to do anything about it.
Now an IT finishing schoolNASSCOM chief Kiran Karnik inaugurated an IT finishing school (apparently, the second such in the country) in Bangalore recently. It's not very clear to me what such a school is meant to teach and polish, but it does underline two things: one, the grave situation involving hordes of students seeing IT-stars and a critical lack of good teaching, and two, the increasing uneasiness of IT corporates as to the hiring options before them. If one needs a finishing school to be employable after 4 years of education, then something is wrong, and a waste of resources is happening.
We also continue to be caught in this language-centric rut, which is potentially myopic - we don't seem to encourage our IT workers to be good enough also at the abstract skills; rather, it seems preferable to focus on the immediate needs of churning out code. True, this makes sense if you want to get your product out there as soon as you can help it, but will it necessarily help in the long-run? I fear not. But sadly, we are unable to properly instruct our students even at these language skills.
French finale stays on courseCanas is gone, and we breath a sigh of relief. The only man to have taken out Federer twice this year was vanquished by Davydenko, who has never won a match against the Swiss number one. Please let it stay that way.
The other semi-final, between Nadal and Djokovic, could be a thriller if Djokovic steps up. He's been catching the eyes in the last six months and has been rated to go very high. Stirring stuff is expected.
Jun 6, 2007
Morbid PredictionIf you have a product called "Tulsi Dyes", your website may get a lot of hits via search engines this week. Why, you ask?
So then, what's partly common to Dr. Drake Remore and T.V.? (you just realised Tulsi Virani is literally TV, didn't you? Subliminal stuff.)
Pseudo-Random Leaps of FrightI am:
- always sitting in front of something (I don't like this)
- burning up revisiting the same old
- not getting better
- not making sense
- pretending to be profound
- sometimes a mere hollow mask
- unable to explain why
- waiting for the bulb to glow
- always looking away
- waiting to be spoken to
- not here
- better than me
- not as good as me, but they don't care, unlike me
- not frenziedly making lists
- terrible to know
- not thinking of me, even momentarily
- so many
- surprisingly nice to me
- so good at the things I wish I could do
- growing up
- temporarily unavailable
What is wrong with Ram Gopal Varma?From a Rediff interview featuring Manoj Bajpai:
What do you have to say about your soured relationship with Ram Gopal Varma?Three of Manoj Bajpai's best performances came under the RGV aegis, so it is a huge pity that the two no longer work together. Bajpai has seldom since hit the heights that he should have. Reports of other RGV regulars also parting ways has therefore begged the question: why does Ram Gopal Varma end up feuding with Factory talent?
It was very little good and lots bad. And I would not want to say anything more than this.
This is assuming the tough-talking director is indeed responsible, but given the numbers involved, he must be doing something wrong. The result is that the output of the once-prolific production house is not only low, but also weak. Varma's own movies have not been anywhere near the glories of the past, and survive on mere formula: intrusive BGMs, lopsided camera angles and jump cuts.
It seems like Varma hasn't quite managed to get away with treating actors like cattle - a meat-packing Factory this is not.
Jun 4, 2007
A question of bad tasteIdentify this film and its director. George, Vibhendu, and Harish are banned from participating. There are, as we say in our dirty trade, clues to make it "workable". If you use a search engine, I will send nameless horrors to visit upon you.
Crew la de vilThere you go. Answers in comments if you're fool/brave-hardy.
This film features as its lead actors, Sanjeev Kumar, Sunil Dutt, and Shatrughan Sinha. "Above all" is Jeetendra. This film probably holds the Frams book of dubious awards for the most number of "special appearances" such as Premnath, Vinod Mehra, Neetu Singh, Bindiya Goswami, Reena Roy, Rekha, and Sarika. The film also boasts of an equally large number of "guest appearances", such as Aruna Irani, Jagdeep, Paintal, and Jayashree T. The difference between "special" and "guest" appearances is that the ones under the former appear almost throughout the film, while most of the latter come every 30 minutes.
There are also a bunch of villains, including a special guest (my words) appearance by Amrish Puri. Shatrughan Sinha also has a singing credit in this film. The late Bunny Reuben is credited as "Bunny Robin".
The film suffers from a massive Sholay-aspirational hangover. Sanjeev Kumar plays a grim and tortured Thakur, the leading men attempt to wear curry western outfits from the House of Chambal, the hilly locales are airlifted and airbrushed from Ramnagaram, the local village is (allegedly) tormented by mostly absent bandits. Rekha is trying to do an Amitabh-in-Awadh impression, and the dress designers decamped with most of the clothes except a 'laal-joDaa-wedding-ka', leaving all the gals exposed. Sunil Dutt needs anatomy lessons as he is unable to deduce the gender of a moustachio-ed Reena Roy from point-blank range. Madan Puri lands the A.K.Hangal slot, but with a twist - he is only pretending to be a blind man.
Plotter's wheel reinvented
The plot is very simple, but only deceptively so. A black hairy monster starts to wipe the earth clean of brand new brides attired in red, and possesses the parasitic gift of taking rent-free residence in males passing by. After scenes involving Amrish Puri and set in a train compartment the size of a football field, the action moves to the afore-mentioned village. Sunil Dutt and Shatru are the local alpha males, also involved in what seems to be a love tetrahedron. This is an excellent excuse to go off traipsing around trees and waterfalls in real, imaginary, and complex song sequences.
The plot thus alternates between the following 3.5 threads:
1. wedding happens - bride goes missing at nearby temple (which, despite its increasingly gory reputation, never ceases to be a centre of tourism)
2. Shatru and Sunil clash, usually in the town centre, and eye and get eyed amorously by 3 other ladies.
3. Meanwhile, at an altitude above all of them, Jeetu and Neetu perform Pilates in polyester in full view of her approving brother Dutt-saab. Cut to even more song sequences.
3.5. A comedy relief thread featuring Jagdeep, Paintal and Jayashree T., which is as frequent as Halley's Comet, which is a relief in itself.
I was watching this on Zee Cinema, but it took so long that the horror angle got swamped by the rest. I couldn't complete it, so I don't know how it ends. The fact that it must have ended makes it a happy ending.
'Aap ka suroor' - the moviee: the real luv story - the fake prevu'* My day was made when I saw the trailers showing auto-rickshaws stomping mean cars on German streets. Did I forsee this mix of German stolidity and Indian kitsch?
* I am predicting a mad rush for bulk bookings by Human Resource departments in various companies.
* The female lead of the movie is one of those actresses who begin as irritating child artistes but are in a blazing hurry to grow up to be a real bad performer. Bollywood, after all, is the natural habitat of such a species. With her coming, a few more As and Ks get added to the alphabet soup of the world.
Gavaskar's conflicts of interestsWriter and academic Mukul Kesavan, appearing on an NDTV show last week, touched briefly on an important point during the discussion (which was predictably about the selection next Indian cricket team coach). Commenting upon Sunil Gavaskar's alleged dig at Dav Whatmore (refuted today), he asked whether Gavaskar did not recognise a conflict of interests given the various hats he wears: as media-man and as member of the committee to pick the next coach.
This is very true. I find some of Gavaskar's snide comments conflict with his involvement at different levels, as part of these ad-hoc BCCI committees and as part of the ICC Cricket Committee that comes up with more bowler-unfriendly suggestions. How much are the members of the last coach-hunting committee (almost identical to the current one) to blame for the Chappell hiring (given Chappell's not-so great previous coaching resumé), and what lessons have been learnt from that? We'll never know, thanks to the silly BCCI system of honoraria-based short-term tribal elders approach.
For those like Bishen Bedi who muddle the issue of an Indian coach versus someone from outside, consider this: the job, ideally, ought to go to the best candidate available. The best candidate, in turn, should have a track-record reflecting his merit, such as successfully coaching a state side or having shown acumen in an academy job. Compare recent international appointments such as Peter Moore or Tim Nielsen to a Mohinder Amarnath. There aren't any Indian coaches of repute at the moment, as very few of the former players have plunged into coaching with the ambition of making it a full-time profession. Venkatesh Prasad and Robin Singh are two exceptions to this, which is why their appointment to the Indian team was welcomed. The Bangladesh series wasn't the best in the bowling or fielding departments yet, but here hopefully are two men who have what it takes to improve.
Very soon, we shall know who the next coach is, but it will take a good man to wipe away the dullness that has accumulated on the gilt of the Wright era.
Jun 1, 2007
Triple Cleanly Scrubbed Wednesdae
The distant gardenerFurther proof that our courts don't know anything, do they? A court has ruled that Amitabh Bachchan is not a farmer. Yeah right. Wonder if no one presented evidence to the contrary, consisting of the Bookers Prize (sic) -winning self-portrait Baghban.
That section between the Indigo and the Yellow films pleaseI don't know what keywords have found their way to this blog, but since yesterday, it seems I have become an information source for films of a certain primary colour, as can be seen in the screenshot below. There was just one yesterday, but today both the Google ads on the right have gone Blue Nile cinematic.
Perhaps this was exactly the shot in the arm my AdSense collection needed?
Update: I reported the ads as being offensive or inappropriate (silly me) and now the ads have changed. We're now carrying "micronutra" ads which, given the right amount of creativity, you can imagine interesting things about.