Oct 27, 2002

The emotions you feel and the judgements you make when you first watch a film are invariably not sound. The hype, atmosphere, possible twists render them so. The true test of a film (at least the enduring appeal for me) is decided on the second viewing. Can one sit through all of it again, with no suspense left, no surprises to spring? The great movies always have something more to offer on the second, third and even the nth viewing. One can always relish them.
I'll watch Lagaan for the second time today. In between the two viewings, I've read "The Making of Lagaan" by Satyajit Bhatkal for the supposed behind-the-scenes look. Let's see how that measures up now.

Oct 26, 2002

William Henry Davies 1871-1940
What is this life if, full of care
We have no time to stand and stare.

No time to stand beneath the boughs
And stare as long as sheep or cows.

No time to see, when woods we pass,
Where squirrels hide their nuts in grass.

No time to see, in broad daylight,
Streams full of stars, like skies at night.

No time to turn at Beauty's glance,
And watch her feet, how they can dance
No time to wait till her mouth can
Enrich that smile her eyes began.

A poor life this if, full of care,
We have no time to stand and stare.

My sentiments exactly
At times like these, it often strikes one, with special emphasis, how much fun other people are having.
What does the phrase "confusion reigned supreme" mean? See a live demo: a peek into a day in my life. May be disturbing.

Oct 20, 2002

And quickly
Lagaan on Sony on the 27th of Oct, Chashm-é-Baddoor today (Rakesh Bedi's shairi and the brilliant Amitabh-Rekha cameo) and The Sixth Sense on November 1. Caught The Legend of Bhagat Singh and found the performances, esp. Ajay Devgan's good and the music good. Not entirely convinced by some of the jingo-lingo though.
I've started so I'll finish...
is not a catch-phrase restricted to Shree Magnusson or Mr. Basu. We all have decisions to make while terminating..., any missive that is. Good old school letters and school English ma'ams had their stock "Thanking you, yours ____" formats. But even with the abundance of emails with their inherent contractions and informality demand what a local Business English teacher called the "complimentary close" (No, I was forced to attend these business english sessions, before you ask). For a while, I was under the impression it was actually the "complementary close", meaning you closed what you began. Perhaps I was writing code for matching parentheses that day.
Anyway, I write "Thanks" before my name in emails, no matter if the recipients are clients or peers or others. There are a lot of guys who write "Thanks and Regards" to which there a great deal of in-jokes attached. I'm not a "and Regards" kind of guy, preferring to reserve my emotions in this matter. But it got so automatic, that a friend complained when I wrote "Thanks" in an email when it was felt that I was getting too formal. So now I have to remember to drop the "Thanks" in those kinds of mails. But I'm unable to keep the "close" to only my name, it seems half-baked and what if the recipient felt the same? So I take to writing the Angrezi schoolboy slang "Ta", or the uncouth "Tx". For variation I try prefixing the "~" to my name and drop the "Thanks". I've always got into trouble with the afore mentioned Biz Eng Teacher, for what I consider some pedantic advice. One of them concerned rules of using "yours sincerely" and "yours faithfully" which I have successfully forgotten. That's one good thing about emails, anything beyond the "Thanks and Regards" is a stuffed shirt in a three-piece suit.

On a related note, I would like to place on record the most interesting closures I have observed in the last few months from George (yes, this is his blog: free plug):
He started off by closing his emails to me with "Cheers". This soon morphed into "Chairs", followed by "Tables" and even "Sofas" a couple of days ago. There was also a "Charas" in between. No more samples required to understand his convoluted (and may I say funny, before I get struck off his address book) sense of humour.

Weaving a web
One film promo that stood out instantly had a little girl and a stocky (Jupiter Jones would have approved of the epithet) boy singing a quirky song. My first guess turned out to be right: it was a jhalak of Vishal Bharadwaj's Makdee. The song was typically Vishal, who's actually directing the movie too(First time I've known a music director to take on the role of the director too) and making his debut. Supposed to be a children's movie also featuring Shabana Azmi as a witch. Many good films are unnecessarily tagged "for kids" and don't get the deserved kudos. Case in point being Halo by Santosh Sivan. Makdee seemed quite interesting.
Delegated to the Round Table
Not harking back to wintry London in clothing unfit for Churchill's tastes. Actually, just to prove my luck was changing a bit, on Friday night, I found a letter confirming that I had qualified for Mensa. I took the test last Saturday and found it was full of visual-spatial ability questions, supposedly to eliminate cultural bias. Mensa, means "Round Table" in Latin, hence the title of this post. My associations with the local chapter of Mensa have been very memorable, because of the good results I've had at the four Mensa quizzes I attended in the past.
Limping back... (contd.)
It was a damn long week that passed by. Okay, I'm not the kind of guy who's known for enjoying a hectic workstyle, so such cribbing isn't out of character and means I have less credibility attached. But yet, this is a general protest, flung out to no one in particular.
My project group had to put in a lot of extra hours over the last seven days to provide a new piece of software code to our clients. We had to forgo a holiday (in my case, I regretted that my much needed rest that I look forward to was lost) too. I don't mind working hard, but doing so each day for over and beyond the required hours and finally ending up with a result that didn't come up to our expectations can be too much to swallow. Someone's shortsighted approach somewhere in the whole decision-making chain results in an unreasonably aggresive deadline. We get at the receiving end the equivalent of what my colleague called "producing nine babies in one month". Why? Quality suffers as a result, no surprises there. So why provide something which is pretty bad, just to spend time later in fixing the fires you helped start? The net result is that one spends roughly the same amount of time in that activity, but with the side-effect of leaving a bad taste in everyone's mouth.
I'm probably over-reacting, many people have to work really hard, and don't get half the amenities I do. But it just doesn't work out for me. I want to try and have a life outside my work (which admittedly isn't my first love, so all the more reasons to keep the times shackled).
Aggressive scheduling happens everywhere, especially during higher education, I am told. Why are management students or engg. students made to slog as if they were in a commando course? Is it to improve their performance under pressure? Does that mean they will have such a lifestyle for the rest of their working lives? Only to buy expensive self-help books and take in seminars in their frustrated forties which advise taking life lightly, to spend more time smelling the roses. What about all the missed time of the last few years? Damn the idiots who have no lives of their own and push the boundaries of work, cranking up the speed at the rat races. Probably, if I can't keep the pace, I should drop out of this spinning orbit. Makes my head hurt.
I don't see the point of it all. Anyway, the outcome was that I sort of lost all contact with the rest of the world. I could've been living in a submarine and not known the difference. And yes, I now know that I can go without eating for twelve hours (yes, not even cheating by having sabudana khichdi on the sly). Probably should've declared it for the cause of the Cauvery to give it some importance. Move over Rajini, hungry coding ape coming through.

Oct 19, 2002

Limping back to normal...
I'm back!!! Will refrain from adding "...with a bang", because I've mostly been in the middle of one the last 7 days.

Oct 11, 2002

Solved the whatizzit !
I finally know! It's been a source of curiosity for the last few days and I finally have an answer. Not to "what is the Supreme Question to which the answer is 42", but what "Yaara da tashan" means.
Aamir Khan's Coca Cola ad with him doing the Punjabi farmer signs off with that extremely vernacular line and it had been mystifying for a lot of us. But thanks to a guy called Kamlesh (no mean "Punjabbee" accenter himself), we found out that tashan is sort of slang for "style". So what Aamir Khan the farmer means to say in response to "Tussi great ho" is "Yeah baby! That's my cool style" (or words to that effect in Punjabi of course).
I can go back to worrying about the world now that that thread is tied up.

Oct 8, 2002

Fast-forward or super slo-mo?
Watching Saving Private Ryan the other night, I couldn't help but be affected by the scenes in which the Allied soldiers rush madly towards the Normandy beaches, splashing about the beachheads. Not as affected by the graphic scenes of bullets-human rendezvous' as by the randomness of it all. All one can do is rush wildly ahead, just hoping the next bullet doesn't have one's name on it. Completely and utterly random. Except for Tom Hanks of course, being the protagonist, you know he's going to make it. But when the camera pauses, even fleetingly, on some other not-so-famous actor, you are wincing in anticipation of the bullet finding its mark on him. In one scene, one soldier's helmet gets in the way of a sniper shot. As he removes it to wonder at his good-luck amidst cries of "You lucky b***", another bullet crashes into his now unshielded head. Dramatic, yes. But believable in every way. And we don't even know if we're the chosen Hanks for the current scenes. We rush through our lives each day, and who's to say we won't swallow our death-pill in whatever method that day? But all we can do, like those soldiers who made it to the safety of the embankments that July day in Normandy (in piece or pieces) is to keep running full tilt, just hoping it won't be us to fall next. Maybe later, but not now. Our lives are the same, only played out in a much slower motion than a soldier who's running in complete panic and meets his end that much more instantaneously.

Oct 7, 2002

Of Dulcimers
A Dulcimer is one of those interestingly named musical instruments that probably enjoy some sort of exotic status. It just caught my attention 'cos Rahman has (like Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy and the trivially famous digderidoo) used a dulcimer in a song in his latest release Kaadhal Virus. It's credited to a guy called John Asher (on whom a Google Search seemed to indicate that he is a well-known exponent in that instrument). I'm not exactly sure what it sounds like, 'cos that song had a couple of quaint instruments alongside. Anyway, here are some links which at least tell one what a dulcimer looks like: this, some history, and this.

Oct 6, 2002

Next stop is...
Ajmer's Mayo College for the Mastermind Semi-Finals on the 9th & 10th of November. Ajmer is also the favourite location of leaders, especially for those across the border, Ajmer is home to the memory of Khwaja Moinuddin Chisti. My topic this time is the Life & Works of R.K.Laxman. I have met him once (in COEP), and don't know if that will help along with the parochial Tamilian & Punekar connections.
A quote on a gift I received today:
No one can predict to what heights you can soar.
Even you will not know until you spread your wings.

Oct 3, 2002


What is blugging? Blugging is the emerging art of Blog Plugging. Yes, all copyright to the word vests with me. But what is blugging all about? Let's take what these management chaps call a case study.

<Cut to Educational Video Style Picture>
Walking down the street, I bump into someone quite intent on keeping his eyes firmly fixed on the pavement stones. Having interrupted this worthy occupation, I step back with apologies. So does he... But what is this? It's my old friend Sudhir Vinod, dressed in an ill-fitting white suit.
It took me a minute to inveigle the sob story. In his own words: "Well you know, everyone was talking about this new technological and social phenomenon called blogging. I've never been one to shy away from the popular trends (and he hadn't, his little moss-on-chin-masquerading-as-goatee was ample testimony), so I had to jump on to this blogging bandwagon ASAP." In response to a question, he shot back "Of course, I have an internet connection. What do you think I am? I almost went to the US, you know." What that had to do with his dialup was not so evident. "So I went to this site and started up my very own blog. It took me three days of hard labour while I set up my templates, but some fiend-in-friend's-disguise told me to use this comment box idea, which seemed to be in perpetual strike. But I persevered, and at the cost of not studying for my GRE, I got my own comment box. I have to pay 200 rupees every month to a guy for that, but atleast it works. Then I put up my first post". So what was the problem? "I didn't notice this at first, but after three days, I didn't see a single comment left by anyone. It just broke my heart. I even learnt HTML programming at that institute for 2 weeks for my blogging."
<Fade out Educational Video Style Picture>

<Start Friendly, Informative Voiceover>
As you saw, our friend did everything right except the final stage. He didn't practise the fine art of "blugging" or Plugging for your own Blog (The motto is: If you won't, who will?). What he should've done is plug, advertise, spread the word. Take every opportunity, every meeting, every passing hello, every 2 line email to solicit viewership. Let us see some of the popular strategies that will help YOU (And I'm pointing at the middle of the screen as I say this) become a popular blogger.

  • Make sure they get the message:
    When you start your conversation with anyone (I mean A-N-Y-O-N-E! Don't be shy to approach total strangers!), find a way to steer the conversation to blogging. Like:
    "Do you keep any pets?" "I used to have a dog as a kid. That reminds me, have you read my blog?".
    "I hate those boys, ya. They always keep passing comments on my hair, ya." "Is that so? Don't you wish you could pass a comment? I think you should visit my blog."
    See? Nothing obtrusive about that. Subtle hints will do for the usual targets.
  • Be a barnacle, Keep going after them:
    You've just run into someone you gave your blog url a month ago. You haven't seen his comment on the blog. Don't be shy and let him get away with that! (People love to be asked to visit sites. Perhaps many bloggers asked him to visit, and he just forgot to visit yours.) Remind him. Note his reaction. Some of the smart-alecs may say they've read your blog. You have two ways to nail the bugger (Note: no typo here, I don't mean "blogger"): Give him the test and ask him to name atleast one subject of a post from your blog over the last week. Or tell him the blogger's rule: Only the presence of comments proves he's been reading your post.
    Having done this, you can always give him a reminder call, preferably at night, when he'd have a lot of free surfing time. Will also keep him out of trouble (I'm giving you a dig in the side, as I wink and chuckle knowingly).
  • Use it to bookmark your speaking: Simple rule of thumb: mention your blog every 10 sentences you utter. You need practice here as you should get creative here to avoid boring yourself. Work into your conversation. Like:
    "You know the funniest thing happened to me today. The Shift key in my keyboard got stuck and I just couldn't type McDonald while posting on my blog, by the way, did you know I have a blog? No? Well, it's at...". That simple.
  • Try Quid Pro Quo
    The best way to ensure a regular commenting flow is to get into a self-locking, mutually circular blogging and commenting mechanism. Simply start commenting on a new blogger's blog. If he/she responds, you've just made significant progress towards ensuring comments. It's like courtship followed by a long relationship. For the blog-pal potentially brings newer viewers. But you too have to keep your end of the deal up (Darwin's rules apply, bloggers enter into strategic deals with those whose link columns are seen to be bulging. Size does matter).
    But remember: if you both get intimate (speaking blogwise) enough to link to each other's blog, you must do it in a "is-haath-lé-us-haath-dé" single handshake, to avoid wild recriminations. The laws concerning cyber-contracts are still hazy.
  • Content ain't king:
    Once you have a dedicated viewership that you have managed to get comments from, and you've got them using your blog as part of their daily reading, no one cares what you put on the blog. So you can devote your energies into exploring newer markets, such as the virgin Zambian and Assyrian cyberspaces. You do need to keep the comments on your quid-pro-quo-ed friends, where the odd "Oh dude! Way to go" or "Cannot believe that!" type vague notes should suffice on the days you couldn't be bothered to read another's tripe, especially moments after you did some tripe-typing of your own.

Keep plugging away!(the blogging will take care of itself) Or else you will end up as friend Sudhir Vinod, in ill fitting white suits, not quite sure why no one samples his wares, and why they flock to the blog across the street. As a famous man of our times said: "This is a work of sabotage!". Let's check on our friend, whom you will recall being despondent. Let's see if these tips have made a difference to his blog-life.
<End sociable, instructive Voiceover>

<Cut Back to Educational Video Style Picture>
I ran into Sudhir Vinod, who despite his little almost-chic goatee, was looking quite happy. It has worked! "So how's everything?" "Quite fine, quite well." "Get a lot of people in daily?" "Oh yeah! The mums love it!" That's a niche audience that I didn't think would be blog-friendly. But you always learn something new everyday in this business. "And how are the comments?" "I'm inundated! I keep aside my Saturday just to read all of them.". Wow! "Especially the last episode. That had the letters pouring in". Hang on. "You mean the last post , right?". "What post? Oh, you mean that whole blogging infatuation?. I've gotten over it man. Where are you? That's so passé. Move on man. I have my own television software company which makes these serials like "Gomti Ganga ki Gatha" and you must've seen my..."
<Frantic Dissolve from Educational Video Style Picture amidst calls for "Cut it, dammit">

All Jaané Bhi Do Yaaron references are intended to be an unnecessary plug for the movie. If you haven't seen it yet, perhaps your isolation by alien beings worked a shade too well.

Worth more than a blink
  • How much can you push the idea of a mirror site? Here's one extreme example, a mirror of Google. Try lateral vision...
  • More from Deepa Gahlot on woman-centric films here. She used to be a neighbour of my relative's a long time ago, and given her background, I'd give her views on this matter a good read.
  • And a note on *the* Scrabble contest. (link could have moved elsewhere)

Oct 2, 2002

Bombay Dreams revisited
Bombay Dreams (now officially a surprise hit on the London stage) will be going on Broadway (set to premiere in 2004). I got my first chance a few days ago to listen to all the songs together. There were a few interesting songs, but on a whole, it probably is nowhere near some of his other albums. Lots of orchestration (a trend towards which ARR has been leaning towards, not having what I call a lot of "silence", i.e songs which have very few but distinct instruments and hence a lot of scope for that instrument to break through, which marked some of his classics) is evident in the songs. Shakalaka Baby is surprisingly better than its original (it has been reworked). I can only think of one other instance where a Rahman remake has been better than the original : Que Sera from Pukar ,which was a whole lot better than the one from En Swaasa Kaatre. Like an Eagle (funny lyrics), Salaam Bombay & Wedding Qawaali (shades of his peti magic with Kannalanne or Kehna hi kya from Bombay). But Love's Never Easy a.k.a Taal's Ishq Bina doesn't quite work out for me.

In more Rahman news, Kaadhal Virus is his next Tamil release, which will be out this week. Supposedly Saathiya promos will be on in the middle of October. Wonder how Pachai Nirame is going to look and sound on le Oberoi & la Mukherjee.

Rahman has sometimes shown an inclination to using certain instruments more often or to more effect. I call them the violin songs (some from Taal, Puthiya Mugam), the Mridangam songs (a few from Sangamam, Indira), the train songs (Chikku Bukku from Gentleman, Chaiyya Chaiyya), the sea songs (Tu Hi Re, Nahin Saamne), the percussion scores (Rangeela, Thiruda Thiruda) and so on. I got hold of Anthimanthaarai, directed by Bharatiraja which had a couple of songs (the songs are not in the film) which are quite great. The santoor (I think) and mridangam in Sakhiye, sung by Unnikrishnan & Swarnalatha's rendition in Oru Naal are quite enchanting. The opening piece in Sakhiye is quite superb, IMO. Wish I had a better musical vocabulary to express better what these songs are like!
Legends of Cricket
It's the old game-within-the-game (Hamlet would've been proud) : Making lists of the "greatest" cricketers ever. ESPN indulges in it this time, but as always, there is a certain amount of dignity involved and some of us can't stop watching bio-shows on the great cricketers. The name is "Legends of Cricket" and the aim is to get 50 this time, and the show kicked off with the chaps in the 50-26 bracket (Lara was in it) accompanied by short notes from some very distinguished cricketers. The rest of the 25 get an episode each devoted to them. Surprisingly, it's a daily show (at 8.30 pm with no repeats observed so far). Sachin, Kapil & Gavaskar will definitely be the Indians in the list. Perhaps there may be Chandrasekar. My guesses for the top 3: 1. Gary Sobers 2. Don Bradman 3. Viv Richards. Warne would probably be the greatest bowler, or maybe Wasim Akram. It has been good so far.
The recent ICC Champions Trophy was a trailer in more ways than one, cricketing-wise and otherwise. In my opinion, it didn't help one bit in identifying potential World Cup winners, as the conditions were exactly the opposite to those in Zuid Afrika. There was probably a bit of careful mucking around with the umpiring and a chance for the ICC members to indulge in some quiet (and routine) backroom shenanigans.
But that ain't the subject of this post. The telecast of the Trophy gave us an idea as to potentially how bad the World Cup cricket presentation is going to be on the Sony Channels, the people who've bought the rights to the show. Quite clearly, their idea of a presentation is derivative from their primary business: that of soaps & films. Whoever had the incredible brainwave of hiring Ruby Bhatia (a Canadian Indian, Canada being a country that supposedly played the first big cricket match in the 19th century versus the US, and has ever since followed its Southern neighbour in thankfully keeping its paws out of the good game) has presented a good argument in favour of retaining the death penalty. Add to this such attractions such as Fardeen Khan, Ma Prem Rithambara (Tarot Card reader who would make all sorts of predictions - wonder if she swept the Predikta contest that was running alongside on Max?). And when you consider that the "experts" consisted of Srikkanth, Farokh Engineer, Mahanama & Kapil (all decent cricketers, but not so hot at the mike & the headphones), your stomach did the rescuing act each time Extraaaa (painful) Innings came on. Only Barry Richards held on to his honour. Srikkanth got into Arjuna Ranatunga's hair a lot (and I'm sure Arjuna Ranatunga would've swatted Krish Srikkanth if Srikkanth had just been an annoying member of Sri Lankan Parliament.) Tony Greig probably watches a lot of Zee News, nothing else would explain his "we were the first to tell you this tiny piece of rubbish" quotes. Charu Sharma should be banished to covering Kabaddi for all his "aiding-and-abetting" acts.
So what's the film going to be like in six months time? One can only shudder in answer. Rumours abound that News Corp will try and squeeze Sony in the rights game. Sony has a great chance to see their golden goose lay an egg : a stone one. Any solutions? Monopolies for Espn-Star perhaps? The last World Cup telecast was quite brilliant. And there was no Sidhu too then (But I'll take him as the pinch of salt, rather than watch Ms. Bhatia look at head-to-head comparisons and ask what they were. Lay off!)
It has been a while since my last real holiday, and so I'm pretty grateful for the off day today. Saturdays & Sundays don't really qualify in my case, because of all the stuff that I have to do on the weekends, and the last few weekday-leaves uncannily invited urgent work. I get the feeling I'm working 7 days a week: 5 days for someone else and 2 days for myself (there is an element of strain even here, pressure to enjoy every moment of the holiday). The occasion duly commemorated by catching a few winks in the middle of the day, something that doesn't come to me naturally. Very Churchillian.