May 25, 2008

Annus Blogus -VI

This blog turned six this week. A selection of posts from the last year.

Bard watching
aur al-
-treous humour
-bretto: poetry that makes your insides strong
-eux jeu
-zardly: everything is a mask
-ctor ludorum
-ntage homage
-dimus needed
loved this one
-gil, The
will, vi will rock you
-jay speaks
-ew point, (silly)
-shay kaay hotaa?

In previous years:
2007 was the empty post, 2006 was the embedded image post, 2005 was the handwritten post, 2004 was the nadsat post, 2003 was the boustrophedon post, 2002 was the first post.

Normal Service Resumes

Ricky Ponting scores a 100. Michael Hussey and Andrew Symonds take a routine stroll past 50. English cricketers complained of missing heartbeats when they heard this.

Manchester United won. Ronaldo didn't do much in a big final. Drogba behaved himself.

The French Open has begun. In the Hamburg Masters last week, Rafael Nadal imposes his will on Roger Federer despite being 1-5 down in the first set and with barely a right leg to stand on. Tennis should have draws.

May 21, 2008

Amitabh Bachchan, script kiddie

Or MySQL pro.

The Big B-logger kindly posts a list of people who have commented on his blog. It's a simple but very kind gesture to ack everyone so far, earning even more karmic brownie points. Thanks to the wonders of Wordpress and other blog-friendly modules, someone, acting on behalf of the man, pulled the names out.

Of course, as some of the more suspicious of you may find out, a certain name beginning from R appears in that list. I'm hardly a gushing fan of anything (perhaps save "Jonathan Creek"), but I will admit a great admiration for Amitabh's blog. Since you probably won't bother looking for that comment, let me say that it was about language and recommended a nice book on the topic. If you see "The Language Instinct" appear fleetingly somewhere in "Shoebite", let me know.

May 20, 2008

Mahaquizzer 2008

The fact that I got 18 points more than last year clearly indicates that this year's Mahaquizzer was easier than last time's. In addition, the questions were less verbose and seemed to have a wider scope of topics. Still, I have a grudging soft corner for the tough sets of the last two years.

Anyway, still continued to forget to guess a couple of answers, picked the wrong option from a choice of two, overwrote answers that would later turn out to be right. I ended up with 68 which enabled me to finish on top in Pune (I think the others are still underperforming severely). But at the end, it was the same old gripes: could have easily got about 5 more (conveniently forgetting the 5 lucky ones that came off).

The only major criticism I had about the questions were that many of the 'workable' questions were 'workable' only due to etymological clues. I don't mind these, but I think this fits into the general observation (Harish concurred) that using etymology ends up being the easiest way to make a question 'workable'. Question 34 (the one about the 'ascertained facts') was a beautifully crafted exception to this, throwing in a bunch of sledgehammer clues with a peach of a subtle one.

Anyway, overall, it was an enjoyable quiz (at least many of the Pune quizzers said so). The fact that close to 400 quiz-geeks (and some from England as well!) took part says something for the popularity and scale of the quiz. Well done, KQA.

Oh, and we're still waiting for the official results to come in.

May 14, 2008

May 13, 2008

Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy: Live

I happened to watch Shankar Mahadevan, Ehsaan Noorani, and Loy Mendonsa perform live a couple of months ago. Since it was a private function and not all that crowded, I managed to get closer to the action than would have otherwise been possible. It was a terrific performance. I've seen small live performances of Shankar Mahadevan before, but they have been classical and fusion-oriented. In contrast, this concert consisted of only film songs, almost all composed by S-E-L.

In particular, I wanted to observe Ehsaan's work, having been fascinated by some of his strumming I've seen on TV during interviews. He was very good, in particular some of the spontaneous riffs. Shankar looks after the stage elan bit for the group. One could see the difference in how he could mould the audience mood, especially in contrast to some of the younger singers accompanying the trio. BTW, these were Raman Mahadevan ("kholo kholo darwaaze" - Taare Zameen Par), Akruti Kakkar (the title song in Johnny Gaddar), and a third lady about whom I only remember that it was her birthday that day. It was pretty good to see the younger performers being promoted, including some very young musicians, including a keyboardist and a percussionist.

S-E-L played many of their hit songs, ranging from Taare Zameen Par to Jhoom Barabar Jhoom to Kyun! Ho Gaya Naa. I was hoping for some elements from their jazz backgrounds, and wasn't disappointed when they improvised (or so it seemed!) jazz version of some of the interludes in the song "Dil Chahta Hai". That, and Shankar's hit song from Aga Bai Arrecha, were the highlights of the night for me.

In short, if you get a chance to hear them live, go for it.

George has a post with some more links to Ehsaan Noorani on the web.

May 12, 2008

The same old new story?

Movie trailers of Love Story 2050, Harry Baweja's pater-powered launch vehicle for son 'Everyman' are playing these days. Billed as a 'sci-fi romance', it's not too surprising to see Bollywood's idea of the near future being heaving influenced by Spielbergian visions. If the images are anything to go by, we can already tick off Minority Report (aerial cars), Bicentennial Man (helpful robots), and the pinkest of them all, AI: Artificial Intelligence (furry teddy bears that could perhaps last the length of a summer blockbuster), not to mention Back to the Future (goofy temporally-challenging professor).

When will someone from Bollywood evolve their own unique and rooted imagination of the future? Shekhar Kapur's Paani promises (promised?) to be that, but his projects contain more vapourware than the average Vicks Vaporub commercial. So hopefully, this movie can at least break some ground, however shallow, paving the way for greater works in the future (by 2050?).

At any rate, one must applaud the unfailing optimism of the average Bollywood filmmaker. If their sunniness is anything to go by, Bombay will definitely not suffer from a power crisis in 40 years time and we will have enough fuel to cut lanes at 50 feet above sea level. After all, When Love Is Eternal Even God Bends His Rules. And that's the inconvenient truth.

Love Story 2050: 108 years later, love is not yet extinct
Love Story 2050: 108 years later, love is not yet extinct

May 11, 2008

Bol Bachchan

He's good. Amitabh Bachchan has been blogging for almost a month, and as noted by one very devoted fan1, he writes well. But more importantly for a celeblogger, the opinions seem to flow straight from those long fingers (via a Macbook). The punches that would sweep aside life members of Bollywood's Hall of Shame on screen aren't being held back.

The timing was interesting. AB has been in the news for much of this year2, and crucially, much of it has been aimed at him personally or has just been obnoxious3. The feeling of 'being used', especially by the media, perhaps tipped over a pain threshold. It's a different thing that the same media has now switched to using the blog and its posts as fodder, but at least followers of the actor can cut the middlemen out. For a man protecting his dignity and his family, not to mention his 'brand', this is an astute move.

Not just 'shanivaar ki raat Amitabh ke saath'
More than the intensity, the frequency of the posts has come as a surprise. There is usually one entry each day (typically overnight), and sometimes follow-ups. The posts have occasionally slipped into overly sensitive refutations at times. But Amitabh is at his best when dipping into old memories, recalling his esteemed father, or providing mundane minutiae about a profession that I have always considered to be one of the most boring in terms of daily routine.

[1] We do wonder if the fan got a response to his comment?
[2] A spike on Google Trends confirms this.
[3] The notorious Aaj Tak Amitabh Bachchan ko tha.Nd lagii 'Breaking News'.

May 2, 2008

As the week winds up...

(observation: one can't say 'week winds up' to mean the opposite of 'week winds down')

The rate at which umpires are being suspended in the IPL, the final will probably have to lapse into a convention that informal matches use: asking for the batting side to loan a player as umpire. That could enable the talismanic Shane Warne to add 'umpire' to his list of roles (yes, I'm hoping the Royals will be in the final :-))

Thanks to John Arne Riise, I know which team I'll be supporting for in the final of the 2007-08 Champions League. More specifically, to his almost phantom right leg which in of even lesser use than the phrase "hard luck" is to Harbhajan Singh. Still, it was a fabulous match (as was the Man Utd v Barca game, where Messi purred without gaining any milk or mice), and so my dream football season continues. There's two nervous legs of EPL to go, the FA Cup final without the toffs to spoil it, and the Champions League. Like everyone, let me make the joke about Chelsea playing that final at home. Wonder what The Special One thinks about this late injection of luck in Chelsea fortunes despite his absence.

Description of the year: "Silky Sloth" (Ted Corbett about Inzamam ul-Haq).

Last week's Sportstar reports that the recently concluded Asian Beach Volleyball championships used 'blonde cheerleaders' (sans the outrage, of course). If, like the American Dialect Society, we voted words of the year, 'cheerleader' would be heading the leaderboard for the 2008 contest. (A good indication of the lexical zeitgeist comes from team names at quizzes, and I'm sure 'cheerleaders' will feature in some of them this year).

The intersection of Vishal and Rahman

[If you are a fan of Vishal Bhardwaj and haven't already noticed, we have a little blog that aims to quietly chronicle some of the news and reviews involving works of that dimunitive but exciting filmmaker - updates can be seen on the side bar of this blog.]

A.R.Rahman and Vishal Bhardwaj are probably my two most favourite film music directors at the moment, but apart from the likes of Gulzar, I cannot think of their social worlds having overlapped in any significant way. (Musically, they share much in common: a certain originality, an unconventional spirit, an ability to traverse regions and moods, the courage to mix a bass guitar with a sitar.)

Which is why I was very interested to read that Rekha Bhardwaj, Vishal's wife, has sung for Rahman in his upcoming Dilli 6. In the film world, Rekha, to my mind, is a lot like Vishal: hugely underrated and hugely under-feted. I have been a fan of hers ever since I first heard her in Maqbool ('rone do, jiyaa kare'). Compare that voice and aspect with her songs in Omkara ('namak', 'laakaD jal ke') and No Smoking ('phuu.nk de'). Her capacities for modulation and voice are outstanding. Rahman's songsheets, which have seen an incredibly wide range of singers, add one more songbird to their notes.

May 1, 2008

Remembering Minal Panchal

I never met Minal Panchal. Regretfully, I only heard about her when this happened. It doesn't matter. Minal, whom I've never known, except via the outpourings of people who are also strangers to me, continues to affect me in ways that many near ones never will.

She was a year younger, and that hurt. That she was on a popular social networking site, sketched out in almost three-dimensions, made her more than a bystander in an avoidable tragedy. From what people said I can imagine someone, infinitely more enthusiastic about life than I will ever be, looking forward to classes, to learning, to adventures of the future, of life-changing events. Cut short abruptly. No fault of hers. Wrong place, wrong time. You can rail about unfairness, but it won't help. You can say 'that sucks' - nope, makes no difference. We've got to trudge on. We'll falter too.

In the 10%x zoom of time, we are fairly insignificant beings, most of us, just happened to be put together for a briefest of jiffies. Whether ember or diamond, star or firefly, we have a chance to shine, even if at sub-lux levels. Some of us extinguish early, sometimes due to no fault of our own. Don't wait too long to sparkle.

* Sepia Mutiny remembered Minal in the aftermath last year.
* As did Minal's former classmate.
* Prof. Loganathan too.
* This year, Minal's family hopes for a fitting tribute by way of a museum for children.