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Saturday, December 09, 2006

frustration

literary ambition does not its equal have in literary skill. there's a verse in my head that's searching for words to form itself. the idea is clear, the message couldn't be clearer; the words and meter unfortunately, fail to turn up for the party....like fuckers....who don't turn up for parties.

Wednesday, November 29, 2006

Riff Cafe

It's a music blog that a few of us have started. It's called Riff Cafe. It has music-related writing on it. Check it out http://riffcafe.blogspot.com

Do read. And comment.

And if it doesn't bore you to death, do spread the word. And if you are so inclined, join up as a contributor.

Saturday, November 25, 2006

Bangla Rocks

The first Bangla rock I heard was in law school, when my room-mate started going out with a girl from Kolkata (yes girl from Kolkata, I've stopped referring to you as a mad Bong woman). Like the copybook romantic, he started learning Bengali, listening to Bengali rock, and referring to fish as a bhejjytable. We listened to tapes of bands like Ark and Taj Mahal, who sang 'missionary-position' (thanks kareem) 80s rock in Bengali. If you didn't listen too carefully, you could be forgiven for thinking they were singing in English. Of course, as time went by, the girl from Kolkata introduced him to Eric Clapton and Bruce Springsteen and the Doors and John Lee Hooker and so on, and somehow or the other no more Bangla rock played in our room.

Even in the brief period for which I was a 'boy from Calcutta,' I didn't manage to listen to any more Bangla rock.

Until last week that is. Week before last I'd picked up an assorted Bangla Rock CD from Cal since it cost 38 Rupees, and I had never seen a CD that cost 38 Rupees before, I wondered how bad the music would be to justify the lack of self-belief evidenced by the price, and just had to find out.

I didn't play it for a few days because a 38-buck CD doesn't really cry out to be played. And then the Robot visited, and on a lark I popped the CD into my system. And it proceeded to blow my mind.

If you like 80s rock, in all its powerchord-driven, melodic-harmonic, guitar-wankeried over-the-top glory, chances are you'd be happy with this record. The tunes are catchy, if a little derivative; the vocals and guitars are excellent, and the song structures are classic 80s rock (Van Halen, Mr. Big, Europe style). The production is average, and some of the guitar tones sound a little digital. The mixing, especially when there are multiple vocal and guitar tracks, gets a little sticky, but on the whole everything is clear enough to hear. There are some comic interludes, especially when they try to bring in some English, like this backing vocal that goes "ah wanna steal your bardy, ah wanna keel your daddy"...yup...

I can't tell you any more details about the record, because all of the information on it is (in true Bengali fashion) written only in Bangla. But from a close examination of the script, we could make out that the bands Cactus and School, are represented on the record. If you want to get your hands on it the exact same way that I did, then head over to the "City Centre" mall in Salt Lake, walk into the Planet M and look for a slim, black card-paper cased CD that costs 38 Rupees. (the store attendants might help, if they're not too busy playing on the X-Box 360 demo piece that's been set up in the store).

I'll be in Cal in a couple of weeks and I plan to stock up more on Bangla rock. I'll also try and find out more details about the records and where else they may be available. If you are interested in the info please feel free to mail in at revengeofsmith@gmail.com.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

what colour is the ocean?

is it the slate-black from the airplane window? the muddy-brown at the beach? the copper-sulphate of a coral reef? the crashing silence of your loneliness?

it's rust from a passing steamer; the stench of rotting fish; the crack of dried seaweed breaking up; the calm, flat endlessness from the deck of your oil-tanker, awake, when you're heading for Spain....

must be the clouds in your eyes!

Friday, October 27, 2006

Cassette Nostalgia

(Warning: Geekazoidical)

I was checking up to see what Varahagiri Venkata Giri actually looked like (on account of this) and in this endeavour I had hopped to those fine folks at Wikipedia, and ran into this piece
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Compact_Cassette as their featured piece on the home page, and it opened up a whole lot of memories (since I am a sentimental fool).

I think most people of my age group (kids in the 80s, teens in the 90s) would have grown up listening to music on cassettes (unless their folks were either cool enough to have a record player, or progressive enough to have a CD-player). From the early days on the folkses Sharp GF8989 boombox, music to me equalled tapes. The first tape I ever owned was Michael Jackson's 'Dangerous' bought in 1992. (yes yes, I confess I was a Michael Jackson fan, and still am). Through the years of Madonna, Bryan Adams, Bruce Springsteen, Michael Learns to Rock and so on the tape was the highly frustrating medium on which all music was served. Tapes broke, tapes tangled, tapes got fungus on them, and most irritatingly tapes disappeared, but like Doordarshan and Indian Airlines in the 80s, we really had no choice.

To be fair to them they did a fairly decent job of playing the music, and at that age, in those times (and on those systems), the 'fidelity' of the recording really didn't make much of a difference to me. Plus they were infinitely involving to the geek in me. Hours were spent opening up fungus infected cassettes, swabbing fungus off the reel with earbuds and ethyl alcohol, carefully replacing the reels and rollers on the base of the shell, guiding the flimsy tape across the transport notches and grooves, and resealing the shell with a Phillips screwdriver, and playing it over a few types to 'really clean it up.'

Further more hours were spent transplanting the tape reels from a broken shell to an intact one (thereby making an MS Subbalakshmi tape play Michael Jackson), involving all the delicacy of the previous operation, plus the added frustration of tangling tape, and what to do with MS Subbalakshmi's innards after the transplant.

Grand felonies committed included recording malayalam film songs from Radio over parents' ancient recordings of Pritish Nandy's poetry (which they never listened to anyways, but for which I got the shelling of a lifetime). Crimes on humanity included recording my own singing and playing of percussion instruments such as the Bisleri bottle and the cricket bat. Silly fun included 'high speed dubbing' [where tape to tape recording happens in a dual deck system where the source and destination tapes move at approximately twice the regular speed] which made all music sound like "the chipmunks," which I liked, and which spawned the idea in my young entrepreneur's mind to make a collection of "High Speed Dubbing Hits", songs that sounded good at double speed. However, as the capital and infrastructure was lacking this concept never took off.

Then of course, the regular excitement of head cleaning, applying earbud soaked in nail-polish remover to magnetic head, capstan, pinch-roller etc., etc,. to make the sound sparkle.

My folks got a CD-player in 1995, but CDs were still too expensive to completely replace tapes, and so throughout school and most of college (before MP3s came and knocked everything for a six) tapes were all I had and most of my tapes are still lying aroudn in shoeboxes at home (pssst....shoeboxes were DESIGNED to store tapes....no kidding....try it out). Tapes went up from costing 40 bucks for Michael Jackson's dangerous to 50 bucks for Europe's Greatest Hits, to 75 bucks for Michael Learns to Rock, to 100 bucks for Blood on the Dance Floor to 125 bucks for Best of Mr. Big to 150 bucks for Best of Ocean Colour Scene....and that was the last tape I bought.

Sunday, October 22, 2006

Simmi Post

Simmi, I'm alive and well thank you very much. Was kidnapped by work aliens for a bit, but they've sent me back to earth for Diwali, with a promise to return to captivity on Monday. And since you've given me so many things to write about I thought I might as well!

What is in between heaven and earth?

Ooh deep, I don't do deep very well, I'm shallow you see. So I'll pass this question!

What book would you take to a deserted Island?

The problem with this question is that I almost never re-read books, if i've read it once, it's unlikely i'd want to read it again, and even if i do, I don't enjoy it that much the second time, and in the great world of books that I haven't read, I really don't know what would be worthy of taking to a deserted Island, but if I can do a sneaky lawyerly thing, I'd probably take the Encyclopedia Britannica....since I'd also need material enough to read till I am rescued, and a novel or something of a few hundred pages may not last me long enough.....but leading off from here, I think I'd name my top 5 desert-island discs...not in order (at the moment, it keeps changing):

1) Dire Straits - Brothers in Arms
2) Mr. Big - Japandemonium -I (Live in Japan)
3) Dream Theater - Images and Words
4) Queen - A Night at the Opera
5) Simon & Garfunkel - Sounds of Silence

Of course, if it weren't so uncool, I'd take 'Best ofs' since they'd have all my favourite songs, and they'd have more songs than single albums...but that's not allowed for Desert Island discs....so..

Who would you take to a deseted Island?

Hmm....interesting question....there's no one at the moment who occupies the 'love of my life' position....so I'd probably take M, since she was the last occupant...and she's still the closest thing to a 'love of my life' right now.....

Whats your favourite food and post the recipe?

erm....too many things here.....Appam with a Chicken stew or something.......recipe? hahaha.....I know the recipe for nothing!! oh wait I know the recipe for something we once made at the Bappi's place.....we called it the Scarborough Omelette.....you'll understand why.....it was to serve 5 stoned souls and two sober ones (SS and me)....with lots of bread.....

Ingredients

12 eggs
Chillies
Onions
Tomatoes
Parsley
Sage
Rosemary
Thyme (yup.....all of this was available at the Bap's house)

Method

Erm.....beat the eggs together..........put some oil on the pan.......when it gets hot...put onions, chillies and tomato on it......sautee it for a bit.......then pour the eggs over it.....and then dump the parsley, sage , rosemary and thyme.....while singing the canticle in the background.....put salt and pepper to taste......put in some tomato sauce if you are so inclined.....flip it around and stuff.....and it's ready!

Your worst nightmare?

Nothing of note.....

and what do you dream of?

Bizarre things......always bizarre things....never the same things....familiar characters in unfamiliar settings , or unfamiliar characters in familiar settings....always doing incomprehensible things.....with lots of magic and lots of fast movement.....warp-speed.....lots of evil and tragedy......lots of love and excitement......monsters, magicians, ......somtimes it's just some prsosaic events with familiar characters.....with just one vital thing odd.....for instance there's no ground beneath our feet.....or no one's wearing any clothes......or no one has mouths....or something....

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Tagged art thou


yippee....something to post about......finally.......Starry has tagged me.... now although the rules of the game are not very clear, from what i can gather, i am supposed to put up a silly picture of myself.....now starry herself has set the standards pretty low because her silly picture is not really that silly......and since i have very few pictures of myself.....the silliest one i could find was this....it was a bitterly cold November night.....a friend's wedding in Najafgarh.....which, according to the collective estimation of the bunch of us who set out on the expedition, is approximately 3 kilometers short of the Line of Control with Pakistan (which would explain Sehwag's cricketing skils). So we spent about 2 hours getting there......spent 20 minutes at the wedding , in which time we managed to say hello to the bride, eat dinner, not wait for the baraat to arrive, and cut. In the middle of all this I had soup.....which caused me to lose my inhibitions and do this little rapper impersonation.....which my good friend SS (from Khalistan via Ernakulam) managed to, rather ineptly, capture on my Fujifilm Finepix E550.

Now apparently i am also supposed to tag other people......hmm.......let me tag some tough ones.....here goes:

Hmm......I think that's it.....if even one responds.....i'd consider it an achievement.

Monday, August 28, 2006

The MC/BC Horn

As of today it's been one year since I landed up in Gurgaon. And in one year of driving around in the city, and learning the jat way of driving, I've always felt a constant need to be more like my jat brothers and abuse the hell out of everyone on the road, but the problem in an air-conditioned / heated car is that yelling at someone involves the effort of opening the window, sticking your head out and actually delivering the abuse....by this time the 'moment' is usually gone, and most often you just can't be bothered, making the effort.

When I used to drive in Cochin, with the windows open, all I needed was simple middle finger to get the message across, but my jat brothers can only understand the language of lustily delivered verbal abuse and this lack of communication with my brothers has been a serious impediment to my integration into the jat community at large.

To remedy this situation, I've come up with an invention known as the MC/BC horn (MC/BC referring to a particularly popular set of abuses in this part of the world which makes a not-so-subtle reference to the oedipal/otherwise incestuous tendencies of the recipient of the abuse). This would require a very powerful set ot speakers to be mounted within the engine bay of the vehicle, powerful and clear enough for a human voice to carry loudly and clearly across the din of traffic. These speakers would play recordings of choice abuses, at a sufficiently loud volume, at the press of a button, mounted on the steering wheel, so that the drive can remain in the air-conditioned/heated comfort of his vehicle and using merely a finger (the finger again!) communicate with his brothers in the language that they understand the best. This will also save the effort of having to yell the abuse yourself.

The MC/BC horn will be fully customisable and should be able to carry at least a dozen abuses, which can be selected by way of a rotary selector similar to the blower-speed selector.

I can see a tremendous market for this all over North India, and I am waiting for an angel investor / venture capitalist to read this post and come knocking on my door to take this concept to the market. Vinod Khosla, are you listening???

Sunday, August 20, 2006

Random shit

Yup, this is what you get when I run out of inspiration. And since I've been out of inspiration and/or time for the last month and a bit, and waiting for inspiration and time to strike together could be the perfect recipe for the death of this blog, here I am posting random shit. Let's see what random shit I can put together today.

The last three books I read

Rohinton Mistry - A Fine Balance - Beautifully written, blindingly depressing, thoroughly absorbing book. Literature from another era, almost. The characters are so vividly sketched that you'd feel fairly confident of what to order if they were coming over to your house for dinner, or what to get them for Christmas. The stories of the various characters are told very well, with the minimum amount of fuss, and their convergences and divergences are totally natural. Their happiness makes you happy and their tragedies can break your heart. Solid! (Warning, if you read Such a Long Journey and thought that was depressing.....this is ten times as depressing)

Kurt Vonnegut - Slaughterhouse Five - Excellent whacky anti-war novel. Not quite in the league of Catch-22, but close. Very entertaining, witty and sad at the same time. But Vonnegut's masterpiece is definitely Cat's Cradle, this one doesn't hold a candle to that!
Nick Hornby - A Long Way Down - My favourite writer (yes, my tastes are 'base'), Hornby has come up with another masterpiece. Like Mistry's characters you get to know Hornby's characters as intimately, but with far fewer words, and decidedly minimalistic brush-strokes. Also, these characters you'd like to call home for dinner, unlike Mistry's, who'd probably come and depress the shit out of you. This one's about four people who are contemplating suicide and meet up at a popular suicide spot on new year's eve. I know this sounds like a recipe for a cliche-ride, but in Hornby's assured hands, this story is steered well clear of all possible cliches and is the most refreshing take on contemporary urban life that I've read (but then I haven't read much, so!) .

The last three songs I got hooked on

The Kinks - Waterloo Sunset - Fabulous song. Ray Davies's songwriting genius on full display. The melody is plaintive and beautiful, the instrumentation is spare, and the lyrics are fantastic. Feast your eyes:

Dirty old river, must you keep rolling
Flowing into the night
People so busy, makes me feel dizzy
Taxi light shines so bright
But I dont need no friends
As long as I gaze on waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunsets fine

Terry meets julie, waterloo station
Every friday night
But I am so lazy, dont want to wander
I stay at home at night
But I dont feel afraid
As long as I gaze on waterloo sunset
I am in paradise

Every day I look at the world from my window
But chilly, chilly is the evening time
Waterloo sunsets fine

Millions of people swarming like flies round waterloo underground
But terry and julie cross over the river
Where they feel safe and sound
And the dont need no friends
As long as they gaze on waterloo sunset
They are in paradise

Waterloo sunsets fine

Now go download the song!

INXS - Afterglow - INXS has that new chappie that they found through the reality show handling the vocals and while this song really isn't classic INXS, I love the Indian sounding rhythm section and the simple melody. Plus it's sung at a vocal range where even I can sing along through the entire song, happily.....and that's a rare pleasure!

Gillian Welch - My Morphine - M introduced me to Gillian Welch. Other people who I played this song to said she sounds a little like Suzanne Vega. A fantastic voice singing a slow, haunting melody laid out over a solo acoustic guitar....blissfully relaxing!


I wish I had something deep and philosophical to say......or maybe some highly exciting event in my life, but currently I am too busy with work to have time for philosophy or for any excitement. I did have a wonderful weekend in Kolkata where I stayed with an old friend from school, got blasted for not keeping in touch with her, and got to to explore a bit of this city that I love! I took some random photographs (with my Sony Ericsson K750i), which I am setting out below (none are very good!):

That's Park Street with a long exposure. As you can see, in Kolkata, nothing moves fast enough for there to be a significant blur!

That's Kusum Snack Bar off Park Street. People in Delhi/Gurgaon better hold on to your seats, because they are actually selling a chicken/mutton roll for SEVENTEEN BUCKS!!!

The following are random pictures of glitzy Gurgaon. We were discussing about how this part of Gurgaon looks like Singapore, and since Singapore stands for Simha Pur (Land of the Lion), Gurgaon should be called Gadhapore (Land of the Donkey).

That's the end of this random post!!

Thursday, July 13, 2006

Bombay

They've hit Bombay, the bastards. I want to hunt them down, each one of them, and pump bullets into their brain. Fuck the trial, fuck due process, fuck rule of law; these monsters need to be disposed of outside the law.

I'm generally rational, and I try to be reasoble in my responses to situations, but this is one of the few of the occasions where I wish India were a bit like Israel, or Sri Lanka, and that Sukhois would take off from the nearest airbase and suspected terrorist camps, even beyond the LoC, would be pounded to dust, and that all known and suspected Lashkar-e-Taiba operatives would be taken into custody. Fight fire with fire.

I am sincerely hoping that somewhere out there (Police, RAW, whoever) is a bunch of people sitting around a table, going through reams of data and intelligence, and vowing to themselves that every last one of the people responsible for these atrocities will be hunted down and killed.

My heart bleeds for Mumbai. But I know that Mumbai cannot be cowed down by such cowards. Mumbai will show them that their worst is just not bad enough. Srinagar will show them that they can't get away with throwing grenades at vehicles of innocent tourists. Inshallah, justice will be done and these scum will be wiped off the face of the planet. Godspeed to the people sitting around that table.

Friday, July 07, 2006

Bombay

Yes, I know it's been ages since I wrote anything. I've been alternatively busy, sick, out of town, and/or combinations of the above. But the good news is that a terrible sinus infection rendered me un-fly-able and I got to spend a lovely weekend in Mumbai (just before the really heavy rains hit). I also got myself a new Sony Ericsson K750i, with which I took some photographs of my beautiful Bombay, to look at fondly while I sit in my village.


The first one is a night shot out of a taxi at the signal between Oval Maidan and Cooperage Grounds. The rain's made the road a shiny dance floor for these automobiles to show off their moves.


The one on the right is one of those old buildings on DN Road, elegantly Victorian and defiantly beautiful against the deluge of glass-and-steel monstrosities from architects suffering from acute Bandra-Kurla complex.

Picture No.3 is Cafe Basilico, lovely Italian restaurant in Colaba; Superb cannelloni and cheesecakes, up-and-coming Bollywood starlets spilling out of their very litte clothes, one single "Best of Gipsy Kings" CD playing in infinite loop.


Colaba causeway, empty-ish on a Sunday afternoon, except for a lone BEST bus, one of those fancy new Tata Starbus buses. That red makes it looks really lovely, and it can't hurt that the rains are giving it a constant cleaning!

Of the tens of thousands of taxi drivers in Mumbai, I had to find one who'd had a traumatic photographic experience. Apparently the driver of MH-02 6135 had had a passenger who was taking a lot of picture of the American Consulate which landed him in a bit of a soup with the police and scared the daylights out of Mr. Taxi Driver. So he frantically told me to put my camera away, as soon as I'd snapped this one. It's a coincidence that there's another lovely Starbus in the picture!

And now for those who REALLY want to see a full three-quarter view of a red Starbus in all it's glory I present to you, posing in front of the Tea Centre (with the driver giving me a curious look):



Tuesday, June 06, 2006

The attack of the killer noses


Two great musicians, both great composers and lyricists, both standard bearers for the emotions of a generation, and both sadly reviled by certain perverse elements for their beautifully nasal singing, Bob Dylan and Himesh Reshammiya are collaborating on a fusion project called "Bald on Blonde", a play on Dylan's famous album title, and the popular rumour that Himesh, under that ridiculous cap, is actually bald. Both musicians were not available for comment, but our bureau has managed a sneak preview of the album cover for the proposed venture, and that's all we have for you today.

Sunday, June 04, 2006

old radio dreams

There are two films I've seen which have wanted to make me do Radio. One was Good Morning Vietnam where Robin Williams plays a DJ stationed in Vietnam who makes the soldiers' lives more meaningful through his radio show. The other one is an old Christian Slater starrer called Pump Up the Volume about an angsty, rebellious teenager who starts a private radio station to vent his angsty, rebellious feelings. Both were different movies, in theme, in treatment, and in their overall feel, but one thing that both movies did remarkably, was to demonstrate the power of radio. How a disembodied voice and somebody else's music can mean so much to so many people.

The beauty of Radio is that, it's much more intimate and personal than television. Somehow when the VJ is speaks to the camera, it never seems like he's talking to you, but when the DJ's voice comes out of the speakers, she's always talking exclusively to you. Then there's the unpredictability factor, the fact that you don't know what song is playing next, and the possibility that it could be a song that you love. When the song that you love comes on, it's a steering-wheel thumping, head-nodding high that can give rise to concerned looks from fellow motorists. There's also the fact that on Radio, your threshold of happiness is much lower, even a song that you'd stopped listening to years ago, or a song that you like, but not enough to buy the CD, can sound magical when it's coming out of the Radio.

Last week the CD player in my car started acting up, so i've been forced to listen to Radio, and I've found an unlikely saviour in All India Radio FM (102.6 Mhz, Delhi). When I drive to work, there's a show called the 'Matchless Music Hour', which plays classic rock and pop as well as old Hindi songs, so a sample playlist would be Peter Frampton - Lata Mangeshkar - Hot Chocolate - Deep Purple - Elton John - Kishore Kumar...works for me! In the evenings, while on somedays it is contemporary crap, I've encountered world-music, salsa, meringue, Reggaet├│n, some Youssou N'Dour and so on. They have jazz nights every Friday, and I've even heard some modern rock a-la incubus, offspring etc., Just listening to AIR, an unusual industry where the public sector institution wallops the private sector competition (i guess the lack of profit-motive helps), I can't help but feel my old radio dreams coming back to life.

Updates:

Sunday - Queen, The Police, Duran Duran, Abba
Monday - Queen, Lata Mangeshkar, Neil Diamond
Tuesday - Vital Tech Tones (Victor Wooten, Steve Smith, Scott Henderson), SD Burman, Thin Lizzy

I think Delhi is beginning to rock!

Tuesday, May 30, 2006

Missed Connections

I sat on the sand with someone at night, a long time back. We talked about a lot of things, for a long time, and I think there was chemistry, a connection. But I was not allowed to have a connection then. So there was no connection.

That was some years back. There was a connection. I think. I guess that's how it works. Everyone has these missed connections. You were probably seeing someone then. Or you thought you'd do something about it but didn't. Maybe she thought she'd do something about it and didn't as well. An inconvenient coincidence.

If life was a cheesy hollywood movie then you'd probably meet again, at the frozen-over lake at Central Park, and you'd look like John Cusack. But you don't look like John Cusack. You look like "store attendant" (number 38 in the credits) and so there's no reunion.

And one fine day when you've got a little time to yourself (a very dangerous thing), you rue them. Nothing would probably have come of them, but when you gotta rue, you gotta rue. And you form a neat laundry-list of lost opportunities in your mind and analyse it in desperate detail. If you're stupid you'll call one of them. Just don't be stupid!

Thursday, May 18, 2006

Is this au revoir?

(image copyright: soccer-europe.com)

There's a magician that all of us Arsenal fans can't quite get enough of. His name is Thierry Henry. He's a ballet dancer, a sprinter, a gymnast and a wizard, and oh yes, he plays football. He's soft-spoken, articulate and intensely controversy-shy. On the pitch he waltzes past defenders and drifts into space to chip the ball into the net with the bare minimum of fuss. After the departure of the commanding presence of Patrick Vieira, Henry accepted the Captain's armband and did a splendid job of marshalling the young, injury-stricken, inexperienced Arsenal squad and fashioned their resurgence in the latter half of this season.

Off the pitch he's a quiet, unassuming, family man and try as they might, the English gutter-press for all their resourcefulness and fourberie, have not been able to come up with a single scandal of worth involving arguably, one of the all-time greats of the English Premiership. His rise in the premiership, after a dismal stint with Seria A giants Juventus, has in no small measure been on account of the genius of Arsene Wenger, the French coach of Arsenal. Having given Henry his debut at the age of 17 in AS Monaco, Wenger plucked the despairing Henry out of Italy, where he was struggling to find his touch playing on the wing, and brought him to Arsenal in August 1999 for 10.5 million pounds. In every season since, Henry has justified the confidence placed in him by being the top-scorer for Arsenal (and the top scorer in the Premiership in four of them) and winning the hearts of the Highbury crowd.

At this crucial juncture, when Arsenal is set to move into the gleaming new 60,000 seater Emirates stadium at Ashburton Grove, every single Arsenal fan, in every corner of the world has only question in his mind, will Thierry stay? Every one of us wants those two minutes to speak with him, to explain to him how essential it is that he stay; how the rotation of the earth, the evolution of the species and the fight against global warming are all entirely dependant on his staying back at Arsenal FC; how
unbelievably important it is that he stay at our theater and he perform our brand of ballet to dazzle the world and bring tears of joy to our eyes; how crucial it is that we have his leadership so that the dazzling young talents like Fabregas, Hleb, Flamini, Toure, Eboue and Walcott are not left orphaned.

But Henry has served Arsenal magnificently. With goals, with crosses, with those glorious touches and that unforgettable finger to his lips; with his loyalty, his dedication and his guts and his blood. No Arsenal fan will grudge him what his heart desires. Like an estranged lover who has given his all, and to whom the debt of gratitude we owe is too large to bear thinking, we must let him do whatever makes him happy. We would wish him well, and we would wish him the glory and the success and the happiness that he so richly deserves, at whichever club he chooses to achieve them at.

We still wish he'd stay.

Sunday, May 14, 2006

Art


Same note book, different art form. Unlikely that anybody, including classmates, would find it easy to decipher entirely, but to those of you make the effort, I think it'll be worth it. (Click on the image to see a larger version showcasing the stunningly high resolution and the spectacular macro-shooting capabilities of my Fujifilm E550). The content is primarily Bappi's and mine. I think Appu might have contributed a bit. The combination of our deft drawing skills and brilliant humour will undoubtedly leave you speechless. Such a well-rounded legal education we had. (Warning: Unfamiliarity with characters such as Shondy, Monkey, Kyara, Cindy Crawford, Mogo, Scorpions, "the Scorpions", the flying sikh, Vodka, cee pee cee, "not regular tobacco", and so on might detract from the seamless user experience somewhat)


PS. Indulge me, this is just nostalgia! alternatively... abuse me in the comments section.

Friday, May 12, 2006

Poyum


Update: A picture of the poyum as originally scrawled!

I've kept with me a notebook from law school, which has very little in the way of actual notes, but a lot of assorted junk including song lyrics, cartoons, strawberry fields band schedules, and the following poem scrawled in the neat Bappi script (Please note that he omitted to mention the name of the poem or the poet, so that at least the lazies among us might attribute it to his genius!):

William Butler Yeats - He Wishes For The Cloths Of Heaven

Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly because you tread on my dreams.

I'm not an expert on poetry, hell i've hardly read any poetry in my life, but this little verse has a bit of magic for me. Maybe it's the plaintive tone, or the fact that it speaks of a kind of fantastic devotion that we have all, at some time, believed ourselves capable of. Maybe because it speaks of a power that someone else has (as certain people always do) over our happiness, which is uplifting while at the same time discouraging. Or maybe it's just because it's scrawled on the back cover of that bloody notebook from that chapter of my life.

PS. Step 1 to blogging street cred - include poetry...any poetry....CHECK!

Wednesday, May 10, 2006

The Magic Numbers

In a crap place like Gurgaon, to take your mind off the stupid, rude, inconsiderate people and the intolerable weather, you need things like good music, and my most recent saviours in musical guise are a bunch of guys (and girls) who walked out of a talk show for being called "fat." Fat or not, The Magic Numbers have made the nicest new record I've heard since I heard Coldplay's 'Parachutes' in February 2001 (remember, Boomsa? yup this one's at least as good!!).

60s pop meets modern rock instrumentation, CSNY meets Supertramp and Coldplay, ya I know it's lame to compare bands, but I need you to know what kind of sound to expect. The sound isn't path-breaking, but it really stands out in the noisy, electronic junk that's passing itself off as pop music these days. Many of the songs are about love and longing and the usual pop-fodder, and it works! While I don't care much about lyrics I do require that the lyrics don't jump out and irritate, and 'the numbers ' have beautifully ignorable lyrics, so that I can concentrate on their excellent musicianship. The songs are proudly melodic with some fabulous harmonies and good clean vocals. The arrangements are compact and support the melodies admirably, although a little flourish here and there might have added some zing to the record. The solo violin on 'This Love' is an outstanding exception though!

The picks of the lot are 'Love's a Game' and 'This Love', but only just...all songs are very catchy and hummable and melodic and would have worked as singles. And of course tremendous value for money, 13 enjoyable tracks in one album....woo hoo....let the good times roll!!!

Monday, May 08, 2006

Dhanaulti Rocks Music Festival

It's unlike any other (rock) musical event in this country. It is not run by a college, or a corporate or a magazine with pots of money. It's run by a bunch of people in a beautiful Himalayan hamlet called Dhanaulti. It's trying to feature a lot of goods bands, and it promises to be an experience. It's from June 2-4, 2006. Do check out http://www.andijis.com They need money, support, and warm bodies. Do pitch in!

....i can smell the scent of strawberry fields.....

Tuesday, May 02, 2006

Alphabet soup

A - Alabaster
B - Burlesque
C - Crunch
D - Delicate
E - Elegant
F - Fold
G - Glow
H - Helium
I - Iridiscent
J - Juicy
K - Kindle
L - Lush
M - Mellow
N - Navigate
O - Opal
P - Please
Q - Question
R - Rock
S - Sieve
T - Trenchant
U - Usurp
V - Valiant
W - Work
X -
Y - Yield
Z - Zephyr

Sunday, April 23, 2006

RENT

Greetings faithful reader(s?), i am very sorry for having been away, been very busy with work and all the usual excuses, plus my car is out of action, so i am having to devote much time to the arduous task of getting around in Gurgaon (I use 4 modes of transport to get to work).

But when i saw RENT yesterday I knew I had to write about it on an urgent basis, since I had a grand total of 5 people in the hall with me and 2 of them were my friends, and this means it won't last longer than a week. RENT is a film version of the smash-hit Broadway musical of the same name with music by the genius Jonathan Larson, who died just before the opening of RENT off-broadway (hours after its final dress-rehearsal!).

RENT is directed by Chris Columbus, of Home Alone, Mrs.Doubtfire and Harry Potter (in)fame. When I saw his name on the opening credits, my expectations actually dropped. Maybe that helped me love the film even more than I would otherwise. RENT is a story of bunch of penniless artists/idealists in East Village, New York, living their lives in tenements for which they can't afford to pay (It's quite amazing how Hollywood can make even poverty look glamorous). The central characters include an aspiring film-maker, a former guitarist-frontman of a band, a tech-wizard and his drag-queen lover, a club-dancer, a showgirl and her extremely attractive lawyer girlfriend (a stunning Tracie Thoms). With all except two of the characters played by members of the original broadway cast, this movie is a winner from the word go.

The opening keyboard sequence leading into the knock-you-dead-at-first-hearing song "seasons of love" sung by the entire cast standing on stage, sets the tone for the rest of the movie, as one brilliant song after another sketches the story of a year (5,25,600 minutes) in the life of this motley bunch, fighting eviction, AIDS, poverty and cold to find love, happiness, creative fulfillment and the bonds of la vie boheme. The music is the main character in the film. Beautiful tunes with an agressively 80s arrangement featuring overdriven guitars, thundering drums, melodic keyboards, and some unbelievable voices. The melodies are strong and straightforward, with beautiful, sometimes complex harmonies and the recording and mixing, especially the 5.1 work is mesmerizing. The voices are top-notch, my favourite being Tracie Thoms, who manages to look and sound fantastic, and Jesse L Martin with his edgy baritone. The band that played the stuff is again excellent, with the drummer (whoever he is) really getting in some fine passages.

When i saw the trailer and heard the 5.1 mix on 'seasons of love' i told myself 'I have to see this movie just for the sound.' The beauty of it is that on top of the great sound and the music, it has an inspiringl, moving story. Yes it's cheesy, but then a broadway musical has to have cheese....and I am an avowed cheese fan. The beautiful thing about this musical-movie is that it is a true-to-stage musical, ie, 95% of the script is songs, unlike many other movie adaptations where they replace many songs with conversation. I have to admit that, although Chris Columbus had a great starting point with this amazing script, he's done a great job of shooting the film and sequences are put together masterfully. Hats off, sir.

Go see this movie, if you want to feel inspired and happy and creative. It really did things to me. I came home and played my guitar, and while for a long time I've been tired of hearing myself play the same stuff over and over again, yesterday I sounded good, I was putting notes together that I never had before, i was playing phrases and solos and rhythm bits that sounded fresh, and original, it felt like falling in love! Go see RENT, it's magic!!

Tuesday, April 04, 2006

Minal from Kotak Mahindra

While, this was no 'Tumhari Amrita,' it was still a lot of fun. Sometime around October or November 2004 I got a call on my office phone; another of those phone marketing people, Minal from Kotak Mahindra, trying to sell me a personal loan. I politely told her I didn't need a personal loan but I wished her luck in finding a customer.

A week or two later I got another call from Minal from Kotak Mahindra, asking if I had by any chance changed my mind and whether I'd require a personal loan. Once again I politely told her I didn't and enquired whether she had actually found any people who wanted the personal loan. She answered in the affirmative, and then I hung up.

About a month or two later, I got a call again and this time Minal from Kotal Mahindra became just Minal, and she said something to the effect of 'you wouldn't need a personal loan, would you,?' I replied in the negative and she told me how someone else in my organisation had yelled at her. I commiserated and the conversation ended.

After that, Minal would call every month or so, and with her calling frequenly, she stopped introducing herself and all she said was a cheery 'hello sir' and expected me to figure it was her. The funny thing is that I would, and then I'd talk to her for a minute or two, always saving at least a line to clarify my lack of need for a personal loan.

A month or so before leaving Bombay she called, and I told her that not only did I not need a personal loan, I wouldn't be available on that number anymore, since I was leaving my job and the city. She told me that as coincidence would have it, she was also leaving her job and she was joining some other bank. We wished each other the very best in our new jobs and wrapped up the conversation. Needless to say, we never spoke again.

There was a curious excitement to these phone calls, although I'd forget them about them as soon as they concluded. Just a word to my friends in Bombay, if you get a call from Minal asking you if you need anything, personal loan, credit card, etc., please be nice.

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Apologies

I have actually had people asking me why I haven't posted for some days (okay, two people count as people!). It's because, on top of a ton of work, I've been involved with this. My Law School Class is finally trying to get together a 'yearbook', more than a year and a half after passing out of law school. Promptitude is our primary virtue.

Update: There was a mistake in the url linked above, which has now been corrected, the world can now heave a huge sigh of relief!

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Must watch cheese

Watched Scent of a Woman yesterday on DVD. There's a reason they make cheesy feel-good movies you know? they actually make you feel good....if they're well executed like Scent of a Woman. The character of Lt.Col. Frank Slade is sheer brilliance, and Al Pacino is outstanding. Of course subsequently he went on to do many other roles where the ghost of Frank Slade hovered above each character played by him, but we can forgive him that.

Chris O'Donnell does the male ingenue bit very well, and Gabrielle Anwar looks stunning in her brief appearance. The background music is very good, and some of the dialogue is brilliant, eg Frank Slade to Donna (after he guesses her soap by smell and she says "that's amazing")... "I'm in the amazing business"...

Conceded it's not a great movie, but it's super feel-good fun! And don't miss Philip Seymour Hoffman as the rich preppie, how far he has come!

Cheese update: One more feelgood thing, this morning I realised I could sing along with 'Thank you for loving me' by Bon Jovi, in its entirety...yes the song is a cheesy rehash of some ten other cheesy Bon Jovi songs, but the significance of it is that I've never been able to sing along with a Bon Jovi song completely before, without dropping an octave...I think all that singing along with simon & garfunkel in the car has helped....whoopee!!

Friday, March 17, 2006

Cellphones

I miss not having a cellphone, I do. When the cellphone first came out in India, I remember my uncle had bought a NOKIA handset which was ...ahem....as thick as a brick, for which he paid....hold your breath... 40,000 Rupees. It looked very cool for the time, and the fact that you had to stick your head out of the window to make a call, and that you couldn't use it in most parts of Madras didn't rob it of all the coolness it's price tag demanded.

Then a cellphone tower (base-station) came up near my house in Kottayam. For some inexplicable reason I felt damn proud of it, and I even remember referring to it as 'my cellphone tower,' although I was still half-a-decade away from getting a cellphone of my own.

I had a friend who used to crank -call people whom he knew had a cellphone, to make them spend the 8 rupees per minute that was the charge for incoming calls at that time. Oh yes, outgoing calls were 16 Rupees per minute and incoming calls were 8. This was called 'airtime.'

In college, around second year (2000) a few people started getting cellphones of their own, and these were the outrageously cool people with money to burn. I even remember a discussion I had with my room-mate about whether a cellphone or a car was a greater luxury (laptops didn't even figure in the same league). We proceeded to do a census and the car won by a whisker, with 5 people having cars and 8 people having cellphones.

Stories abounded about embarassing attempts to show off cellphones, including the one, which I am sure you have heard, about the guy apparently talking on his cellphone, and the phone ringing in the middle of his 'conversation.' There was another one about this guy who stopped wearing his watch so that he could whip out his cellphone whenever someone asked him the time.

Then pre-paid cards came out, the gray market started to flourish and prices of handsets began a steady decline. More and more people started getting cellphones, and the queues outside the hostel phone booth started getting shorter. Shouts of "*insert name*....PHONE CALL" became less frequent in the hostel. The people who earlier used to earn glares of irritation mixed with envy, when they hogged the hostel phone, could now spend hours talking to their sweethearts in the comfort of their hostel room, without offending anyone.

And then incoming calls became free, handset prices dropped even further and somewhere along the line, even I got a cellphone. A cheapie Motorola that would be a shoo-in for the "worst-designed cellphone in history" award. It refused to leave me. I left it behind in a restaurant and got it back, I've left it behind in people's rooms and I've got it back, it still lives in my cupboard as my backup phone. In the meanwhile the cellphone slowly and surely became an essential part of my existence. Communication, reachability, the feeling that you're never alone, the hours of mindless conversation with countless people, all these things became an addiction.

But somehow I yearn for a cellphone less world. Where I can sleep without being woken up. Where you can't reach me if I don't want you to. Where ICICI Bank doesn't want to sell me credit cards every other day. The grass is definitely greener on the other side...I am POSITIVE!

Saturday, March 11, 2006

College abilities

This is not just another nostalgia trip, but the desire to regain some of those things I never realised I had, till they 'stealthily disappeared' like some friends of mine did from a sociology class.

I'd like some 'college abilities' please; some ability to hero-worship unabashedly; some ability to love a piece of music so much that you wear out the rewind button on your tape-deck; some ability to fall in love with a pretty face for the reason that the face is pretty; some ability to ride 'trips' on a bike carrying a mattress and two pillows; some ability to see a deadline and decide 'f*** it'; some ability to sit-up till 4 am, doing nothing but bitching about people; some broke-ness, to fully appreciate the beauty of a tasty meal; some innocence, to feel outraged at the 'evil ways' ofthe world; some naivete, to believe that you can be a lawyer and be a rock star at the same time; some cellphone-lessness, to be able to sit near the hostel telephone waiting for it to ring; some cockiness, to be able to throw condoms in class; some bravado, to wear a black-band in protest....against anything; some one-rupee coins, to call someone from a coin-box phone; a football ground, to miss when it's replaced by a library; some more bass on the drum monitor....

Bla bla bla, fine it's just another nostalgia trip, so sue me.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

The aliens have landed.......in Kerala

No, this is not yet another crackpot American claiming to have seen a UFO, it's a scientific paper published in a peer reviewed Journal "Astrophysics and Space Science," by Godfrey Louis and Santosh Kumar of the Mahatma Gandhi University in Kottayam, Kerala. Louis' site has more details and links to the paper as well as the response of the press around the world.

When Shashi Tharoor become UN Secretary General (de jure ruler of the planet) and with the assistance of our alien friends, we mallus are gonna kick all yor non-mallu asses....and take over the universe.

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Cracking the Code

In my continuing efforts to become a North Indian so as to completely blend in with the...er....people in this part of the country I have cracked the 'repeated-word-with-altered-first-syllable' Code. Let me explain for the benefit of the less neand....i mean North Indian.....'Dil Vil' 'Pyaar Vyaar' 'Love Shove' 'Pub Shub' etc.,

There's been a raging debate amongst us aspiring (sigh!) North Indians about the rule regading the use of the 'SH' syllable or the 'V' syllable in the repeated word. To this day, none of us have been able to really crack the code and all we could do is stand by and watch in meek admiration when the Choms rattled off these repeated words with instinctive ease. Enraged with envy and consumed with self-doubt, I was determined that one day I should also be able to stand tall, and be able to say 'Photo-Shoto' without a quiver of doubt. It is with unabashed pride that I announce that today is that day, the culmination of my efforts, the fulfillment of my dreams, the achievement of my ambition, I HAVE CRACKED THE CODE.

It is simple.....English = SH.....Hindi = V.....let me demonstrate

English

Love Shove
Pub Shub
Photo Shoto
Mall Shall

Hindi

Dil Vil
Pyaar Vyaar
Chain Vain

As I write this, I am reading a msg where a friend has simply said "Tod Phod"....DAMNIT.....one more f***ing syllable....my dreams lie shattered....where does PH fit in....will I ever fit in?.....sniff....

Monday, March 06, 2006

two biopics and a gender-bender

That's my movies this weekend, in order of preference:

Transamerica - Beautiful film about a pre-surgery trans-sexual man-becoming-woman who discovers that s/he has a teenage son who is in a spot of trouble, and their road trip to California from New York. The acting is beautifully restrained with Felicity Huffman delivering a measured yet mind-blowing performance. The script is a wry, spare masterpiece with a fair smattering of thought-provokingly funny lines. Where the film loses out is in the entertainment department; while it's a brilliant premise executed equally brilliantly, it lacks a real plot/story which makes an otherwise deftly crafted film a bit of a drag at times.

Walk the Line - Standard biopic, super performances from both Joaquin Phoenix and Reese Witherspoon (she looks super!), great music, predictable narrative, technically solid. If you're a Johnny Cash fan the film will knock you dead, if you're not, it will still entertain. But I wouldn't really call it inspiring.

Capote - Intense, painstakingly shot, stunningly acted, boring movie. Here I must warn you that I am very 'base,' and I don't have a taste for the finer things in life, and so if this is good cinema, as all critics seem to be saying, then do go ahead and see it. Don't let the fact that it bored me keep you from witnessing a great performance from Hoffman, some breathtaking visuals, and the real story behind one of my favourite crime novels...then go and read Breakfast at Tiffany's.

Saturday, March 04, 2006

mastadons with lasers

I am delighted and very proud to announce that in my office I now use a machine running the very brand new Pentium D 64-bit dual core processor.....I am fairly sure very few of you out there in blogland have a dual core processor powering your computer.....although i have to confess my user experience has not been mind-blowing due to a very slow hard drive....the very fact that my CPU has four fans (one on the processors, one for the SMPS, one at the back of the cabinet and one at the side) as well as a fully perforated front portion, for ample ventilation....makes me feel proud and joyful....plus i use Linux, for the warm glow......so it's an unbeatable combination for deriving intangible, non-material satisfaction out of your computer....

but i am warned that hyper-threading (that thing i wrote about some time back) has not been turned on, on my chipset, and if that is done, marauding mastadons will.....well....maraud out of my CPU and knock me down with blitzy lasers of computing performance....(do mastadons need lasers...i don't know)

now somebody will kill my joy by telling me they have an AMD64 athlon or something.....but until then....EAT YOUR HEART OUT single core losers!!! BUWAHAHAHA

Shh...Listen

That's not just the title of a motherjane song, it's my latest inner-peace-attaining, simulating-the-feeling-of-being-in-a-movie activity.

What you need to do is listen...listen to every single sound that your ears are picking up...right now i am listening to my fingers typing, some people talking, some pages being flipped, a chair creaking, a vehicle honking somewhere far away, a phone ringing, the printer spewing out some paper, a pen dropping, some others typing, and a number of unidentifiable sounds.....concentrate on nothing but the sounds around you...think of them purely as sounds, disconnected from their origin and meaning....just do that for a minute or two especially when you are walking or moving things about and it feels nice, vaguely like you're in a movie! I swear....

....you can now call me Sri Sri Revenge of Smith.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

EMI's the Complete Beatles Recording Sessions: The Official Story of the Abbey Road Years

M got me this book from Singapore some time back. When I got my hands on it, it was just a stupendously brilliant book and quite possibly the most perfect literary gift for someone like me (a Beatles fan, a sort-of musician and a wannabe sound engineer). And then I realised it's a rare out-of-print masterpiece that would cost me a bomb if I were to buy it off Amazon, so it's even cooler!

I don't know how she does it. Absolutely perfect gifts; sometimes reading my mind and figuring out what I want, sometimes just figuring out what I want before I know it myself. And the rubbish I've got her (and anyone else!).

Tuesday, February 28, 2006

Solidarity

This is an expression of solidarity with Boomsa in her campaign to be cruel to my good friend Siddhartha George, since he has accused us of a certain dubious kind of conspiracy. I adopt all her mean statements about Appu (Siddhartha) as my own, unless otherwise expressly disclaimed.

Monday, February 27, 2006

Two movies

Saw two movies this weekend, one was brilliant and the other was rubbish.

Crash - Beautifully shot, slickly edited, lovingly constructed drama about prejudice. While it is racial prejudice that forms the theme of the movie, the elements of the movie would work just as well if you transposed it to any other type of prejudice. The beauty of the film is that it steers clear of portraying the issue as black-and-white (pun intended). While it's a serious film and asks some hard questions, it is also gripping and thoroughly entertaining. It's been a while since I've gotten so involved in a film that I've screamed aloud when a gun-shot is fired. It's a mosaic of a number of stories that occasionally intersect. Most of the acting is superb, with Don Cheadle and Matt Dillon standing out. Brendan Fraser as a big-shot District Attorney somehow doesn't work, I don't know if it's his acting or whether it's just the fact that he has, in the past, played Encino Man...I mean....Encino Man can't become the DA right? But go see the film, it's something else. I would put it in the class of House of Sand and Fog and American History X, both of which I loved.

Taxi No 9211 - A friend had suggested that this looks like a rip-off of the Tom Cruise-Jamie Foxx starrer Collateral. While it turns out my friend was wrong, we left the hall wishing that the director had just copied some movie. I can't figure out which is worse, shameless lifting of Hollywood movies a la Ek Ajnabee (Man on Fire) and Chocolate (The Usual Suspects) or pointless, contrived yet 'original' cinema like Taxi No 9211. This one fails because it simply has no plot, and Milan Luthria doesn't have the Farhan Akhtar touch to make a plot-less movie work solely on style. While Nana Patekar delivers a great performance, it is undermined completely by John Abraham's non-acting. Sonali Kulkarni manages to look far sexier in a saree than Sameera Reddy does in her skimpy outfits, and delivers a convincing performance to boot. I won't relate the 'story' because it is too painful. Some good one-liners and occasional flashes of brilliance from Nana Patekar can't save this clunker. The music by Vishal-Shekhar is, as usual, crap.

Saturday, February 25, 2006

Thankyouverymuch....Good Night!!

That's what I'd say before walking off the stage before tens of thousands of people at Donington/Central/Cubbon Park. I wouldn't insult their intelligence by telling them that Donington/New York/Bangalore is the greatest place I've ever played at and that they were the greatest crowd ever. Maybe I'd throw them a few picks...maybe I'd walk very close to an amp on my way out, and leave them a little bit of feedback to chew on....

Wednesday, February 22, 2006

Mumb-high!

Back from a short visit to Mumbai, and reminded starkly of what makes it the commercial and entertainment capital of India, while Delhi/Gurgaon remains....er....just a shithole! It's hard to describe the joy of seeing the people on the street not wearing that blank, stupid yet arrogant expression that i've grown sick of; the joy of seeing a people who have the brains to understand that red means stop and green means go, and the class to abide by it; the joy of seeing honest cab drivers, sane bus drivers, attentive customer-service, queues for elevators, lane-discipline, Harvard Business Review and Amartya Sen at traffic signals, strawberry milk-shake at Canteena, kites at Haji Ali, the considerate chaos of Zaveri Bazaar, the stunning beauty of the queen's necklace, the buzzing, throbbing, commerce of Nariman Point, hot-buttered apple tea at the Tea Centre....hmmm.....you get the drift....I miss Mumbai, I miss civilisation

Saturday, February 18, 2006

The great Maruti name charade

All my driving life I've been driving an Alto, from as far back as 1997. My dad started driving an Alto in 1984. More Altos have been driven by Indians than any other car, ever. I know this sounds exagerrated, but the fact is that the following cars have all originally been the 'Suzuki Alto', in its various chronological avtars:

  • The Maruti 800 'old shape' (fully Japani, angular, squat, low, fun car 1984-1986)
  • The Maruti 800 'new shape' (Progressively less and less Japani, less angular, less low, less fun, and getting uglier with every little cosmetic daub; 1986 - Present)
  • The Maruti Zen (mostly Indian, bean-shaped, low, almost sporty, fun car; 1996 - Present, although recently they massacred the design in the name of a revamp)
  • The Maruti Alto [finally some honesty!!] (almost fully Indian, used to have a sporty engine, now only has an 800 engine with one more valve-per-cylinder and 5-speed box, nice looking, slightly improved of late)

Put the sales of all those cars together, and nothing can beat it!! And except the very first one, all of them continue to be sold alongside each other under different names.

Maruti has, over the years, been exceptionally circumspect in revealing the real names of their models to Indians. This is borne out by the fact that:
  • the Maruti Esteem is actually the Suzuki Swift,
  • the Maruti Baleno is the Suzuki Esteem,
  • the Maruti Gypsy used to be the Suzuki Jimny,
  • The Maruti Versa is the Suzuki Every
....that's a LOT of name shuffling! At least of late, the Vitara, the Swift and the WagonR have managed to sneak their way into India retaining their real names!

Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Cellphone network collapses under mush barrage

Yesterday, the IDEA cellphone network went belly-up on account of acute VD.(thanks Boomsa) Like it wasn't enough that all mass-media and retail outlets had decided to suffocate people with mush and pink, the immense outpourings of North Indian Lurve brought this mighty network to its knees. SC calls it the valentines day massacre. All IDEA phones stopped working. No incoming calls, no outgoing calls, no nothing. From about 5 pm on February 14th till the early hours of the 15th, the IDEA network was unable to carry any voice calls. Quite amazing how these network operators can spend so much money on special Valentines Day promotions, but not enough money on beefing up their bloody basic infrastructure. If not for the fact that IDEA gives me calls for a buck a minute, I would switch to HUTCH today.

Kosmix

Exciting things are happening in the world of search, Do check out Kosmix, a search engine developed by a couple of Indians Anand Rajaraman and Venky Harinarayan, who apparently were friends with Sergey Brin at Stanford. (More details here) They're not really taking on Google in the sense that Kosmix is not a Google substitute, but it permits more topical specialised searching, and it clusters its search results in a useful manner, it has rolled out an Alpha version of a travel search which should be interesting. Do check it out and spread the word.

Reminds me vaguely of 1999 when people in law school had just started using Google which was in a Beta stage then (and remained so for an eternity), while most others were using Yahoo search, AltaVista and AskJeeves. Google seemed so spare and so puny, with nothing but the logo and the search bar, it just didn't look like something that would eventually take over the world. Kosmix looks Google-ish, but nothing that happens to it will be surprising. Whether it succeeds or fails, most people will think they thought it would happen!!

Thanks JPJ for the tip-off

Tuesday, February 14, 2006

Top ten songs

The following were my favourite songs (or what I claimed were my favourite songs) sometime in the latter part of the year 1999. Six-plus years on, I think I'll analyse this list a bit:

  • Simon & Garfunkel-Bridge Over Troubled Water (was in love with S&G, although I preferred other songs, I probably thought this one should be their best, and it was soppy as hell, like I was at that time)
  • Iron Maiden- Fear of the Dark (was just discovering metal, particularly Iron Maiden, had heard this track more than any of their others, although it is a good track)
  • Simon & Garfunkel-Sounds of Silence (more S&G, this was definitely one of my favourites then, and probably among my favourites even now)
  • Pink Floyd-WIsh You Were Here (I had just started college, and you HAVE to like Pink Floyd when you are starting college, and what better top-ten overplayed song than WYWH, plus I hadn't heard too many others, so had to maintain my street-cred by citing the token Floyd song)
  • The Beatles-I Will(White Album) (Lovely song, still love it, the 'white album' in brackets was surely an attempt to look like a connoisseur of less popular Beatles albums, fact remaining that at that time the White Album was the only Beatles album I had heard as an album)
  • Radiohead-Creep (The ultimate wallow in self-pity ironic late adolescent song with noisy guitars...woohoo)
  • Sting - Fields of Gold (great song, overplayed, still love it though)
  • The Byrds-Turn, Turn, Turn (absolutely totally loved this song then, then I heard it too many times, and I saw Forrest Gump too many times, but it's Biblical and stuff, so maybe I once had a spiritual side)
  • G'n'R-Sweet Child of Mine (*bloody embarassing*, well it was 'cool' and slash was cool, and axl rose was cool, and the guitar bits are actually quite.....erm......cool)
  • Joe Satriani - Rubina's Blue Sky Happiness (fabulous song, and satriani was also 'cool', and some years later Standard Chartered used this tune in an ad campaign and that made me very happy, still one of my favourites)
Won't attempt a similar list now, might have to brutally analyse it some six years on....and feel sheepish.

Happy Ballantine's Day

Wishing you the best of health on this day in celebration of what is considered to be among the finest scotch whiskeys in the world. It does bother me that none of the other famous scotch whiskeys have a holiday of their own...their marketing guys must have been sleeping. Anyway enjoy and drink lots of whiskey, or if you are boring like me, drink orange juice.

Saturday, February 11, 2006

Bachelor Party

Today I am supposed to go for a bachelor party for a friend who's getting married. The standing instruction being circulated along with the invite is 'bring a stripper,' a gloriously optimistic attempt to use the law of averages to ensure the presence of a stripper at this bachelor party. The belief is that if everyone makes a sincere effort to bring a stripper, then if not a profusion of strippers, there will at least be one or two. This premise has two basic flaws:

a) nobody knows a stripper (yes i agree everyone should have, along with their chemist, pizza guy, mechanic, electrician and plumber, a stripper in their address book, but somehow this concept hasn't taken off)
b) everybody will assume that somebody else will get a stripper, and therefore like a pot-luck party where everyone brings salad thinking somebody else will get better food, there will be no stripper.

So basically this bachelor party will be a bunch of guys with no stripper, and some alcohol (if someobody bothers to bring it).....at least if we dispense with the bachelor party title, we can invite some women!

(Thanks to SC for the deep philosophical discussion on strippers and stripper availability, which formed the foundation for this post)

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Lotus Notes

To destroy the slightest possibility of a notion that this blog might someday achieve a unifying theme, here goes:

To all those people who have used Lotus Notes as an enterprise mail client, and/or the unfortunate ones who use Outlook, there's a very interesting debate that is brewing, which has been triggered by what appears to be a journalistically irresponsible piece in the Guardian, a paper I respect a lot. Please check out the Lotus Notes User Group website where the debate is being monitored, and hopefully will continue to be monitored. I am sincerely hoping this will turn out to be a full-blown war (of words, not the George Bush type)!

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

The A of C speaks on the Cartoon Crisis

The following quote by the Archbishop of Canterbury (who is, technically, the spiritual leader of one half of me) i think puts the whole cartoon debate in perspective....the excerpt is from the Guardian, the whole piece (though not really worth reading) can be found here.

Dr Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, in a speech at Mansion House in London last night called for Christians and Muslims to show each other mutual respect, vital to a healthy society. "The western world likes to think it is inviting other cultures into a peaceful and enlightened atmosphere of civility. But the strangers ... may well be dismayed to discover that this peacefulness and enlightenment seems to include licence to express some very unpeaceful and unenlightened attitudes to minorities. Just what kind of civility is this? 'Can't you take a joke?' is the immemorial alibi of bullies."

Monday, February 06, 2006

Arsenal Extends Lead in Premiership

Arsenal has extended it's lead in the English Premier League. Read all about it here . And yes, when I was speaking at the beginning of the season, of Arsenal winning the Premier League, it was the womens' team I was talking about....mens football? who watches that anyways??

Saturday, February 04, 2006

Ladakh

To all you millions of people who have in the short span of a week, started reading this blog....wanna come to Ladakh in May? The base camp, so to speak, will be in Delhi (Gurgaon to be precise). As of now there are four members to this expedition. One of them is going to come all the way from Cochin (the trip is his idea by the way). It will be a Sunday to Sunday deal (tentatively May 7 to May 13).....Apparently there will be trekking, lots of mountains, yaks, monks and whatever else is there in Ladakh....

This will also depend on the leave availability of various members of the expedition, and so it's still a vague plan at best....but come off.....fun will be had....suggest alternative destinations / dates / professions / ways to save the planet if you wish.....but join up....

Scorpions

I concede there are some people who would have been clamouring for Miles Davis when they were in Playschool, but for the rest of us I think the Scorpions have held appeal at some time or the other. Strong melodies, catchy riffs, lovely (if formulaic) song structures. But one area they definitely didn't score any points was their lyrical ability. It was much after I heard, loved, and tired of their classic track 'Winds of Change' that I realised that they never intended to pluralise the 'wind' part of it. So the song is actually 'Wind of Change.' Stunning difference eh?

Friday, February 03, 2006

Vitriol for the day

It's been said before, and I'll say it again, Gurgaon-ites can't drive. Now I could get into a whole list of things that they can't do, but that would just seem petty, so I'll stick to driving. Not only do they not have any brains, evidenced by the fact that everyday I see at least three vehicles going down the wrong side of a dual carriageway with their hazard lights blinking and their horn blaring, but also they have absolutely no consideration for their fellow motorist. While these things can be attributed to a monumental genetic tragedy which unfolded over many generations, for which they are not directly to blame, what I don't understand is how they don't even have a basic instinct for self-preservation. Bicycles and cycle rickshaws cross roads merrily in speeding traffic, with the guy riding them usually wearing a moronic expression of indifference to the traffic heading straight at him at high speeds. Then of course it's everybody else's responsibility to make sure they don't kill him and punish him for his congenital mental defects. And then you wonder whether you feel angry with him or feel sorry for his condition. They really are like cows...come to think of it...maybe that's why......naaah forget it, why offend religious sentiments and all that!

Sunday, January 29, 2006

Rang De Basanti - A Review

Loud, over-the-top, brave, ambitious, emotional, movie seeks suitable alliance from every single Hindi film fan in India.

The first thing I did when the credits started rolling at the end of this film is to exhale slowly, to get my breath back. To employ a DVD-sleeve cliche to describe Rang De Basanti, it'a "roller-coaster ride." It's a drama, a thriller, a comedy, an action movie, a love story and a social commentary all rolled into one colourful, brave, ambitious cinematic venture that scores so many points for effort, that the end product is almost irrelevant. And it's a good flick to boot!

After Mangal Pandey, expectations from the latest Aamir Khan project were suitably lowered. All the hype lowered them some more. But somewhere inside me, I had a feeling I was going to like Rang De Basanti, and I really really did. While I wouldn't say it's great cinema in the Hazaaron Khwaaishein Aisi genre, it's got so much heart that you fall in love with it, faults and all.

The story is about a film crew headed by Sue (a fine performance from Alice Patten, although you'd wish she spoke a little less Hindi), making a docu-drama about Bhagat Singh, Azad etc., Her Indian contact Sonia (Soha Ali Khan, looking absolutely lovely and real, unlike all the other Bollywood heroines these days) and her friends, who through happenstance form the cast of the movie, including DJ (Aamir Khan), join her in this project and the story starts off from there. There are shots of filming, of singing and dancing, some worship, some romance, more singing and dancing, until Flt. Lt. Ajay Rathod (played by Madhavan) appears on the scene. Events surrounding him, and the corruption in the Indian defence ministry transform this bunch of carefree jobless youth into revolutionaries in the mould of the characters they portray in their film.

Every frame in the movie is crackling with energy and this is aided to no mean extent by the fabulous sound. I haven't seen an Indian movie where the sound was so brilliantly recorded, mixed and split into 5.1 channels. The lovely soundtrack composed by AR Rahman, is a reflection not only of his musical genius, but of his technical wizardry, Live drums and powerchords never sounded so good in an Indian film, full marks to Rahman and his crew at the Panchathan Record Inn, Chennai. The film is well shot, competently edited and nicely paced. It's over the top, melodramatic and at times, corny, but we must not lose sight of the fact that it's a mainstream, big budget Bollywood blockbuster-in-the-making. Without some melodrama and some cheese, how would such a movie be true to its roots?!

The story never loses its grip on the viewer, with generous laughs and equally generous opportunities to shed a tear or two. The characters are well-defined, maybe a little too well-defined. The performances range from passable to inspiring. Those that stand out include Atul Kulkarni as Laxman Pandey, the well-meaning right-wing patriot, Sharman Joshi as Sukhi, an everyman, weak, cowardly and at the same time, incredibly brave. Om Puri dazzles in his brief role as the father of Aslam, one of the bunch.

The soaring super-dramatic, if slightly contrived, climax is again well executed and serves as a fitting end to this gobsmacker of a movie. It may not be great cinema, but it tries so hard to do so many things, and accomplishes a good lot of them with such effortless panache that you can't help but want to see it once more. Go watch Rang De Basanti, you probably won't regret it!

Smith

Went to a DVD place yesterday, flipping through their (frankly, impressive) collection of less-than-original DVDs, I happened to come across a combination DVD containing three Star Wars movies, including "Episode III: Revenge of Smith"......Someone in China has a brilliant sense of humour! Hence this blog....