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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!