Sunday, July 31, 2005

Are they fucking nuts?

My niece in Bombay begins a new chapter in her life. She was recently admitted to an engineering college.

There was the minor problem of 944 mm of rain last Tuesday, and life in general achieved haywireosity pretty quick. As luck would have it, the deadlines for paying up the fees for these colleges was today (i.e., July 31.) So my niece and her mother braved the elements to reach the engineering college so as not to miss the deadline. Thankfully, they made it to the college and back safely.

But seriously, have the folks on the admission panel in these institutes gone completely cuckoo? There is water-logging on the streets, floating animal carcasses, grounded traffic and other hazards. Can't they postpone the admissions process by a few more weeks?

(If they have already moved the deadlines, I do take my words back.)

Friday, July 29, 2005

The Satyajit Ray meme?

What is this, the Satyajit Ray Week or something?

First there was this post by Great Bong.

Then there is Jabberwock discussing the marvellous "Charulata".

Mr. Kurosawa once said, "not to see his (i.e. Ray's) films would be like living without seeing the sun and the moon".

Therefore, this week, I am ensuring maximum solar and lunar irradiation: "Agantuk" sits pretty in the VCR. And my copy of "Goopy Gyne" is expected shortly.

CloudBurst, Mumbai Help

(via Amit of India Uncut.)

For important news updates and information on the Bombay Rain Disaster (link to Cloudburstmumbai)

For general emergency-related information about Bombay (link to Mumbai Help)

Beware: he swears

Barney belongs to the Rock And Roll Hall of Fame, not a zoo.

This 5-year old macaw asked a mayoress to fuck off and so as not to leave a lady vicar out, he asked her to fuck off as well. Such dislike for organized religion at such a young age!

It is clear Barney has a problem with authority figures. Why else would he refer to two policemen as "wankers" after helpfully suggesting that they too fuck off?

Barney, in case you are also intelligent enough to read blogs, know that you are not just an ordinary parrot, you are a rocker and a punk. You are holding up a furry, defiant middle finger to humanity because you believe in freedom of speech. If they think they can banish you from public areas in England, well, wankers, fuck off. You, you and you too.

Thursday, July 28, 2005

The world loves you, Michael Palin

Found here. Thanks, BoingBoing.

Had the Monty Python guys stopped working in 1975, there would still be enough reasons to praise them. I mean, worship them. If any group deserves the "The Beatles of XYZ" tag, it is Monty Python (and the XYZ is comedy, of course.)

However, what makes the Pythons even more interesting than the Beatles (hurts me just to say this) is that the individual members have gone on to do so much good stuff even after they "disbanded".

So here's one more reason to worship a Python: Michael Palin's travel books. (The links under the section titled "Journeys" on the left will take you to his other books.) Palin is giving away his travel books for free. Yes, free.

The books are based on his TV series and if you haven't seen it (i mean "them": there's more than one series), you are missing out on a superb show.

Mr. Palin is naturally curious, which makes him the ideal traveller. He is very interested in cultures and people and you can see how comfortable he is among them. The show is never about him, the celebrity, the comedy-God. It is always about the destination, the travel, the culture or even the food. Palin is invisible and yet, when the series ends, you feel like you just said goodbye to your best friend. You know, the one who's got great stories, travel anecdotes, jokes, witty observations...

Like any great artist, Palin leaves a very unique stamp on the show and with so much grace and intelligence.

So, what are you waiting for, download the HTML books for free and read them at leisure. As Michael Palin's good friend once sang, "arrive without travelling".

Wednesday, July 27, 2005

It Had To Happen

It's not just a play, it's a musical. About a famous Indian. Not just any famous person, but this Indian

The idea is campy but who cares?.

The director, who goes by the name Sabyasachi Deb Burman, (no, not this S.D. Burman, the real musical genius) appears to be doing something right: a thousand people were in attendance on the opening night, according to the BBC story. A thousand people! This great actor could kill for such an opening night probably.

She must be space truckin' round the stars

At the time of the last shuttle disaster, I learnt that astronaut Kalpana Chawla was a big fan of the above-mentioned song and the band. So there was a certain sense of camraderie. Here was a babe who "rode the fireball" and liked hard rock.

So when the shuttle left Cape Canavarel yesterday, I just had to play "Space Truckin'.

It must take Jupiter-sized balls (no offense to the lady astronauts) to get into that tin can and not go completely nuts at the prospect of re-entry. There was a time when astronauts were considered true heroes and pioneers. They still are. Space travel is still a dangerous game and these crazy men and women in their magnificent machines are showing us the possibilities for the future.

Thank God we have these brave explorers and thank God we have music in our solar system.

Sidenote: Ian Paice's solo on this song must be one of the most underrated pieces of drum-work in rock history.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

Brokers Cream, Fans Scream, I Still Dream

Jammers par excellence, Masters of the extended solo, purveyors of Johnsonian blues, the Supergroup formerly known as Cream for a brief period in the nineteen-sixties and now together again are rumored to perform in New York City.

When they played Royal Albert Hall this spring, tickets sold out faster than ice cream (heh heh, ice "cream") in Central Park on a hot summer day. A New York gig won't be any different, I am sure. But I hope I get to watch them live this time around. I also know I *will* someday grow a third arm and will finally be able to play the solo on "Crossroads". You gotta have faith-uh-faith-uh-faith-ha.

Like any other dinosaur act (albeit a very talented and exciting dinosaur), tickets are going to be scarce and consequently, pricey.

A "premium front floor" seat is going for $3,295. That's the seat from where you can smell the burning fretboard. What do you mean Clapton doesn't burn his guitars? At $3,295, I would like Mr. EC to not only burn his famous Gibson SG, but also smash Ginger's drum kit and sing "Happy Birthday to You" in a skirt. Ok, maybe not.

But come on, $3,295 for 2 hours of blues music?

And what's with this business of ticket-brokers getting the best seats in the house? I took 10 years to find out what SWLABR stands for, but still.

About time, Doctor, about f***ing time.

Generally speaking, the mere sight of a medical expert is enough to make most people bow down to them. The gray-haired, scrubs-wearing, stethescope-swinging doctor is a veritable God for the common man. He is an oracle - no, he's a giver and taker of life itself, and just look at him, so wise and brilliant and full of medical jargon and wow, they spend 10 years in school!

Reality, however is different. Not all treatments work. Doctors do screw up. Patients live with their pain and sometimes, they die.

So, don't you wish doctors could be a little more human and a little more accepting of their mistakes? Dr. Friedman poses this question in today's New York Times.

Here's a scary-as-hell statistic from the essay: "...44,000 to 98,000 people die each year in hospitals from preventable medical errors, many of them presumably made by doctors."

One of the most frustrating aspects of dealing with any expert is the implicit (and often explicit) "I Talk-You Listen" nature of the conversation. Whether we like it or not, arrogance is a part and parcel of expertise. Lawyers, surgeons, nuclear scientists, plumbers... But in a medical situation, this frustration is worsened by pain, sorrow and a ton of good old FUD. Patients know the treatment isn't working; they can feel the pain returning again and again; they are aware of the discomfort caused by the treatment - but still, they have no way to communicate this with the doctor.

Why? Because the Doctor's word is the Gospel truth. You don't dispute the Doctor's words. It might upset Him to think that you think He made a mistake.

I am aware that doctors do an incredibly tough job. But a little humility - is that too much to ask?

Hey, Rediff, your slideshow AND your headline SUCK

This ugly slideshow on Rediff has a gem of a headline:

"Heroes can be less better looking than heroines"

Less better looking? WTF?

Don't writers have to be more better with their grammar than Bollywood heroines?

The slideshow has many other keepers too. We learn of something called a "mad health regimen", we learn about some critical percentages and that today's audiences want to see a heroine dance (yeah, that's heroic) and want her to look vulnerable.

And this, according to the writer, is "one of those rare assignments journalists fight for".

Good for you.

Monday, July 25, 2005

Repeat after me: level playing field talks about a "double whammy for Indian IT players".

What is this double whammy they speak of? Competition from overseas companies on two fronts. More specifically, competition for resources and competition on prices. An Accenture or an IBM can (and will) take on the Indian offshore players. It's a matter of time and capital.

What does this mean for customers in US and Europe? Theoretically, increased competition should result in better quality and better prices. But till clear market leadership emerges, poaching of resources (see the linked article for some attrition figures) and aggressive pricing will continue.

Yes, your technical architect will be 30% cheaper, but you will go through 3 of them in 3 months.

Herbie - Fully Bribed

2005 is the Summer of Love for car companies in India and Andhra Pradesh is the new San Francisco. Everyone knows that.

But VW, seems to have taken its "Drivers Wanted" slogan a bit too seriously (link to BBC).

First the ho-hum:

"Volkswagen has paid the Indian state of Andhra Pradesh around 2 million euros
(£1.4m; $2.4m) in compensation for misdealings linked to the carmaker.

VW said former senior executive Helmuth Schuster had "deceived" officials into paying funds into a company set up to promote a VW's interests in the state. "

Now the ta-da!:

"VW personnel chief Peter Hartz stepped down earlier this month amid claims that union leaders at the firm were bribed with holidays and prostitutes."

Interesting choice of corporate gifts there. Anyone got VW's corporate mission statement handy?

Doors Doors Na Raha

"Two remaining members (link to BBC) of The Doors have been banned from using the group's name while touring with a revamped version of the legendary 60s act."

John Densmore, the drummer, on the ruling: "I'm just so happy that the legacy of the true Doors, and Jim Morrison in particular, has been preserved by this decision."

You, and the rest of us, John.

Oh, and the words "legendary" and "revamped" should never appear in the same sentence.

P.S.: For the non-Hindi speaking readers, the title is a play on an old Bollywood song titled "Dost Dost Na Raha", which translates as "I lost a good friend".

Sunday, July 24, 2005

Earthquake hits Nicobar Islands (India), Thailand and Japan

SEA-EAT has the updates. Emergency Number in the Nicobar Islands: +91-3192-232-100

What a tremendous resource SEA-EAT is.

Additional (BBC) coverage (Rediff)

Let's hope there are no losses and injuries.

Is This The Mistaken-Identity Killing Week?

Three teenaged boys who inadvertently walked into an ambush laid by security forces in the Kupwara area of Jammu and Kashmir were killed by forces who mistook them to be militants, the police said.
Rediff reports

We will all rush to the boys' defence, and rightfully so. They were little boys, one of them a student of Standard VI. That was when I had discovered the greatest book ever written for boys: The Adventures of Tom Sawyer. Death had no business hovering around these boys.

But also spare a thought for the security personnel. They work in a state of paranoia, suspicion and fear round the clock. Anyone - a pregnant woman, a young man - or anything - a transistor radio, a bag - could be the end of their lives.

Back in 1999, the NYPD got entangled (link to Wikipedia) in a similar mistaken-identity killing. There was a lot of noise in the media about racial profiling, but the policemen were acquitted by the jury.

But we are talking about Kashmir. Is anyone watching the watchmen?

Saturday, July 23, 2005

Bad Babes of Bollywood

Today's New York Times has a story titled "Bollywood's Good Girls Learn to be Bad". Go to this place if you don't like to register.

So are the Bollywood girls of 2005 really going "bad"? What has changed since, say, the nineteen-sixties or seventies? No, wait, I'll tell you: the actresses can now smoke, swear, swig and shag with the best of their male counterparts. "Anything you can do, I can do better", as the old song goes.

Well, to be perfectly, clear, it's not the actresses themselves that are discovering the joys of sin, but the characters portrayed by these femmes. Yes, you heard it right. Bollywood actresses no longer mind portraying bad girls on screen.

No more the weeping, wilting Tulsis of our aangans. They will now take on daring, mind-blowing, multi-dimensional roles.

And monkeys will fly out of my butt.

But here's a question: is the "bad girl" character harder for the actresses to portray (one of the actresses cried during a shoot because her character was *really* bad - did she have to eat a high cholesterol meal?) or is it harder for the audiences to accept a bad Indian girl?

Is it our conditioning or theirs that is the problem?

Fan, meet Feces.

(Via The Guardian):

The man shot and killed on a subway car by London police in front of horrified commuters apparently had nothing to do with this month's bombings on the city's transit system, police said Saturday in expressing their ``regrets.''

Read here

So the London Police had the cojones to admit their mistake. Still, the victim's family has to endure a life of regret and frustration. Plus the expected cries of "profiling".

Friday, July 22, 2005

American Masters - I

Two Creedence Clearwater Revival albums were played back to back (to back to back) in the car for the past 3 weeks. With their bright, fat, treble-y sound, CCR's music is great when played loud in the car.

We love CCR for the singles. Like the Beatles' Red and Blue albums, people can probably recite the songs on "Chronicles" in sequence. But what surprises me now is the quality of the albums.

The albums in play were "Willy And the Poor Boys" and the eponymous debut album.

Without question, "Willy" is a far superior album than the debut (and Cosmo's Factory and Green River were still better), and what a fine idea behind the album.

Just the title "Willy and the Poor Boys" takes you right down to the South. The cover is a simple shot of the band jamming, really old-school. Just 4 musicians playing in a little town, "down on the corner", as the kids gather round to "watch the magic boy".

When every other band in 1968 or 1969 was going for the groovy-psychedelic-spaced-out artwork, CCR adopted a refreshingly honest look (the previous albums attempted that Grateful Dead/Jefferson Airplane look, but I think better sense - and John Fogerty - prevailed).

Their version of "Midnight Special" or "Cotton Fields" is not some gratuitous, rural folk-blues cover. They are truly great interpretations of the songs. More importantly, they fit into the theme or the mood of the album.

"Fortunate Son" delivers a huge punch with its rather blunt politics: the privileged will live happily, the poor won't ever. For a long time, I associated the song only with the Vietnam war. Then I thought of how the lyrics could fit into any time and any society with great social inequalities, like say, India. As they say, great art becomes universal by being very local.

"Don't Look Now" could have been written by Kabir or a Zen monk. The lines "Don't look now, someone's done your starvin'/don't look now, someone's done your prayin' too) still send shivers down my spine.

Great, great American rock and roll.

And off we go

All stories must begin somewhere. So after frantically searching for some ideas, I hit upon a self-referential one:

This is a "frist post".