Friday, September 30, 2005

Easy on the "ise", Mann

Found on Indian Express, via

‘RSS looking to Hinduise Sikhs, Christians’
By sermonising to the church to Indianise, RSS Chief was trying to intimidate Christians...
Indianisation of the church is tantamount to Hinduisation of Christians..

The sound of "DOO-I" in the center of the word "HinDUIsation" is not very, er, tongue-friendly. Also remember, there is no "I" in Hinduism. Bad Philosphy joke.

I therefore propose the term "Hinduzification". Somehow, it sounds more, what's the word, robust and teutonic and solid. See, it has a "UZI" in the middle. As far as I know, there has never been an "Uzi" associated with this religion. So, now those same syllables, instead of sound ing like "DO I" sound like "DOO-ZY", a sound that just drips down the tongue like molten butter on a hot July afternoon.

What's more, it even means something. According to, a "Doozy" is "something extraordinary or bizarre". Everybody wins.

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Chup Ho Ja, Tommy, Chup Ho Ja

Uma blogged this funny cartoon from my favorite magazine.

I still remember chuckling over the "no one on Internet knows you are a dog" joke in 1994 (or was it 1499?) Now in 2005, not only does no one care if you are a dog, but no one cares if you are a dog with a blog.

Milk In Nehru

Even my spammers enjoy whimsical, surreal poetry. From a mail in my inbox today:

felicitous try gravitate it try lamprey ! ! britten some
be peale may it can it's be countdown ! a
snug ,not soccer it.
milk in nehru in may parent and and axisymmetric on
not belladonna a see tidbit in or mot may try
woodhen andand rend it's.

My Famous Ancestors

What's common to Hanuman, Herr Nilsson and Iwazaru? If your answer was "they are all famous monkeys", buy yourself a banana.

But for the rest of you who thought Herr Nilsson was a semi-famous singer-songwriter from the 1970s, you need this database.

But hey, where are Sugreeva, the King of Monkeys, and the tragic Vali?

Wednesday, September 28, 2005

Fun With Numbers

Which country is better suited than Britain to produce a TV show about India's pivotal role in world history as the "birthplace of numeracy", and what Britisher better than a Python to host such a show?

It seems to me that BBC has perfected the art and craft of producing TV shows that combine diverse topics like Science, History, Architecture and Geography (coincidentally abbreviates as SHAG.) And so the Beeb rolls out another very promising show called "The Story of 1" about the history of numbers, hosted by Terry Jones (who, we are told, employs "slapstick, quirky humour and learning".)

I wish my math teacher employed more slapstick and less slap and even less stick.

It is now a well-established, scientifically proven fact that the Pythons always insert themselves in Pythonesque situations, and fanboys like me will always find an exactly corresponding situation from one of their films or TV shows.

Here's Terry, then:

"The numerals we use are from India. We think they are Arabic but they aren't," he says.

"We travelled miles to a temple to find the place where the first ever zero had been written on to a wall," he says. It was a Pythonesque quest.

"When we got there it was locked and the gatekeepers were on holiday," he explains.

"Anyway, we managed to get into the right room and looked at this inscription and it was early Hindi writing.

"But without a guide we had no idea what it said or which one was the nought.

The words "Joseph of Aramathea" and "aaaaarggggggghhhhh" are still ringing in my head.

Will the kind lady at Within/Without do us a favor and post a little review of the show?

A good example of Terry's "quirky humour" at the end of BBC's article.

No Direction Home - Part 2

How did he find the narrative in the voluminous raw footage given to him, Charlie Rose asked Martin Scorsese, after Part 2 of the film aired last night. Scorsese replied by talking about spending three-and-a-half years on assembling, editing and shaping the film, while he was making Gangs of New York and The Aviator and shooting his new film in Boston. After all, this is the same man who once "stole" studio equipment to shoot "The Last Waltz".

After seeing Part 2 of the film, the narrative became clearer. The film is as much about the artist's pursuit of discovering his "true voice" as it is about the artist. Dylan, ever the cryptic Zen monk, says an artist should never feel he has finally arrived some place. Rather, he should accept that he is always in the "process of becoming".

Hence the (double) significance of the title, "No Direction Home".

Goddamn sweet punk moment in the film: Dylan instructing the band to "play it fucking loud" as the audience begins to boo the band.

Tuesday, September 27, 2005

No Direction Home - Part 1

Last night was the premiere of Martin Scorsese's "No Direction Home" on PBS. A few days ago when I posted about it, I decided, rather smugly, that this was going to be a Scorsese event for me, not a Bob Dylan event. There was nothing I didn't already know about the man. Now that my foot and my mouth have been re-introduced and they are co-existing happily once again, let me say this: there is not much I know about the man.

Part 1 follows Dylan's early years, leading up to 1964-65. This is a look at the musical influences, his transformation from an "average" folk-singer-guitarist to a songwriter who could fingerpick, play harmonica and sing, a transformation that Dylan only half-jokingly attributes to "a deal with the Devil at the crossroads". He knows that many fans enjoy such allusions to blues mythology and he knows how some take it too literally.

Some images, words and sounds that made me sit up during the 2 hour film:

Woody Guthrie in the "hospital" (a mental asylum). Bob (and what would later be known as The Band) exploding into "Ballad of A Thin Man" in England after much heckling and booing; the dark, gloomy, suspended notes of the opening riff already sounding scary and crazy. Dylan referring to himself as a "musical expeditionary" with no past. The girlfriends who gave him shelter from the various storms ("they all brought out the poet in me" he says, and cracks the famous half-smile.) Dylan and Robbie Robertson on stage in England. Dylan and Robertson in the back of a limo, bona fide rock stars already, and Dylan complains "I can't stand the booing" (and at the exactly same time, in America, the Beatles complained that they couldn't stand the cheering). Dave Van Ronk's humility as he talks of young Dylan's sophistication in matters political. Billie Holiday singing "Strange Fruit". The great Studs Terkel interviewing Dylan on radio and asking him if "A Hard Rain's A-Gonna Fall" was about atomic rain and Dylan replying, "no, it's just a hard rain" and "I'm not a topical songwriter".

A musical puzzler moment for me: Joan Baez and Dylan at the Newport festival singing close harmonies. How on earth can ANYONE sing harmonies with Dylan? Sung individually, his notes are not exact but when sung in a phrase, they are exactly right. To sing just an octave higher than him is tough because Dylan's phrasing and timing is also very loose. But to sing thirds and sevenths harmonies? God. Joan Baez, while I am not crazy about her songs, must be a musical genius (and Dylan acknowledges it, saying "she was an excellent guitar player".)

Part 2 of the film airs tonight and now I can't wait for it.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

Justice Beats of America

Here be some delicious mixes. I especially enjoyed the Christopher "Flux Capacitor" Lloyd mix.

And who can resist anything featuring Walter Sobchak?

You're welcome.

I Don't Want To Be Called NRI

The term "NRI" has bothered me ever since it first began showing up in Indian newspapers, probably in the late 80s or early 90s (Anyone knows its "first-usage" history? Devraj of DickandGarlic, that's your assignment.)

I am certain the term was created for administration purposes. That's how governments see things when it comes to framing laws for property ownership, assets etc. The 1980s witnessed the first visible wave of temporary migration from India to the Middle East and pretentious words like "diaspora" and "hyphenated identities" weren't invented yet. Mother India didn't want to let go of her sons, it seems. Ergo, "Non-Resident Indian".

Fair enough.

But the way the Press uses it, "Non-resident" isn't an innocent, neutral description, but a strong modifier. It is an artificial gap between two humans. We, resident, They, Non-resident.

Take this headline appearing on "NRI Slays Family, Commits suicide in UAE".

How does it matter if the said slayer was a non-resident Indian? Does that tag of "non-resident" attract more readers? If so, then what does it say about the readers? Could it be a secret condemnation of the Indian who isn't "there"? Look at him, they seem to be saying, he crossed the seven seas and now he slayed his family! This is the fate that awaits those who leave their homes!

If the headline simply read "Man Slays Family....", it would become yet another horrific-crime news item. No one reads those anymore.

If it read "Indian Slays Family..." (as it does above the body of the story in, it piques our curiosity. Indian did it? But with it also comes the unbearably strong stench of complicity. After all,'s readers are mostly Indian. See, this was no ordinary killer, this was an INDIAN! What's worse, this was no ordinary crime, it was a MURDER. And get this - the INDIAN killed his FAMILY!

MURDER, INDIAN and FAMILY - Three supposedly incongruous ideas. Almost as unbelievable as the headline "Kalahari Tribesman Discovers Cure For AIDS".

So this where I come in: the rambling, drifting, rootless, immoral Indian whose sole defining characteristic ("salient feature", as our biology textbooks called it) is - what? His NON RESIDENCE, of course! (If this were the mandatory exposition of the Criminal's Motive in a detective novel, picture our hero exploding with those words while prodding his slightly-dense sidekick in the side, with a sharp cane.)

Cliches and pre-packaged truths neatly conceal the really important issues. We can find at least a million of those around us ("Islamic terrorists", "Sexy Pop Diva Britney Spears"...) But what are they really saying? More importantly, what are they not saying?

(Full credits to Public Enemy for the headline of this post.)

Saturday, September 24, 2005

What's Going On?

Remember that more-infectious-than-smallpox song by 4 Non-Blondes? Sure you do.
And I am sure you remember "He-Man and the Masters of the Universe". Just why it kept us glued to the TV, I will never know.

So here's some hilarious combinatorial goodness: He-Man singing "What's Going On".

Campy fun aside, pay attention to the last minute (or less, maybe) of the animation. Great use of "camera" cut-away and sound.

(found via Russell Lichter's blog. Lots of other linky goodness there, like the Bill "Calvin & Hobbes" Watterson interview and the link to BigElf's music, which is guaranteed to raise a smile if you miss the extremely loud Sabbath sound.)

Friday, September 23, 2005

Number Two

I spot Dylan's "Biograph" box-set in the library and decide to borrow it. It has been ages since I have heard funny, goofy stuff like "Jet Pilot". It is Bob doing stand-up comedy with a guitar.

The last time I heard the entire box-set end to end was in the final year of college. Or was it the third year? No, wait, it was the year Jonas Salk invented the polio vaccine. Long ago. It was the winter semester, the sunlight was kind and beautiful and my grades neither. All I did that semester was listen to this album, nurse a broken heart and scrounge for chump-change.

So I bring the CD over to the check-out desk. Like an efficient surgeon, the desk-lady cracks open the case and in it, we both see Disc 1. So far, so good. Then she opens that unwieldy flap-like thing on the back of the jewel-case holding Disc 1 and we both see Disc 3. So where is Number 2? Where the HELL is Number 2? Why won't Number 2 be around when I need it the most?

The desk-lady shrugs her shoulders and apologizes: "Sorry, but Disc 2 is missing". It has all the solemnity of "sorry, but we could not save your friend". Once again, Lady Fate had dealt me her trademark Rotten Cards. "Jet Pilot" is on Disc 2.

That Lady Fate, I tell you, you've got to watch her closely, cause she ain't no woman, she's a man.

Awakenings of Pedantic Feelings Upon Listening to the First and Sixth

Something is afoot. Proof follows.

I was listening to Beethoven's Sixth, enjoying the florid prose of the liner notes and I see the words "program music". OK, so the Sixth is considered "program music" by some. To hell with liner notes. This is LVB, not Yanni.

Then I am watching the opening night of the New York Philharmonic's season last night on PBS and the great Beverley Sills asks Lorin Maazel, the program director, if Mahler's First Symphony is not program music? She could have asked him so many other things about the symphony, but that question about "program music" is her first question.

See what I mean about things being afoot? Anyway, an excellent performance of the great "Titan" by the NY Philharmonic and I read up on "program music".

Program music is called so because these are "Compositions with extra-musical content that directs the attention of the listener to a literary or pictoral association" (source: Virigina Tech's Music Dictionary.) It also means there is some kind of a story-line that provides a context for the music, or, the story-line connects the various movements, if it is a symphonic work.

Opera is program music. Most lyrical pop music is program music (unless it is an album by the Sigur Ros, in which case it is absolute music. These guys once released an album WITHOUT song titles.) Most modern (or "cool") jazz aimed at absolute music. Song titles and songs rarely had any connections. I remember listening to "Kind of Blue" for the first time. Till "So What" hit that blissed-out, nirvanic-manic moment when Coltrane enters (you will know it when you hear it), I wondered if "So What" was not a sly, ironic title. Then I knew better.

Program music tries to convey specific images. Absolute music conveys impressions of images. Like Van Gogh's skies or Monet's flowers, musical compositions can be freed from the oppression of formality and "literalness".

In classical music circles, programmatic or program music is considered somewhat inferior to "absolute" music. So, if you want to impress another snob, simply say "oh, it is program music" and wrinkle your nose just a little. Not too much, just a little, lest the Mahler Mafia strike down upon thee with great vengeance.

Thursday, September 22, 2005

Scorsese on Dylan

Martin Scorsese's film on Dylan plays on PBS on September 26/27. I am excited not because it is a docu on Dylan, but because it is a feature-length docu by Scorsese. This man helped define rock film-making not once, but twice.

Biographies on Dylan don't interest me. There is nothing I want to know about the man that I have not already heard on the albums. Things that I do want to learn about are the years '66 to '74 (which are *not* covered in the film) and his musical partnership with The Band.

Roger Ebert may find "Don't Look Back" less than flattering, but to me, that film is still the real deal. Dylan's arrogance and aloofness captured in that film still makes me uncomfortable, but somehow, it also makes him "more real".

Wednesday, September 21, 2005

No Respect for the Bachelor Boy

This man was once a big deal in Britain and used to be practically worshipped in India. You could not pick up the guitar without being asked "play Bachelor Boy, men". I hated it. That waltzy rhythm drove me nuts, not to mention the happy, shiny, cheery sing-alongs the chorus would prompt. So I would refuse to play "Bachelor Boy". And how could we sing "Lucky Lips" when we all knew what Candy was doing in the back-room?)

Have I proven my street-cred? Well, I would be lying. Sir Cliff's music - that song in particular- was a chick magnet. It's a loathesome song but it is a chick magnet. And it seems some Brit radio stations are hell-bent on depriving nerdy kids of their chick-magnet songs. Thankfully, Sir Cliff is made of stronger stuff and he has announced his intentions to go on performing and recording.

I don't know ANYONE who has heard new Cliff Richard music since 1843 (the joke's on me too, I know), so I don't blame the radio stations. But the man has spent nearly TWO THOUSAND weeks on the singles charts. He's made a ton of money for everyone, including EMI, the radio stations and the DJs. Just play the goddamn songs and let the girls join in for the chorus and make them nerds feel all right for 2 minutes.

A Week's Supply of Tinfoil Hats, Free

I had just typed "Staples" in the google toolbar when I heard an idling truck engine. I look out the window and what do I see? The red and white Staples delivery truck.

Sunday, September 18, 2005

An Impossible Task

Rediff asks its readers: "Tell us which are the worst films you have ever seen!" (the exclamation mark - is that even appropriate? Shouldn't there be a "frowney", or "reverse-smiley" face?)

How does one pick the worst film?

By "worst", does Rediff mean the most boring film? I've slept through dozens of films. Or by worst, does Rediff mean the most absurd, ludicrous, over-the-top film? But some of those can be quite entertaining, right?

Then there are some films that disgust us. Perhaps a shameless exploitation flick, or a blatantly manipulative film (think of all the Big Tragic Themed pictures - cheerful survivors of Holocaust, the heroine dying of cancer, boy loses puppy - ok, that one still makes me cry.) Or some pretentious auteur-director's film about a 30-something character who Finds Himself. And all those cliched coming-of-age films.

The trouble is, unlike Tolstoy's unhappy families, all bad films are alike. They are all bad, they are all boring. Yes, they are *all* worst. They may be bad for different reasons, but make no mistake - they are all equally bad.

If some of them are so bad that they are memorable, they slip into the so-bad-it-is-good category. If some of them are so bad that they are memorable, they could be merely ahead of their time. If some of them are so bad that they are memorable, they could actually be challenging the audience's beliefs and values or challenging the accepted norms.

Friday, September 16, 2005

Dancing With Tears In My Eyes

BBC carried this series called "Day in Afghanistan: Daily Lives". The (really terrific) idea is to document one day in the lives of different Afghani people: teachers, dairy farmer, orphanage head etc.

Here's one that caught my eye ("Naseer Mansoor, 15, from Mazar-e-Sharif"):

"All the boys were making jokes and laughing because the teachers weren't around."

So now boys raise hell in the schools of Mazar-e-Shariff. How cool is that? Freedom tastes sweet. (Moral dilemma #1 for me: are wars inherently evil?)

But this next one is even cooler:
"I am really looking forward to going to the party. But there's one problem. My family always force me to dance at wedding parties, but I am not a good dancer. I've tried but I have failed. One time they put me on the stage and I just couldn't do it".
Naseer, you speak not just for yourself, but ALL boys blessed with two, sometimes even three, left feet.

Even my family often forces me to dance. Not just one time, but several times they put me on stage and only after half a bottle of gimme-whatever-that-is is consumed, can I dance.

Here's to Naseer Mansoor, to freedom in Afghanistan and to all my brothers who have tried to dance but failed.

And Nothing But

Bombay police recently administered sodium pentathol, aka truth serum, to Bombay's Public Enemy #1, aka Preeti Jain. Why?
In a narco-analysis test, a suspect is injected with sodium penthanol, a chemical that numbs powers of perception and supposedly makes it difficult for a person to lie during questioning.
Does it really work? "[the police] have received some interesting leads", says the Police Chief.

I had *no* idea Indian police makes use of such *interesting* techniques to get to the truth. Are there any guidelines that regulate the use of such techniques?

Wednesday, September 14, 2005

Portrait of An Artist As An Old Man

"Madadayo", (which in Japanese means "Not Yet"), was Akira Kurosawa's last film. He was 88 and probably a tired man. Suntory whiskey can do that to you. But "Madadayo" offers no such clues, for it opens wide its arms and embraces both life and death. This is no sentimental look at a life well-lived, neither is it pessimistic. It is simply beautiful. You wonder, was this written and directed by the same man who attempted suicide in 1970?

Most of us know at least one venerable, all-knowing Guru. Whether a favorite teacher from school or a music teacher, these were people with a fine mind whose influence on us extended well beyond the narrow circumference of their chosen subject. The protagonist of the film, a German Lit professor, is such a teacher. His students love him dearly and go to great lengths to make his life after retirement secure and comfortable.

Mr. Kurosawa simply observes the Sensei's life with its ups and downs. A house is burnt down, a cat is lost, a garden is built, a big mug of beer is had....tiny vignettes that are small films in themselves. But look past the surface and you will see deep observations on identification and attachment. Enjoy the warmth and lightness with which Mr. Kurosawa handles the interactions between the sensei and the students: they are filled with humor, grace, wit and startling zen-like wisdom at times.

There are some who find the film sentimental and consequently, find it "too" accessible. I am not one of them. "Madadayo" is a great director's great goodbye. If you have never seen an Akira Kurosawa film before, watch "Madadayo" and get to know the great Sensei.

Why OBL hates MTV

Syed Firdaus Ashraf learnt that Osama hates MTV.

When asked why, Osama is said to have replied
"man, they hardly play any videos anymore. I hate watching those reality shows. I wish they would play more Mili Vanili and Mariah Carey videos. I hate emo and I hate democracy and freedom of press too, though I hate emo more"

The Unluckiest Madrasi In The World

Rediff ran this headline: "The Beatle from Madras" but left the HTML tag intact: "Pete Best, the drummer the Beatles forgot". Of course, the Beatles forgot no such thing. They dropped him is what they did. You don't just "forget" a full-grown drummer.

But here's an interesting insight: ...the boy from Madras whose mother told his bandmates remarkable stories of living in India.

So did Mrs. Best's stories of India lead to John and George's infatuation with mysticism and India? That cannot be confirmed, nor have I read any references to such stories in the biographies, but like many stories in Beatle-mythology, only two people in the universe know the truth.

Tuesday, September 13, 2005

Generation D(eaf)

Remember that hoary cliche enacted by all stadium and arena-playing rock bands everywhere: "I can't hear you!", at which point the audience is supposed to drown out an electrically-powered PA system with a spectacular off-tune rendition of the chorus?

Turns out it may not be an act. He really may not be able to hear you, thanks to loud headphones.

My (g-gge-gen-) generation was probably the first one to plug one of them into over our ears. A favorite trick was to turn up someone's volume wheel all the way to MAX before they put on the headphones. It would be doubly funny if the cassette in the player was something like Van Halen's first album (where do you think Robert Zemeckis got that joke from in Back to the Future?) But eventually for most users of the Walkman, the volume wheel would be turned up slowly, notch by notch, as the music got louder and harder and your parents' cries to "do your homework" had to be quickly and efficiently drowned out with soul-rattling guitar. And later, when the Blueness of Our Souls and the Despair in Our Hearts had to be erased with a carefully chosen album like "Dark Side of the Moon", headphones were a damn necessity.

If only deafness turned us into another Beethoven!

Saturday, September 10, 2005

What Was That Again?

Steve Wynn, talking to Charlie Rose on PBS, about his hotel-casino: "I want it (the hotel) to be a destination. Because a destination is a place people go to be in".

What is the sound of one hand clapping? If you don't care where you are going, any road will take you there. We are searching for a black cat in a black room, only there is no cat.

Given enough Coronas, infinity is attainable.

Don't Say I Didn't Tell You

What: Eric, Jack and Ginger
When: October 24th, 25th, 26th.
Where: Madison Square Garden

Pray for me.

Please, God (no, not you, the other one), please: world peace, cure for AIDS, relief to Katrina victims and tickets to the show.

Friday, September 09, 2005

Skill-sets and price-points

Talking-head-lady on CNN, blabbering about FEMA's new man-on-the-ground Thad Allen: "he has the required skill-sets".

What happened to just skills? Did that die out with hunting, fishing, spearing and drawing on cave walls? Why the desire to fill silences and spaces with more words, particularly technical or even mathematical-sounding words?

Noticed how technology salespeople can no longer say "price"? It has to be "price-point". It instantly invokes images of graphs and charts and makes the mere act of providing a cost to the customer sound terribly exciting. "What would this software cost?" "Hmm...let's see, we can come to you at...a price-point (meaningful glance at the customer)..... of $19.95". Wowee, can I buy 10 of those?

As they say on infomercials, "but wait, there's more".

There was this caption-scrolling ticker thing on CNN about FEMA Director Brown moving back to Washington DC to see the "big picture". What? The man gets to sit in DC watching the aftermath on a new large-screen TV? What if Director Brown is tempted to look at very small pictures or perhaps, picture in picture? And what if the picture gets so big that he starts to see the whole planet or the Milky Way? Could he be nominated to the Fellow of the Royal Society of Astronomers?

If that happens, you know, at least he would have one hell of a skill-set.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Link to 4-Star Charities

This is a sticky for the next 4 days. Look for new posts below.

Charity Navigator has published a very handy page with a full list of all 4-star charities that are assisting those affected by Katrina.

Does anyone know a similar resource for analyzing charities in India? (BTW, Charity Navigator ranks ASHA and Association For India's Development - two India-related charities - very highly.)

wheat, wheat, what-cheer, what-cheer

There was this lovely little bird outside my study window. It was bright red, had a narrow, sharp beak and looked like some kind of a woodpecker. But it's almost-absurd redness made me curious. Was this some woodpecker? Or maybe it was some rara avis right in my backyard. I had to find out.

(Above pic courtesy Flickr member Amerune. All rights as per Flickr's terms)

Since Google sadly lacks a real physical interface, by which I mean one cannot shove a live bird into the hungry jaws of the search engine, the "Complete Field Guide to American Wildlife (East, Central & North), By Henry Hill Collins, jr" came to my rescue.

The bird was, of course, the Richmondena Cardinalis, also known as the "Cardinal" or the American Red Bird. "Wheat, wheat, what-cheer, what-cheer" is the whistle of the cardinal.

Another interesting fact about the red bird: a hundred years ago, it was rare to see this bird north of Philadelphia. (source:

What cheer, what cheer.

Wednesday, September 07, 2005

Life As A Screenplay


  • Boy suffers from constipation, brings laxative to school. {set-up}

  • Curiously, several students complain of "lose bowels" (sic, sick). {payoff, high comedy}

  • Teacher suspects a Mickey Finn. {dark clouds gather}

  • Beats up boy and his friend with a wire . {Tragedy, Terror}

  • Both boys hospitalized. {Horror}

  • It was Teacher's Day.{Ultimate Irony}

Thimmappa, saar, Sharan and Rahul will be Sharan and Rahul. Next time, please go wireless.

Tuesday, September 06, 2005

BoingBoing's Ill-Timed Sarcasm?

BoingBoing posts a snide headline about India's $5 million aid for Katrina relief and this makes some bloggers unhappy and understandably so.

Club810 smells the "R" word, though he is not sure. And isn't that the worst kind of a racist dig at someone? But do BoingBoing's headline and Bruce Sterling's post smack of "elitist snobbery"? And is this "a subtle dig at the Indian people"?

Another blog titled "Random Signs of Intelligence" has similar thoughts. He urges Xeni of BoingBoing to "knock off the smart-ass remarks".

Just in case you didn't notice, BoingBoing's post is based on a post in Bruce Sterling's blog which refers to a report in - guess what - TIMES OF INDIA, thereby making this whole business far less important than getting that $5 million to the hurricane victims.

Personally, I do not think BoingBoing would stoop to such depths.

Fun With Names

I saw this byline in an article in a Reader's Digest (large-print edition) in a doctor's waiting room - "William Speed Weed". This guy must have shattered the Coolth Barrier in high school with a mere "Present, Sir" during roll-call.

And the article? Oh, something about the physical and emotional benefits of laughter.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

Remembering MC5 and Independence Rock

Farhad Wadia's post in Gigpad (via India Uncut) is just so sad. Read these words:
This too (sic) me reeks of a simple prejudice that Rock listened to by Middle Class Non-Affluent College Kids is Sound Pollution & Jazz Rock Or Fusion patronized by the Page 3 Crowd was Sweet & Appropriate Music
First of all, to all you jazz-rock fans and fusion music patrons and the Page 3 crowd, take your Kenny and shove it up your G, ji.

I believe the Bombay Brownshirts' stopping the concert is more than just a critique of the music. Remember that sickening attitude that if you listened to rock music, you were shedding your Indian-ness? I think it is that old Indian fear raising its ugly head.

Or maybe it's a matter of money and bribes and cuts and commissions. You pays, you rocks. Or, as He put it more eloquently, money doesn't talk, it swears.

Either way, the Bombay Brownshirts have pulled the plug (not the same as unplugged, heh heh.) on Bombay's music. Don't even think that only Bollywood provides the soundtrack to life in Bombay. Rock and roll used to be so quintessentially Bombay.

And Independence Rock was such an innocent affair, remember? We would hang around Rang Bhavan for 2 days, stoned, drunk, happy, amused but mostly drunk on the music. Most of it wasn't even good, but it didn't matter. All we cared for was plugged-in guitars. We didn't even go to Rang Bhavan for the girls. That's how much the music mattered to most kids. Sure, there were a miniscule percentage of girls in the crowd, but not once did we see anything nasty. Everyone knew every Metallica song, everyone knew every AC/DC chorus and everyone passed the joint. Someone coughyourstrulycough once shared a rather potent doobie with a semi-celebrity, but I ain't namin' names here :) Yeah, there was the obligatory chant (you know the chant, don't you?), the occasional taunt aimed at the cops, but as Mr. Wadia puts it, these were mostly middle-class kids. Mostly scaredy-cat, non-affluent middle-class kids. No one meant any harm. "I-Rock" at Rang Bhavan was that kind of a concert. This was no CBGB circa 1978. No broken bottles, no fights and no blood.

The music would end at 11 and we would pour out of the arena to catch the train. The train to Andheri would be filled with black shirts, bandanas and ripped jeans. And there we were all in one place, a generation lost in the 11:59 Borivali Fast. Everyone's voices sounded like Rod Stewart's vocal chords had been rubbed with sandpaper soaked in bourbon, but still, we excitedly discussed (non-) performances, the flubs, bad notes, bad theatrics and then this one year, a guitarist who pulled a Jimi on the crowd by playing the National Anthem. No, not the Star-Spangled Banner, our National Anthem. 3000 kids stood up and cheered. Fuck yeah. It was a fine sight.

Can someone tell me what was so dangerous or subversive about this event?

Even though I am tempted to view this as a (romantic) "Us Versus Them" epic cultural battle, Amit is right about focusing on point 5 in Farhad's list. This is not just about rock and roll, this is about the reversed power-pyramid. This is about the tail wagging the dog. This is about ruling with fear. This is about abusing power. This is bullshit fascism.

So In that fine 1968 spirit, let me say this to the Bombay Brownshirts: Kick Out the Jams, Motherfuckers.

Summer's Almost Gone

"Morning found us calmly unaware/Noon burn gold into our hair"

Did I just quote Jim Morrison? Ugh.

Did someone hit the super-fast-forward button on Memorial Day?

Wrath of God

I sat through 95 minutes of cinema heaven: Werner Herzog's "Aguirre, Wrath of God" was in the DVD player. I bought this DVD for a dollar in a book-sale. Ha!

Along with Coppola's river movie, "Aguirre" is the other great river movie. And since storms and seas and water are very much the zeitgeist, not to mention foolish and dangerous missions in quest of "Oil Dorado" in Iraq, the film packed an unusual impact.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Film Credits As Art

We all have our favorite film directors, favorite film composers, cinematographers and for the real film geeks, even a favorite editor (and if you have a favorite gaffer, you are just plain nucking futs.)

But when someone says favorite "credits designer" they usually mean Saul Bass. When Saul Bass designed the title credits for a film, the audiences would pay attention. It would also help that these were usually good films. Psycho, North By North-West, The Seven-Year Itch, Goodfellas, The War of the Roses, West Side Story...phew! The man designed great titles for way too many great films.

So check out this beautifully designed site with some great essays on this genius's work.

Well-designed opening credits can be so much fun. They not only tell you about the story that is to follow, some offer far more subtle clues about the characters and their worlds. As an example, look at Pather Panchali's opening titles. A simple, clean, distinctive, literary motif which immediately connects us to Bengali literature and the rural setting. Mr. Ray was an illustrator by profession before he turned into a film-maker, so it is hardly suprising that he paid attention to such details.

Bollywood has its (miniscule) share of well-designed titles. Some of the films that come to mind are Sai Paranjape's "Katha" and "Chashme Buddoor" and a couple of Hrishikesh Mukherjee films (I believe the delightful "Chhoti Si Baat" was one of them.) Slim pickings, I know, but then Indian film-makers have not consciously developed a visual aesthetic.

(via Yahoo Picks)

Finally, Eric Clapton Notices Me

Says the Man Formerly Known as God: "My audience had been predominantly lonely air-guitar-playing blues guys in their bedrooms."

Thank you, Mr. Clapton, sir. Thank you for noticing.

To be fair to all my lonely, air-guitar-playing blues brothers, some of us did have real guitars in our bedrooms, but hey, if EC is modest enough to call himself an "apprentice right up to my 50s", then I suppose our real guitars are as light and pointless as air-guitars (just kidding, air-guitars are AWESOME and HEAVY and LOUD.)

Since his days in John Mayall and the Bluesbreakers, Clapton has always underplayed his voice, his lyrics and his abilities as a writer. Sayeth he:

"The difficulty is figuring out how to write allegorically. Great writers create a fictitious framework to describe their own situation. That's fine art. I can't get there."

This is the man who wrote "Layla" and "Can't Find My Way Home", two of the most personal, touching songs in the rock canon. Sir, (and I know Clapton's reading this) you created fine art 30 years ago, so please rest assured that you can write all that allegorical stuff and create fine art.

Well, guess who's producing his next album? They call him the breeze.

Let's see now, Cale stole the intro riff from "Sunshine of your Love" for Cocaine, Clapton stole "Cocaine" and made it his biggest hit and now JJ produces Clapton's album. This is what they call the circle of Life.

Phrase of The Day: "Toilet-Like"

Here's one way to ruin this stunningly beautiful structure: Erect an UGLY toilet-like concrete structure inside the palace fort.

Just who has been given this historic architectural project of national importance? Why, the one organization that everyone instantly associates with such projects - The Uttar Pradesh Rajkiya Nirman Nigam. Check that website out for some eye-stabbing beauty.

Can anyone tell me Why they would want to put up a permanent structure inside the palace walls? Did some brain-hungry zombies descend upon Mysore?

And I challenge you to find me a more tear-gland busting comment than this - "J.V. Gayatri, Deputy Director of Heritage, said that the Palace is not a heritage monument as it is not more than a hundred years old. It was built in 1912".

I have nothing against ugly toilet-like structures. God knows they are critical during times of digestive disasters of Level 2 and above. But I have everything against an ugly toilet-like structure being put up inside the exquisite Mysore Palace.

Hey, Tourism Board people, that's our palace too. The King may have built it, but it is *our* heritage.

Read what architect Gautam Bhatia has to say about this "uglification" of India.

There is A House in New Orleans

Most people that have visited New Orleans have been wondering about the fate of the magical "French Quarter" and the legendary Bourbon Street following Katrina. Reports confirm that the historic French Quarter has been "luckier" than the rest of the city.

I know, tiny consolation, given the extent of death and destruction, but still, it is the French Quarter. I have been there only once and Bob Dylan's phrase "Bringing it all back home" best describes my feelings about the place.

P.S.: Yesterday, reports came in about Fats Domino being missing in the floods following Katrina. Now BBC says he is "rescued but missing". The story says they think they saw a man resembling Fats in a picture of a rescue operation.

Thursday, September 01, 2005

How Many Deaths Will It Take Till They Know?

There I was, all prepared to write about another FRICKIN' 40 cent hike in gas prices and then I saw Uma's scary post.

9500 dowry-related deaths every year? That's nearly 4 times the number of deaths on 9/11.

There's a war being fought in India. There are several major wars being fought in India RIGHT NOW. So let's not kid ourselves about our gentle, peace-loving ways. We are sick, we are twisted and we are hurting badly.