Friday, March 31, 2006

Korean Defector Has Courage, Bad Taste In Music

Pianist Kim Cheol-Weong said he decided to defect to South Korea after hearing decadent Western music in a coffee shop in Moscow.

What music could be so powerful as to make Kim escape "across the Tumen River to China", even as he endangered the lives of those he left behind? Sure, music hath the c to s the s b, but can it make a man say "Annyeonghi kyeseyo" to crazy King Kim Jong Il? And if there is such a music, why isn't it on my iPod?

So I started guessing. Was it the B-side of "Abbey Road"? It's decadent in that 9-part harmonies kind of way. Was it "Street Fighting Man"? "Like A Rolling Stone"? A Wagner opera? Beethoven's Ninth? Pathetique? "Anarchy In The UK"? Heh, "Ride Across The River"?

The answer will shock you. (Via Drudge)

If my coffee shop ever played that artist, I would defect into North Korea.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

Static And Hum On Mansoorpur 1

Remember Raghav Mahato and his "pirate" radio station, Mansoorpur 1? The bastards shut it down. (link to BBC.) has more details on this story. (link via Bollyspace)

According to a senior official in Propag..I mean, Information Ministry, "there were 16 licensed community radio stations in the country and that only educational institutions were allowed to run such stations."

OK, so licenses are licenses. I do not wish to discuss their utter and obvious uselessness. What I do want to point out here is how the law works differently for the rich and the poor.

How is it that "computer-bloggers" based in India enjoy the privilege of blogging without fear of censorship or shutdown, but a radio-blogger, for that is what Raghav Mahato is, does not enjoy the same right or freedom?

Chinese blogger Hao Wu deserves the world's attention, and so does Raghav.

Finally, kudos to Reporters Without Borders for fighting the fight.

Full Mast

You know the captioning service on TV which clinically and prosaically describes ALL on-screen sounds like "audience applause" or "sound of a hyena grunting" in, well, in so many words? The service is mostly accurate with an occasional goof.

Like the other day when I saw the caption on a news show about Scarlett Johansson topping some "reader's pole". Whoever that lucky reader was, sir, we salute you.

A salute is also due to this punning captioner. No Spelling Nazi could have broken the news of Miss Johansson's achievement with such effectiveness.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

And In the Middle of Negotiations, You Break Down

The Beatles fight Apple Computers.

Nobody asked me for an opinion, but if I were the presiding judge, I'd make Steve Jobs wear a toilet-seat around his neck and perform Revolution 9 in Esperanto. Then I would make him replace the word "Apple" with a lesser-known fruit.

Chikoo Computers has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

A legal eagle looks at the case.

Anyone remember eating that life-altering chikoo ice cream in that little shop in Vile Parle?

Tuesday, March 28, 2006

Love Of Water

"Once there was a river, now there's a stone"

It's not just a lyric, you know. The rivers are running dry (some random examples) and stones in river-beds are bad for the backstroke.

How couldn't we have seen this coming? It takes twenty tons of water to make one pound of coffee. A thousand liters to grow a kilo of wheat. Chew on that chapati, Chandu.

Fred Pearce, author and environmental scientist, was on Fresh Air last night. He has a new book titled "Water: The Defining Crisis of the Twenty-First Century" about - you guessed it - the coming global water crisis. Another interview with the author here.

Read and shiver.

Monday, March 27, 2006

Don't Eat The Yellow Snow

YECCH Rating: High, post is decidedly NSBOAODM (Not safe BEFORE or AFTER or DURING meals)

Dreamed I was an Eskimo / Frozen wind began to blow /Under my boots and around my toes / The frost that bit the ground below/ It was a hundred degrees below zero...

While the Eskimo mama in Frank Zappa's song cautions young Nanook about the "yellow snow", I found no mention of the said phenomenon in Robert Flaherty's legendary documentary, "Nanook Of The North". Clearly the Zap was joking.

But it made me curious. Just how do eskimoes go about their "business" in that biting cold? Is it in the igloo? Or is it outside the igloo?

I could find only one response to this question (just search for the term "eskimo" on the page and you will find the post.) It's not a very detailed explanation, but it will do.

Suddenly, I am reminded of travelling by trains in India and the various sensory delights offered by the toilets. Please refrain from using the toilet when the train is in the station. Ah, good times.

Sunday, March 26, 2006

A "Real-Life" Screenwriter Next Time, Sir?

Nabh Kumar Raju, a first-time second-time director, deserves a "Director With Cojones" award.

When little-known Bollywood director Nabh Kumar Raju was looking for six actors to star in his movie on the underworld, he had one criterion: they should have committed or had a brush with crime at some point of their lives.

So he hires 6 ex-cons. Holy Mother of All Method, this man is a Verite-casting genius. Lars Von Trier would be proud of him.

But did casting 6 ex-criminals make his job any easier?

"During the first acting workshop, these guys had a big fight for about 15 minutes. Even today I am still really shocked about it."

But the fight sequences must have been a breeze? Not really, it turns out. The too-real violent takes left the the fight director feeling "very scared during the shoot".

"the actors would get so involved in the scene sometimes that during a fight sequence, they would actually beat each other up."

I know what you are thinking - how could the fight director be intimidated so easily? Well, if your cast starts using real chairs to hit one another on the head, you too would be caca-ing bricks.

Raju's Blues. (link to BBC.)

Friday, March 24, 2006

STFU, You Clever Klutz, I Always Win.

Who said artifice is necessary for a good conversation?

David Hume, that's who. And how does artifice contribute to a good conversation? According to Hume, because of this artifice of manners,

"...a mutual deference is affected; contempt of others disguised; authority concealed; attention given to each in his turn; and an easy stream of conversation maintained, without vehemence, without interruption, without eagerness for victory, and without any airs of superiority." (emphasis mine)

Ah. I see that Hume's observation completely destroys my idea of a model conversation.

For example, my conversations with close friends about music are harsh pronouncements: "You DON'T LIKE WILCO?!" (I think the band in question was Steely Dan, but Wilco has also led to major re-evaluation of friendships....)

Or, if the topic is films, I pontificate and humiliate: "You sad, stupid jerk, if you need a guidebook to understand the last 5 minutes of "2001", then you must promise never to watch a film again"

I think you get the point. I cannot converse well. Which makes me the perfect target for this new book reviewed in NYT: Stephen Miller's "Conversation: A History of A Declining Art". (you know you can use if you aren't a registered user...)

I humbly request all you powerful, excellent, supremely gifted, beautiful and patient blog readers to read that link and benefit from it. Hey, I am beginning to like this artifice business!

Update: Blogger buddy Alok, whose knowledge and passion for all things Proust astounds me (this is not artifice, dude), shares this excellent link to a post titled "Why Good Conversations Are So Hard to Come By". Thanks, Alok.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

Clive And His Pet "Happy Together"

The One and Only, the Incomparable Adwaitya, a resident of Kolkata Zoo, was better known as Robert Clive's pet and as the oldest living creature on earth. He was a grand old Wild Aldabra tortoise. Unlike his master, the tortoise was never investigated for corruption and died earlier today of liver failure at the age of 255.

Not only did Adwaitya outlive Bobby, it even outlived the whole freakin' British Empire.

Therefore, in honor of this amazing, peaceful creature that survived nearly three bloody (literally) centuries, I will refrain from cracking jokes involving liver failure or hares or mutant ninja turtles or tortoise souls. OK, not counting the one in the title of this post.

Tuesday, March 21, 2006

When Is A Hollywood Star Like An Irate Mob?

When he is offended by cartoons, that's when.

Some angry Muslims didn't like what the Danish cartoonists did and forced the newspaper to drop the cartoons. Now, supposedly, allegedly, "according to industry sources", one Scientologist didn't break into a chuckle over the humor on South Park and had the cable channel pull an offending episode off the air.

Is this necessarily bad news? On the contrary. Think of what this news item proves to us-

That people will not stop at anything to protect their religious beliefs (or whatever else defines their identities.)

That race, level of education, economic status, nationality, religion or even a dazzling, android-like smile are no indication of a tolerant attitude.

Monday, March 20, 2006

Film On Ramanujan And Hardy; Stan Laurel Not Happy

Stephen Fry and Dev Benegal have announced a film based on the life of Srinivasa Ramanujan.

I do not know much about either Ramanujan or Hardy. What little I know is through textbooks. Ramanujan's arc is the "against all odds" story; from obscurity to the stuff of legend. Born in a poor family, obsessed with mathematics, college dropout, works as a low-level clerk, pursues his obsession with numbers, begins correspondence with G.H. Hardy, third time's the charm, travels to WWI London, health fails, returns home, fin. The other half of the equation is Hardy's character: absent-minded professor, cricket-loving genius who took an unknown mathematician from India under his wings.

Generally speaking, I am not crazy about biopics but the film-makers' pedigree is assuring. An early proof that the film's casting is in safe hands:

"It won't be [Bollywood stars like] Amir Khan or Shah Rukh Khan surely. I am sure we will find the right actor"

On the other hand, I would pay top dollars to see Shah Rukh Khan talking to Prof. Hardy with a pukka Tamil accent: it is a very interesting number; it is the smallest number expressible as the sum of two cubes in two different ways."

Saturday, March 18, 2006

On A Very Tiny Screen....

Tonight, "Nanook of the North" and "A Very Long Engagement".

Wiki has a good article on Nanook and it mentions the "staged reality" controversy over the film. Nanook was made in 1922. It's 2006 and we are still not over the staged reality debate.

Not that it bothers me. I spent a happy two and a half hours last night with Mr. Lynch and his brand of staged unreality over at Mulholland Drive...

Friday, March 17, 2006

A Brush With Death Early In The Morning

Why is there a poison warning on toothpaste tubes, I asked myself this morning.

I've asked that question several times before (and have received several answers, some frothing with conspiracy, others bubbling out pure hoax but none so refreshi...ok, stop!), but never have I asked the question with such determination and seriousness.

The answers are all over the web. Nothing new about this question.

But when NIH has a page dedicated to toothpaste poisoning, you know something's up. These guys don't fsck around with warnings. It's the NIH, for crying out loud. If there's one agency that does not like to see its citizens lying dead on their cold, tiled bathroom floors, foam and saliva dribbling out of their mouths, it's the NIH.

So why does it say on the toothpaste "if you swallow paste more than used for brushing, contact a Poison control center immediately"?

I can understand the warning if the flavor was Crest Cyanide, but this one said "Colgate Total". What two-syllable word conveys wholesomeness, hygiene and safety better than "Total"?

That the phrase toothpaste overdose even exists is a sign that our world has gone horribly, horribly wrong. Why, I've never seen a knife or a bullet that says "Warning: Could Kill. Visit the Morgue/ER Immediately".

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Only On Message Boards

What did we do for entertainment before the Internet?

Someone posted a very touching question on a message board:

"can u help mi say son of a pregnant dog and other bad wrds this kid is trying to make mi feel bad (sic, sic and sic)

And pat came this noble and shockingly dull response:

"My advice would be to take a holistic view, and instead of reacting in anger, _pray_ for the kid. See the difference it will make in that kid's behavior!"

Did I tell you that this exchange occurred on the forum of an online dictionary site? They have a pretty decent English-Hindi dictionary too. The original poster could have simply looked up the relevant words. And why is the responder/moderator getting into a "Buddhism for the Bullied" lecture?

All he had to say was "garbhavati kutiya ke bete". So it's a harsh, unwieldy phrase and takes too long to roll off the tongue, a real risk during an altercation. It could also lead to another round of forum posting: "wht iz garbhavati?"

At least the kid would have come away with his faith restored in dictionaries and message boards. (Anyone remembers gems like "What is LMAO" on USENET? I know, next you will ask me, "wht iz USENET?")

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

I've Got A Good Keyboard, William

"A writer needs three things, experience, observation, and imagination, any two of which, at times any one of which, can supply the lack of the others."

-- William Faulkner

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Crazy Train: Rock Stars in Museums

Abraham Maslow must be watching the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame announcements with a big "I-told-you-so" smile.

Apparently, Ozzy O., the Prince of Darkness, the demon-musician who bit the head off of a bat/dachshund/chicken/komodo dragon has been bitter at the Hall Of Fame for a decade for not being inducted. I can understand if Kajagoogoo have a problem with not being inducted. But Ozzy Osbourne?

Wasn't it enough that he wrote so many great songs, made millions, survived Sabbath's success with a long successful solo career and made a second career (out of playing the slightly dense, incoherent father) on TV? He wants to be remembered by a museum that no one cares for! Human nature...

P.S.: "Master of Reality": No recording can ever approach its heaviness. Not even early-mid period Metallica.

Any Color You Like

Holi in the middle of the week?

Do kids still worry about indulging in too much Holi, falling sick and missing their final exams? (or, if my memory serves me well, pray for the germs in bottom of that water-tank to deliver them from evil? Here, here, push me in...)

Do the words "silver paint" still terrorize the weak and the cowardly?

Are the mango trees beginning to bloom? And who's got the bhang?

In case you don't remember (I didn't), here's the sinister myth behind the festival pyre.

Monday, March 13, 2006

But I Own A Fridge!!

Secretary of Health and Human Services Michael Leavitt recommended that Americans start storing canned tuna and powdered milk under their beds as the prospect of a deadly bird flu outbreak approaches the United States.

ABC News has obtained a mathematical projection prepared by federal scientists based on an initial outbreak on an East Coast chicken farm in which humans are infected. Within three months, with no vaccine, almost half of the country would have the flu.

The North American bird-flu scenario must make George Romero and Danny Boyle giddy with delight, but even as I scarfed down a delicious turkey sandwich, I experienced some subtle, flickering spasms in my stomach.

And suddenly, that flock of migratory geese landing silently on the little pond resembled a squadron of lethal, loaded Stealth Bombers.

My Heart Leaps Up

when I behold

.....a movie theater's marquee with the titles "Rashomon" and "Taxi Driver" on it. It's a time warp is what it is. All of Greenwich Village is like a Land That Time Forgot. Even those used-book sellers sell porn from the 1960s and 70s.

A policeman, trying to break up a little congregation of dope pushers on the sidewalk, says "take your time, fellas". Half-sarcasm, half-exasperation, full-noir.

Friday, March 10, 2006

Oink Twice If You Are Depressed

"Ecstasy causes depression in pigs", according to a study conducted in Denmark.

"Not bloody likely", grunted Ms. Blandings, spokesperson for the fast-growing "Hogs For Drugs" movement.

"The society must accept us as we are. I mean, how could we not be depressed? Have you seen the little piggies as they grovel in mud and eat their own poo? It is depressing. So we like a little fun every now and then and we listen to loud, repetitive music holding glow-sticks in our hands. Does that sound like depression to you? This study is yet another example of a disturbed society imposing its morals and value judgements on us."

Interpol has declined to comment on how these dangerous drugs are finding their way to young, impressionable pigs.

Thursday, March 09, 2006

What's The Rumpus?

There are talky films and then there are Coen Brothers' films. They don't just enjoy writing dialog; they seem to revel in it.

"Miller's Crossing" is probably the finest example of their writing (Big Lebowski fanboys, stop frothing.) But the patois in Miller's Crossing often gets confusing. For instance, who or what is a "sheeny"? And ever met a "yegg"?

If you haven't seen this great film, read this site first and then rent it. The site also has a link to the screenplay (the shooting script, I believe.)

What's the rumpus, Tom?

Wednesday, March 08, 2006

Rahul Bose, A Jar Of Pickles And Insurance

Hear Ye! Hear Ye!

GhostofTomJoad has made a couple of three short public service films to promote AIDS awareness. Watch, enjoy, share.

Watch them here (three films on

Kill, Kill, Kill

WTF is "lsass.exe"? And will I ever solve the mystery that is "svchost.exe" (which occurs not once, not twice but FOUR times in the Windows Task Manager?)

Found this very useful site that lists (and explains) most of the commonly found "tasks" that run in Windows (XP, 2003 et al.)

So click on the green button titled "task list" and discover the joys of killing.

Monday, March 06, 2006

What Is And What Should Never Be

After I agreed to participate in Blank Noise Project's Blog-A-Thon 2006, I felt like a politically-correct poser. My knowledge of street harassment was a big zero. Why? Well, first of all, I am a man. That alone accounts for 99.5% of my ignorance.

Have I ever not boarded a crowded train out of the fear of being groped? No. Have I ever not boarded an empty train out of the fear of being groped? Why, no! Are you kidding me, it's not how we men are trained to think.

What's more, my wife, my mother and my sister have never once spoken to me about any experiences of harassment (though my wife assures me that female commuters in New York are no less susceptible to the "cop-a-feel-in-a-crowded-train" experience than their counterparts in Bombay.)

So you see, I really know next to nothing about this problem. All I can do is raise a clenched fist and feebly whisper some some toothless slogan. "Down with harassment". "We feel your pain".

But just when I think I have nothing personal to say, this one incident from several years ago comes to mind.

A little girl in our family - she was only 15 at the time - had acid splashed on her face by a stalker. The bastard - he was 18 - hid behind the bushes right outside the girl's house and waited till dusk before changing her entire life with one flick of his wrist.

They found out the boy's identity pretty quick. He had been stalking her for a while. I don't think there's an equivalent of the word "stalker" in an Indian language and the sickening euphemism that I heard in connection with this story back then was that "this boy had been in *love* with her". Naturally, the guy's "love" was unreciprocated and don't we all know there's no problem of the heart that cannot be solved with a can of fresh, bubbling concentrated sulfuric acid?

The poor girl survived, but suffered serious burn injuries on her face, her head, the hands and on the torso; her pretty smile wiped out by a red, puffy skin-graft - a silent, permanent testimony to harassment.

But that's not the only vulgar display of power in this painful episode.

An equally gross display came about when the girl's parents learned that the boy was "protected" by the higher-ups at some bullshit high-powered, semi-religious organization. The girl's parents couldn't even take the matter to court. They watched in miserable, tragic silence as the boy went from inside the lock-up to out on main street in 24 hours and their little girl went from Class Xth tuitions to the ICU.

Well, so much for silence then.

Over the last several months, I have read some sad, terrifying experiences. Now when I don't hear similar stories from the women that I meet everyday, I know a little better about interpreting that silence. What is not being said is very, very frightening.

So for goodness sake, turn it up to 11, Blank Noise Project.

Some link updates: Within/Without, as always, makes some excellent points.

Friday, March 03, 2006


If there were Gaali-Oscars, the "humble and ubiquitous" "saala" would the "Titanic". If there were Gaali-Grammys, "saala" would dominate like Michael Jackson in '83. If there were Gaali-Nobel Pri...ok, I'll stop.

According to Pareshaan, "saala" is a "classic", a "real masterpiece" and he begs us not to "abuse the abuse" by combining it with "other overpowering oaths".

You have my word, comrade!

But why is "saala" considered a profanity? Does anyone in the frickin' sub-continent know? It's the most goddamn important word in our language and not ONE website or blog has even a half-assed explanation of how (and when) this word became a swear word? Just what are Indian linguists, etymologists and word-collectors doing?

Thursday, March 02, 2006

Of Paths With Hearts and Deferred Dreams

Two very good posts talking about a subject that consumes us all: our life's goals.

Tom Joad's post poses some tricky questions about the problem of unpursued goals and Cosmic Elevator's post offers a unique perspective on the pursuit.

Does GhostofTomJoad's post prove the "be careful what you ask for - you just might get it" theory?

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

She's Havin' A Bad Iambic Pentameter Day

Beware the Terrible Curse of The Verse,
For It Destroyed A Little Girl's Hair!

(almost iambic pentameter, right?)

Not Tonight, Dear

This is why.

Full-on lunacy returns to TV this April. Happy Happy Joy Joy.

Some Dogs

His yellow Lab inspired him to write a book which is now topping the bestseller list.

And my yellow Lab? He inspires me to spend even more money on biscuits, chocolates and mangoes. For his consumption.

You fat, lazy major canis, you grinning, tail-thumping, drooling Beast from Labrador, inspire me to write a bestseller too! Or at least a full length blog-post. I promise you a sackful of Hershey's Milk Chocolates. What's that? Only Cadbury's? Ok, so Cadbury's Milk Chocolates it will be then.