Monday, July 31, 2006

Put Down That Guitar!

After this, they are now attacking guitar sites. (Link to guitar zone, may contain mildly NSFW ads)

"When you are jamming with a friend and you show him/her the chords for a song you heard on the radio, is that copyright infringement? What about if you helped him/her remember the chord progression or riff by writing it down on, say, a napkin... infringement?"
That's a tough one.

I believe showing a friend some chords is not a copyright infringement, but teaching a million friends the same chords while running ads on the site does constitute a kind of infringement.

Am I right?

Isn't profit really at the heart of this copyright battle? Would the accusation of infringement disappear if these websites were to stop making profits, however meagre, from their effort? (Any lawyers?)

For reason I cannot quite articulate to myself, it has become more and more difficult for me, with each passing day, to view these battles in "old-fashioned", Slashdot-style "Suits Vs. Fans" terms. Sure, amateur guitarists may think they have a right to read and post new guitar tabs and chords. But don't song publishers also have a right to a livelihood? (When was the last time I bought a real chordbook? 1994, maybe.)

I support both sides (gasp!) and I am sure I have lost most of my credibility for just saying that.

BTW, anyone got good tabs for the Robert Johnson songbook? ;)

(via BoingBoing)

Sunday, July 30, 2006

(Slidin') Blues For Allah

For every piece by Shakti (or even the exuberant interpretations by the woefully neglected Ananda Shankar), there are at least a dozen fusion albums that I'd like to erase from my memory.

But listen to how the Derek Trucks Band makes a Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan composition, sung so passionately by Rahat Fateh Ali Khan, all their own.

Derek's glissando notes are a thing of beauty (and unprocessed beauty at that - he never uses effects and pedals.) When he repeats the qawwal's phrases (for e.g., at around 1'20 or 6'15 in "Maki Madni"), you forget this is a musician who cut his teeth playing blues and rock like his uncle.

Give Maki Madni a listen. You will like it. (Napster requires free registration.) interviewed the young guitarist who's often compared to the late great Duane Allman.

Amit Varma wrote a fantastic piece upon meeting Rahat Fateh Ali Khan earlier this year.

P.S.: Anybody here that can translate/annotate the lyrics of the song?

Friday, July 28, 2006

Choo Choo Train, Chugging Up The Track

Dozens of passengers strap on oxygen masks, some experience bloody noses and a few lose their lunch. Pens spit their ink and potato chip bags expand until some burst their seams with the dramatic drop in atmospheric pressure.
Does that sound like a disaster? All aboard the Beijing-Lhasa Express. It's a 2,500 mile journey that hits a high at 16,640 feet (Tanggula Pass), which explains the bloodied noses and exploding potato chip bags.

But it's not all bad. The sights promise to be spectacular: "Tibetan antelopes, wild donkeys, yaks and sheep grazed on wide open plains carpeted with spongy, bright green turf. In the distance, mountains rose up to the sky, their caps blindingly white with snow." (What, no sighting of the Meh-Teh"?)

If you are like me and are thinking, "forget the view and the journey, what about the toilets?", I've got two words for you: "squat toilet". Just spare a thought for that intrepid mountaineer walking up the slopes of the Tanggula Pass as the train happens to roll by.

There. I am dreaming of trains and squat toilets. Mr. Theroux's excellent book shall be read again.

Wednesday, July 26, 2006

Super Size It?

Read in that slow, deep, movie-trailer voice:

This is an inspiring tale of four young men who took on a dangerous project, with the odds stacked high against them.

Their mission?

"...these young people had wanted to craft a joint of 1.12 metres to beat the world record in the discipline and get it officially registered," said a police officer in eastern France."

I like how, in an effort to make all this sound dignified and serious, the French police used words like "craft" and "discipline". Almost makes it sound like those kids were trying to make a life-size replica of the Notre Dame out of ear wax.

While I laud these youngsters' attempt at immortality via the Giant Roach Path, my heart sank when I read this line:

"..police discovered the giant joint containing 70 grams of marijuana resin. It had not been finished because of a lack of tobacco."

I think I know exactly how this went down. The kids must have started rolling the Big One after smoking a few, discovered they were out of tobacco, each of them must have looked at the other person to "go get it from the shop across the street", a passive (but disjointed) argument must have broken out with everyone wondering "how come it was their turn every single time" and then tobacco must have been forgotten when one of them started to play a reggae mixtape.

Bummer, man. (link via Drudge Report)

Tuesday, July 25, 2006

Lit. Quiz

  • If you must google it or Wiki it, at least try to preface the answer with something wittier than "LOL, even my dog could ace this".
I need the name of a book. So here are the facts.

It's not funny at all.

It has influenced philosophers, poets, playwrights, novelists, comic-book writers, painters, sculptors, film-makers and musicians. It even inspired a "grunge" album cover.

A country's leader once offered to pay a million dollars Sterling Pounds for a copy of this book.

Only two original copies of the manuscript are known to survive. One of them is in a city with the coordinates: 18°57'36"N, 72°49'12"E

Got it?

Hands on the buzzer, please. First three correct responses will receive a diamond-encrusted, solid-gold iPod effusive praise in a future post.

Moon June Spoon Honeymoon

Are these the worst lyrics of all time? (link to India Uncut, this one goes directly to the Phoenix article.)

While I would not argue with some of the choices ("My Humps" is terrible), some are odd ("Glory Days") while a few are too obvious ("Wannabe")

But what puzzled me most was that the list contains only ONE hair-rock song ("Cherry Pie" - hardly the worst, I assure you.) Don't you think the genre deserves a fairer representation?

Like W.A.S.P's "I Wanna Be Somebody". This song sounded like pure taradiddle to me even at the age of 16. "I will live in fame and die in flames/I'm never gettin' old"? Just look at Blackie Lawless's life: he is NOT living in fame, he HAS escaped death in flames and he is getting old. Or Bon Jovi's "Wanted (Dead Or Alive)": A "steel horse" I ride? Hanson's "Mmm-Bop" was at least silly but what can you say about Poison's "Unskinny Bop"? "Unskinny bop/nothin' more to say".

Then there are The Scorpions. There are way too many songs in their oeuvre. Notable mentions: "Holiday" (in which the singer offers his services as a travel agent) and "Bad Boys Running Wild" (with its healthcare warning: "Dirty rats are on their way!") And remember "Armageddon it" by Def Leppard (who deserve a list all of their own): "Yeah, but are you gettin' it? - Armageddon it!"

Judas Priest went synth for one brief, lustreless moment in their career. The result was "Turbo Lover": "Wrapped in horsepower, driving into fury/ Changing gear I pull you tighter to me". Staggeringly awful. Now read a semi-scholarly analysis of Turbo Lover here.

Why no mention of Ronnie James Dio, who's baffled us long with lyrics like "Ride the tiger/You can see his stripes but you know he's clean" ("Holy Diver")? Of course, Dio is utterly convincing and entertaining even when singing pure tripe like "Man On The Silver Mountain". Which brings us to this universal rule - any band that sings of faeries, goblins, witches and wizards deserves at least two spots each on this list.

Since every rock list must start and end with the Beatles, I say this list's #1 choice should have been Paul's "My love don't give me presents/I know that she's no peasant".

BTW, what's the worst lyric Dylan has ever written? My vote's on "My love she speaks like silence/without ideals or violence" (it's also a song I love dearly)

Thursday, July 20, 2006

The Great Indian Blog Trick

Some thoughts on censorship:

Update: Back in March 2006, I had blogged about Raghav Mahato and his now-defunct FM radio station. What I said in that post about laws being different for the rich and the poor still stands. Raghav Mahato's FM station is dead. Indian blogs are back. It seems the digital elite have a right to communicate their thoughts, but Raghav and his one-dollar-a-month FM station does not. Sucks to be poor and without a voice, doesn't it?

Can we please make SOME FUCKING NOISE? Or are we happy that our favorite kitten-picture-carrying blog is "back on the air?

During India's Golden Age of Censorship, aka The Missing Years, aka The Emergency, newspapers had to deal with rationing of newsprint, while reporters went to jail for taking on the Coiffured One.

Those who forget history are doomed to reading this link several times a year.

Just how do people living at the outer edges of a society fight against government-sponsored censorship? We should be thankful that we belong to a privileged class - one that has the resources to question an entity as large as the Indian government.

Bloggers have it so good. Think about Indian film-makers who have been trying to make sense of the Censor Board since the last 50 years. (CBFC's website even has a helpful button titled "You can help fellow citizens get healthy entertainment". Yay.)

Love thy neighbor. The Indian government blocks websites that supposedly contained anti-Muslim sentiments. So where do the Indian bloggers turn to for bypassing the block? To a server set up for blocked Pakistani bloggers, of course.

It ain't over yet.

P.S: Much has been written about this episode. Here's a couple of posts that I think are worth reading. Links to Neha V., Dilip D'Souza and Amit Varma.

"Habitat Is Crucial"

A female tiger occupies between 25 and 1,600 square kilometres [10 and 625 square miles], while males range over even larger areas.

As forest, grassland and swamp margins disappear, so do tigers.
There are only 5,000 tigers left in the world. It's not a whole lot. It is also ironical that most of these are to be found in a region experiencing heady growth. How is the balance between economic (and population) expansion and habitat preservation to be achieved?

Is it even possible?

Make room for the tiger. (link to BBC)

(Reading about animals and cramped spaces reminded me of a Bob Hope joke. He said his hotel room was so small the rats were round-shouldered.)

Wednesday, July 19, 2006

Why BB King Is Down Hearted

BB King buys his woman a brand new Ford and she says "i want a Cadillac". Fine. Maybe it's a brand loyalty thing. Or maybe she's just trying to help boost GM's sales.

A few days later, he buys her a ten dollar dinner and how does this woman show her appreciation? "Thanks for the snack"! Some people are just so mean. The nice man that BB King is, he lets her live in his penthouse which she dismisses as just a shack. WTF? Doesn't she know, a man's penthouse is like his palace and a man's shack is like, well, his shack?

So, ungrateful woman, instead of stepping on BB King's love and crushing it like a cigarette, how about loving him back and taking care of the seven children he gave you instead of threatening to give them back?

Seriously, how blue can you get?

Tuesday, July 18, 2006

Because They Don't Eat Enough Twinkies

Why do people kill, asks GoTJ in a fine post. Does there have to be a reason? Didn't someone once confess he "shot a man in Reno, just to watch him die?"

I could kill for the Blackie or the Brownie. Or a Gibson ES-335. Right now, I could even kill for a nice cup of tea.

Monday, July 17, 2006

Singing In Shower Soon To Be Banned

"U.S. digital entertainment company Gracenote on Thursday said it obtained licenses to distribute lyrics as music publishers mulled legal action against Web sites that provide them without authorization."
Ka-ching, baby.

I honestly have no problem with those malware-infested commercial lyrics sites getting sued. I do have a problem when labor-of-love fansites with guitar tabs and lyrics are asked to pull down the lyrics. Let's hope the powers that be show a little more restraint than they have done in the past. [suppressed laughter]

On a somewhat related note, anyone here old enough to remember buying music magazines (particularly "The Sun" and "JetSet") for lyrics? How about buying those little booklets by a publisher called "Archies" (which then went on to become a landmark institution for lovesick teenagers looking for greeting cards, roses and stuffed toys. Ugh.)

Anyone knows the words to this one?

(Via Slashdot)

Who Is Blocking Blogspot In India?

The Indian government? What exactly are they afraid of? Pictures of kittens? Poetry? Jokes? Reviews of Bollywood films?

Vulturo is right on the money when he calls India "a confirmed fascist state with serious restrictions on economic freedom". His post is worth reading (and I hope he's only kidding when he calls the rural majority "illiterate dunderheads" :))

And The Mercy Seat Is Waiting

Johnny Cash's version of "Mercy Seat" will go down in the books as one of the greatest covers ever recorded. Just how good is it?

It is so good it makes the original** sound unnecessary.

It is so good that upon hearing it for the first time, my wife, who's not really into JC's music said "this is a such a good album - can you play it again?"

It is so good that I simply had to find a blog that linked to the song. Chills down your spine in 5...4....3....2...1

**Sorry, Nick, love your music and all, but Mr. Cash pwned you. Youtube has the vid of the original.

Sunday, July 16, 2006

Metronome For Download

A cool metronome available for download. (Found via the best Clapton tab site on the web. His notes on the tablature to "Layla And Other Assorted Love Songs" are a must-read, if you play the guitar. Spent all of Sunday morning listening to the album. The things Eric, Duane and Bobby do on that album are simply electrifying.)

Wednesday, July 12, 2006

Mothers In The News

First there is the notorious "terrorist whore mother". Mama Zidane's response to that filthy epithet is priceless. Mama Z, we bow to you.

Then there's this woman who's in the news because she is a new mother at 62.
But the most important news this week involving mothers?

No contest, it's this one. Hats off to all the 13 mothers for participating in this experiment. So now you know how mothers put up with so much...shi..I mean...stuff.

(BTW, I think "Terrorist Whore Mother" is an excellent name for a retro-grunge band. Quite in the vein of names like "Mother Love Bone". Gives head-banging a whole new meaning.)


The story of GSLV-FO2's crash got buried somewhere between the headbutt heard around the world and the latest tragedy in Mumbai.

It may be a setback but India's rocket scientists deserve praise. They've done a, uh, stellar job for the last 3 decades and with the Chandrayan mission (sadly, an unmanned mission) barely a year away, they ought to receive more encouragement.

Indian Express has an interview with ISRO's Chairman, G. Madhavan Nair.

The Scientific Indian, a blog I should be reading more often, has a post from 2004 on India's "moonshot".

And here's something really interesting: a history of Indian space program that starts not with Dr. Sarabhai, but with Tipu Sultan!

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Mumbai Help

(Newer posts are below)

Mumbai Help has info, numbers and updates. Just check out their "How Can We Help You" post. Simply amazing.

Stuff: A video on YouTube of a "Virar Fast" at Andheri station at 8:30PM. (Virar is a northern suburb of Mumbai.)

Two things to remember: Every newbie in Bombay is warned of the perils of boarding the "Virar Fast". Every newbie ends up at least once on the Virar Fast and remembers the experience.

Thundering Typhoons! Tintin on PBS

PBS airs a documentary tonight titled "Tintin and I". Here's what NYT says about the docu: "The documentary should be a treat for avid Tintin fans, who come to it with a thorough appreciation of the character and his adventures."

So at 10PM tonight, with a glass of Loch Lomond in my hand...

"Black Bombay": The Aftermath In Pictures

A Flickr user (handle: King-O-Convenience) has put together a set titled "Black Bombay".

Syd Barrett:1940 - 2006

The madcap, the stranger, the legend, the martyr, dead at 60. (Wikipedia shows he died on "July 7". Fourteen year-olds must be IMing right now: "dude, he is still alive!")

Everyone has their favorite Floyd phase. Some even like their late '80s and '90s output. [said with a very straight face.] No doubt DSOM is the band's creative peak, but the Pink Floyd I fell in love with was their very first avatar, fronted by Syd Barrett. This was the band that wrote the book on melancholic music. While the Beatles' "Lucy" was having happy, colorful adventures, Barrett's "Emily" was quite a different girl: playing all alone in the woods by a river after dark. She cries, she borrows dreams; did Floyd ever write such personal songs again?

If the early years of rock and roll defined the popular archetypes - the suffering poet, the joker, the wild man - Syd Barrett will be remembered as the Seer, the one blessed - or cursed - with the ability to see alternate realities.

The Observer ran a story about a meeting with the reclusive musician back in 2002. The end of the story is just so sad.

(How's this for a hair-raising fact: right around the time when Pink Floyd were in the EMI studios to record "Piper At The Gates of Dawn", "Sgt. Pepper" was being recorded next door. And did you know that the cover photo for "Piper" - later to become a standard-issue, cliched "acid rock" visual - was shot by a photographer called "Vic Singh"?)

(Syd Barrett's image courtesy of

Monday, July 10, 2006

The Unwashed One On The Great White Way

I want to keep this post short and free of cheap sarcasm and rockfan rant. Will I succeed?

Consider this:

1. The Broadway musical is titled "The Times They're A-changin'"
2. Bob Dylan thinks this is "the best presentation of my songs I have ever seen or heard on any stage."

So what? So nothing.

That wasn't hard. The post is short, free of cheap sarcasm and no rockfan rant.

Pardon me. I just noticed on one of the press releases that the show is billed as "a fresh exploration of the timeless tale of a young man's coming of age".

[Violent barfing sounds]

I tried, dammit, I tried.

Saturday, July 08, 2006

Why Not "Soda" Or "Seven" Or "Moon-Unit"?

The most popular name for an Indian baby - and the 701st most popular baby name - in the USA is "Arjun". Isn't it great, there's an entire generation of confused, weak-willed Indian kids out there! Just kidding. I have friends and cousins named Arjun. Every single one of them is a highly skilled archer.
"Pranav (835), Nikhil (868), Rishi (932) and Arnav (953) were other Indian names to make the list. Nikhil was first Indian male name to make the SSA list in 1997 and was top-ranked until 2002, when it was edged out by Aditya."
Here's a real puzzler:
"The most popular Indian female baby name was Kali (526), followed by Ashanti (696)"
Does anyone know any Indian girl named Kali? Or Ashanti? Of course not.
"However, both those names are more common among non Indians than Indians. India is another name uncommon among Indians, but it ranked 501 on the list. It entered the most popular category in 1991 and rose to the top 300 names in 2001"
Little "Ranked 501" has the story.

Remote Control

Churumuri call it "Emergency II".

Hee haw. So the Indian government wants to regulate private TV channels. The article (link at the bottom of the Churumuri page) offers some frightening details:

"So, an external regulator appointed by the government decides content of a particular channel is anti-national, incorrect or false or obscene.

The channel can be punished with the harshest being to cancel the broadcasting license. The decision of the regulator will be final and cannot be challenged in court."
(emphasis mine)

First of all, the Indian government should stop using scary words like "external regulator". Audiences already have a regulator at home.

Secondly, Sonia Gandhi needs to stop playing so much Frank Zappa during party meetings. Isn't "external regulator" inspired by "Central Scrutinizer"?

Friday, July 07, 2006

"The Son's Room"

Anurag has a very good review of Nanni Moretti's "The Son's Room".

I love Moretti's films. I can see his films just to enjoy the use of natural sunlight. But I especially love "The Son's Room". It may be sentimental, but there is not a single frame of untruth in it. Isn't this how death comes into our homes: all too suddenly and cloaked in tragic illogicality?

To see how different film-makers handle similar situations and themes, compare this film to "In The Bedroom". (I enjoyed that film too, except for the resolution.)

Ebert's review.

Thursday, July 06, 2006

Lousy Movie, Crappy Ending

"A Malaysian minister has called for suicide scenes to be cut from imported Indian films, amidst concerns that they are leading to copy-cat incidents."
Reading this bit of news makes me want to kill myself.

The BBC article makes an interesting observation: "Suicides are said to be a common dramatic feature in Indian films, especially those made for Tamil audiences.

Those damn elitist Tamilians! Never satisfied with old-fashioned dramatic features like murder, rape and torture in their movies!

Don't be too hasty in dismissing "copycat incidents" though. This one time, after watching a lovely Ozu film, I did something horrible: I sat on the floor, sipped my tea and gazed at a closed window for a full four minutes. Then I stood up, walked over to the other side of the window and took a deep breath. Ha ha.