Thursday, June 29, 2006

We've Got A Tank Full Of Gas...

...and we drive 300 miles upstate for a long, long weekend.

...and the weatherman says the drive's going to be craptastic but who cares?

...and there's more music in the car than I can listen to in a month

...and you have a good one too.

Tuesday, June 27, 2006

To Know Him Is To Love Him

Children! See if you can you connect the following six scrambled keywords and phrases to come up with the correct news item!

1. Axl Rose
2. Stockholm jail cell
3. Concert in Stockholm
4. Security Guard
5. Intoxicated
6. Leg

Give yourself 3 points if you got the story right. If you don't know who Axl Rose is, give yourself 6 points. (link to, via Drudge)

Monday, June 26, 2006

von Goethe Ko Gussa Kyon Aata Hai?

Self-help articles and books love to quote this line by Goethe: "Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it!" I had somehow mis-read that quote as "Baldness has genius, power and magic in it". I was so depressed at my lack of baldness, I contemplated some drastic steps, like wearing a bald wig.

But back to Goethe and this quotation.

The quote is meant to motivate you and help you get started. Read it silently a few times and you will feel drawn to its message. Read it aloud with a fist up in the air and you will want to blast the final movement to Beethoven's Ninth as the words "Freude, schoner Gotterfunken" reverberate in your room. Isn't this how we imagine great Germans to be, filled with resolve, determination and courage?

Too bad Herr Goethe never actually wrote those words. So the next time some motivational speaker or writer attributes it to Goethe, emit a snide laugh, call his bluff and sink back into your wimpy, procrastinating ways.

BTW, Goethe did say all of these things. Scroll down to the end of the list for the "misattributed" quote.)

"Elementary, my dear Watson", "Play it again, Sam", "Me Tarzan, you Jane", "A-wop-Bop-a-loowop-a-wop-bamboo", wait, Little Richard actually said those immortal words.

Why are some of the best-known quotations misquotations?

A Certain Section of New York

The wife finds my obsession with Humphrey Bogart more than a little annoying at times. She thinks quoting lines from "The Big Sleep" randomly during the day is not funny at all. Example: Wife: "Can you get some milk on your way back?" Me: "Those are harsh words to throw at a man, especially when he's walking out of your bedroom"

Who does not love Bogart? In fact, the city of New York loves him so much they have decided to name a block after him. Bogart was born in NYC and lived there till 1923.

The next time we are watching "Casablanca" and that piece of dialogue about New York comes up, there's going to be some really loud cheering.

Saturday, June 24, 2006

A Dodo Found in Mauritus?

Not really, just the skeleton of a dodo. Not even a full skeleton, only parts of it. So why is that news? Well, it seems the only surviving skeleton of this unlucky bird was destroyed in a fire in Oxford in 1755. Talk about a really doomed species.

What if scientists could take a few cells from this skeleton, clone them and reverse-engineer a full-grown dodo from it? I'd be on a flight to Mauritius right NOW. With an extra-large bag of Dodo feed, of course.

Melange A Trois

Always the freaky shit first.

I am at the gym, the 'Pod's hooked up to my ears, I scroll down to the folder titled "AC/DC". I detest the mid-'90s pop they play in the mornings at the gym and I need some real music for those 45 minutes. So AC/DC it is. There's no situation in life that cannot be improved in some way by blasting AC/DC.

The first song on the playlist is "Givin' the dog a bone". Almost on cue, one of the TVs on the wall shows a news segment and the first visual? A man feeding a bone-shaped cookie to a little dog.

The next song is "Rock and roll ain't noise pollution". The TV now runs a news story about pollution. OK, so it wasn't about noise pollution, but it was uncomfortably close. Had the networks somehow hacked my iPod? I had to confirm.

The third song was from the classic "Back in Black" album, titled "Let Me Put My Love Into You". As you can imagine, I was all excited.

Sadly, they don't run those kind of stories on the news. Not yet.


Quotable quote from Amit Varma: "I want to be a lean, mean sex machine". In his post about age, he says, with alarming maturity for a man of his age, "The closer I get to being totally comfortable in my own skin, the more the damn skin has to expand".

I am at a point where age does not bother me. It troubled me a few years ago when I realized I could no longer compete with 18 year-olds in Idli-eating contests. Then I remembered I had never competed in Idli-eating contests when I was 18.

This is as good a time as any. Skin expansion or not.


And talking of sex machines, Our Man With The Infinite Collection of Bootlegs, Cosmic Elevator links to an excellent feature in Rolling Stone on the original Sex Machine, the Godfather of Soul, the one and only, James Brown.

Friday, June 23, 2006

No Twist In The Tale

Arun at Cre8iveIgnition points me to this story in the LA Times about a new book that discusses M. Night Shyamalan's "divorce" from Disney. I am not a fan of Shyamalan's films, but the fact that one of the most commercially successful directors in Hollywood also has to fight for his creative right is a minor revelation of sorts.

The story behind this split is an age-old one: the "suits" versus the artist. One party takes the financial risk and the other, an artistic one. Whose risk is greater?

What I find really interesting about this subject is that both the suits and the artist often forget their symbiotic bond. Without the money, there is no film. That is one of the most severe limitations of this medium. A movie is not a 3-minute pop song that can be recorded on a laptop. It is also not like a novel, which is usually written on the author's time and dime (I am not talking about publishing, marketing and distribution costs here.) But without the film-maker's vision, can there really be a successful film? (Answer: Maybe. How else does one explain the market for sequels and remakes?)

Speaking of bitter artist-management relations, Messrs. Jagger, Richards and Co. once found themselves in a similar fight with their then record label, Decca Records (yes, the same company that famously rejected The Beatles and The Yardbirds.) So, as a farewell gift to the label, they recorded a legendary single which shall remain unnamed lest the obscenity filters at your workplace start melting down.

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Jong-Chol, You Look Wonderful Tonight

When your Crazy Haired Daddy is getting ready to blow up the planet, how do you spend your summer? You go watch Eric Clapton play in Germany. (via Drudge.)

Hey, Jong-Chol, how about playing some of that sweet "461 Ocean Boulevard" stuff for Papa? Maybe then he will simmer down.

Monday, June 19, 2006

Can't Stop, Won't Stop

This is no laughing matter.(Lifehacker and Wikihow)

I cannot tell you how many times I've found myself red-faced, laughing uncontrollably in the middle of an unfunny situation. Any attempt at stopping the fit - such as thinking about ridicule, death, poverty-stricken children - only makes it worse. Since I've "had the condition" for a while, I thought I'd share my expertise and save a few lives.

A giggling fit has four elements. Know them well and the fit *may* loosen its grip on you.

First there is a trigger. The trigger is almost always meaningless when you try to analyze an episode. In my case, the trigger is *usually* associated with an authority figure. A teacher's clothes or his language, a manager's obvious b.s. presentation - it has to be immediately perceived as funny by you and another person. Which is the second element: a giggle partner. Like sports and sex, a good giggling fit call for a partner.

The partner is there to provide feedback, which is the vital third element. What starts as a harmless smile or laughter - the result of shared recognition of something ludicrous - soon escalates into a closed-loop cackling feedback hell. He sees me laughing and doubles up in laughter. Seeing him in that pitiful state cracks me up and I just collapse. Repeat till stomach hurts.

The repercussions of a fit can be severe. I've had an eraser (a wooden "duster" as we used to call them) thrown at me in school. I've been asked to leave the class for being the epicenter of several major gigglequakes, which almost always happened in classes in which the teacher was reputed for inflicting boredom and pain upon students. Actually, that fear of punishment is the fourth element. Fear, nervousness and anticipation are the soil in which a giggling fit grows.

Some memorable fits: I've had an important meeting come to a hyuk-hyuk halt. What makes this one memorable is that my giggling partner happened to be my boss, who laughed so hard he had tears running down his cheeks. I am also proud of this fit because the giggle group became truly cross-functional, increased by 4 more people and left one person in the group baffled (and insulted.) It was a bizarre scene.

But the worst one yet? A giggling fit at the age of 14, when I heard about a *very* close family member passing away. We (me and a cousin of mine) laughed, we turned serious, we felt deeply ashamed and then broke into tears. (For those who have read The Beatles' authorized biography, you might remember a very young John and Paul laughing hysterically upon receiving the news about Paul's mother's death.)

I cannot say I am cured but the giggling fit is not much of a problem now. Not that I am happy about it. After all, what can be more absurd, rebellious and liberating than laughing while engaged in some drudgery?

Thursday, June 15, 2006

What's Scaring The Bejesus Out Of Us Today?

Children learning "Baa Baa Black Sheep", according to an Indian politician. (from India uncut)

Children singing "Vande Mataram", according to some Muslim clerics. (from Death Ends Fun)

English pop music according to French politicians. (from The Independent)

Customers ordering cheese steaks in a language other than English, according to the owner of Geno's. (from LA Times)

"I am sick and tired of hearing things/from uptight, short-sighted, narrow-minded hypocrites...."

Much Ado About Something

Google's Shakespeare.

Project Gutenberg has had these works online for a while now. In fact, they even have a section titled "Shakespeare, William: Spurious & Doubtful Works".

(Of course, Gutenberg's site is as modern as the Gutenberg Press itself.)

I am sure MSN will soon bring us a "Shakespeare, William: Totally Fake, Buggy, Copycat, Expensive, Malware-infected Works" (which, btw, will also be filed away under "books I plan to read one day and impress people by randomly quoting from")

Nobody's Perfect, But Billy Wilder Comes Close

Starting June 30, Film Forum in New York has a 3-week retrospective of Billy Wilder films.

The schedule is here.

Wednesday, June 14, 2006

Planche, Lache and Tic Tac

Karate, Judo, Taekwondo - so 20th century. The new thing is parkour.

Almost every review of the French action film District B13 mentions that word in the opening sentence and then forgets to tell us what the word means. I first thought it was a subliminal message by the studio to "parkour asses in the seats".

So what is "parkour"? It is
" art form of human movement, focusing on uninterrupted, efficient forward motion over, under, around and through obstacles (both man-made and natural) in one's environment"
(from the Wiki)

Doesn't that description remind you of a certain Asian actor's fight sequences? Of course it does.
"....similarities between parkour and the stunts and techniques of Hong Kong martial arts star Jackie Chan, whose fight and chase scenes take place in industrial or urban environments"
So the French have made two important contributions to martial arts: Savate (hello, Prof. Calculus!) and now Parkour.

"District B13" has earned high praise from nearly every critic. Then again, who would not enjoy watching actors making uninterrupted, efficient forward motion?

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

"Work Worth Doing"

One, there will never be an adventure story finer than "Treasure Island". Two, Stevenson's thoughts on the art of writing are worth reading again and again.

"Man is imperfect; yet, in his literature, he must express himself and his own views and preferences; for to do anything else is to do a far more perilous thing than to risk being immoral: it is to be sure of being untrue". To ape a sentiment, even a good one, is to travesty a sentiment; that will not be helpful. To conceal a sentiment, if you are sure you hold it, is to take a liberty with truth ...

"Here, then, is work worth doing and worth trying to do well. And so, if I were minded to welcome any great accession to our trade, it should not be from any reason of a higher wage, but because it was a trade which was useful in a very great and in a very high degree"

The Art of Writing. (link to

Monday, June 12, 2006

Is That Yogurt Or Are You Just Happy To See Me?

Knowledge is the death of innocence.

An uncle and aunt are visiting us for a few days. Don't get the wrong idea, it's all good. Any opportunity to talk about family and roots and forgotten relatives is good. Plus, there's good classical music playing around the house all the time - instead of the television - and then there's the food. Oh, the food.

As we all know, a South Indian aunt likes her yogurt and homemade yogurt it has to be. They don't go for that sodium-laced supermarket stuff. So my aunt brings some yogurt seed ("culture") with her. I wish I hadn't said "seed". You will repeatedly hear that regret in the rest of this post.

If my resume were to mention just one skill, it would be "I boil milk perfectly without spillage and burnage". So my services were called for and I boiled the milk. The boiled milk was then carefully placed on the kitchen counter for it to cool down before The Adding Of The Seed. No! YOGURT CULTURE!.

I had been instructed: the seed - NO! YOGURT CULTURE! - was in a plastic jar in the refrigerator. I was to add the seed - NO! YOGURT CULTURE! - only when the milk had cooled down sufficiently. So I open the fridge door and take a look at this plastic jar.

Deep breath, all of you.

The plastic jar had a label around it. Alarm bells break out into a tinny cacophony inside my head.

The label had my uncle's name on it. How quaint - aunty had used a medicine bottle to bring us the seed - NO! YOGURT CULTURE! - from her kitchen.

Feel a barf coming? Hang on.

Curious, I turned the bottle around to read the label. I wish I had not. Remember what I said earlier about knowledge and innocence?

Now would be a good time to open up that barf-hose. Let it flow, let it flow.

It was a prescription pill bottle. Ergo, it once contained prescription pills. The words on the label, printed in a bold typeface, floated in and out of my vision. I experienced dizzyness, nausea, bloating and shortness of breath.

It was not just any old prescription. It was a prescription for a very popular erectile dysfunction pill. And it now contained seed - NO! YOGURT CULTURE!

A bottle containing erectile dysfunction pills now contained yogurt culture. A bottle, whose contents ("take 1 hour before, ahem, certain activity") are used exclusively for "recreational" purposes, was now to be used for feeding the family?

Miss Muffet can go to hell, but tonight I am staying away from curds and whey.

Friday, June 09, 2006

19 Laburnum Road

Uma has a beautiful post about a beautiful house in Bombay.

The two times I have been inside Mani Bhavan, I could barely hold back the tears. This is where the man learned to spin the charkha! How amazing - we think of Bapuji as some fully realized superhero (minus the spandex and the cape, of course), and yet, he too had to learn to spin the charkha. And it happened here.

(Some coincidence, this post by Uma. Just this morning, I read an astoundingly moronic quote in an article titled "India Rising" - the usual b.s. about India "going" designer - that said, and I kid you not, "Today, it's no longer Mahatma Gandhi but Coco Chanel that matters.")

Tuesday, June 06, 2006

Super Fly

So a 59-year old man reaches the Pearly Gates. St. Peter asks him: "And why do you think you deserve to enter Heaven?" The man replies "Because I am the only human being who played with both the Rolling Stones and the Beatles?" Instant admission is granted and merciless autograph-hounding ensues.

Billy Preston died today at the age of 59.

His sessions work resume is an embarrassment of riches: Abbey Road, Let it Be, White Album, All Things Must Pass, Concert For Bangladesh. Oh, and Sticky Fingers and Exile On Main Street. And Blood On the Tracks. And the piano part on John Lennon's "God". And Sly Stone's "There's a Riot Goin' On". And Miles Davis named a song after him. MILES DAVIS NAMED A SONG AFTER HIM!

When I think of Billy Preston, the image that comes to mind is of him crouched over that electric piano one cold, defiant and sad afternoon in London. The one person on that rooftop whose face radiates joy is Billy Preston. He effortlessly knocks out that delightful, staccato solo from "Get Back". No politics, no bickering, just rock and roll.

"If only I were a fly on the wall" is a commonly heard refrain among music fans when they discuss legendary recording sessions. While most of us can only dream of being that fly, Billy Preston lived it in reality. He was the Super Fly.

Monday, June 05, 2006

Six Six Six

I am a compulsive air guitarist. I even have different finger/wrist positions depending on the "guitar" I am playing.

I am an obsessive "spoonerist". I will spooner every sentence, every song lyric and every slogan. It has led to some unfortunate situations. Like when I once spoonered the word "popcorn" at the dinner table....

At one point in my life, I would "resolve" *every* sound - a doorbell, the drone of a car engine, a birdcall - into a chord. I thought this was weird but then I met a person who said he often sang harmony to *every* sound he heard. Needless to say, we became the best of friends and band-mates.

Second year at college, I spent an entire semester in one pair of jeans. I mean the ENTIRE semester. Day and night. Parties, concerts, festivals, trips and classes. Did I mention that this was also the semester when bathing was largely out of fashion?

I cried like a baby the day George Harrison died.

I have a mortal fear of lizards. I can fling myself into a pit full of roaches, furry rats AND fuzzy spiders, but I cannot *stand* even a picture of a lizard.

Scout, happy?

Friday, June 02, 2006

My Experiments With Bhooth

You will all agree with me when I say hauntings and possessions (by evil spirits) are a serious threat to mankind today. The problem is, the average person has NO clue how to fight off this threat. (Is garlic enough? Should it be roasted or raw? Does the Home Depot sell stakes?)

It was not always so. Back in my days, people knew. In the little town I grew up in, after the readin' and 'ritin' and 'rithmetic were done and when it grew dark, we were given lessons on how to avoid ghosts.

A few sample lessons: if you were wearing a perfume or a cologne, you could not stand under a lemon tree (ghosts are attracted to strong smells.) If you saw the dusty funnel of a whirlwind spinning towards you, walk, no, run the other way (or the "dayan" would pull you in.) Then of course, there was the woman with ankles attached to the front of her feet - you simply had to stay away from her. (Nasty, but I wonder if Bata was serving the "Chic Chudail" demographic back in those days?)

But I was totally unprepared for this recent phenomenon: ghosts hiding in music. I mean, they could just come floating out of the speakers (or headphones) and grab you by the throat (or the ear-lobe.) Most listeners keep their eyes closed, making them especially vulnerable to such paranormal attacks.

So when three of my favorite bloggers warned me about such wicked happenings, I was relieved. Sharing knowledge is a good thing. It can save lives.

Some of you might know that I am somewhat of an expert on "back-masking". But what we are dealing with here is a different kind of evil. This evil actually lives in the music.

To confirm this fact, I decided to "flip" the song in question. I must say, I was not at all prepared for the results of this experiment. I will say it again. I was not at all prepared for the results of this experiment.

The first clip that I've made is plain scary, but the second clip - a result of negative back-masking, sound filters, altering some ADSR parameters and applying an old technique called "leguminization" - is hair-raising.


Indonesia Earthquake

HIGHLY ADHESIVE POST. New posts will appear below this one.

The Bloggers are there and so are the Doctors.

Doctors Without Borders' online donation page does not allow one to "nominate" the donation to Earthquake relief, but their phone line does (888-392-0392.) If you are in the US and are calling in to make a donation, you can instruct the representative to nominate your donation to Indonesia Earthquake. (DWB/MSF are my favorite charity, but if you prefer to donate to another agency, hey, rock and roll, man.)

Neha at Within/Without has an information-packed post as well.