Thursday, December 25, 2008

This And That

Actor Hugh Lawrie aka Dr. House, on reading and acting PG Wodehouse's words. (And here he is, with his comedic partner, Stephen Fry, in Tricky Linguistics. Wonderful stuff. Via Metafilter.)

My favorite album this year has to be Fleet Foxes' Fleet Foxes. The album is in the Top 3 or Top 5 on most critics' year-end lists. Get it if you've been wanting to listen to some terrific singing (and songwriting, but their singing is something else.) Here's the band's gorgeous White Winter Hymnal, a song which also has my favorite lyrics of the year:
"I was following the pack
all swallowed in their coats
with scarves of red tied ’round their throats
to keep their little heads
from fallin’ in the snow
And I turned ’round and there you go
And, Michael, you would fall
and turn the white snow red as strawberries
in the summertime"
The American Dialect Society released their "Word of the Year" nominations list. (What that Society needs is a techie who can teach them how to use shorter URLs.)

If you've ever wanted to read about mindfulness in plain English, why, here's a great little guide called "Mindfulness in plain English".

Have a great New Year, everyone.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

"Wonders Are Many"

As physicists go, J. Robert Oppenheimer is the rock star. No need to explain why. Just take a deep breath and read the Wikipedia entry.

So how does one reconcile this towering intellect of a man, the poetry-loving and Bhagvad Gita-quoting genius, and the man who believed the atom bomb would actually end all future wars? This was, of course, the subject of the opera, Dr. Atomic.

I have not seen the opera yet but I did catch the premiere of the superb documentary, "Wonders Are Many", on Independent Lens. The film looks at the making of the opera, a task which I am now convinced is nearly as complex as Quantum Physics. How does one set lines like these to music?
A sustained neutron chain reaction
resulting from nuclear fission
has been demonstrated;
production plants of several
different types are in operation,
building a stock pile
of the explosive material.
Only John Adams can. (Link to Alex Ross's column in the New Yorker.) The film shows him at work and by the end of the film, you will have an even greater admiration for the artist's talent. It is just as fascinating to watch the always controversial director/librettist Peter Sellars at work. (link to an American Repertory Theatre page.)

Movies and CGI may have made explosions commonplace, but how does one convey the magnitude of the A-bomb explosion on stage? Through decidedly low-tech means - music and words. But it does help that these are not just any words, but words taken from the Gita, Oppenheimer's favorite text:
At the sight of this, your Shape stupendous,
Full of mouths and eyes, feet, thighs and bellies,
Terrible with fangs, O master,
All the worlds are fear-struck, even just as I am.
When I see you, Vishnu, omnipresent,
Shouldering the sky, in hues of rainbow,
With your mouths agape and flame-eyes staring—
All my peace is gone; my heart is troubled.
(The above scene can been seen on a YT video. Link via this blog.)

This excellent film is available on DVD, but I also hope PBS considers putting up this film on their website or YouTube.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Dead Urdu Poets + Web 2.0

A week or so ago, there was some great Urdu poetry posted, translated (and commented upon) on Falstaff and Neha's blogs. Something about those verses that makes everyone go crazy.

And that got me thinking. There is probably a market for a social networking site exclusively for lovers of Urdu poetry. I even came up with the perfect name for the site: Faizbook.

Har di frickin' har.

On a related note, check out Austenbook.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Mug Shots 2008

Browsing through Smoking Gun's "Mug Shots of the Year" collection is a great way to waste five minutes. (Oh and if one had to vote, Jersey Girl on Page 1 wins. And #5 would be a close second.)

Friday, December 12, 2008


MWLLOL. Very funny. (Via Pitchfork)

Now Where's Brown Sugar Avenue?

Courtesy Lekhni, this piece of news about a town called Dartford deciding to name streets after Rolling Stones' song titles.
One road will be named "Sympathy Street," derived from the Stones' sinister classic "Sympathy for the Devil."

Others will be called "Cloud Close," "Rainbow Close" and "Dandelion Row" after other Stones songs. There will also be "Stones Avenue" and "Little Red Walk" from "Little Red Rooster," the blues classic covered by the Stones in their early days.
I hope they also figure out a way to use titles like "Bitch", "Monkey Man", "Dead Flowers", "Midnight Rambler" and that one unnameable Stones song and make the entire town seem like one sad, scary and sleazy place.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008


From William Safire's column in last weekend's Times' magazine:

What is the question to which 9-W is the answer? "Do you spell your name with a V, Mr. Wagner?"

Reminds me of an ex-boss who, after working with several Vinods and Vinays and Vasants, once asked me "why can't you Indians pronounce V and W correctly"?

Well, I want to know why Americans can't pronounce those conjunct consonants in Sanskrit correctly. Hah!

Sunday, December 07, 2008


"On Wednesday, tens of thousands of urban, English-speaking, tank-top-wearing citizens stormed the Gateway of India.." (Emphasis mine, bad reporting all NYT's.)

How Somini Sengupta (of the New York Times) verified the linguistic abilities of tens of thousands of protesters, while keeping an eye out on every marcher's wardrobe, one will never know. Maybe that's why she writes for the New York Times.

Just read the words "tank-top-wearing citizens" out aloud and tell me it doesn't send a Gateway-sized bolt of "ugh" down your spine.

Saturday, December 06, 2008

Stand By Me: Playing For Change

No online petitions, no Facebook groups, no email forwards. Just give 'em some rock and roll.

Originally written by Ben King, Jerry Lieber and Mike Stoller, then popularized by John Lennon in 1975, here's the classic "Stand By Me", performed by street musicians in different cities countries and captured in a film titled "Playing For Change". (Via Bill Moyers' show on PBS last night.)

I couldn't find a link on that website to the other song from the film - Bob Marley's "One love" - but there's a YT video. (There's even a choir from Chennai singing on it.)

Tuesday, December 02, 2008

Better Man

The question of motivation is a fascinating one.

What could have motivated a tea-seller in VT station to put his life at risk and move people out of harm's way on the night of the attacks? (Link to

And yes, real people can dodge bullets too, Neo.

What's His Name Again?

From the Foreign Policy blog, a post about the confusion over the name of the terrorist captured in Mumbai. (I saw one blog refer to him as "Bloody Asshole" in the title of the post. There, fixed, Space Bar)

Friday, November 28, 2008

I'm Staying At The Crossroads

Some photographs affect us for reasons we may never fully understand.

This picture of a poor little mongrel outside the Taj Mahal hotel had me thinking of another time. (Link to's fantastic and sometimes gruesome slideshow.)

Like so many others, I've hung around the Taj at hours when the city appears to be bathed in that beautiful sepia tone. (An attack of synesthesia: that sepia color "sounds" like fuzzy tube amplifiers and old guitars.) No doubt, the color comes from street lamps, but to me, it is the color of the feeling one gets when one is "in town" - in South Bombay.

It's hard to explain that feeling to someone who has never lived in Bombay's suburbs and does not know the significance of the words "I'm going to town". Those four words used to (and still do, I am sure) hold the promise of a very long night filled with music, friends, bars, noisy train rides, films and the sight of Bombay's rich and famous. In other words, to us suburban dwellers, downtown Bombay was an adult Disneyland.

The illusion of the theme park would start wearing off in the late, late hours. The reality of the hour-long train ride would be the first to appear on the horizon. Then the dread of the coming week at work. A mental picture of the damp apartments, cockroaches on the kitchen floor and the stifling claustrophobia. Of wet, squeaky rubber boots that smelled and the taste of too many cigarettes.

And so we would walk back to our train stations - some to Churchgate, some to VT. The street-side vendors would be asleep, confident that no one at this hour could possibly need belts, shoes, socks, self-help books, porn and plastic toys. We would walk through fine, old buildings and sometimes find ourselves at empty intersections, completely exposed under the warm glare of the sodium vapor lamps, just like that dog in the picture.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

And You, Of Tender Years...

A picture of a child, probably at Cama Hospital(?). (link to

This Is Not Just About "Posh India"

A picture from to remind us all that this tragedy is not just about people who patronize luxury hotels. (Also see's coverage of the attacks.)

And a big, BIG fuck-you to NDTV for writing headlines like: "When posh India was held hostage".

Who Are The National Security Guards?

India's National Security Guards have been at it for more than 24 hours now. Boggles the mind. If you are interested, here's a little background information on them.

Mumbai Coverage

The Guardian's coverage is quite good and comprehensive. This one story in particular doesn't seem to be showing up on NDTV or ToI.

Also, if you are curious about what Pakistani bloggers are talking about, here's a site that aggregates several Pakistani blogs. (I don't see many blog-posts about this terrible event - just a couple.)

Update: Courtesy Neha, a post on Global Voices about Pakistani bloggers.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Mumbai Attacks - Some Web Links has a page for today's attacks in Mumbai (via.)

Alltop's India page is another helpful resource if you want to scan headlines.

Update: A real-time grid of related Tweets (Via MumbaiHelp)


Thai Fishing Trawler Does Not Know How To Give Thanks

The International Maritime Bureau has claimed that the suspected pirate vessel sunk by the Indian Navy on November 18 in the Gulf of Aden was a Thai fishing trawler.
And did a captain ever sound so sad? "The sunken ship, which the Indian navy claimed was a mothership of pirates, was not the mothership at all," he said." (Link)

Wait, wait, don't shoot!!

Sunday, November 23, 2008

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Man In Black + Unwashed Phenomenon = One Fine Session

How about some GREAT American music?

On Aquarium Drunkard, mp3s of a Johnny Cash/Bob Dylan session from 1969. Dylan sings in his "Nashville Skyline" voice and Cash sings in, well, his incomparable voice. (Just listen to him sing on "Girl from the North Country". Wow. Thanks to Wildflower Seed for the tip about the video!)

Several classics are covered: a swinging, rocking version of "Matchbox", "That's all right, mama", "I walk the line" (sounding more like a cool, pleasant stroll through a park), "Ring of Fire", "You are my sunshine" etc.

This recording settles all past, present and future debates about whether Dylan can sing harmony.

Now I am going to try hard to keep my mind from getting blown completely just thinking about Dylan and Cash occupying the same room.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

"Carnival of Light" - I Got Blisters On My Eardrums!

"McCartney says he wants to release "Carnival of Light," a 14-minute experimental track the Fab Four recorded in 1967 but never released.

The band played the recording for an audience just once, at an electronic music festival in London. It reportedly includes distorted guitar, organ sounds, gargling and shouts of "Barcelona!" and "Are you all right?" from McCartney and John Lennon."
I could not find a copy of this fabled recording online (there are mostly a couple of irrelevant YT videos and I am too lazy to look around). But honestly, the idea of another "Revolution 9" fills me with...meh. Unless they release the single with free hallucinogens. In which case, this could be the greatest song *ever*.

To me, even more interesting than the news of the release was the phrase Paul uses to describe the recording: "I like it because it’s The Beatles free, going off piste".

What the hell is "off piste"? It's a skiing term: Existing or taking place on snow that has not been compacted into tracks.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

Of Wolf And Man

"..big feet, big-boned legs and a big head. His eyes were very dark yellow, bordering on honey - and that is something that never changed. I wouldn't say he was 'friendly' - at least not in the way puppies are friendly."
A philosophy professor brings home a wolf cub. Hilarity (and an education in living) ensues.

Full story here (link to the Telegraph, via Metafilter.)

And this is the story of another well-known wolf.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

Mitch Mitchell

And so the Experience now jams in heaven. (Set list please, dear God.)

He was one of my most favorite rock drummers. Drummerworld pays tribute to the man.

A delightful piece of trivia at the very end of the tribute: "On the night that Jimi died, they had picked up Sly Stone from London airport and were looking for Jimi to participate in a jam." (The "they" in question are: Mitch Mitchell and Ginger Baker.)

A blog on the Telegraph remembers Mitch.

Sunday, November 09, 2008

Mixed Emotions

Long day at work. On the way back, you get cut off by an impatient driver.

But the traffic's real slow and he doesn't get too far. Soon you are driving right next to him.

"Free education" being your motto, you roll down your window and get ready to flex the middle finger.

That's when you notice the little blue "handicapped driver" sign hanging on his rear-view mirror.

Major Thambi To Ground Control

This is a day late, but never mind.

Chandrayaan-1 is there.

Wednesday, November 05, 2008

"Here Comes The Light"

"Wow. What a day! I am taking in every moment of it. This summer, I did the Mississippi Half Step Uptown Toodle-oo, and crossed the "mighty" Rio Grande (it is only a stream in Albuquerque); I drove through Cherokee nation, with a Truckin'-type situation outside Oklahoma City .... on July 4, and watched the sun go down over the mountains in Yuma, AZ. I saw the America of lyric and song and I never felt more alive. Today, I am brimming with hope. Yes, I get it. The more things change etc. etc. But revolution begins with a re-valuation. I'll take my chances with this one.

Ah Mother American Night, here comes the light"
Wildflower Seed commenting on a post on TR's blog.

Thanks, Wildflower Seed. Your words summed up my sentiments perfectly.

I have been listening to Delaney and Bonnie all last week. Here's one of their best songs, a stirring soul tune called "When this battle is over". YT has a rare video of the band performing this killer track.

There's a time for cynicism and now isn't that time. Right now, I hope you turn up the volume and rest easy knowing just who's wearing the crown.

Update: Falstaff breaks into verse. The result is quite lovely.

Tuesday, November 04, 2008

270 Came At 11PM Eastern

Brian Williams just reported that Senator McCain called on President Obama to congratulate him.

McCain's conceding from his Phoenix HQ and suddenly he looks and sounds like the McCain of 2000, not the McCain of 2008.

What Time 270?

The situation here: eight Firefox tabs, Twitter, television, interactive maps, polls, what-if scenarios, emails, phone calls. And the "f5" button, of course.


The voting station was crammed with FIVE people. Three of them were volunteers and us two voters. There were no celebrities voting, no ballot-box capturing, no voter intimidation. Very disappointing.

I had barely come out of the booth when one of the volunteers, an old, soft-spoken woman, asked me if I had pressed the "red button". I said I did, mentally congratulated myself on making history and then panicked. Did I press the red button? Was there only one red button? I immediately retraced my step and a half to take another look at the machine.

The ugly yellow-green LCD readout at the bottom of the machine said "your vote has been recorded - thank you". There was no evil smiley face after that sentence, so I am assuming it's all good.

Exit Polling At The Gym?

As I was walking out of the gym this morning, another man who was also leaving (white, middle-aged and mustachioed - for demographic purposes) smiled at me and said "Phew! Such a relief to be done with it, you know? I really feel hopeful and so much less disillusioned now."

In my experience, people in gyms do not use words like "disillusioned".

I should have asked him if he had voted earlier in the morning (voting opened at 6AM) or if it was the workout that made him feel so positive.

Can a workout leave you feeling "less disillusioned"? No idea, but I am going to find out about voting and its side-effects in a couple of hours.

Sunday, November 02, 2008

Weerr On Ourr Wayy Haem

An outtake of John and Paul singing "Two of us" in a Scottish accent. Delightful results, particularly in the middle of the song.

The video to the song is not original. It is a footage of the band rehearsing "Two of us" from another session (in which Paul breaks into an Elvis impersonation..)

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Yes We Can't

(via Boing Boing, original image here, also see this great gallery of poster-parodies)

Monday, October 27, 2008

Reverend Church

Reverend Forrest Church was interviewed on "Fresh Air" and I just had to post the link to the interview. Brilliant stuff.

You don't often get to hear religious leaders say things like "if God caused the tsunami...he is a bastard" :) (The context of that quote is around the 4'40" mark in the clip, when Rev. Church talks about how he does not believe in an interventionist God.)

If you are interested, you can also read this essay by Reverend Church titled "There is no hell" (link to Beliefnet) and a recent article on him in the NYT.

Dogs > Cats. Always. Here's Proof.

A dog was hailed as a hero on Sunday after it risked its life to save a litter of newborn kittens from a house fire, rescuers said.
The dog is named "Leo". Irony noted.

It therefore follows that "Dog People > Cat People" and more importantly, "Beatles fans > Rolling Stones fans". If you don't see the connection between this conclusion and the news story, you must be one of those Cat People. (If you are one of these Cat People, then you are all right. That was a bad-but-still-creepy film, wasn't it?)

Saturday, October 25, 2008

Dear Ms. Etiquette

Once again, I have started receiving those emails at work. All these messages contain pictures of burning lamps and feature impossibly garish, multi-colored text wishing me a "happy and prosperous Diwali". Who designs these things? Pyromaniacs tripping on mescaline?

Now, I don't mind pictures of burning lamps so much but the eye-blinding text makes me want to...well, that's what I want to know: should I reciprocate with a polite "wish you the same" or pay a visit to these people with a flamethrower and a chainsaw in hand?

P.S.: I know the former's easier to pull off but the latter would be so much more personal (this being the festive season and all).

Wednesday, October 22, 2008

Woah. Third Moon Post In Three Days.

The lunatics (who, if you recall, have been on the grass since 1973) are on sale for three bucks.

Caught the Moon Launch on the web last night. It was hair-raising good. Upon lift-off, we stood up, applauded and then ate a chocolate truffle to celebrate. The original plan was to eat a chocolate truffle for each phase of separation but I was reminded that not all that goes up comes back down. At least not without spending an hour at the gym every morning for the rest of my life (and possibly the after-life too.)

The live audio feed from ISRO's Control Room was, to me, the best part of the evening. It was not your average unintelligible space-tech jargon. It was unintelligible space-tech jargon delivered in rich, coconut-flavored Mallu accent.

The second-best part of the event was learning that ISRO has a "Deep Space Tracking Station" in a village called Byalalu near Bangalore. I don't know about you, but just saying the words "Deep Space Tracking Station" makes me feel like donning a spacesuit (but the moment I say "Byalalu", I am thinking of garlanded cutouts of Dr. Rajkumar and haggling over autorickshaw fares from Majestic Bus Stand to the Deep Space Tracking Station.)

Now I can't wait for the emergence of India's own "moon-landing was a hoax" cult. Though G. Madhavan Nair seems too nice a man to actually punch one of those idiots.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Liveblogging the Launch

Via Lekhni's blog, a liveblog of ISRO's Chandrayaan-1 launch. Go Johnny go go go!

Update: ISRO is webcasting the launch (Via). No details on whether ISRO plans to bring their website into the 21st century.

Speaking of moons, I recently discovered an outtake of the Doors' classic "Moonlight Drive" (on a gigantic 5-CD compilation called "Forever Changing". It's a superb collection of artists featured on Elektra Records between 1963-73. More on that compilation later.)

If you ask me, the opening verse of the song is probably the closest Jim Morrison ever got to writing good poetry. And Krieger's slide-playing was never more evocative than on this song.

"Let's swim to the moon
let's fly into the tide
penetrate the evening
that the city sleeps to hide
Let's swim out tonight
it's our turn to try
park besides the ocean
on our moonlight drive"

Monday, October 20, 2008

"Late Luncheon And An Early Breakfast"

A funny, charming (and short) video of Keith Moon accepting an industry award on behalf of the Beatles. (No idea why.)

Those public-speaking courses may not tell you this but it is clear after watching the video that the real secret to nailing a speech is doing a somersault after the speech.

Can your presidential candidate do a somersault?

Wednesday, October 15, 2008

Monday, October 13, 2008


Oh how I love the internets.

I heard Bobby Bland singing "Further on up the road" on a college radio station the other day and realized just how much more powerful it was compared to the versions I am familiar with.

Just why isn't Bobby Bland heard on the radio? (Salon asked the same question back in 2000 for its "Brilliant Careers" series on Bobby Bland.)

Anyway, a-googlin' I went and found a fine mp3 blog that had the song "Shoes" on it. Such a classic soul track. (Browse around that blog for more delightful music - including Slim Harpo's "Shake your hips".)

Like I said, oh how I love the internets.

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Banksy's Village Petstore And Charcoal Grill

“I wanted to make art that questioned our relationship with animals and the ethics and sustainability of factory farming,” Banksy said in a statement distributed by a publicist, “but it ended up as chicken nuggets singing.”
How can you not love art that features singing chicken nuggets?

Like all his other projects, no one really knows if he is responsible for this exhibition. But I will go check it out. I love his work.

A weird, hypnotic video of one of the exhibits (there are more videos on that page - do check them out, particularly the one titled "Leopard"). You can also read about the exhibition in today's Times.

Friday, October 03, 2008

Umberto D.

It does not seem right to single out one scene from a great film and not talk about the rest of the film but if this post makes even one reader of this blog curious about Vittorio De Sica's Umberto D., my job here is done :)

Allow me to set up the the video that you see below.

Umberto D. Ferrari, the protagonist of this classic Italian film, is an aging pensioner with exactly *zero* prospects in life. You see men like him everywhere. He has no friends or family (except for a little dog named Flike), he is unable to make ends meet and when this scene plays out, he does not even have a place he can call his home.

Out of desperation, Umberto decides to take up begging. But he feels a great deal of shame because he has been a member of the working class. What if someone known to him were to "catch" him begging? (Which is exactly what happens.)

We see the sad old man, stand on a street corner, shyly holding his hand out for alms, opening and closing his fist with embarrassment and wishing he could disappear when a man does stop with some change.

What makes this a great sequence is not the depiction of poverty and desperation. Any melodramatic director with a camera and a sentimental background score can do that. The greatness of the scene lies in how De Sica manages to amplify Umberto's pathos by adding some comedy to the situation. (That part of the sequence is not included in the video. Just know that the comedy bit involves a hat and Flike the dog.) It's made doubly sad because the situation is both funny and absurd.

OK, enough commentary. Now watch the video:

If you really, really want to enjoy the film, please resist the temptation to watch all those YT clips featuring the very last scene.

Thursday, October 02, 2008


Uma has a very touching post about the boy who died in the recent bomb explosion in New Delhi.

Sunday, September 28, 2008

Saturday, September 27, 2008

Thanks For The Pasta Sauce

“The trick of living is to slip on and off the planet with the least fuss you can muster. I’m not running for sainthood. I just happen to think that in life we need to be a little like the farmer, who puts back into the soil what he takes out.”- Paul Newman (from the obituary in the Times.)
Of all his films, my favorite film is probably Sidney Lumet's "The Verdict". That one scene in the film is all the proof you need that a great actor can make a great script even greater.

Here's that monologue in its entirety:
You know, so much of the time we're just lost. We say, "Please, God, tell us what is right; tell us what is true." And there is no justice: the rich win, the poor are powerless. We become tired of hearing people lie. And after a time, we become dead... a little dead. We think of ourselves as victims... and we become victims. We become... we become weak. We doubt ourselves, we doubt our beliefs. We doubt our institutions. And we doubt the law. But today you are the law. You ARE the law. Not some book... not the lawyers... not the, a marble statue... or the trappings of the court. See those are just symbols of our desire to be just. They are... they are, in fact, a prayer: a fervent and a frightened prayer. In my religion, they say, "Act as if ye had faith... and faith will be given to you." IF... if we are to have faith in justice, we need only to believe in ourselves. And ACT with justice. See, I believe there is justice in our hearts.

Friday, September 26, 2008

"No Sock Left Behind", "Black Sock Down" Etc Etc

One fine black Gold Toe sock has fallen behind the dryer. The dryer's too wide (and high) for me to lean over and across its top and retrieve the sock. So I look around the room for some tools and find the following:

A collection of short stories by Balzac
Terry Pratchett's "Going Postal"
A week-old issue of the New Yorker
A compilation of E.B. White's writings
A four-inch tall "Laughing Buddha"
Lip-gloss, moisturizer and an almost-empty can of deodorant

Let's see if you lateral thinkers can help me get my Gold Toe sock back out.

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

All Your Trademarks Are Belong To Us?

Every Marx Brothers fan knows the legend: the brothers set out to make a film titled "A Night in Casablanca", Warner Bros. threatened them with a lawsuit (they had just released "Casablanca") and Groucho fired off a letter to the studio, famously stating that the Marx Brothers had been brothers long before the Warner Brothers and therefore their case had no merit.

Sixty three years later, it appears that Warner Bros. just got told off again, this time by a court in India, over a film called "Hari Puttar". So do the studios think spoofing a title is not cool but ripping off an entire plot is OK?

But back to "Groucho v. Warner". The story is false, of course. The real story is funnier.

Monday, September 22, 2008

For The 4 People In The World Who Don't Own IV...

Amazon's selling Led Zeppelin IV for $1.99.

Good deal. The concrete-hard snare drums on "When the levee breaks" alone are worth four bucks. (Sure, that other song on IV threatens to diminish the album's value to some ridiculous negative number but still...)

Sunday, September 21, 2008


It's like "PostSecret", only without the forced attempt at eloquence: Commonties (Warning: some posts are NSFW)

Sunday, September 14, 2008

Two DFW Links

David Foster Wallace, interviewed by Charlie Rose, back in 1997. And his commencement speech that OTP forwarded me a few months ago.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

"By The Way You Look Fantastic, In Your Boots Of Chinese Plastic"

Hare Krishna, Hare Rama too,
Govinda I am still in love with you
I see you in the birds and in the trees
that's why they call me Krishna Mayee

Chrissie Hynde pays a cool, bouncy tribute to Bob Dylan's "Boots of Spanish leather" on her new song titled "Boots of Chinese plastic" (from the Pretenders' new album, "Break up the concrete").

The mp3 is here. Great stuff!

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

Bihar Flood Relief

Thanks to a crazy work schedule over the last two weeks, I had almost overlooked all news reports about the millions affected by floods in Bihar. (Link to BBC)

If you would like to help, Association for India's Development (AID) is raising funds for relief work in Bihar. (On the main page, click on the "All India Relief Relief Fund" link).

MSF has filed a field report on Bihar.
"Some areas remain totally cut off and stories from those in the makeshift camps indicate that entire villages have been destroyed by the floodwaters with no inhabitants surviving. These areas are now starting to face acute food shortages."

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Saturday, August 30, 2008

A Really Cool (And Totally Pointless) iPod Hack

Ever pick up your guitar and go "Wish I could sound like {insert your favorite guitarist's name here}"? Fret not. (Ha ha). A kid on youtube shows you how, using an iPod. (As always, YT commenters are there to provide their invaluable opinion on the video.)

Wednesday, August 27, 2008

AC/DC: "Black Ice"

AC/DC release their new album on October 18.

Start working on your air-guitar skills NOW.

Tuesday, August 26, 2008

Vote For The Doctors' Project

"American Express is holding its second annual "Members Project" to donate up to $1.5 million towards a project nominated by their card members. Please help us by voting for Doctors Without Borders’ project “Saving the Lives of Malnourished Children” and spreading the word about this initiative."
You can go to the Members' Project page and nominate MSF's project. (Registration required.)

Sunday, August 24, 2008


"We ordered calamari and two glasses of pinot noir, and I asked the waiter to get something for the butterfly."
A Red Admiral butterfly takes a shine to a journalist. The full article and the one-page print version. (Links to Washington Post, via Digg.)

Speaking of butterflies, I googled for Indian butterflies and landed on this great-looking site. (And there she is, the Common Emigrant. Countless happy hours were spent chasing them, the Joker and the Sailor.)

Saturday, August 23, 2008

"War Over Shoes And Toilets"

"This is the day my mother has chosen to die, and the toilets need to be spotless."
Hardly your typical weekend fare, but it's essential reading.

How does a household cope with a (terminally ill) family member's decision to be euthanized? (Via Digg)

I can't even begin to imagine what such a decision would mean to family and friends. Would it feel like murder? Would you feel weak for not having been able to convince the person to live? And assuming you were able to convince that person, would you be able to watch the person deal with the physical and mental pain of the terminal illness?

Would you be filled with love and kindness for a person just because you knew he or she was dying? And aren't we all dying? If so, why isn't there love and kindness in our hearts all the time? Do you look at every human you meet and think "you are dying and so am I, so let's just be kind and loving with each other"?

Just why on earth are we squabbling over shoes and toilets?

Sunday, August 17, 2008

Untitled, For A Very Good Reason

For more than three weeks now, I've been hearing people say "summer's almost gone". Nonsense. The fireflies disappeared more than six weeks ago. So I know that summer has been gone for at least that long. In fact, I am not even sure summer was ever here.

I received my rakhi by mail yesterday. But what does it mean when I tie that piece of string on to my wrist myself? That I am my own sister? That I will always protect myself? That I can just give myself a little gift?

Feeling a little confused, I turned my attention to a real raksha bandhan ceremony as my wife tied a rakhi on her younger brother's wrist. (Amazing how the ceremony makes even a six-footer seem like a little baby). As a joke, I fired up YouTube and played that song from "Hare Rama Hare Krishna" and predictably, got distracted by the comments to the video. Go on and read some of the comments and tell me if you didn't feel a little tug inside your heart.

Space Bar has a new blog and she wants to know "what makes you depressed". Boring, cheap breakfast cereal should have been my answer.

Peter Griffin (the blogger, not the man in the green pants) emailed about a "flash fiction" contest. So if you are a flasher and you can, that doesn't sound quite right.

The Cole Porter bio-pic, "De-lovely" is a bad movie. Please don't watch it.

Monday, August 11, 2008

"A Bad, Bad, Brother"

RIP, Isaac Hayes.

Here he is, performing his classic, at WattStax 1972. (WattStax is sometimes known as the "Black Woodstock".)

It's one of the coolest movie theme-songs and possibly one of the funkiest wah-wah guitar intros.

Saturday, August 09, 2008

"I Met The Walrus"

A beautifully animated short featuring a teenager's interview with John Lennon in 1969. The animation is reminiscent of visuals from "Yellow Submarine" and Monty Python's animated gags. And it's such a pleasure listening to Lennon talk about peace, revolutions and the answer being "there".

The full story of the interview here. (courtesy Metafilter)

Some kids actually enjoyed listening to the Bee Gees in 1969? Granted that the Bee Gees in 1969 were much better than their disco incarnation, but there was so much more going on, musically, in 1969. Just look at this list of some great albums from 1969. Tell me, what 14-year old would spend his time and money on the Bee Gees? A most unfortunate flashback to my 14th year....I emerge from a record shop with a copy of Wham's "Make It Big". But that same year, I also discovered Queen, Deep Purple, Jimi Hendrix and Bob Dylan. So now that my Coolness Quotient has been re-established, we now resume our normal programming.

Friday, August 08, 2008

Talking Book: Literacy Bridge

This could be big. And let's hope it is.
"As an affordable literacy tool, the Talking Book device offers children and adults a versatile and interactive tool designed for use with locally-recorded readings of existing and newly created reading books."
Literacy Bridge wants to bridge the literacy gap by offering a low-cost audio device that plays back educational content. (Read details of their solution here.)

The idea is fantastic and from what I've read, so is the implementation (inexpensive, battery-powered, open source software) and this addresses a critical problem to some extent: the paucity of teachers in villages.

I learned about this company from Slashdot, which will carry an interview with the founder of Literacy Bridge soon. (If you have a question for the founder, you can post it there.)

Thursday, August 07, 2008

The Maharaja Plays The Cole Porter Songbook

If you are happy and you know it, play an Oscar Peterson album.

Feeling inspired by TR's "happy" post, I went looking for a "happy" jazz album and ended up with "Oscar Peterson Plays The Cole Porter Songbook".

Sure, Ella singing that great songbook will always be on my desert island album list, but this delightful little album by the "Maharaja" is very, very close to breaking into the list.

Free Napster has other Peterson albums, but you can look at the complete track list on Amazon and listen to samples.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

Just Your Typical "To A Bollywood Actress, Everything Looks Like A Nail" Kind Of A Story

“My friends advised me to carry a hammer in my bag and I did that every day.”

Hammers are scary, serial killer-y things. (Joan agrees. Posthumously.) But maybe Bipasha just wanted to hammer in the evening, in the morning and all over the land?

Sunday, August 03, 2008

"Crush This Cripple Crow Into Mashed Bananas": Finally, The Ramayana Meets Psych-Folk

A wild, weird, wonderful video by singer Devendra Banhart for a song called "Carmensita". (Indians and Bollywood fans, please note the "Central Board of Film Certification" certificate at the start of the video and let your chest cavities be filled with much love, joy and pride). Via Boing Boing.

Too bad Banhart is not well-known enough to reap the benefits of some "Hindu pride" backlash ;)

Nandalal Bose Retrospective In Philadelphia

Not sure why I did not hear about this sooner, but the works of Nandalal Bose, one of the central figures of modern Indian art, are on display at the Philly Museum till September 1.

Thursday, July 31, 2008

"Semantic Shifts": Analyzing The Greatest Band's Music

Bob Dylan once said "their chords were outrageous...just outrageous" while describing the Beatles' music.

Just in case the word "outrageous" does not impress the serious musicologist in you, here's a fantastic scholarly analysis of the the band's work. (If the site is down, read it from the cache.) Via Digg.

A question that often pops up when reading such papers is "did the Beatles themselves understand the musical underpinnings of their songs like these scholars do?" The implicit assumption there being pop music is all about "feel" and "instinct" and pop songs are not written or composed like classical music. I find that hard to accept. Demo tracks on "Anthology" ("I'll be back" is a great example) are proof that only rarely did the songs "arrive" fully realized. Besides, a musician, like any creative artist, has to make good choices. So whether or not John and Paul understood the technical implications of using incidental chords or starting a song in one key and the verse in another, they certainly had to know what choices made for a great pop song.

Soundscapes has an entire section titled "Beatles' Studies", with papers like "A flood of flat-sevenths" :)

For a "music-only" analysis of the Fab Four, nothing comes close to the great Alan W. Pollack's "Notes On" series.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Riding Around In The Breeze

Messrs Harrison, Dylan, Petty, Lynne, Keltner (and a sad, empty chair) singing "End of the line" on a train. Life is good. (Link to YT.)

Isn't there's something very warm, satisfying (and even uplifting) about the major key melody and the ease with which the singers sing their parts?

There are a couple of interesting contradictions in the song. Even though the song is in a major key, Roy Orbison's vocal lines make it sound like it is a minor key song, thus introducing a melodic tension. You are never quite sure if it is a "happy" song or a "sad" song. Lyrically too, the song's themes of hopefulness, acceptance, resignation and contentment (all in a three-minute pop song with three chords!) stand in contrast with some of the lines which are gently defiant and project a non-conformist attitude. When was the last time you heard a pop song which says "It don't matter if you are by my side/I'm satisfied"?

Tuesday, July 29, 2008


I can now safely say I am hooked to alltop. I wasn't so sure at first. Too many topics/categories seemed repetitive; "Opera" turned out to be a collection of blogs about the browser; that orange banner was a pain in the rear. But all that was four weeks ago. Now I find myself checking out news and blog updates regularly on alltop rather than via RSS. And I've made peace with the orange banner.

Searching for blogs by topic is just not easy. Google's own tool has been gamed to death by spam-blogs. (Simply enter an alltop topic into Google's blog-search and compare the results with alltop's blogs). Alltop is filling an important gap in the market while destroying my productivity. What could be better than that?

Friday, July 25, 2008

75 Degrees, Humidity Is Only 80% And I Still Can't Play That Face-melting Solo

I was shopping for a metronome. Instead, I found this strange device on Amazon. It has a tuner and a metronome and - I don't get this at all - it includes a temperature and humidity meter.

Are these guys competing with The Weather Channel? Or is this product aimed at bands that have lost all interest in their art? Like, say, the Rolling Stones. Just bring this device into the rehearsal room and voila! Mick, Keith and Charlie suddenly have something to talk about - the weather.

It could also be that the device is a deliberate Zen koan-like statement, designed to expose the limitations and conditioning of our minds. Why should a metronome be limited to playing a "tick-tick-tick-tick"? A metronome should be a representation of everything in the universe. After all, Time is infinite and a metronome is all about time.

But if multi-function metronomes are the way of the future, how about integrating it with a lie detector and a complete Guantanamo-style waterboarding setup? You fake a few chords, you flub a few notes, you "arrive" at the 6th bar too late - DIE, LOSER, DIE - and the audience applauds in appreciation.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Google's Knol: The World Is A Very Depressing Place

Google launched their version of Wikipedia-Yahoo, called Knol, yesterday and it took just one visit to that site for the proverbial shit to be scared out of me.

Under the folksily titled "Plain old bag o' Knols" are contained such delightful topics as "Urinary tract infection", "lung cancer", "herpes zoster", something called "acoustic neuroma" (which I don't want to click on even though it has the word "acoustic" in it because God help us if there's an electric neuroma), "constipation" and the scariest of them all, "Toilet clogs". (Which, I hope, explains the sense of panic I so touchingly conveyed in the opening sentence.)

Here's a free sales tip to Google: why not simply hire a bunch of doctors, show them your "Top 10 medical-related search words", have them write up a bunch of Knols and suck in the rest of the 0.0001% traffic that you don't have today? (Wait. There is a Knol on Erectile Dysfunction already. But there is no Knol on Penile Enhancements. A-ha.)

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

"He's Texting!" "He's Just Chilling!!"

Frighteningly cool display of riding skills and blatant disregard for personal and public safety. Ladies and gents, Easy Rider, Indian Version. (From MeFi)

Monday, July 21, 2008

No Nipples On This Batsuit

For my money, "The Dark Knight" is easily the best superhero film till date.

It's only too easy to come out of "The Dark Knight" and wonder if the film should really have been titled "The Joker". But that is stating the obvious. Drama is conflict and an extraordinary conflict requires an extraordinary antagonist. All great "action" films have memorable villains. It's the rule.

One of the reviewers got it right - I believe it is Ebert - when he called Batman merely one of the ensemble players, not the lead in the traditional sense. When reading the comic-books, it was easier to appreciate this fact: those books were as much about the villains as they were about Batman. In fact, the decision to buy a Batman comic-book was often dependent on which villain got the "top billing" on the front cover.

I disagree with Falstaff when he describes Nicholson's Joker as "a bizarre, larger-than-life arch-fiend, who seemed to have stepped straight out of an animation. He was psychotic and scary, but in a way that conformed to the boundaries of the genre."

IMO, Nicholson tried too hard to be scary-funny and was neither scary nor funny. It took me completely out of story-universe. But Ledger's character elicited laughter, sympathy (when he first starts talking about those scars), fear and revulsion. This is what the Joker's character is all about. Here's a sick, crazy villain doing all those crazy things and what you want most, at that point in the story, is for Batman to show up and straighten up things. Totally unlike Burton's Batman, in which I just wanted to watch Nicholson do his shtick.

What Christopher Nolan's film manages to convey at the end is a (temporary) sense of security: yes, villains like the Joker are out there, but Gotham has Batman. He may be the Hamlet of superheros, but at the end of this adventure, Batman's voice has certainty and confidence. The Joker may have had the most interesting lines in the film, but it is Batman's conviction about his actions that will bring me back to the next episode.

P.S.: For the first time on screen, Batman has that glowing, "white-eyed" look. Need I say more why I think this is the best Batman film ever?

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Brother Cesare's Molten Metal

The words "heavy metal monk" appear in the story. The said monk, sixty-two years of age, makes the devil sign in the video while singing growl-y metal vocals. So if you don't want to burn in hell while being poked on your sides by Gibson Flying-Vs, check out this awesomely cool story.

I hope that when I am sixty-two, I am still as inspired and moved by music - by any and every form of music - as Brother Cesare. And that my mind is still open to accepting new ideas.

Thursday, July 17, 2008


Everyone loves a good muxtape but a random muxtape is even more fun.

Via Muxtape's blog, a lovely little jazz muxtape.

My latest random muxtape started with the Austin Powers Intro and ended with Daft Punk's "One More Time". Huh.

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

100 Essential Jazz Albums, According to The New Yorker

David Remnick's list of 100 Essential Jazz albums.

There are five Miles Davis albums on the list, three Louis Armstrong albums, five by Duke Ellington and at #55 is the Mount Everest of vocal jazz albums, "Ella Fitzgerald Sings The Cole Porter Songbook".

Tabula Rasa probably owns all these albums in CD, mp3 and vinyl formats...

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Mahatma Gandhi's Audio Recording, 1947

God bless the internet.

Courtesy of Washington Post, a rare recording of Gandhiji addressing a gathering of Asian leaders, recorded on April 2, 1947. (Via Metafilter). What makes this recording unique is its "date stamp" and the fact that the speech is delivered in English.

WaPo writer Shankar Vedantam provides a good historical background for this little audio gem. You can also watch a very interesting video discussion between him and Rajmohan Gandhi about this recording here. (In the video, Rajmohan Gandhi makes a reference to recordings of his grandfather's post-prayer meeting speeches and how they are lying undigitized in Indian government's archives. So much for Information and Broadcasting.)

The audio quality is slightly patchy at times, but not so much that you can't hear the great man's words. And there are some great words in there. Just listen.

Monday, June 30, 2008

Wall-E + Eve

  • All you need is love.

  • Something tells me I will be watching this movie again.

  • Is the film preachy? You bet it is.

  • Best use of "La vie en rose" since Billy Wilder's "Sabrina".

  • This is purely anecdotal, but most kids were not terribly excited by the film. Though they all *loved* the lead characters. But I think they will be watching this film again (and again) in a few years' time.

  • At least half a dozen sequences from the film deserve to be on beautiful, glossy posters. Heck, the closing credits of the opening short deserve a poster of their own.

  • Fire extinguishers FTW.

Friday, June 27, 2008

Top 10 TED Videos

It's TED, it's their top 10 and in one of the videos, Tony Robbins calls Al Gore (who is seated in the front row) a "sonofabitch". So go watch.

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

Monday, June 23, 2008

Cry Like A Man, Man

Lou Gehrig, Jon Stewart, Abraham Lincoln, Cal Ripken, Walter Cronkite - some famous men who were not afraid to cry in public. (link to

Also click on Page 2 at the bottom of the article for some "dishonorable mentions".

"..ones that will curve your spine, grow hair on your hands"

George Carlin deserves to be remembered for more than just the seven words.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Darwin. Hot Or Not?

A well-written (and short) historical perspective in NYT on Charles Darwin's contribution to science and if he is indeed worthy of all the hero-worship.

Some of the comments on the blog are interesting too. One commenter has said it best: "So celebrate Darwin for the great mind that he was, but don’t stop looking for the truth."

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Now THIS Is Soul Music

Al Green unleashes his awesomosity as he jams with Chicago. ("Tired of being alone", YT link, via MetaFilter.)

There's a priceless moment at the very end of the video. The band members lay down their instruments and flash HUGE smiles at Reverend Al.

Such bliss!

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Can A Foot Pedal Bestow Greatness?

Who the hell knows? But right now, there's a $15,500 wah-wah pedal on stage at the Bonnaroo festival.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Nobody Steals a Kinkade

Why do museum robbers steal a famous painter's work or a well-known painting? Wouldn't it be practically impossible to sell it on the open market?

Slate answers the question.

(Oh, and everyone's favorite quaint cottages)

Thursday, June 12, 2008


Via Digg, this article about India's "Sulabh" and how it is changing the lives of the scavengers. Nothing new, if you are familiar with Sulabh's story.

A few months ago, Tehelka did a superb job at covering a related story about the lives (and deaths) of India's manhole cleaners. That story is a must-read.

Sulabh hosts a "Museum of Toilets" website which has a section titled the Aryan Code Of Toilets. Reading it will cure most people of nostalgia about the good old days.

But what I want to know is, why did the Aryans require an instruction manual for performing numbers 1 and 2? (And does that mean even back then "RTFM" was the stock response?)

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

Mutatin' Bacteria, Batman!

"Over the generations, in fits and starts, the bacteria did indeed evolve into faster breeders. The bacteria in the flasks today breed 75% faster on average than their original ancestor. Lenski and his colleagues have pinpointed some of the genes that have evolved along the way;"
This is a fascinating bit of science research. (Link to science writer Carl Zimmer's blog, The Loom.)

Thursday, June 05, 2008


Three YT videos featuring the master talking about cinema. His cinema.

That's all.

(courtesy MetaFilter)

Monday, June 02, 2008

Hey Bo Diddley :(


Even if he had never played that crazy "hambone", I would still worship Bo Diddley for writing one of *the* all-time great, scary badass songs:
I walked 47 miles on barb wire,
Use a cobra-snake for a necktie.
Got a brand new house on the roadside,
Made from rattlesnake hide.
I got a brand new chimney on top,
And it's a-made out of human skulls.
Now come on baby, let's take a little walk
And tell me, who do you love?

Saturday, May 31, 2008

Thoughts That Should Never Pop Up During Sex, But Do

"Wish I had bookmarked that page with a really simple solution to the Rubik's cube. You know, the page I found while googling for 'absinthe'.."

"What if I voted for McCain?"

"Kraftwerk should stun the world by releasing a totally acoustic album, complete with songs about birds and trees and ocean waves and even a Shania Twain cover."

"No, you must be Don Francisco's sister".

Saturday, May 24, 2008

Two Commencement Speeches, No Sunscreen

I was a little suspicious when ex-"aw-shucks-you'll-be-back-no-I-won't-yes-you-will-no-I-am-done"blogger OTP forwarded me a link to a commencement speech.

Some of you will understand. Back in 1997, I developed violent feelings towards people who forwarded me commencement speeches, especially one featuring the word "sunscreen". NYT (and even Kurt Vonnegut) found the speech funny, but I thought it was pure Anne Freaking Geddes. (Never mind that it was not actually a commencement speech and - big relief - was not written by Kurt Vonnegut.)

So why did OTP forward me a commencement speech, I asked myself. Was she turning soft? Would she be posting song lyrics on her blog next? Judging from her blog, I had always found her bullshit detector to be keen and fine-tuned. So I gave it a second thought, suppressed my violent feelings and read the commencement speech she sent me.
"...It means being conscious and aware enough to choose what you pay attention to and to choose how you construct meaning from experience."
The stuff wasn't bad at all. In fact, the speech was pretty good. One of those speeches that you wish you had heard at 21. (But as I later told OTP, if I had heard this speech at 21, I would probably have left the room with a loud snicker and a dismissive wave of the hand.)

You can read the full transcript of David Foster Wallace's speech here. Some very interesting ideas in there and no mention of sunscreen.

(Space Bar: echoes of JK's lectures about the meaning of education?)

It is some coincidence that my (only) favorite commencement speech was also delivered to graduates of Kenyon College, back in 1990, by cartoonist Bill Watterson. Everyone knows him for "Calvin and Hobbes". This is the same man who, at the peak of his career, famously decided to call it quits. Here's a terrific excerpt from Mr. Watterson's address:
"Ambition is only understood if it's to rise to the top of some imaginary ladder of success. Someone who takes an undemanding job because it affords him the time to pursue other interests and activities is considered a flake. A person who abandons a career in order to stay home and raise children is considered not to be living up to his potential-as if a job title and salary are the sole measure of human worth."
Link to the speech. Again, great ideas, no sunscreen.

BTW, it's going to be bright and warm and sunny all this long weekend and I plan to be outdoors as much as possible. What is that one thing I will need the most? That's right. Lots of Tabasco.

Friday, May 23, 2008

Return Of The Son Of The Revenge Of The Jones Family's South American Vacation, Part Four, Episode 1

Lowered expectations helped a lot. The first half of the film was very entertaining. People in the theater cheered and clapped our hero's return. Indy actually says "nucular". Nice touch.

Some critics seem not to have enjoyed Shia Leboeuf's entry in the story. I thought it was cute. Not many 12-year olds will recognize a reference to "The Wild One". The 19-year olds sitting behind me struggled with Shia's name. I thought that was funny. (And not so funny? What the screenplay does with the two lead characters - Indy and this kid. Other than the obligatory comical bickering and some mild antagonism, there was just nothing between them. A huge lost opportunity, story-wise.)

The second half of the movie was not engaging enough. There was definitely a sense of restlessness among the audience. Imagine, there we were, watching a new Indiana Jones movie and a couple of idiots in the crowd (from a certain Ivy league college) were busy texting. No, I don't think the problem is lack of attention spans at all.

There is a lot happening in the second half but, and this is the real problem, I was hardly paying attention to Indy. There are too many characters filling up the screen and they are mostly uninteresting.

But the definitely-not-as-cool-as-melting-faces-climax and the closing sequence can still be enjoyed.

Just lower your expectations. A lot.

Someone on Digg commented on this movie: "definitely did not suck as much Phantom Menace". Nowhere close. Indy fans got a much better deal than Star Wars fans.

Thursday, May 22, 2008

61's My New Drug

The Sixty-One. Lots of good new music. The "Best" page is the place to start.

The Flight of the Concords song will induce cerebral LoLsy.

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Indy Movie

The last few days, I have been reading every bad review of the new Indiana Jones movie. I want to know just how bad the screenplay is and how the movie is utterly charmless and that there's not one funny line in it for Indy. I have also been reminding myself, mostly by remembering the fourth "Star Wars" movie, that George Lucas can inflict some serious cinematic damage.

This way, when I walk into the theater on Thursday, my expectations will be lower than the lowest point in the Mariana Trench. And then maybe, just maybe, I can once again enjoy an Indiana Jones adventure.

Sunday, May 18, 2008

Tagore's The Hero, Animated

Sometimes you find beautiful things on some random website, someone's little nerdy pet project page, and sometimes you find them on a blog right on your blog-roll.

I found a lovely animated short on Sugata's blog. The video is set to Rabindranath Tagore's rendition of his poem Beerpurush ("The Hero", not "The Beer-man", har dee har). Sugata was kind enough to include his own translation of the poem, so double the fun. This kind of stuff belongs not just to school textbooks but on YouTube and blogs. Thanks, Sugata! (Some googling led me to another translation of the poem. Link goes to

YT does not credit the animator(s), nor could I google for it. If you know who made this video, please post the names in the comment space.

You can also read Tagore's own translation of this poem (and his other poems) in his classic "The Crescent Moon" on Google Books. The text contains illustrations by the great painter, Nandlal Bose.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Birds Of Kolkata; No, It Does Not Come With Pickup Lines in Bengali

This is geeky OCD at its finest: a meticulous Indian birding guide. It has lovely pictures, extensive trip notes and even some on historical notes on bird-watching in India. (A fascinating example: Ustad Mansur, a painter employed by Emperor Jehangir, painted the Dodo.)

Finally, a country that has "13% of the world's bird species" gets a birding guide it deserves.

Update: Ludwig pointed me to another very cool bird site, India Birds. (The site resizes the browser window and requires QT plug-in to play birdsongs.)

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

With A Heave And A Ho

It's the greatest song ever written about sex on a train. (I don't even know if there's another song about sex on a train. Do you?)

It's a standard for all blues-rock bands. It was the first song that Led Zeppelin ever played.

Never mind your rock history books, but this is first song to use guitar distortion*, preceding not just the Kinks ("You Really Got Me") but even Link Wray ("Rumble").

Of the several gazillion versions of this song, there's one that still rocks ferociously.

Ladies and gentlemen, the Johnny Burnette Rock'n Roll Trio singing "Train kept a-rollin'". For best results, PLAY IT LOUD. (Sadly, not a video of the band. YT has plenty of other versions, including the famous Yardbirds' version. Guitarist Grady Martin's son has a comment on the YT page.)

*But who played lead? Was it Paul Burlison or Grady Martin? The debate, on this super-geeky guitar page.

*Also see this excellent WFMU page on "country-fuzz".

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

And You're A Rocket Queen, Oh Yeah!

Just don't call Tessy Thomas an Agni Aunt.

Of course, this profile has to talk about how she "does the tightrope walk between home and career". Why can't she be admired simply for her professional achievement?

Thursday, May 08, 2008

WWH Is Looking for Contacts in Burma

An email request from Peter.
"After the devastation caused by Cyclone Nargis in Myanmar, we have been trying to get information about the situation and how people who would like to help can best do so. But with Myanmar having been so cut off from the rest of the world, we have no contacts in the country.

If you know someone in Myanmar/Burma, could you help us get in touch with them? Ideally, people in the country who join us on the blog, or send us updates in some way.

We'd like to hear from people with reliable NGOs, secular charities, even in government or administration. The kind of information we are looking for is what the scale of destruction is, what emergency supplies and essential commodities are most needed, where money could be most effectively donated, organisation that need volunteers (many are willing to fly to Myanmar at their own cost, for instance), and so on.

You could leave a note in the comments here or in the GoogleGroup in this thread or in this Facebook group thread"

Wednesday, May 07, 2008

Continuing To Be Amazed By The Web Since 1994

Google adds Hindi to its translation page and there goes the rest of my day.

Puerile brains being what they are, I headed over to the page to translate my favorite Chuck Berry lyrics into Hindi. I was *so* entertained that I think I will cancel my basic cable subscription and maybe even stop renting DVDs and reading books. Maybe I will dedicate the rest of my life to translating Chuck Berry songs into Hindi. Take a look:

मेरा एक टन टन लिंग , मेरे एक टन टन लिंग
मैं चाहता हूँ कि मेरे साथ खेलने के लिए एक टन टन लिंग
मेरा एक टन टन लिंग , मेरे एक टन टन लिंग
मैं चाहता हूँ कि मेरे साथ खेलने के लिए एक टन टन लिंग

Are you not astonished at the - ahem - tool's ability to preserve the song's meter? And what about the translation of "Ding a ling" into "टन टन लिंग"? The master's innuendo, beautifully preserved in another language from another culture! PURE GENIUS!

I was going to post the translation to Prince's "Sexy M.F." but decided against it. Not because this blog is PG-13 but because the translation to the chorus (and a few verses) is just OUTRAGEOUSLY funny and I would rather you discover the beauty of that song, in Hindi, all by yourself.

Update: The reverse translation of "My ding-a-ling" into English is even classier. (Thanks, Space Bar!)

I have a gender ding, ding one of my gender
I want to play with my ding a gender
I have a gender ding, ding one of my gender
I want to play with my ding a gender

Tuesday, May 06, 2008


MSF's statement on their operations in Myanmar, in the wake of Cyclone Nargis.
"We are concerned that some of our patients may have treatment interruptions, either because they cannot access our clinics and/or because they have lost their medicines during the cyclone."

Monday, May 05, 2008

A Quick Lesson in Harmony Singing

Update: Found something even better and it's also on Pandora's blog: A page that lists examples (from pop/rock music) of some of the different kinds of harmony.

I just discovered that Pandora has a blog and it even carries the occasional music lesson! I found this excellent video primer on harmony singing on the blog.

What makes the video really cool is that it takes one simple melody line and applies different harmony techniques to it: tutti, "drone", unison, counterpoint etc. You need absolutely NO knowledge of musical theory to enjoy the video.

If you prefer a link to the page, go here.

I also found a very interesting page on harmony singing for Bluegrass music. (For the uninitiated, this page definitely needs some rudimentary knowledge of musical theory.)

I often wonder why harmony (especially counterpoint) was ignored by classical musicians during the early days of music development in the Indian subcontinent? Though one of the delights of Indian classical music is hearing the tanpuras's shimmering Sa and Pa (the classic interval of fifths; C and G notes) forming patterns with the notes of the raag/composition.

Real Engineers Don't Wear Suits, That's All

Go see "Iron Man" with your 10 year-old. He or she will leave the theater begging to be enrolled into an engineering/robotics program.

The engineering workstation sequences (in which Tony Stark develops the suit) were just jaw-droppingly cool.

Disappointment of the evening: Black Sabbath's song doesn't appear till the closing credits. Bah. I had always imagined an Act II montage showing Tony Stark prototyping and testing the suit, with this song blasting in the background.

Thursday, May 01, 2008

John Cage-ism

"In Zen, it is said, if something is boring after two minutes, try it for four. If still boring, then eight. Then sixteen. Then thirty-two. Eventually one discovers that it is not boring at all."
(Source: Wikiquote, via a comment on BoingBoing)

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

A New Way Of Reading Films - Caption Swap

What a delightful website - both in its design and its content. While it describes itself as "..a multilingual resource for anyone on the Internet interested in movie subtitles", it really gives you, for all practical purposes, a stripped-down screenplay. It omits everything but the dialog. There are no character descriptions, not even character names. Simply the sound of people talking. This is cinema distilled into pure conversation.

This act of reproducing just the dialog (or "subtitles", as a non-English speaking person might call it) produces an interesting effect. It instantly separates "interesting" character voices from the uninteresting ones. So from the pens (or typewriters) of geniuses like Billy Wilder and Charles Brackett, come lines like these:

I'm Michelangelo molding the beard of Moses.
I'm Van Gogh, painting pure sunlight.
I'm Horowitz, playing the Emperor Concerto.
I'm John Barrymore before the movies got him by the throat.
I'm Jesse James and his two brothers, all three of them.
I'm W. Shakespeare.
And out there it's not Third Avenue any longer.
It's the Nile, Nat.
The Nile and down it moves the barge of Cleopatra.
Come here.
Purple the sails, and so perfumed
that the winds were love-sick with them.

Just how ON EARTH did they write like that?

Well, ponder over that and other questions while you read some madcap comedy or some Thackeray or as you tell yourself a little Tokyo Story...

Reading films this way is so much fun. Thanks, kind people at!

I casually browsed through for some of my favorite films. Not all of them are there and not all titles loaded up yet but I am hoping they will come up soon.

Friday, April 25, 2008

Today is World Malaria Day; No Gifts For Those Damned Mosquitoes

"...malaria is largely preventable, detectable, and treatable."
"Every year, malaria kills nearly two million people and infects 400 to 500 million, according to the World Health Organization (WHO)"
"Plasmodium falciparum has become drug resistant to chloroquine, the drug of choice against malaria earlier."
April 25 is World Malaria Day.

Also see Malaria Site's section on malaria in India and this news report in the Times of India.

I support Doctors Without Borders.

Thursday, April 24, 2008

Need A Name For Your Clash Cover Band?

"The Orthodontic Clashes".

No? Not funny? How about the band's slogan? "The only band that mashes". Come on, that's priceless.

(Thanks, ??!, I owe you one. Via the utterly disjointed conversation on OTP's blog.)

This, of course, is the band that reaaaally matters.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Before The Strat Was The Strad

Antonio Stradivari, the celebrated maker of violins, made two guitars. (Two, I suppose, that are documented and known to be his creations?) And this is the exquisitely crafted sound hole of one of his master creations, a guitar known as the Rawlins:

More pictures at the University of South Dakota's National Music Museum page, where the instrument now resides. Click, drool, wipe, repeat.

(Anybody know if the museum has a "NO STAIRWAY TO HEAVEN" warning sign?)

UPDATE: Puppy Manohar: In response to your question about 5-stringed guitars, I came across this terrific page on the evolution of 19th century guitars. You may want to look it up. That site even has a picture of Rawlins' headstock (scroll down the page.)

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

Keeping You Healthy AND High Since 2008

Is it safe to drink if you are on antibiotics?
"Any interaction of alcohol with virtually all antibiotics is nonexistent, or so small as to be irrelevant. Metronidazole, an antibiotic used for a variety of infections, is the exception to this rule. When mixed with even small amounts of booze, it causes vomiting."
The Times looks at that and some other medical "myths" (and offers a quick dismissal of the "one must finish the prescribed dose of antibiotics" theory).

Very reassuring. Now I hope they publish the DIY vasectomy article soon.

Friday, April 18, 2008

Aruna Sairam - NJ Concert - April 27, 2008

Much joy. Aruna Sairam is performing next week in NJ. Details here.

(It looks like the lady is on a US tour. Check out her other dates. Link to There's even a lecture-concert at the Asia Society on May 11. Woohoo.)

Thursday, April 17, 2008

The Priests Are Sick, Their Followers Sicker. And The Pope?

Describing clerics who sexually abuse children as "gravely immoral," the octogenarian pope warned that the scourge of pedophilia "is found not only in your dioceses but in every sector of society."
Benedict is right. Why must we hold these diddlers priests to a higher moral standard? No reason at all.

But unlike his predecessors, Benny the Pope is determined to prove that he is part of the solution. He offered this very well thought out plan to address the sexual abuse problem.
"It calls for a determined, collective response," he said
After your mind has de-boggled completely, read this sentence and remind yourself that this is the man chosen to lead an organization that spreads the word of Jesus:
Benedict {and Bush} expressed concern for Christians in war-torn Iraq...
Don't you wish the Pope and his bishops were actually a little bit more like the dreadful society that surrounds them? Maybe then they would be more compassionate towards all men and women and not just the Christians in Iraq.

(Full story here, via Drudge)

Tuesday, April 15, 2008

Why I Am Reading Weather Reports These Days

"शनिवार को हुई बारिश के बाद रविवार को दिनभर तेज धूप रही। धूप से शहर तपने लगा। बीते दिनों हुई बारिश के कारण उमस जैसा माहौल होने से लोग गर्मी से परेशान होने लगे हैं। मौसम में आ रहे बार-बार परिवर्तन से लोगों की दिनचर्या पर भी असर पड़ रहा है।"
For some reason, I find this weather bulletin ridiculously literary and entertaining. It has short sentences and a flat, unemotional tone* that belong to a Simenon novel.

If I may stretch things a bit further, I will say there's even a Camusian air to it, almost like a scene from "The Stranger":
"I waited. The heat was beginning to scorch my cheeks; beads of sweat were gathering in my eyebrows.It was just the same sort of heat as at my mother’s funeral, and I had the same disagreeable sensations—especially in my forehead, where all the veins seemed to be bursting through the skin. I couldn’t stand it any longer, and took another step forward. "
Rest of the weather report is here. (link to, in Hindi.)

*For best results, read the report like a voiceover in a film (a violent film about outsiders and loners, like, say, "Taxi Driver").

If it interests you, check out this essay by Paul Theroux on Simenon and Camus. (Link to Timesonline)

Monday, April 14, 2008

It's Not May 11 Yet, But Still.

Two posts on mothers and they are both lovely and moving.

Space Bar's post:
"My mother used this diary – a few pages of it – at a rather fraught time in her own life, but abandoned her entries some time in April – around New Year, in fact."
After reading SB's post, I think I now understand why my wife treasures her mom's handwritten recipe notebooks.

Then there's sex columnist Dan Savage's recent column about his mother.
"Eulogizing my mother back here with the escort ads? So let's not think of this as a eulogy. Let's think of it as a thank-you note, the kind of nicety that my mother appreciated."
(Link to The Stranger, possibly NSFW page because of ads etc.)

Friday, April 11, 2008

When I Was A Kid...

...they made sequels to Rambo films. Now they make sequels to High School Musical. (story)

Mr. Trebek, I will take "The Grand Pussification Theory" for 400 points please.

Wednesday, April 09, 2008

A Brief History Of Acid

A retro-cool, graphical narration of the history of LSD. (I know, the horizontal scroll can be forgiven only after licking a full blotter, but it's still fun to read.)

(Found on MeFi, BoingBoing)

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Pulitzer Pop

Via Space Bar's blog, this news of Dylan's nomination for a Pulitzer.

Since I have a blog and therefore must have an opinion, I say "pshaw" and "phooey" to this announcement*. (But I refuse to say "psoriasis" and "psychology".)

IMHO, in the last decade, Dylan has tried harder than before to distance himself from the whole "voice of a generation" business (though he did manage to write an autobiography of sorts) and get back to playing blues and rock 'n roll.

I hope the Pulitzer people remember that other award ceremony held in Bob's honor in 1970, especially his buddy David Crosby's words :)

*I will not be so dismissive when that Nobel finally drops in Bono's lap. And that's because I am bored by all the press he gets for his activism.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

"All Love Stories Have Been Scandalous"

Vladimir Nabokov and Lionel Trilling on a Canadian TV talk-show, discussing "Lolita". Part 1, Part 2. (Both videos are under six minutes long.)

Pay attention to The Vlad as he talks about touching the hearts and affecting the minds of his readers. Zing!

BTW, if you are considering quitting smoking, the video might not be suitable for you.

Via The Blue

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

International Dialects Of English Archive

IDEA, or the International Dialects of English Archive, collects recordings of people talking in English.

The "India" section has recordings of English speakers from Lucknow (who, we are told, "exemplifies the lack of aspiration on initial [p], [t] and [k]"), Hyderabad, Chennai, Trivandrum, Gujarat and someone from "Northern India".

You know what would be really cool? Sound recordings of all Indian languages and dialects. There are Indian languages such as "Yakha" and "Kok Borok" and "Pankhu" and I have *no* idea how they sound.

(IDEA's homepage)

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Before And After

Beautiful portraits of a very unusual nature: before and after the subject's death.

Maybe I remembered the deaths of some loved ones, or maybe it's this fear of my own mortality*, but I found some of the accompanying words incredibly hard to read. Here's an example of what I mean.

*All you vicenarians, stop your snickering now. The thirties are different.

(Found on MeFi)

Sunday, March 30, 2008

Yes, But What About Our Bhelpuri Supplies?

This is super scary.
In 1979, at the height of the Green Revolution euphoria, per capita availability of cereals and pulses had gone up to 476.5 grams per day. The corresponding figure in 2006 was 444.5 grams per day, according to provisional government statistics.

In 2005, it was still lower at 422 grams. In the case of pulses, per capita net availability today is almost half of what it was five decades ago - 32.5 grams per day in 2006 compared with 60.7 grams per day in 1951.
Full story here. (Link to ToI)

Thursday, March 27, 2008

Weatherman Caught Cachinnating

A very short clip that's all over the Web today. I don't know why it's funny but it's funny.

Yes, "cachinnating" is a real word. Look it up.

Wednesday, March 26, 2008

The Starving Heartland

AID's newsletter mentions this rather alarming fact:
Chhattisgarh, known as the rice bowl of India, is home to more than 22,000 varieties of indigeous rice, nurtured by generations of farmers. And yet, today Chhattisgarh is among the most food insecure states of the country. Median Body weight and Body Mass Index figures seen in rural Chhattisgarh are worse than Sub-Saharan Africa.
(Emphasis mine.)

Tuesday, March 25, 2008

Weighs 8 Tons And Takes Great Pictures

What a cool hack:
"He fixed webcams to four elephants. One carried a "trunk-cam" - a device resembling a huge log concealing a camera which could be held in its trunk and dangled close to the ground.

Another had a "tusk-cam" hooked over its tusk. The elephants moved so steadily that the images are pin-sharp. Other log-cams were left on the forest floor.

The high-definition cameras were created by inventor Geoff Bell for a documentary in the remote Pench National Park in Madhya Pradesh in the heart of India."
The BBC, which is producing this 3-part series (narrated by, who else, Sir David Attenborough) has the story.

Producer/director John Downer has more information (and video) on his production company's website. (via MeFi)

Speaking of photo hacks, India's Ullas Karanth used the "camera-trap" technique to great success. I found a terrific blog dedicated to "camera-traps" and it has a very good profile of Mr. Karanth. Browse through the blog for examples of camera-trap photography.

Link to Pench National Park (why oh why can't Indian national parks have their own websites?)

Link to Pench's Tiger Reserve website.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

"Who's Gonna Save My Soul Now"

The new Gnarls Barkley single, titled "Who's gonna save my soul now" (supposedly written by the duo when James Brown died), is just *brilliant*. It sounds new and it sounds "classic".

The Onion AV Club, in a short review of the new album describes the album as "exhilarating" and the band as a "vital, enduring partnership".

This site has a video featuring The Roots' ?uestlove, who it seems was so moved by the band's new album that he "begged and begged and begged" to be the first one to leak the song on the Net :) YT has an unofficial video.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Revealing My Crush #1573903268

I'd be lying if I said I love Robert Bresson's "Pickpocket" for its Dostoyevskian theme or for all those things for which people worship Bresson. I watch "Pickpocket" for Marika Green and I am not ashamed of it :) The crush may not be jeannemoreauesque in proportions, but still. (Yes, I noted the irony. "Jeanne", Jeanne.)

(images from this terrific site. The guys running that site also "curate" four sites devoted to Bresson, Ozu, Tarkovsky and Dreyer. On the Bresson site is this page full of posters. Go forth and drool.)