Sunday, November 30, 2008

Ma-Kasam, WTF!!!

The movie Sorry Bhai seems, on the exterior to be a movie that has a good script, treats a sensitive subject well, has a good cast and has very good performances.
You read the reviews and think, yeah, maybe the movie is good. Let's watch it.
You start watching the movie and you realize that there's a hotshot Indian scientist who wants funding for his proposal that says everything is alive because 'sab cheezon mein molecules hote hain' and such things are supposed to reflect his love for physics.
WTF moment 1.
You say, chalo theek hai, maaf, lets watch on.
A female who falls for this passion of his (besides his good looks) despite being his brothers 'mangetar' and loving him for the last 5 years.
WTF moment 2.
Theek hai, watch on.
They decide that forbidden fruit must not be eaten but suddenly realize that forbidden fruit must be eaten. So they decide to spill the beans to bhai dear who doesnt care two hoots about his beautiful wife to be, but is bothered about a stock market crash in NY despite having settled in Mauritius. (He has a business too, it is said, but then he has one big client, Marco who, like him, is in Mauritius and is worried silly about the NY stock market)
WTF, WTF moment 3.
(Must I) watch on?!
Post legume spillage, lover boy and girl-who-wants-to-do-nothing-but-study-teach-and-slide-on-indoor-railings decide they will get married, but then OHMyGodWTFHappened type WTF moment happens. Mommy dear overhears bro spilling beans to elder bro and decides that her son cannot do such a 'neech harkat' and tells the bridegroom (new, scientist), 'tumhe meri kasam hai, tum shaadi nahin kar sakte, tum thodi der ke liye bhatak gaye ho' WTF!!!!!
Whats more WTF! is that scientist son fearing for his moms life, says no to the impending marriage (It has been mentioned early on in the movie why this ma-kasam thingie is important, but in a very stupid way, so much so that you ignore the scene)
WTF moment 4,5,6.
I've started, so I'll finish type sentiment occurs, and I decide that inspite of overwhelming WTFness, I shall finish the movie.
After dirty faces from daddy dear and a sudden epiphany that goes unmentioned, mommy darling realizes that shes made a mistake. So what does she do. Well, she does a ma-kasam once more. She tells scientist kiddo that you must live-in with your love, so that previous ma-kasam is fulfilled (and she gets to live!!). Now kiddo has to do it, because he's been ma-kasammed by ma once more. So he goes for it.
WTF moment 7, going on infinity!!!
Finish off this goddamn movie.....
End scene, scientist kiddo is marrying his live-in love after eleven years, with two kids in tow. Apparently, mom has ma-kasammed him once more into doing this.
Movie over!!!! Double cartwheels(in mind) and lemonade follow.

The essential premise of the film, that of the scientist kid-brother falling in love with big bro's fiancee, is dealt with in a fair fashion, but with so many WTF moments going around, it just gets overshadowed.
Good acting alone cannot bear the burden of propping up such a poor script and bad screenplay. It was good to watch Chitrangada Singh back in action after a long time, but every shot that she's in is pure eye candy and nothing more. She has a meaty role, only in terms of screen footage, but she sleep walks through it, looking disinterested at times, as does Boman Irani.
Sad, I'd watch Oye Lucky, Lucky Oye any day over this movie, many times over.

P.S: I think mommy dear agrees to come to Mauritius only after she hears that Elder Bro has Ma-kasammed younger bro.
Why Mauritius and why the flimsy premise of the bro having settled there, I do not know. Any other location wouldn't change the point of the movie. But yes, Mauritius is very, very very beautiful it seems from the movie footage.

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Native festival in foreign land

We celebrate Diwali, Independence Day and Republic Day here at Purdue every year. I believe this is the case with almost all universities in the US. All these celebrations are, without exception, peaceful and do not cause any problems to local residents. We do not go around asking others to come and celebrate festivals with us, but if others are willing to come and join us, we welcome them. Again, I believe this is a uniform pattern in nearly all U.S cities and universities.
However, when I hear Raj Thackeray spewing his venom against Biharis for celebrating ChhaT Pooja or against UP guys for celebrating UP Diwas, I can feel nothing but anger for the man. I am almost certain that these celebrations do not disrupt normal life in Mumbai any more than bomb blasts, encounters, marriages and sundry other activities do. For that matter, I am sure that it does not cause more inconvenience to locals than festivals like Navratri (The large scale Garba-Dandiya version of which is essentially Gujarati in nature), Tazia processions during Moharram, Durga Puja and the biggest of them all (for Maharashtra, i.e.), Ganeshotsav.
Pray tell me Sir, are you going to support the Americans if they go around bashing Indians for celebrating their festivals and national holidays?

Monday, October 20, 2008

For God's Sake

Sake as in say-k, not saa-kay as in Japanese Rice Wine.
Stereotyping, as in a Jew distributing pamphlets about Islamists wanting to kill everyone. Shahjahan built the Taj Mahal and he was one of us? who us? Us as in Pakistani us? No Us as in Muslim us...and that Muslim us is as Indian as he is Pakistani.
Indian Guy screwing the pakistani over.
9/11 apparently bullshit. And what really did happen, might you enlighten us?
Deen mein Jabardasti nahin hai!!!Awesome!!!
Poorly edited... poor scene transitions etc.
Kashmir, while not mentioning the Uighurs and the Tibetans and the Tamils.
More importantly, whatever has been said, is reportedly true.
Why would a Pashto mullah quote Iqbal? Weak argument, but still, I wonder if that were possible.
Are pakistani flags displayed so prominently in courts?
Racial Profiling and not go together. they are poles that feed on each other, good contrast. one guy does the crappy stuff while the other pays for it...good concept.
Feel bad for Mansoor.
The daleel about music is wrong theologically, apparently it isn't saaz, but soz .

Wrote this a long time ago, after watching Khuda Kay Liye, for some reason, didn't publish this post

Friday, October 17, 2008

Praising 'The Raj'

This article in the newspaper Slimes, sorry, Times of India, made me wonder, when o when, willst thou cease to crap, o Times?
I knew that TOI had gone degenerate, but I did not know that they had taken to being apologists for Raj (If-you-are-a-northie-then-f.o) Thackeray.
Are the editors at TOI napping or what?

Monday, October 06, 2008

Sock in the plexus

It is one thing to read news sitting in a office cubicle, occasionally being affected enough by it to say, 'man that is bad'. It is a completely different feeling when the subject of the news is someone you have interacted with, even if briefly, someone whose kin you've been in close interaction with over a considerable period. Someone you didn't think could do what he/she has.
Such news comes and knocks the wind out of you. You get the feeling you are mindfucked because nothing in the world can explain how a person having a similar (economical) upbringing, similar opportunities, similar surroundings can do something unspeakable.
You hope that further investigations reveal that the person is not guilty as charged, has no hand in any of the said dealings. You hope. But something inside tells you it may be futile hoping.
Damn, again.

The Times of Chindhiaan

The decline of the Times of India from a bastion of solid journalism to a glamor selling, advertisement focussed newspaper is well known.
Their online edition, on the whole, was reasonably free from the above mentioned problems till some time back.
In the recent past, however, the online edition has introduced a section, wherein supposedly hot pics of celebrities are linked to. The site they link to, is called, well, what else, hotklix.
Now I'm sure that the guys responsible for getting this article online, and their bosses, know where these clicks lead onto. Which begs the question, why is a leading newspaper in India, getting away with linking to sites like 'masalababes--the hottest indian female celebrties', or '' which I am sure host illegally, the pics of leading film actresses. Why do they need to do this? People interested in watching Kim Kardashian's rear, or fashion disasters or even wardrobe malfunction can look for these things on the internet. That's why they have Google, retards at TOI...don't you get it?
Why waste a link on such trash, why not put it to some better use? Seriously.

Saturday, October 04, 2008

Bell Labs kills basic physics research facility

This article mad me sad.
Not a nice way to start a weekend.
Woe betide!!!
Hark back to the summer of 2002, when a first year engineering student, studying for his Engineering Mechanics exam sees an article in an electronics magazine about this Mecca of Innovation, this former Shangri-la of the Sciences...this likeness of the all powerful mythical heroes of yore that inspires awe and at the same time humbles you.
Wonder struck, this student thinks to himself, won't it be wonderful if we get to work here, to interact with the some of the best minds in science, both basic and applied (though he didn't know it wasn't true anymore, even then), be a part of a wonderful discovery that impacts the world significantly?
Some things are never meant to happen, or so fatalists would like to believe.
Alcatel-Lucent claim that they will be focussing instead on networking, communication and nanotechnology.
The last term has become such a cliche that I'm guessing few know what they're talking about when they use that term anymore. How is one going to do nanotechnology without focussing on basic semiconductor research, the backbone of the promised nano-revolution? Are these guys instead going to do soft matter research? But doesn't that still fall under basic Physics? Does that even make sense? Are they anything but stark raving mad? Am I anything but? Are short terms gains the only things that matter?

Sunday, September 28, 2008

President precedent?

I always thought that Pakistan was a parliamentary democracy (when it was, i.e.) that was similar to India in many respects. The same federal structure, the same judicial structure and the same administrative structure.
So I was surprised when I saw Asif Ali Zardari visit Washington and address the UN as the head of state. I was under the impression that like India, the PM was the head of state for all practical purposes while the President was a titular head.
Did the constitutional changes that Musharraf made, also include the clause that the Pres will have greater authority than the PM? Haven't they rolled back those changes?
Or not as yet?

Tuesday, September 23, 2008

Have you ever....

Been in a meeting in which you're not needed?
You can do cool stuff like writing blog posts....

Some sense of humour

A fast track court has sentenced four people to death and awarded life imprisonment to 11 others in connection with the murder of a Dalit 15 years ago

These guys have some sense of humour, seriously.
If the link hasn't expired, you can read the article here.

Wednesday, September 17, 2008

The Devil's Delusion

Is a direct reply to Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and others who believe vehemently that god does not exist and use science and logic to convey their viewpoint.
It is an enjoyable read, mainly because of the belligerent feel of the book.
One cannot but help feeling that the author, David Berlinski, is totally pissed off with Dawkins and others of his ilk.
Strictly speaking about logic, though, I find the book getting its logic right 80% of the time, mainly when it exposes the logical flaws of the aforementioned atheists.
Clearly, that is the purpose of the book. To totally take apart these guys even if it is by nitpicking and taking small quotes and making fun of it.
The cosmological argument is discussed in great detail and Thomas Aquinas' views are given predominance here. Now Thomas Aquinas' views on an expedient/contingent god are complex, and on a first reading I had to literally ask myself, WTF? What exactly is this guy(Berlinski, presumably speaking for Aquinas) trying to say. Aquinas' arguments do not, logically, prove the existence of God.
However, one of the good points worth mentioning is the apparent leap of faith that scientists are willing to take when it comes to predicting that we will have a GUFT, that explains how everything works. (Why it does, will still be unanswered). This is compared with the leap of faith that believers in God take. There is a difference between firm belief and cautious optimism. The former, of course, attributed to theists, while I am attributing the latter to the attitude of scientists in general. I do not think that all scientific atheists are of the firm opinion that a GUFT will be 'revealed'/discovered in the near future.
One more point, Berlinski has, on several occasions in the book, supported his analysis, with mere quotations from people who are supposedly credible sources with infinite wisdom. Quotations cannot prove anything. Nothing. They are merely attention deflecting devices that are used when your core point isnt strong enough.
In his zealousness to 'take the case' of Messrs Dawkins and Co, Berlinski does go overboard most of the times, but I must admit, reading this book has had a positive after effect for me. I've looked up topics/personalities that I would never have bothered to otherwise and it did get me thinking on a couple of good points.


Since mainstream Indian Television (I will not call it TV!) has been unavailable for the past year or so, I've made it a point to watch clippings of videos put up on websites like the Times of India and IBNLive at regular intervals to catch up with the goings on in India.
Now IBNLive does a very good job by hosting a large number of video clippings, of nearly all the major programs that run on air in India. Most of the times, these clips load fast, stream well and are void of problems like poor clarity, etc.
Good job there, IBN, you have a much better site than other mainstream Indian media outlets, at least than the ones I've visited.
I have a complaint, though. In the so called 'discussions' that take place, the program hosts always seem to have made up their mind as to which side they are on. The questions seem to be directed at the participants with that conviction in mind.
My complaint is this: If you are so convinced as to what the real problem is/what the solution is, then why invite people from opposite views to present their case?
Why not pass off your judgment to the viewer. Why don the greasepaint of discussion/debate to cover your prejudice/pre-conceived notions.
Right from the question that people are supposed to respond to (Don't organizations like the Bajrang Dal need to be banned just like organizations like the SIMI? TYPE QOTD YES/NO and send to 5525), to the questions asked to the participants and the flippancy with which opposing(opposing the host's view, of course) viewpoints are dismissed, the whole god-damn attitude that some of the show hosts seem to have is irritating at times, though you might at some point of time even agree with them. Your prejudice, no matter how logically correct it may be, is no cause for being dismissive of other peoples' views, especially if you're asking them to participate in your show and thereby sustain it.
Stop it IBN, it's just not correct.

Wednesday, July 30, 2008

Bomb Squad guy or bloody daredevil?

In the aftermath of the Gujarat and Karnataka bombings, we've been subjected to intense media coverage of the events post the bomb blasts.
More significant amongst these was the live diffusion of a bomb in Surat/Ahmedabad, I don't remember which.
I am completely shocked by the way the bomb squad guys go about doing their job as if it were a routine job like signing and shutting a file in a government office. Moreso, because these guys do not use any protective covering, and diffuse bombs with their bare hands.
I cannot for the life of me understand why we do not provide our bomb squad guys with suitable gear and the state of the art tech in diffusing bombs. If we do, then why aren't these guys using it??
What if something goes wrong and the bomb goes off? The guy diffusing the bomb is bound to lose his life in such a case. Every one of these guys is important to us if we are going to fight terror. I've seen instances where the bomb squad guys are wearing jackets but no helmets, helmets but no protective covering for the hands. I am yet to see a visual in which a bomb squad guy is diffusing a bomb with full protection.
I mean, I may be naive in my judgement of the situation, may be these guys first go ahead and check if the bomb is likely to go off any time soon and then when they are relatively confident they don't feel the need for protection. It's possible, but I'm not sure if this is what is happening. For one, there is no guarantee that a backup mechanism for triggering bombs hasn't been implemented, even if the time of explosion may have passed.
Ideally speaking, these guys are supposed to take a fiber glass compartment and first enclose the bomb in it and diffuse the bomb in the safety of the bomb sqaud premises...but in the visuals I've never seen this happening...
Why this callousness? Why the unnecessary bravado?

Friday, July 25, 2008

Attention!!!! General Post is here...

The past few days and Summer in general have been quite eventful. Eventful in the wrong/sad way, IMHO.

Theres been a lot of losing happening.

Bombs went off in Bangalore, lives were lost, politicians have been bought and their nonexistent credibility was lost, Fed lost to a virtual unknown after losing an epic battle to Rafa, Amitabh Bachchan lost his luggage, twice,...I can go on and on...

I no more find it surprising that the Bangalore bomb blasts didn't get the attention they deserve around the world...A bombing in Gaza city seemed to keep journalists busy...I'm reminded of a scene in Hotel Rwanda where The UN peacekeeper played by Nick Nolte tells Paul Rusesabagina, 'Nobody cares about a bunch of black people killing other black people.' Now I harbor no communal or racist sentiments, but in the US, it seems like unless a Jew or a Hispanic dies abroad, it doesn't seem to be as important. I can understand that this may be due not to any hidden agenda in the American press, but something that reflects the demographics of the country and hence economic interests of newspaper. More Jews, Hispanics across the US, would mean that newspapers would translate, I think to more news about these sections of society and smaller incidents involving them to translate into comparatively greater newsworthiness than other people elsewhere.

Amongst other things, Via Darjeeling is a bad copy of Rashomon, Heath Ledger Mesmerizes in the Dark Knight, which is a good film IMHO, not like oh-my-god-im-cumming types good. Jaane tu ya Jaane Na is a bad film, Imran Khan acts passably well, Genelia can act, but cannot express herself in Hindi, Page 3 was a good movie, I dunno why I didn't see it for so long, Christopher Nolan is a good director, Christian Bale is a tremendous actor, Shatranj ke Khiladi is a satirical masterpiece, Donny Darko is excellent, electromagnetics is good to study for leisure, but sucks during exam time and nano-technology is an over-used over-hyped word.

Sunday, March 30, 2008

The Lives of Others

The West Lafayette (IN) Public Library, has one of the best global film collections you'll find. I was a fan of serious cinema, for sure, even before I came to Purdue, but the fact that there's a public library that allows you to borrow 5 DVD's a time, (for a week, i.e.) for free, makes one 'want' to watch all the movies on offer.
I've watched movies, both Global and American by the dozen after I became a member and I must say that the fun in watching a movie legally, in fine DVD quality print, at your own leisure, re-watching several times those parts that you liked, is quite a few times more than watching a movie on the net, fuming at the low stream rates and the poor picture quality.
Amongst English movies that I've watched recently, I liked 'No Country for Old Men' (knockout performance by Javier Bardem), The Good, The Bad, The Ugly (Every character here is grey, no completely good, no completely bad, though Eli Wallach, methinks, is literally quite ugly) , Pi (By Darren Aaronofsky, the guy who gave us the smashing, 'Requiem for a Dream' and whose style Anurag Kashyap has copied completely in 'No Smoking') and several others that I cannot recount immediately.
I've managed to see almost all of Scorcese's films, Kurosawa, (Rashomon, Yojimbo, Seven Samurai and Kagemusha, out of which the last one sucks like a newborn, while Rashomon impresses immensely), some of Kubrick's films and the Apu Trilogy (I liked the innocence of Pather Panchali, but Apur Sansar and Aparajito were turn offs, IMHO).
Coming to the topic of the post, after watching movies like 'Valentin', 'Children of Heaven' and 'Cinema Paradiso', I thought that I had watched the best that the medium could offer. I soon found out how wrong I was, when I watched this movie called 'The Lives of Others'
Set in last few years of East Germany's existence, this movie is essentially about 'Operation Laszlo', one of the many covert missions undertaken by the East German State Security Police (Stasi) to weed out potential enemies of the state by monitoring their personal and professional lives.
A engaging screenplay, superb direction by a debutant director (Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck), brilliant performances by the lead cast, brilliant moments scattered throughout the movie in the form of subtle expressions (mainly by Muhe), a super ending, especially the last dialog in the context of the whole movie (this is not a thriller mind you) make this movie a must watch. And yes, I forgot to mention, that this movie also won the Oscar for the Best Foreign Language Film in 2007.
A few things immediately came to my mind after watching this film. If the intension in making the film was depicting the horrors/lack of freedom of life in a totalitarian, oppressive state, then I am sure we can find such instances in so called progressive states too. Why, during the McCarthy witch hunt, there were files maintained on suspected communists, their phone conversations tapped and their lives were essentially under the FBI microscope, much like is shown in this movie based in communist East Germany.
I suspect though, that this isn't the case, because nowhere is there any sort of preaching/banner-raising. It is simply a story that is set against an unfortunate background and how the lives of people involved get affected.
I'm hoping though, that there'll be many more films from this guy Donnersmarck (Quite like Bismarck, really, this surname, makes you want to clap your heels as if you heard the word 'Achtung'), because if his first film is anything to go by, the ones to follow should definitely be worth waiting for.

Saturday, March 01, 2008

On Quizzing: Why do I like it?

Decided to start writing again, for some random reason.
Just last week, I found out that there's a Quiz Club at Purdue. It goes by the name 'Purdue India Quiz Club', I think. Being starved of quality quizzing for the past 6 months, my mind literally did double cartwheels when I heard that there was a Quiz Club at Purdue. A long quizzing session later, my heart content with the fact that theres some quality quizzing going on out here, I returned home.
Later on in the day, I asked myself why I enjoyed quizzing so much. This question didn't really seem relevant, or necessary to ask when I was in Pune and attending quizzes by the dozen (esp. during college days)
Some possibilities came to mind immediately:
1) I like to retain and regurgitate useless trivia
2) I like to show off that I know a lot of useless stuff that normal people would not bother to care about.
3) I like to compete with others who have similar knowledge on similar utterly useless topics.

I immediately disproved 1), 2) to myself on the basis of my past experiences. I felt that 1) was not valid because I don't think I have ever made a conscious effort to 'retain' trivia...(Shiva will know, however, that this is not true, we did spend the Christmas of 1996 mugging up Manorama in preparation for a quiz called IQ97, which ended un-ideally for us when, despite my best efforts to identify Cindy Crawford by saying 'Sidney, Sidney...', my team-mate, Darshan Parekh chose to exercise his power of seniority by blurting out 'Claudia Schiffer'...again, long time ago..sab maaf, but these things do stay in your mind)
So, yes, barring this one stray incident, I don't think I have ever consciously tried to 'mug-up' for a quiz.
2) Showing off, and me?? I think not. I don't think I have ever come across as a 'show-off'. But then again, I might be wrong here, people who have been in my company might be able to answer that, but yes, in this context I must say that I never have purposely tried to show that I have a lot of knowledge.
3) seemed like a possible contender, but then, theres so much competition all around anyways, be it for getting admitted into a prized University or for getting that much coveted job. So I think I will rule out 3) too.

I then tried making the question more general, by asking myself, why does someone enjoy a particular activity more than others? My own opinion is that any activity that can make you feel happy, gets an upper hand over the others. The reason the activity can make you happy can vary. People are able to focus their mental and physical faculties better at certain activities, as a result of which they perform better at these activities.
From personal experience I can say that this is true. I seem to be more focussed when I quiz, than when I try to study for an exam (True, and sadly so :) ). Also, over the hundreds of quizzes I have attended/attempted, there have been a lot of 'Voila/wow' moments. I shall define a 'Voila/wow' moment as one in which you have no idea as to how a particular thing happened, since it defies logic. I often found myself recognizing tunes that I had heard (and for all practical purposes, forgotten) a long time ago. One word in a quiz question triggers off a random thought and, what the heck, your 'educated guess' on the basis of that random thought turns out to be correct. I can also remember several instances when some connects just seemed right, just like that, pure instinct. No effort involved here, just pure, random access from shelved memory. I can't think of any other activity that has given me comparable moments.
I've seen people who like to quiz in a very structured way, thinking logically, drawing conclusions from well reasoned arguments and extrapolating information in order to piece together the question-answer-puzzle. I think I personally do not enjoy this style of logical quizzing, though I have to utilize this style of quizzing too, since the above mentioned moments of epiphany are far and few. But I generally feel I have enjoyed a quiz (even when I end up on the loosing side) when there are 2-3 such moments in a quiz. ( I think this also explains why I really really like long questions, where much side info is given alongside what are supposed to be hints to the answer. Even though useless, this side info has, on several occasions, helped me get an answer when what was supposed to be a logical hint did not do the job)

I think I have digressed from my main point though, which wasn't about why I like a particular 'style' of quizzing. (I think this also explains why I do not like writing so much. I am simply not good at it :) )
After much thought, I still don't have a complete answer, only some hints, which may be able to give me a complete answer someday. But yes, till then, I think I shall go with 'Quizzing makes me happy...' as my educated guess!!!