Saturday, October 28, 2006

Thursday, October 26, 2006

A Bit of This and That

Now that I'm finally recovering from the pain of Schumi's retirement (about which I will blog later, when I'm little less sentimental) I thought I'd get back to normal life:

So when I was trawling through the internet looking for Schumi tributes, I found this:
MICHAEL SCHUMACHER was the most lustful, the most ravenous, the most metaphysically ambitious sportsman of his generation. He made millions, but did not drive for money. He won thousands of admirers, but cared nothing for adulation.

As anyone who endured his hawkish glance and witnessed his visceral competitiveness will testify, Schumacher was driven by a passion for Formula One that bordered on obsession.

And a jolly good thing, too. Where would sport be without vehemence? Where would be the grandeur and the heroism, the joy and the heartbreak? Give me a warrior who craves victory for its own sake any day rather than the tepid careerism exemplified by so many British sportsmen, whose puny ambition is slaked by a few measly drops from the National Lottery Sports Fund.

This is what journalism is coming to? About the only adjective the author missed is supercalifragilisticexpialidocious. Rule number one: A tribute should not look like a thesaurus. (I must add, however, that I do agree with the sentiment).

I also had a bit of a shock when I read this:

Raul wanted to quit Madrid, president says

Not too long ago I had blogged about how much I appreciated Raul's loyalty to Real Madrid. To read this headline was a real slap in the face... until you actually read the story, and realise that Raul was willing to stop rather than drag his team down. This warms me all the way down to my toes, the idea that in modern football team loyalty is still paramount for atleast some people.

It also seems that Martin Scorcese will, yet again, lose out to Clint Eastwood. Reviews of both The Departed and Flags of our Fathers are largely positive, but Flags is being hailed by all critics as a masterpiece in film, while praise for The Departed is more along the lines of good genre entertainment. I haven't seen either film, ofcourse, but here's hoping they both find their way to the cinemas before the Oscars, so I wont have to resort to Bittorrent.

Veronica Mars holds its own in the ratings (infact, they went up last week). CW, please, please, please let me hear about that full-season order. Heroes has got a full-season order, and it is becoming more and more interesting. Hiro remains the best character on the show, and even though the series as such is definitely not even the best of the new shows, there's something about it that has hooked me. I must also say a word about Friday Night Lights, which, as someone who does not give a flying f*ck about american football, I find engrossing. The art direction is beautiful. Studio 60 is still good, but Sorkin really needs to let someone else write the fictional sketches on the show; they get less funny every week.

The other two new shows I'm watching are The Nine and Ugly Betty. I'm really enjoying both. The Nine has too much fancy camera-work and atleast one character I really don't like (Egan), but the cast is top-notch and there are moments that it has that just suck me back in every episode. Ugly Betty is wonderful. Its warm, and amusing, and campy. It doesn't take itself too seriously, and it has Vanessa Williams as the big bitch.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Crying A River

The Brazilian GP was heart-breaking. It was also an exceptional demonstration of Schumacher's talent, determination and grit. He showed why he holds practically every F1 record in existence.

I can't say anymore about him than to say Thank you, and all the best.

I literally cannot imagine F1 without him.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Planet of the Apes

Apparently monkeys also exhibit religious behaviour:

'Hindu' Monkey Bites Muslim Kid

Some extracts from this priceless report:

"This is a story of a simian who has been caged in Orissa for the last five years for, believe it or not, disturbing communal harmony.

The seven year-old monkey called Ramu is serving life imprisonment at Remuna police station in Balasore district.

Raised by a Hindu family, he bit some Muslim children five years ago, sparking communal tension in the area. When police intervened, they put him in this cage."

Whaaaa? is my first reaction. My second reaction is to go watch Charlton Heston and hope that that is the future of the world. Because, clearly, we don't deserve to make any more of a mess than we already have. Maybe Darwin, were he alive, would now like to argue for a process of devolution, where Simians were the pinnacle of biological development. He would have had a point: monkeys don't create technologies that can kill themselves, and anybody else that follows. Monkeys also don't create specific social orders and rules and then spend the rest of their existence squabbling endlessly over them.

Tuesday, October 17, 2006

TGIF? Nah, not so much

Working on Saturday has made most weekends not just short but incredibly busy. For a compulsive shopper like me it means that I have to spend my Sundays trawling the markets. Last Sunday was spent buying sneakers. And because I insist on only wearing Puma, it took a goodly while to find shoes that were both comfortable, good looking, and cost under four grand. Of course, I still spent a disproportionate amount of my salary buying the shoes.

The weekend just gone was all about Diwali melas and trudging around the Swiss embassy and the Blind school looking at jewellery, clothes, crockery, clothes, jewellery. There was also yummy food, which I partook of quite gratefully.

My Sister had a baby!!!!! Hello, baby! Welcome to the world! He's the cutest little thing...

Also, met with friends after a long while, and its always good to do that. What I haven't done in sometime is watch a film. That has to change very very soon...

Also cooked after a long while. Don't have any sense of proportion now, my pasta always ends up a little bit low on basil and then I have to douse it with non-fresh basil which never seems to make enough of a difference. Gah.

And can I just add, while on the subject of food, what a genius whoever came up with Pop Tarts is? Mmmmmm.

Sunday, October 15, 2006


Random bits of news:

Goro Miyazaki, son of Hayao Miyazaki, has made an animated film version of Ursula LeGuin's classic Tales from Earthsea. He has also caused my head to explode from the sheer awesomeness of it all. Now I really really want to see this film.

Apple, Bono and Oprah have teamed up to release a red iPod nano. This is as a result of Apple joining in the RED initiative, where $10 from the sale of each red iPod will go toward fighting AIDS in Africa. The nano is pretty. And even though I did not plan to buy one, now I think I must. (Yes, advertising works on me.)

Terry Gilliam's latest film, Tideland, is apparently awful. So he is capable of making a totally crappy film... thought I'm sure the so-called badness of this film will merely highlight the genius that is Brazil.

Saturday, October 14, 2006

If You Forget Me

If You Forget Me

I want you to know
one thing.

You know how this is:
if I look
at the crystal moon, at the red branch
of the slow autumn at my window,
if I touch
near the fire
the impalpable ash
or the wrinkled body of the log,
everything carries me to you,
as if everything that exists,
aromas, light, metals,
were little boats
that sail
toward those isles of yours that wait for me.

Well, now,
if little by little you stop loving me
I shall stop loving you little by little.

If suddenly
you forget me
do not look for me,
for I shall already have forgotten you.

If you think it long and mad,
the wind of banners
that passes through my life,
and you decide
to leave me at the shore
of the heart where I have roots,
that on that day,
at that hour,
I shall lift my arms
and my roots will set off
to seek another land.

if each day,
each hour,
you feel that you are destined for me
with implacable sweetness,
if each day a flower
climbs up to your lips to seek me,
ah my love, ah my own,
in me all that fire is repeated,
in me nothing is extinguished or forgotten,
my love feeds on your love, beloved,
and as long as you live it will be in your arms
without leaving mine.

Pablo Neruda


There's this song, by Sandi Thom called I Wish I was a Punk Rocker (With Flowers in my Hair). She's singing about how she wishes she could've been born in '77 or '69, and expereinced the revolutionary spirit among that generation's youth. I wish I'd been alive in the late 50s or early 60s (as a twenty-year old) and been able to (maybe) hear or meet people like Neruda and Guevara and Marquez. I suppose I could still accomplish one of those, even now... but how incredible would it have been to actually breathe the same air as someone like Neruda.

Thursday, October 12, 2006

Ten Things I Hate About...

... well, nothing in particular. But just 'Ten Things I Hate' doesn't quite have the same ring to it. So in a completely random arrangement:

1. "Brangelina" and the tabloid (and mainstream!) fascination with such.

2. Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

3. The law that makes you get into an auto-rickshaw just as soon as the completely empty bus you were waiting half an hour for shows up.

4. How torrents go bad in the last 2-3% of download. (Or are discovered to be so)

5. Feeling Old. 22 seems to be the new 30 these days.

6. Opening a newspaper and seeing a full page ad on the seond page.

7. Remembering to watch that really exciting program thirty minutes after it ends.

8. The lack of chocolate necessary to keep one's jeans fitting

9. Realising that that really sexy top from 4 months ago now outlines your tummy very lovingly.

10. Being stuck doing things that require you to use .0005% of your brain.

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Google Tube?

From Salon:

YouTube gets Googled

Dot-com boom days are here again. YouTube launched 19 months ago. Today, Google bought the company for $1.65 billion in stock. What does it mean? If we needed any more proof that Google intends to be one of the masters of the media universe for the foreseeable future, well, here you go. YouTube, it hardly needs belaboring, is the kind of global phenomenon that delivers an irreversible shift in how media is produced and consumed, à la Napster. But unlike Napster, YouTube has at least partially succeeded in convincing established media companies that it can be a partner, and not a mortal enemy that must be destroyed. Along with the deal came a flurry of licensing announcements with the likes of CBS, Universal and Sony BMG. That doesn't mean the GoogTube Goliath will be completely immune from a swarm of copyright lawyers descending upon it like a horde of locusts. But it suggests that this new beast will survive their onslaught.

Which, from a global point of view, is probably a good thing. YouTube isn't just the easiest, most popular way for people to share and view video on the Internet. It is the necessary next step in the democratization and enrichment of global cultural intercourse.

A quick example: For nearly a month, I've been checking in regularly to several India-related blogs that comment on Indian music and movies. Embedded YouTube links to short clips ripped from Bollywood films are routine. These clips are undoubtedly copyright violations. But they've also been a tasty introduction to an (increasingly less) alien popular culture that has enriched my appreciation of what the world has to offer, culturally speaking, and increased my appetite for the full, unexpurgated product. Seeing and hearing is believing. I feel as if a firehose of Indian culture has suddenly been blasted at me. We've long known that the Internet collapses time and distance. The seamless sharing of video and music means that cultural barriers are also prone to crumbling.

The global conversation will be GoogTubed. Tanks rolling in a Thailand coup? Find it on YouTube. It's one thing to read reports posted by bloggers moment by moment from Bangkok. It's another thing entirely to see Thai generals with their hands clasped in Buddhist prayer, against a backdrop of portraits of the king and queen, announce their takeover on live TV (with a surreal slinky jazz introduction to boot).

A self-made spoof of outsourcing at a Burger King drive-through window? The glory of Al Yankovic's "White and Nerdy"? David Ortiz winning Game 5 against the Yankees, as seen from a fan's digital camera?

From the silly to the severe, the world seems a richer, closer, more interconnected place now that user-generated video and mash-ups and cut-and-pasted clips are illustrating, commenting upon, mocking and recording the world second by second. Naturally, people were sharing video on the Net before YouTube, just as there were search engines before Google. But the two platforms dominate, and help immensely to facilitate, their chosen domains. Their marriage is potent. Not long from now, I'm going to hear a rumor of a riot in Shanghai or a rave in Bangalore. I will Google it, and I will see it. Maybe I will be enlightened or amused or rocked. Maybe I'll be depressed or disgusted or immediately distracted by something else. Whatever -- the opportunities for connection and conversation just continue to grow.

-- Andrew Leonard

I don't really have anything much more to say, except that I wait with baited breath to see what Google do with their latest acquistion. And also to see what Apple come up with, when they release iTV. If there was speculation of content sharing with Google before, surely that's going to triple now?

Monday, October 09, 2006


...would be a fair way to describe how I felt after watching Michael Schumacher's championship hopes explode with his engine. After 6 years without an engine failure, what a time for it to let go! I was in tears, and had to pray for Alonso to have a retirement as well for whatever reason. It didn't happen ofcourse, and then I spent the next hour sobbing over the phone my sister... who understands my love for F1 and Schumi. Watching the smug arse after the race dancing around on his car was... well, unpalatable really. But now, I really just want to quote Leyser from the Atlas F1 bulletin board, who put it so beautifully:

I was very upset when I saw what happened to MS's Ferrari and was sat there in a state of semi-shock and disbelief, until I saw him in the garage, smiling and shaking the hands of every single mechanic. If Monaco was the lowest point for my support for Michael, then that moment may have been the highest - certainly as far as off-track behavior is concerned. Maybe it stands out more prominently in light of the recent headlines, but that was really special and in a way 2006 now has something from every period of Michael's career in Ferrari, and this very public display of what helped him make Ferrari what it has become is the next best thing to what should have been.

Alonso showed today that regardless to how much he runs his mouth off the track, he is still superb on it. I don't think either of them can be called lucky or unlucky - both would be deserving champions as they have proved time and again this season that they are the class of the field and trying to nitpick for faults is pathetic: you don't win 7 races in a season and be undeserving of a WDC, you simply don't.

I'll be hoping for - what would for me be - a miracle in the last race, but if in the first few seconds I didn't know how to digest the likely end result of the season, MS made it much easier for me and I thank him for that.

In the end, I have to agree with this and hope for a miracle in Brazil. But even if that doesn't happen, I have to believe that Michael will win the race, because that would be the only fitting end to such a brilliant career. He's given us so much as fans, including the knowledge that he will give his best in Brazil no matter what. Thank you Michael, for being so incredible. You will be missed.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Howl's Moving Castle

So, I was rewatching Howl's Moving Castle today with my brother. I've fallen in love with it all over again...

Howl's Moving Castle is Hayao Miyazaki's latest film. It was released last year and was nominated for a Best Animated Feature Oscar (with the excellent Corpse Bride and winner Wallace and Gromit: Curse of the Were-rabbit being the others). Those who take an interest in animation and Japanese films will recognize Miyazaki as the creator of such glorious masterpieces as Princess Mononoke and Spirited Away. And while those two films are technically (in terms of screenplay) much better than this one, Howl's is closest to my heart.

Based on a book by Welsh author Dianna Wynne Jones, Howl's is about a young girl, Sophie, it turned into a 90 year old woman. The film immediately enchants, and you know this is much much better than the stock animation pervading the genre these days - witness the profusion of animal-zoo type animated cinema: from Open Season to Ant Bully. When Sophie is turned into an old woman, she tell herself "There now, that's not so bad. You're in good shape and you clothes finally suit you". This is the brand of humour and whimsy Miyazaki brings to cinema.

The film is set in a staple Miyazaki vaguely-19th century Europe (Sophie's hometown looks like Bavaria). Sophie is rescued from the attentions of some soldiers by the young, enigmatic wizard Howl, who is himself being chased by low-grade monsters from the Wicked Witch of Waste. Needless to say, she immediately falls in love with him, and being seen with him enrages the Witch to turn her into an old woman. In a way, this is Miyazaki's masterstroke. Sophie is different in that being old gives her the freedom to be whoever she wants to be. Throughout the film, Sophie's physical appearance changes with her emotional state. She embraces the change as a release from fear and self-consciousness, and in a way it inspires her to adventure.

After being turned into a woman of pensionable age, Sophie leaves home, and recues an enchanted scarecrow (Turnip Head) who leads her to the movie's titular castle. The castle is a wonderful thing - you have never seen anything quite like this before. It is awesome, not in the way that a royal palace is awesome, but in the literal sense of the word. Clearly hand drawn, the castle is a series of tacked on towers and turrets, as mysterious as its owner, moving around on giant chicken legs. On first viewing, one can't help but share Sophie's wonder.

Sophie proceeds to move into the castle as a cleaning lady, along with Howl and his aide Markl. The Castle is powered by a fire-sprite named Calcifer, who is witty and charming and totally vain, just like Howl. Indeed, Howl is a beautiful and talented wizard - and arrogant and immature with it. (He's laso animated, but I'm choosing to ignore that - I'm as much in love with him as Sophie. I know I need help.) There is a deep bond, stretching to childhood, between Howl and Calcifer. Their magic is inextricably linked.

Omnipresent through the film is war. Miyazaki leaves the details obscure - we're never quite certain who is at war with whom, or indeed why. It is treated as inconsequential, and is representative of Miyazaki's disgust at human barbarity. There is a scene where Sophie and Howl are enjoying a quiet moment in a beautiful meadow-like space, when there serenity is interrupted by zeppelins. Sophie asks Howl if they're enemy ships, and Howl responds: "It doesn't matter. They're both going to kill people".

A lot more happens, of course, before we get our happy ending. But its such a joyful ride to get there, that even the increasing incomprehensibility of the plot doesn't detract from the almost adolescent enjoyment that an adult can come away with - all you need is a open heart. At its whimsical best, Howl's is a romance, in the traditional, epic sense. The author of the book of which the film is based, Dianna Wynne Jones, said after watching the film "I had grown used to young ladies regularly writing to me to say that they wanted to marry Howl. Now, Howl in the film is so plain stunning and sexy that I think I have joined them."

So have I, Dianna, so have I.


Argh! Can't Hardly Wait for Sunday to come so I can watch the Grand Prix. Its so close, anyone could win... this race has the potential of being a real cracker, with everything that's riding on it and with all that has been said over the last week.

Having said that I'm suffering from withdrawal from shopping. Working regularly leaves very little time to go buy windows, but this Sunday will be exception. I want new Pumas.

P.S. Am changing my blog layout post-migration to Blogger Beta! Wheeee! Its fun!
Also, taking an oath to only have catchy/witty post titles now.

Thursday, October 05, 2006

Lage Raho, Munnabhai

On the occasion of Gandhi Jayanti, we managed to go and watch Lage Raho Munnabhai (finally). [As an aside, let me note that the movie, tax free, and in the middling seat range cost us some 135 rupees. Go figure.] First impressions of the movie were generally favourable, and as such I quite enjoyed the warm, sort of gentle humour.

A result of watching a film after so much has already been written about it is that the stuff you've read obviously influences the movie you're watching, leading you to motice things that you might not have, and to think in directions you might not have. In a way this was true for me, because I may have spent less time thinking about the Gandhian principles that the movie supposedly advocates. In any case, a lot has been written about the degree to which the film is faithful to Gandhism. Some have argued that the film is guilty of over-simplification and others have cast doubts over the relevance of Gandhi in the 21st century. While I do want to add my .02 to the whole debate, I'll stick with reviewing the film first.

Plot-wise, the film is simple. Munna is in love with an RJ, Janavi (played by the lovely Vidya Balan). He poses as a Gandhian professor to meet and impress her. Janavi lives with her Grandfather in a sort of old-age home, which unbeknownst to Munna is the house he is meant to get vacated for Lucky Singh. No major twists other than ones the viewer knows will be coming. There are no major artifical conflict-situation creations, which is gratifying. Director Hirani obviously has the confidence in his cast and screenplay to keep the viewer entertained, without needing to resort to cheap melodrama, thank goodness.

In terms of the humour itself (which is important, considering the film has been marketed as a comedy) it was...well, gentle is the word that comes to mind. Hirani doesn't rely on slapstick but instead draws on the audience recall from the first Munnabhai to really create the humour. I have to say, though, while I was amused, there were not that many laugh out loud moments. There were definitely a few, but not enough to really truly entertain just as a comedy.

I also have to say here that I am not a big Sanjay Dutt fan. I think he is a mediocre actor at best, and seeing him look so bloated - and patenly older - doesn't inspire me to suspend my belief. However, the supporting cast around him more than makes up for any performance deficit. Arshad Warsi has been praised, and rightly so, for his portrayal of Circuit. I must say, I love Circuit. He's a very funny sidekick and a loyal friend. Warsi's comic timing is impeccable (One of the longer gags in the film is the Gandhi Jayanti as Dry day - and its absolutely hilarious). Vidya Balan, as I have already noted, is quite beautiful, and I may have a bit of a girl-crush on her. For me, though, the standout performance is Boman Irani's. He is such a verstaile actor, and so unbelievably funny as Lucky Singh, that he steals the show. The scene where a paranoid and frustrated Lucky reacts angrily to a woman he perceives is mocking him with her gajra is pure cinematic gold.

And might I mention here that it seems like Abhishek Bachchan is fast turning into India's Jude Law? It may sound like I have an axe to grind against him (I really don't) but is there anything I've seen in the last few months that Abhishek Bachchan has not been in? I suppose it'll be too much to ask at the next Filmfare Awards to have the MC make a joke at Abhishek's expense, and then have say, Ajay Devgan, come and defend him like the stick-in-the-mud he probably is. I'm just saying.

Now for the Gandhigiri. As I have already noted, the range of opinions on this differ. Mine, like any good liberal's, is probably somewhere in the middle ;) While I can understand some of frustration about the so-called oversimplified form of Gandhian principles being advocated in the movie, lets not forget that this is a movie. And its purpose is to entertain etc. etc. Personally I think that Hirani has done a fairly admirable job in picking up parts of Gandhi's philosophy and adapting them into a cinematic frame. Yes, its superficial, but so what? Even if it convinces some 1 in 20 viewers to have a closer look at Gandhi's ideology, its done more than it set out to do. As for the other view, that Gandhism in itself is unsuited to the practicalities of 21st century India, well, all I can say is that said people have very narrow views. (And I mean this in the nicest possible way). The great thing about ideas is that you don't have to accept them in whole - you can take the parts you like and build something completely new from it. And I seriously doubt that Gandhi would object to that.

The movie, though, does get a little preachy sometimes. However, it also avoids some easy-to-fall-into temptations, in that it is still pragmatic enough to not provide easy solutions. Infact, this is all about taking the harder way - all of the pop-Gandhism advice that Munna dispenses is about playing the long game. There are no easy answers, no get-rich-quick miracles proposed, as evidenced by the work hard advice given to Victor (Jimmy Shergill, in a nice piece of stunt-casting. Also Jimmy Shergill was hot in this film. What's up with that?). Sometimes, especially in the climax, the overt sentimentality does get a tad nauseating (Janavi to Munna: Tumne mujhse jhoot kyon bola? Ki tum professor nahi ho? Gag). Overall though, the film is light, amusing, but with an unexpected depth.

Bascially, it was fun. And I'd recommend it.

Wednesday, October 04, 2006

My 2-year old theme song

I Miss You by Blink 182

"The unsuspecting victim
Of darkness in the valley
We can live like Jack and Sally if we want
Where you can always find me"

You grew up a lot in 2004. And it was mostly a very good thing.

That is true. Did grow up and it was a good thing. And I don't even mind Blink 182 per se.

C'est La Vie.

Weekends and National Holidays

Its been a bit of a break from what was by my standards days of frantic blogging. And I have many many things to say, starting with the Chinese Grand Prix.

Michael Schumacher (Ferrari 248 F1) at Shanghai

I have never been so happy! I was yelling, 'Yes, yes, Yes!!!' (not like that, Mitasho) when Schumi crossed the line, having won one of his best races (and with 91 wins, that is something), completely against the odds. One journo put it like this:

Michael Schumacher has long made a habit of taking victories that defied all plausibility and left his rivals slack-jawed as they tried to understand how they lost the race despite all the odds apparently being in their favour.
This race reminded me, again, how much I love F1, why I love it, and why Schumacher is an absolute genius. Some of the newer fans have forgotten how often Schumacher would win races against superior machinery, win things he had no business winning. Alonso drove a good race as well, as much as it pains me to say it. Fisichella was good, but really, this race was all about highlighting the difference between the good (Fisichella, Button et al) and the great (MS, Alonso, Raikonnen). I'm also very impressed with Kubica, he's done a spectacular job for BMW, and he's learning all the time. Webbo finally got a point, and no one deserved it more.

Alonso needs to be slapped across the face, though, IMO. First he goen on about how F1 is no longer a sport. Well, if you really think it isn't, Fernando, go do something else. Then he takes his level of paranoia to another dimension altogether and accuses his team of sabotaging him! According to him, because he'll be leaving for McLaren next year, the team don't want him to take the #1 there, and so they are doing enough to keep him from winning. And its not the first time he has said something like that. Petulant idiot- next year, with a grenade masquerading as an engine, I hope he understands what it really means to have your team let you down.

I am completely sick of all the whingeing Renault do about how poor, and deprived they are and how they're fighting against the odds (and the FIA) to win the title(s).

In football news, Christiano is playing unbelievably well. I mean, best-player-in-the-Premiership-right-now well. Man U were a joy to watch against Newcastle, and to put icing on the cake Chelsea drew their game, so United lead the table by dint of better GD. Yeah, baby! Eslewhere, AC Milan only drew their game, which leaves them near the bottom of the Serie A and Real didn't do much better, while Valencia won. Barca are also playing so well right now, its fabulous watching them.

I have become strangely apathetic to cricket. Just can't get myself excited enough about it. Hopefully it'll come back to me, coz right now I don't know half the names of the players of any squad other than India's. For a South Asian sport fan, that's... well, embarrasing.

I watched Lage Raho Munnabhai over the weekend. It was really really good, and I enjoyed it a lot. A more detailed review will be coming right up, but in some Very Good News, PVR has now starting selling popcorn tubs! Say hello to the real movie experience!!