Wednesday, April 30, 2003

SARS update

Some late news, some fresh: reactions to Prasheel Varde's confirmation as a positive SARS case {as opposed to the sigh of relief earlier} | It's World Asthma Day: Are asthmatics more vulnerable to SARS?. Berlin's Take my breath away runs through my head ... And Sting's coming up next.

Tuesday, April 29, 2003


0500 EST. I wake up first and then ask the question "why did I wake up so soon?". Phoebe the Cat, who was sleeping at my feet a moment ago, bounces off and vanishes into the living room with surprising agility. I feel the vibrations. Is it me? Or is it a ... quake? Wait, that does not make sense. This is Georgia. Quakes don't happen here. A couple of hours later, I find out it's true. 4.9 on the Richter scale. The epicentre was about 37 miles southeast of Chattanooga, Tennessee, along the border of Georgia and Alabama, according to the United States Geological Survey Web site. Thankfully no one was hurt. {CNN news report}

Cynic hat on

I can see what happens next. People talk about it all day. The media blast it at you through news reports, panel discussions, invited talks by "distinguished" experts (geologists, book authors) especially to explain things like the "Richter Scale" and "Seismic activity". Books on earthquakes and seismic activity become popular. Cable channels decide to have disaster movie marathons. And someone begins to make a movie about this.

Cynic hat off

Monday, April 28, 2003

The only thing worse than losing your mind... is finding it again

Saturday, April 26, 2003

fahrenheit 451/airframe/identity {Another cryptic title from the Mallu_in_the_South}

Identity Caught Identity yesterday. While a lot of people felt cheated by the end of this film ("Psycho meets Ten Little Indians" was one of the ways people referred to it), I was satisfied by the interesting nature of the obligatory twist in films of this kind. The setup is familiar: 10 complete strangers (and thus the Christie connection) end up at a lonely location (a motel in this case, hence the Psycho allusions) on a rainy night and then people start getting bumped off. Great ensemble (including the talented John Cusack; the subdued Ray Liotta; Amanda Peet whom I seem to remember from The Whole Nine Yards and Spin City; Rebecca De Mornay, and Alfred Molina). Alan Silvestri's score reminded me of songs by U2 for some reason.

A couple of coincidences will make the film a little more special for me. I had never heard of James Mangold (the director) before. I was reading an article titled Afterwards about Sweet Smell of Success, a wonderfully written/directed/acted movie. The article offered a more personal insight since the writer had known director Alexander Mackendrick. The writer's name was James Mangold. Flipping to the end, I found out that he had directed Copland, which was heavily panned and politely referred to as the movie where Stallone tried something serious. Not very promising. An IMDB search got me more information: this guy had an interesting career and had under his belt movies like Kate and Leopold and Girl, Interrupted. And then the promos for Identity began making their rounds on TV. And I checked IMDB again. The name "James Mangold" jumped out at me. Hmm. But personal irony aside, with arms open wide for brickbats, I'd recommend this movie. If only I could tell you more without ruining it for you. Roger Ebert seems to have done a better job at this. The only thing I can say is that the greatest merit the movie showcases may eventually be the one that causes it some negative feedback. This movie has a cheat. But the cheat is fair (like The Sixth Sense). But, some people are used to unfair cheats, and seem to expect them.

Airframe Another random choice off the library shelves is Michael Crichton's Airframe, which mixes mainstream bestseller norms and authentic information on a subject that was of topical interest when he wrote the book and has acquired ominous echoes since 9/11, aircrafts and aircraft disasters. A fast entertaining read that also explores the superficiality (albeit superficially) of the media and the potential damage of their antagonistic coverage of events, the burden of blame and the hostility evident in public statements and images.

Fahrenheit 451

Friday, April 25, 2003

double helix discovery turns 50

Google has another new logo out there today celebrating the 50th anniversary of Watson and Crick's historic discovery.
Celebrating DNA's 50th anniversary
time squared

Caught another TNG episode yesterday evening (some consolation, given the sudden change in weather): Time Squared. Another episode in the realm of time and its dimensions, this one looks at the possibility of a Moebius strip of time (yes, a loop with a twist). And you also had two Picards to deal with (echoes of The Enemy Within and its clones from TOS). Note :Although the website lists Wil Wheaton in the cast, he wasn't in the episode.

Thursday, April 24, 2003

to bee or not to bee

PLUG: Namaste Bombay is a one-hour amateur production that graces the Metro Atlanta channel every Tuesday night.

SLUG: It's probably also the only show featuring a newsreader demonstrating the boustrophedon technique of reading off the teleprompter. Apart from news (new and old: an interview with the late Majrooh on the occasion of his winning the prestigious Dadasaheb Phalke award), they also present a melange of music from the present and the past. It was interesting to see a couple of rare Talat Mehmood songs at the tail-end of the show (including a duet with Asha from Sone ki Chidiya, picturised on-screen with Nutan and a very young and barely recognisable Balraj Sahni). The music segment (laden with films owned by T-series and cheap Shemaroo prints) started off with the energetic hit Bhumro from Mission:Kashmir, complete with subtitles. Now subtitles are usually hilarious to read, since the people involved in this task are rarely cognizant of the nuances of the source and destination languages. In fact, they probably don't give a damn. So the subtitles run by: Bumblebee, dusk-coloured bumblebee. Something told me that despite valid reason to roll on the floor laughing, the words had a ring of truth in them. Sure enough (thanks to the Wayback Engine). And there's even some controversy over plagiarism to boot (All this is enough proof that I didn't pay too much attention to the film when it was first released). To recap, this was regarded as one of the better films of 2000. The eagerly awaited DVD (the second Indian release from Columbia-Tristar after Lagaan) took two years to get to release, and received positive reviews (for DVD quality, of course).

Addendum: The lyrics for this song and more, translated (no claims for correctness, mind you).

Movable Type unleashes competition for Blogger

How ironic it is to report on Blogger's competitor SixApart (the makers of MovableType) from within my Blogger-provided space. SixApart is all set to launch a similar system called TypePad later this year, which would provide budding bloggers and prospective MovableType users with an online storage system and an editing portal (just as Blogger does), thus eliminating the need to (a) find/hire server space from hosting companies (b) install MovableType on their servers. {The Guardian: Battle of the blog builders}
roast mules

When I picked up Ira Levin's Son of Rosemary, I was prepared for what it offered: the inevitable apocalyptic showdown between good and evil (last seen in the final sequel in the Omen canon) along with descriptions of the ease with which the devil's son (in this case) had become part of society. What I wasn't prepared for was the way Levin worked his way through this sequel, starting off 27 years after the events of the original novel, with Rosemary waking up from her coma. The book was a fast easy read, very typical of Levin's style. I should have expected the neat twist at the end (after all this is the guy who wrote A Kiss Before Dying), which put a different spin on everything that had happened till then. Recommended as a light alternative to heavy prosaic (prozac?) "literary" tomes. As for the title of this post: Go read the book.

Tuesday, April 22, 2003

what is your corporate employer feeding you?

Fans of all things Google will be tickled to know that there's a blog dedicated to the menus created by Charlie Ayers, former chef for the Grateful Dead and current head chef for Google, Inc, maintained by Ben Davenport. Might be a great incentive (besides pay, technology and pre-IPO benefits) for all out there to apply again for open positions.

Incidentally, Google has another cool logo, this one being for Earth Day 2003 (that's today). Earth Day 2003

Chandler 0.1 is out

Version 0.1 of Mitch Kapor's Chandler is out. To refresh our memories: This is an Open Source Personal Information Manager. What is really cool for me (apart from the hope of a viable alternative to the dreaded Microsoft Outlook) is that they use Python and Python-based technologies (wxPython, ZODB).


The train is approaching my station and I'm buried in The Best American Movie Writing: 1999, reading David Denby's rant about audiences and movie marketing, when the speaker crackles. I expect the usual announcement about the next station and the transfers possible therefrom. Instead, the lady begins:I'd like to share something with you all ... something I read yesterday... A good friend is very hard to find ... but when you find him, hold on to him with both hands. ... Interesting thought isn't it?. My first reaction is one of shock. I get a flash of an image of Samuel L Jackson intoning "The path of the righteous man is beset ...". And I know what comes after that. Bang-bang. Finito. My next vision is of this train operator walking down the train cars with an automatic, spraying commuters and railmaps with ammo. Lead. Screams. Darkness. The end. Inappropriately overboard reaction, yes. She's probably recovering from a bad relationship (or just got into a good one). But this is definitely something out of the pages of "Outrageous Clichéd Endings from and for Chick Flicks and Feel-Good Romantic Fluff".

Monday, April 21, 2003

dullhousie and safety last

Lovers of movie photographs will find a lot to choose from in Magnum Cinema, a compilation I've leafed through every time I visited a Kudzu outlet. The most interesting photographs for me were Buster Keaton and Chaplin from Limelight (their only film together) and a photograph of a song sequence being filmed with Rajesh Khanna and Zeenat Aman (I have no idea which movie this is, but I hope I don't forget this photograph). The great Kakaji stands in typical dullhousie mode. Yes, I must pause to explain dullhousie. This is part of the argot developed when I was part of the COEP cultural group. The word is an amalgam of english (dull) and marathi (housie-> a stretch of haushi). Roughly translated it means "someone who is enthusiastic about something, without having the faintest idea about it". Like a tone-deaf tone-dumb crow impersonator having delusions of being a singer. So back to Kakaji. He stands there, asserting his star persona, with a complete utter lack of interest in the goings-on as the beautiful Ms Aman attempts to seduce him in PG-rated fashion, adorned in affluent Bharatiya finery. The prevalence of red in the background designs adds to the magic.

TCM is running a special of Harold Lloyd movies, and I finally got a chance to watch Safety Last, after owning photographs from the movie for a long time. The film is Lloyd's most spectacular, and shows him dangling from a clock on the side of a building (the source of those photographs I have). While his work was overshadowed by his contemporaries Keaton and Chaplin (the latter also overshadowing the former), he actually made movies than the two combined. {more about Harold Lloyd}

Sunday, April 20, 2003

easter weekend

It's Easter Sunday. The weather sucks though: cloudy, bleak and clammy. It's been this way since Good Friday. The irony has overstayed its welcome, though (need I add at this point, that I was reading Son of Rosemary on the train today?). Thankfully, I chose to attend mass, which has given me positive boost. I've been a faithful couch potato for the last couple of days now. I picked up two Ira Levin books at the public library on my way home on Friday: Son of Rosemary and Deathtrap (a two act murder mystery set, as was A Kiss Before Dying, in Connecticut). I finished the play on the train home. The play was extremely successful on Broadway (it set a record as the longest running mystery/thriller on Broadway) and also became a film starring Michael Caine and Christopher Reeve. I loved the play -- it reminded me a lot of Sleuth (whose movie adaptation also featured Michael Caine). The first act reminded me of a Marathi play I had seen on Doordarshan a long time ago called Sadist. That said, the rest of Friday was devoted to Star Trek: TNG, now showcased as "TNG Uncut" on TNN (which means they take out the little bar at the bottom and give you the episode full-screen).

Saturday was movie splurge day. I started off with Michael Caine (yes, yes, I caine-t get enough) doing in his early days as the smart scientist who saves the day in The Swarm. A tad overlong, the film is also interesting for the cast roster that's an exercise in name dropping: Katherine Ross (remember her in The Graduate?), Richard Widmark, Olivia de Havilland, Slim Pickens, Fred MacMurray, Henry Fonda ... time to go gulp! Then after a break for the daily duties, I settled back into the warm cavity I had created for myself in the couch for Mimic, a movie I've been meaning to see for a long time, ever since I caught del Toro's Cronos. The plot is a classic B-horror tale: a mutant strain of roaches threatens New York City. Del Toro's harrowing vision of the underbelly of the NY subway system (a favourite of horror writers. Ref: The Midnight Meat Train, from Clive Barker's Books of Blood, a collection I highly recommend) gets fantastic support from the SFX crew (Rob Bottin pops up yet again). The twist (and hence the title) is that this strain of giant roaches has evolved to mimic its predator, man. Corny as it may sound, the twist is understated, and the film worked for me for its textures, colours, and moments. There are lapses in logic, but I would forgive all that in exchange for a hour and more of solid scares. I took an extended break (well, to be honest, the tube betrayed me with low-quality programming) and returned after dinner to catch good old Clint Eastwood in High Plains Drifter. This was Eastwood's first western as a director, and there's a little tribute to Sergio Leone and Don Siegel, if you look carefully. The elements are all familiar: a small frontier town, a mysterious stranger, a conflict of morals, the inevitable showdown and the subdued tension. If you've seen the movie and still didn't get it, Clint makes it easier for you (check out the audio clip).

Friday, April 18, 2003

brains, people, common sense

Who is Aparna Kalra and why is she given a free lease to write in the TOI about the human side of Salman Khan? The adorable side of SK? That being "single and proud of it" is good reason to love him? This is the guy who was recently hauled up (and fled to London later, I might add) by Vivek Oberoi; who was always been the newsmaker for some human deeds such as roughing up his girlfriends, illegal poaching and driving over people. He has been exonerated in the past (and probably will in the future too), glorified even. So perhaps one can expect an article like this to surface. But why the TOI? And, again, WHO is Aparna Kalra?
more books

The Kudzu fever continues to grip me. Since they had extended the sale at the Great Discount Books Store on Roswell Road, I grabbed time yesterday to pay a second visit, picking up a couple more books on Oracle as well as two more volumes in the Projections series. All this despite the downpour that plagued yesterday afternoon/evening and destroyed the sunlight for today (a twist on Good Friday, perhaps?)

no SARS, saar

So the SARS scare seems to have been a false positive as authorities have put it. Had this occurred in the US, there would have been a mini-lynching from the media, followed by heated hot-air discussion/protest and then silence. Of course, our authorities are still waiting for a second opinion ...

Windows XP | Status Bar | will not comply

As a recent user of Internet Explorer (version 6.0.2800.1106.xpsp2.021108-1929 [for a possible interpretation, check the following paragraph) Windows XP, I've been, as may be expected, wasting precious time on trivialities, in my case, getting the browser to display the status bar. Even though I respect the need for information hiding, this is not a good example of the same. Turns out that this is a registered annoyance. Kevin Donahue's blog has a fix that worked for me. As is characteristic of other fixes, it includes registry settings, repetitive GUI operations and a feeling of "mission accomplished" satisfaction.

Understanding the IE version number: the last four digits indicate the viability of the current build. Do not be surprised if this is a year in the distant past. You are free to interpret that any way you choose to. The other blocks are easier to understand, so I'll leave that as "an exercise to the reader" (a quote from the zillions of useless textbooks out there) {For example, xpsp2 may mean either "XP Service Pack 2" or "eXtreme Pressure Should Prevail Too"}.

Thursday, April 17, 2003

night mare

Dinesh Raheja takes a look back at Gulzar's Khushboo (an interesting storyline backed by some great music from R D Burman). But what's the deal with the photograph? That's the glamorous Ms Malini as we know her, a far cry from the gharelu Kusum in the movie. Did he mean to strike a contrast? Or did they just goof it up?
This Cannes not be

It's old news that Aishwarya Rai (thanks to the whole Devdas-induced brouhaha at Cannes last year) will be on the jury this year. And now, Meg Ryan (chick flick regular screen squeeze) joins her on the panel. Also on the panel, Steven Soderbergh, best known for swinging effortlessly from bold cinema (Sex, Lies and Videotape), to enjoyable adaptations (Out of Sight, Ocean's Eleven) to pretentious navel gazing (Full Frontal) to Oscar suckfests (Erin Brockovich).
SARS comes to India

Watching the news has recently been an exercise in mundaneness: Dubya continues to swagger like a helium-brained superstar getting applause on one-liners worse than the worst PJs I have ever heard; the Iraq war[sic] expenses are rising; The US still hasn't found any weapons of mass destruction (or "mass distraction" as Michael Moore described them) in Iraq (remind me again why they went there in the first place); SARS. The only consolation I had was that India had so far been free of any SARS. Until today. A 32-year old Marine Engineer returned to Goa from Singapore and Hong Kong will make it to the record books, sadly, as the first reported and clinically confirmed case of SARS. There goes all the tourism market in Goa for a while. The fear has now hit the nation. With its mass-media circus framework in place, the US currently reigns for levels of paranoia related to SARS. A prayer for a swift resolution of this situation.

On a related(?) note, Paul McCartney's flu germs are up for sale on eBay.

Tuesday, April 15, 2003

recent reads

I found Peopleware: Productivity, Projects and Teams to be a much more readable book than the Brooks classic. I got the first edition from the public library and while it's heavily dated (an observation based solely on the date of publication), it still remains relevant to development teams both within and without the software development/information technology milieu.

Michael Crichton's Timeline was not as well received as his previous bestsellers. By blending science and the rules and norms of mainstream bestseller fiction, in addition to bending the rules of science, Crichton created a mini-genre of his own and Timeline seems to fit it well. I picked it off the library shelf on a whim and am pleased to note that it is a page turner. The need to stay within and conform to the mainstream/bestseller guidelines results in passages that ring false, but then I wasn't asking for 'classic' literature was I?

Related: Just in case you were thinking that multiverses were a product of Crichton's fertile imagination, try a brief history of the multiverse according to the NYTimes and Scientific American's cover story for this month (concidence, what?) on Parallel Universes.

Saturday, April 12, 2003


Well not quite, but Star Trek: TNG definitely dominated yesterday's evening TV splurge. TNN decided to change the setup of their bonus Treks on Friday night. They did away with the dark bar at the bottom of the screen and stuck the label of Trek: Uncut on the combo. Didn't matter much to me. The episodes they chose yesterday were ones I hadn't seen before, and were worth the time.

Cause and Effect: Another time episode. Directed by #1/Frakes himself, this episode sees the Enterprise stuck in a time warp, doomed to destruction, endlessly repeating the same experiences (Groundhog Day/12:01 {short | TV movie} in space). And to top it all, there's a little cameo at the end by Kelsey Grammer. Cool.

Relics has several nice things going for it. There's the pre-credit sequence featuring a Dyson Sphere (Freeman Dyson proposed this artificial sphere the size of a planetary orbit in 1959 as a way for an advanced civilisation to utilise all of the energy radiated by their sun). The Enterprise encounters the U. S. S. Jenolen, which crashed 75 years ago, on the surface of a Dyson Sphere. A landing party discovers a survivor hidden in the ship's transporter. The survivor (the surprise package of the film) is perhaps the only engineer who could have pulled off a stunt like this, Scotty (formerly Chief Engineer in TOS, now Captain). The rest of the episode deals with Scotty trying to adjust to the time lost, while the Enterprise deals with the Sphere itself. The end neatly wraps things up (with Scotty saving the day), but it's still a pleasure to see a member of the old cast (who is not William Shatner) linking memories from TOS with events on TNG. The holodeck also provides an excuse to see the old bridge of the first Enterprise.

With the bonus Treks out of the way, and sleep making its presence felt, I caught the end of Force of Evil and most of Touch of Evil, Orson Welles' epitaph to film noir. While watching the wonderful filmmaking, planned camera angles and the ambiguity of light and shade, the pace and synching of dialogue gave me the weird feeling of this being a dubbed foreign (Spanish?) import. Wonder if Welles intended this, because one could make a case for this observation. One could also simply conclude that sleep was inevitable, and just turn in:)

Friday, April 11, 2003

why Kool Korners is closed

Students of Georgia Tech frequenting Kool Korners Grocery at the corner of 14th and State for their excellent Cuban sandwiches ar probably wondering why the place is closed. The reason (courtesy: James) is that Lucia Ramirez, who was the calm presence handing you your paper-bag-wrapped sandwich and processing your payment at the cash register, died on Tuesday, April 01, 2003. Her husband Mr Ramirez said he would reopen the store, but he doesn't know when this would happen. A prayer for Mrs Ramirez.
here comes the sun/i've got sunshine

Finally the sun is out. I *saw* the sun on my way to work -- from the window of my train compartment -- orange, amber, red, yellow. From a well-defined circle of light to an undefined expanse of brightness piercing what clouds remained to make this one great Friday. This is a very big deal, mind you, considering that the whole week has been depressing, cloudy, gloomy, cold, clammy, bleak ... well, you get the idea. Perhaps the fact that our cable package got upgraded "accidentally" as a consequence of repairs was just a sign.

Thursday, April 10, 2003

Bad weather and a whiff of customer service

The weather continues to be bleak and gloomy and cloudy. I've started fiddling around with Oracle 9iAS, especially OC4J. And as I close my day, I get my first exposure to live-over-the-phone interaction with Customer Support. The last time I did this we were talking to a service provider in India.

Wednesday, April 09, 2003

more and more books

This bleak weather has manifested itself as another attack of the cold for me. If it weren't for the fact that I look forward to getting to work everyday, I'd be hitting the base of the mood barrel riding out on MARTA every morning in darkness, looking out at a grey sky with ominous clouds showering spray on all concerned. Atlanta's weather swings have always impressed me (unless I'm busy sneezing and sounding like a bunch of heavies straight out of 1920s Chicago). Thankfully, I have some respite in books. I hit yet another Kudzu Books branch (this one being on Roswell Road) and grabbed a couple of fat (aren't they all?) Oracle 9i books along with The Cluetrain Manifesto (a book I had long read about but never seen) and Future Noir and (hallelujah!) Sergio Leone: Something to do with Death: I had found this excellent biography of both Leone and Italian popular cinema at the public library (where else?) a couple of months ago, and had added it to my wishlist.

Library picks include The Mythical Man Month (a 20th anniversary reprint of Fred Brooks software engineering classic is still a tough read for me: the observations are useful and valid, but it's still a little to abstract for me to imbibe), The Siege of Trencher's Farm by Gordon Williams (the source novel for Peckinpah's Straw Dogs, which Criterion recently celebrated with a special 2 DVD release; and finally Philip J Kaplan's abrasive, hilarious, irreverant, concise, definitive(?) look at the dot com-turned-bomb star walkway, F'd Companies (a companion to his website)

Monday, April 07, 2003

day one at work

A new office for everyone. The excitement of moving in. A new desk. A standing hatch. With a place to keep my books. My own (colour!) printer. Stationery. A phone. Huge. Feature-rich. Desk hog. Cool black Dell Precision (no flat panel monitor, though). Speakers with the slick minimalist curvaceous base. An IntelliPoint mouse (with thumb controls to flip between pages). Dealing with .NET and Windows XP. Before Microsoft came out with its new[sic] OS[sic], XP referred to "eXtreme Programming", a rather productive form of peer programming. XP (formerly known as Whistler) officially stands for eXPerience (don't believe me, try webopedia). And I can testify that it is, indeed, an experience. Sometimes one of eXtreme Pain {other possible meanings}. Always interesting. And the whole notion of Domains and Groups gets even more confusing. Being a strong Linux follower, I had to ask about the predominance of Windows in the development and server environments. The reason was simple: support. And it's a valid one too. I know RedHat offers different support options for firms that decide to employ Linux as a solution, but Microsoft and the other large players seem to have set a certain standard in support (what corporates can ask for or expect and what they can expect to receive --- straight-faced and tongue-in-cheek). Hopefully this will change one day to open the field to more alternatives. Right now, Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft Office and Internet Explorer are the killer apps that define Windows. Once viable alternatives are available, the "walls of Jericho" will collapse.
Phone Booth (Isn't it funny - you hear a phone ringing and it could be anybody. A ringing phone has to be answered...doesn't it?)

Joel Schumacher returns to his Falling Down stomping ground and gives Colin Farrell a role with enough meat for a banquet. The premise is typically high-concept (Proof: High-Concept stalwart Michael Bay was interested in directing at one point) : A slick glib lying PR guy is trapped in a phone booth by a vigilante sniper who turns out to be a moralizer. Shot in less than a fortnight (in LA, doubling as NYC), the film's release was delayed by the real-life sniper threat in Maryland, Virginia and Washington D. C. The film does well as a morality tale and, as Schumacher was quoted as saying, "the primal fear we all share of a disembodied voice". The urban soundtrack from Gregson-Williams ably serves the claustrophobia of the piece. Aside from Schumacher, the other aspect of the film that worried me when I first caught a preview, was the presence of Forest Whitaker. This talented actor has been involved in some unbelievably obvious "strictly to pay the bills" movies, and that made me wary. However, he does a great job morphing his own personality and talent into the role of Captain Ramey, recovering from a failed marriage and post-therapy. With such a limited setup, the only thing the film can rely on is a script, the dialogue and the performances. Thankfully, this is not unfounded, making it another competent entry in the list of movies that explore the effect of media on the way we live and the way we think. The line that lingers most is one that I was quite surprised to find still in the film: As he is being grilled by the sniper and forced to come clean in public, Stu (Farrell) screams out: "I'm just part of a big cycle of lies. . . . I should be president!". Priceless.

The film is not without its problems though. The predictably metaphoric opening (juvenile graphics and a cheesy song) although mercifully short, is irritating. The surprise/shock ending seems like an add-on, although I found enough reasons to leave it in, and not dismiss it completely. The film employs MTV-esque editing and split screens (Brian de Palma still comes out tops on this one for me) to aid its pacing and at about 81 minutes, it's a good evening's watch. Wonder if this is the Psycho for phone booths...

Related: Review, interviews and more

Saturday, April 05, 2003

premiere spicefest

Hidden off Park Lake Drive is an innocuous restaurant called Premiere Club. Very simple in decor but the Hindi movie playing on the screen sets the context straight. The menu helps too. The last time I came here was over a year and a half ago. Nothing much has changed -- there was just one other table occupied by a group of gaggling arguing gents. Memories of India. The food may turn off people who watch their oil and spice, but this is their loss. The tikka appetizers (chicken/paneer) could knock your socks off, and once you're done with them, you're left with red pepper seeds floating in spicy oil. Not too much oil, mind you, but ymmv. We placed our order in typical group dinner fashion -- three entrees, supplemented by rice and quartered naans. From the free paapads that tickle your palate as you peruse the menu card to the final burp, a splendid (eye-watering, perhaps) time is guaranteed for all. And if the hardware is set up, you could even end the night with a Hindi film hits karaoke session -- something my friends indulged in the last time we were here: just when I thought I had heard enough versions of khaike paan banaraswaala and o mere dil ke chain!
on procrastination

Much as I would like to attest to the contrary, I have not been immune to bouts of unproductiveness (aka moments of blah or listless trails of non-work tasks like email. like reading online articles and threads. like finding something totally fascinating, something you would ordinarily not even deem worthy of even a nanosecond's attention. Joel Spolsky explores the feeling in detail. As he writes, the key to productivity is probably just getting started.

On a very unrelated note, if you're looking for an hour of radio riddled with wild takes on just about everything Bollywood, WCNJ has Spoofs, airing on Saturdays from 1pm to 2pm EST. The current fixation is Bappi Lahiri...

Friday, April 04, 2003

it happened one night: again

Mahesh Manjrekar is ready with the English and Bengali versions of his film Astitva whose "bold" theme was a breaking point for him and the leading lady Tabu. The English version stars Manjrekar himself (replacing Sachin Khedekar from the original) and Sushmita Sen (replacing Tabu). Also starring are veterans Victor Banerjee and Moon Moon Sen (along with her daughter Riya Sen). The film's called It Was Raining That Night (which works well as a Marathi title or as the title of an English play, but as a movie title ... barely).

sweet tomatoes

It's been a week of eating out every evening. Yesterday was no exception. The desi dinner group converged on Sweet Tomatoes {review}, which offers a great cost-efficient buffet. The incredibly long salad line is your introduction to the buffet. After you pay for your food, you are free to proceed to counters inside that host soups, breads and dessert. Should have picked up their brochure listing the contents of the items they sell. Highly recommended.
oberoi khan spat: a followup {a followup to Bollywood extra}

Vivek Oberoi's press conference, although badly planned and managed, was a decent step forward to tackle the messy issue of the spoilt Khan. A commendable measure despite Oberoi's lack of maturity in handling the whole affair -- he even came off as a Salman Khan in the making. The whole thing ultimately disintegrated into a little backyard spat. Even more surprising was the response of the Bollywood industry to this event, conferring it the status of a flop show, while Salman Khan headed London-ward. To have deemed Vivek as immature seems to have been a premature move --- the respondents to the event seem to be competing to break all records that he had set. And when the general public responded, things got even worse. The quality of the sample set of readers who responded is of course debatable ("who would want to waste time even responding to this piece of news" versus "vivek oberoi deserves to know that this was a bad move").

On a related note, while Aishwarya Rai (the bone of contention in the above skirmish) was injured in an accident while shooting for Khakee. While her fans (and the filmmakers) are predictably praying for her speedy recovery, there is talk of her being the next Bond girl (convincing Pierce Brosnan that this is a good time to jump ship is going to tough, though, considering how little about Bollywood the outside world really understands). The international agency coordinating negotiations for the Bond role have gone off to Shirdi to pray for her recovery. {link courtesy: PMA} [Update on April 18, 2003: The Big B is more candid than usual as he shares his thoughts on the tragedy]

On a positive note, Shekhar Suman (he of the mixed career in film and television, last seen hosting a desi hybrid version of Jay Leno and David Letterman) talks about Mumbai, the "city that made his dreams come true": I was a mover and shaker even before I came to Mumbai. But this city does bring movers and shakers into prominence. Like a bottling plant, it gives the final seal of approval to a person's talent.

Thursday, April 03, 2003

more music

A splurge again. Picked up a few CDs that were on my "if I can ever manage to spend a little more" list yesterday from good ol' Texas Sari Sapne (yes it's a 'sarees and related accessories' store, but the alcove in the back has never ceased to spring little musical treasures): Kasak: A Tribute to Pancham by Asha Bhosle (notable for its inclusion of Asha Bhosle's version of Humen Tumse Pyar Kitna from Kudrat and one of the many versions of an underrated Pancham composition in roopak taal Jeene De Ye Duniya from Lava) [track listing]; Parinda (songs and dialogues).

Back home the cats continue to fight while I nurse this scar on my face. Rewards for stepping in to do a Gandhian pacifying act.

Wednesday, April 02, 2003

Bollywood extra (aka garam garam khabar)

The latest buzz in Bollywood is the Salman-Aishwarya-Vivek triangular saga of love and suffering, star style. The Salman-Aishwarya relationship has provided rich fodder for the glamour-gossip mills for a long time now and their activities have involved arguments, violence (denied publicly, condemned privately), and improvisational career choices (dropping films, signing on other films to compensate for black eyes ... etc etc). This new event brings in some fresh talent[sic] to the fore -- hot star Vivek Oberoi (son of famed baddie/character actor Suresh Oberoi -- whom I prefer to his son) who called a press conference last week to announce that he had received death threats from Salman. He claims that Salman, drunk as it were, had accused him of "physical relationships with Aishwarya Rai, Diya Mirza, Rani Mukherjee and Somy Ali, whom I met some seven years ago." Salman laughed the incident away saying "Vivek is a kid who is paranoid about something." He also denied mentioning the underworld (to which he has a rather strong but sparsely documented connection) to Vivek. Listen to the press conference held on April Fools Day online [WARNING: Link could go stale in the future]. And if you haven't already hit the floor in paroxysms of uncontrollable laughter, check out the astrological take on the whole issue (PS: you could grab some tips on calculating your own soul number). Salman's brother Arbaaz denied Vivek's allegations {alternate take} (although Vivek claimed to have received support from Salman's brothers). {courtesy: JR}

On a different note, 3D seems to be making a comeback in Indian cinema. Chota Chetan/My Dear Kuttichaatan fans rejoice (that includes me, in some sense: memories of catching the film in Mangala talkies; memories of buying 3D comics). I want my goggles.

weathering a cat fight

To put this bizarre headline in context: been living with two cats for a while now, a feisty energetic lithe bundle and her sister, the silent thinking/brooding (plump) feline. The latter went into a surprise isolation hiss-fest on Sunday night. Snugly ensconced in the recess below my bed, she defended her corner with growls, hisses and linguistic vituperations straight out of The Exorcist (her age dispelled any notion of her having worked as a dubbing artist for the movie). I'm not sure what the appropriate reaction was, but I was rather tickled with the whole enterprise. A hiss-sparring ensued for the next couple of days. Finally emerging out of her hideout today morning, she proceeded (with her sister) to indulge in some down-to-carpet Matrix-ian manoeuvres (complete with Dolby sound effects out of the Alien saga). She finally selected a new battle trench -- below the kitchen sink. So now I have to make sure I don't mistake her hisses for rice cooker whistles.

That said, I must say something for the excellent weather this week, especially today: warm, sunny, with a clear sky.

Tuesday, April 01, 2003


Yes! Yes! Yes! It's Gudi Padwa. Auspicious auspicious. It's also April Fool's Day. But I don't think that counts. Glad to have made it through this long (in retrospect, rather brief) time flooding the internet and numerous job sites and networking channels with my qualifications and skills. And of course, constantly waging a battle against the easy way out.

As an addendum: My publish request to Blogger worked! A coincidence?

dinner splurge and keaton keaton keaton

Overate (nay, harvested) at a dinner buffet at Dynasty Garden on Northlake Parkway. Their lunch buffet has an even greater price. The only thing Chinese about this place is the service staff. Even the muzak and most of the dishes are American. Still no regrets as I proceeded to dig into all things chicken (sesame, general tso, teriyaki, sweet and sour, pepper, wings) as well as steamed and fried rice, french fried [verbatim], dumplings and some hot and sour soup. All washed down with sweet iced tea. Topped with some chocolate ice cream. A few burps later, I was back home.

Caught two featurettes on the same DVD as The General: The Playhouse (whose great Keaton ensemble and self-referential digs should evoke some reverse déjà vu in fans of Being John Malkovich) and Cops, both rich with Keaton's antics. Each time I watch a Keaton film, I begin to support the contention that he was a better comedian than Chaplin (a belief similar to the one that Marlowe was better than Shakespeare). But YMMV.

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