Saturday, September 20, 2008

active intransitivity

Is it just my brethren (read: holders of an Indian passport or bearers of an Indian PAN card or recipients of a fat monthly income commensurate with their ability to churn out code that make Halahala look like Kwality Ice Cream) or are other people afflicted by the rather curious tendency to confer the status of ambitransitive upon verbs when using them in the present continuous tense. It's either that or an incorrect switch from passive voice to active voice. The do-ee appears to become the doer, but it's only a deception. A grammatical wolf trying to pull the wool over your tired eyes. Consider the line "The page is not displaying" -- my friend, "to display" is a strictly transitive verb; this means that the displayer has to display something. Perhaps you meant to say "The page is not being displayed"; this would mean that you were trying to activate a passive entity, which is something that works in the context of freedom struggles and revolutions but not grammar. Cease and desist otherwise you will be killing.

Monday, September 15, 2008

cyberlink's user abuse

Let me tell about this little pile of buffalo offerings called Cyberlink PowerDVD DX. This software to play DVDs ships with Dell computers and represents a new nadir in software usability. Put your DVD in the DVD tray and slide it in and voila, this menace begins to start up (sometimes even bypassing the magic Shift key). In order to offer the best in convenience it "un-mutes" your speakers and turns up the volume so that, if you're sitting there with headphones on, your ears are in for an aural pounding. And if you shut the damn thing down, it even "mutes" your speakers so that you don't have to do it yourself. Did I mention there's no notion of saved "preferences"? After you've recovered from the sound blast and have managed to regain control of your mouse or the shortcut hardware controls to adjust the volume, you realise that you have to wade through all that "unskippable" guano thanks to the software's obsequious refusal to skip the UOP flag. If this is one of the DVDs that begins with one of those loud annoying anti-piracy ads, not even God can save your eardrums. All said and done once you've managed to get past the noisome studio logo and distribution dross and have finally started with the movie, don't worry about such useful things as a time counter. Just sit back and pray you don't have to start the DVD up again and put your ears through another ordeal of decibels. The only reason I don't use VLC is because it's decided to go batty and play DVDs in fits and jerks. If I wanted an epileptic meltdown, I'd ask for one. A pity. Time to get ready with another DVD now with fingers close to the special key in order to bring down the volume levels.

Saturday, September 13, 2008

bappi's back and the truth hurts again

[thanks to Karthik over at I2FS for the pointer]

After raking in a load of dough with the Addictive victory a few years ago, Bappi's back in the news thanks to You Don't Mess With The Zohan using Jimmy Jimmy from Disco Dancer and giving him due credit. It's irony all over again and this time it's because the Bappi hit was a filch from You're OK by disco duo Ottawan. The Calcutta Times interview also includes the classic befuddling line Ottawan copied from me!. A 1980 song is a copy of a 1982 song. Who did it? The Time Traveller, no doubt.

Wednesday, September 03, 2008

maverick malik does it again: but no one noticed

In addition to being a font of trashy songs (disco bhaa.nga.Daa from Ganga Jamuna Saraswati, Daddy Cool from Chaahat) and the under-sung classic Do me a favour let's play holii (holii (holii (holii))) from Waqt: The Race Against Time), Anu Malik's also been a champion of the bold and shocking lyric. The stellar example was Sexy Sexy Sexy from Khuddar, a song that caused a storm not when the audio cassettes and CDs hit the market, but when the clips started doing the rounds on countdown shows (Karisma Kapoor's skimpy outfit didn't help matters much). The watered-down version (replace all occurrences of sexy with baby: mercifully, we didn't have lines like he's a sexy elephant) joined the film in the bin of the forgotten forever (a pity, since its convoluted plot and heady mix of Bollwood tropes offers great fodder for a meeting of the sofa spuds).

Years later, after going through an incongruous phase of being a critical darling for stringing decent melodies while working with above-average lyrics, Mr. Malik has returned to flood 2008 with stinker after super stinker starting off with Anamika. Another furball in the kitty was the limpid soundtrack for Love Story 2050 released on the day of American independence. This is a Bollywood skiffy featuring Priyanka Chopra as Zeisha and her man Harman Baweja making his début as a Hrithik Roshan-lookalike. Listen to the classic score that Vangelis conjured for Blade Runner and then weep, wail, lament and convulse in syncopated grief as you listen to Malik recycle tropes from You Only Live Twice (the opening string riff shows up in miilo.n kaa) and Jaanbaaz (Lover Boy's a.ntaraa starts off sounding like an Anu Malik melody and then starts sounding like rejected material from pyaar do pyaar lo). The little gem on the soundtrack is the fruit of a collaboration between Alisha Chinai and Mr. Malik (once again, since the Khuddar song had Ms. Chinai warbling about what people called her). The track opens with a soundscape of electronic sounds against with Ms. Chopra zestfully looping corny lines with as much oomph as in permitted in family-friendly soft-core fare:

Zeisha (pronounced: zaay-shaa). She's tomorrow's woman that yesterday spoke about. She's a mystery. She's an enigma wo (pause) ek raaz hai.

As the track moves along the railroad of rejected samples, Ms. Chinai renders an oh-so-familiar onomatopoeaic riff, before launching into the line that marks a new frontier for Mr. Malik:

Hey you, lover boy. Will you be my toy?

Over and over and over just so that you don't miss it. Lest you are confused, this film was never (I repeat never) going to be called Toy Story 4. The next line, when it finally shows up, registers a knell of danger: kheluu.N khilono.n se phir to.D duu.N; Ouch. Does this mark the first ode to Steely Dan III from Yokohama in Bollywood? "All I can say is that we have not left any musical note or poetic phrase unturned" says lyricist Javed Akhtar in the liner notes. But only the macrobian Mr. Malik could have shown the way. Ave Anu.

Monday, September 01, 2008

killing of the green

The latest bill from a utility company looks different, it's more compact. One of the notes offers more information:

We are pleased to introduce our new and improved monthly billing statement featuring an updated design, new colours, easy-to-read layout and improved arrangement of resident account information.

Sure. Whatever. A drop in rates or a concession would have been more welcome, since the old format wasn't as confusing or intimidating as a BellSouth phone bill. Going green with e-billing is, however, a good way to cut down on the paper trails and stacks in your house (or wherever it is that you store your statements and bills). An electronic version is easier to store, back up and carry around.

However, the final note mentions a new e-bill service. This means I can "go green" and "go paperless" (except in the hall of judgement, if you're living in the US of A).

There's been a strange surge of campaigns for going green. The commercial real estate company owning your office building was probably handing out energy-saving 30 watt bulbs. There are probably handouts sitting a tray (let's ignore the trees killed to create those handouts) championing green computers and pro-green HVAC settings. In a city like Atlanta, you'll also get the "drive less go green" camp, whose arguments are weaker than those of the "drive less save money on gas[oline]" camp. All this is fine and dandy, but I'm waiting for the tax subsidies. There's nothing like a tax cut to get more people involved -- expecting people to go green merely for warm and fuzzy reasons like "saving the environment" or "making it a better place for you and for me" isn't practical.

On the other hand, you will always have utility companies like Georgia Natural Gas that still do not give you a chance to stop the paper bill. You can sign up for OCC (Online Customer Care), you can now even make payments through their online portal without a fee (instead of using your bank's e-Bill Pay service), but you cannot stop them from sending you a paper copy of that PDF you just downloaded. In the eloquent words on the "Electronic Bill Notification" page, You will continue to receive a paper bill. No chance of seeing the Green Green Gas of Home (sorry for that bad paperless pun).

DVD synopses

While casually eploring the catalogue at the public library, I hit the page for a DVD of Pratiggya, a 1975 Dharmendra starrer: Here's the synopsis from the listing: Dharmendra secretly goes under cover and gets revenge on the person that took his childhood and family away from him. "Secretly goes under cover"? As opposed to "loudly"? Makes sense if you consider movies like Haveli, in which Marc Zuber spent his time telling everyone he met that he was an undercover cop and that they shouldn't tell anyone.

Bollywood DVDs have long boasted some of the most entertaining synopses. A trip to the local Indian grocery store can prove rewarding as you scan the paragraphs on the backs of the numerous covers on the shelves. Laced with sentences that betray an uncomfortably weak grasp of English grammar, idioms and vocabulary, the synopses often end by posing a set of questions to the reader -- these aren't questions of the kind that plague the existence of a PhD student but questions that are more on the lines of teraa naam kyaa hai basa.ntii?.

A few samples exist in the archives of this basket of bile: Aag Se Khelenge, Trimurti). There is, however, always more grass in the field where that cow came from. Consider the synopsis of Baaghi, which includes the nugget: [...] Sajan along with his friends rescues his love from the brothel and feels happy about it (also note have Kajal becomes Kajol by the time the synopsis is done).

We end with the synopsis of Naaraaz, which revels in the strict cliché stereotyping, high concept character development and the catastrophically convoluted tapestry of coincidence that passes off for plot in Bollywood.

NARAAZ is a strange love story of two friends who are from opposite backgrounds.

We are thus introduced to the concepts of foreground and anti-foreground; since these never attain the appropriate quantum states in Bollylore, such buddies rarely destroy each other, despite the presence of a temporary mandatory conflict.

DEVA (Mithun Chakraborty) is from a low caste poor family and due to this kind of background, he is an angry person.

There's a sample of the abuse of the material conditional; low caste implies kashT and someone who's very very frust. gariibii implies gussaa. It must also be noted that well-off low caste people don't make very good subjects in Bollysagas.

There is a dramatic confrontation between the two loving friends who are both angry with the society following opposite paths.

That bit hints on the Dilemma of Societal Divergence, a theme common in numerous reeling excursions served up by the Bollyfilm fraternity (sorority too, whatever).

There's more where all this came from. But the archaeology of the asinine must wait for another day. In the meantime, the plots of Bollyspiced dishes, often complex enough to discombobulate the best experts in correlation and chaos, deserve their space. But that too must come in good time. Bhuvan Panda said it right: bhuukh ke binaa bhog swaadishT nahii.n lagataa. It's time to bring on the hunger first before the meal is served.

more power to few

Amogh points me to a article about supermarket juggernaut Tesco replacing its signs to say "up to 10 items" instead of the grossly incorrect (and yet colloquially acceptable) "10 items or less." The article also includes helpful notes on the difference between less and few for those interested.

In closing, may I serve up a tidbit from an old issue of the World Wide Words newsletter: A mother in Stockport got Marks and Spencer to correct a grammatical error (an incongruous apostrophe) in text on a pyjama top. In the newsletter, Michael Quinion notes perhaps it could amend the "Five items or less" notice that I spotted on Friday in the Bristol branch. The Tesco change might offer a glimmer of hope. I don't think we'll see a change as far as the TV show and the film are concerned.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivs 3.0 Unported License.