Saturday, May 30, 2009

never on sundays

I have often been stumped at how some restaurants around the Atlanta area, especially the ones that I like, decide to remain closed on certain days -- the choice of days seems rather arbitrary.

The humble Tandoor is closed on Mondays.

Bhojanic, the only restaurant that begs to differ from just about every other Indian restaurant I've seen around town, decides to dip the shutters on Sundays. No lunch. No dinner. Zip.

The Real Chow Baby has inexplicably decided to abandon offering lunch on Saturday and Sunday. This is really disturbing. Not only does this seem to kill a fair amount of business, but it also means that the only way you can "create your own stir fry" at lunch prices (about $4 less than the dinner price) is to show up during the working week. This was a recent move too: I had lunch a couple of times on Saturdays at the new outlet in Cobb Galleria last year before they flipped the sign to "Closed". I don't remember anything different in the lunch and dinner versions of the stir fry, which seems to imply that this move was purely for the $$.

There's no point ranting about higher prices for the same dishes on weekends -- it's something Indian restaurants do with their lunch buffets. There's also no point whining about restaurants that have a special lunch menu for the working week -- Thai restaurants do that; Chinese restaurants do that too. You get your choice of soup with your order and you pay less. If you come in on Saturday or Sunday, you get the deluxe version only -- more $$ for a different set of dishes, although you really wanted to try the lunch special. Pity.

July 28, 2012: Bhojanic is now open on Sundays from noon till 9pm. Dinner prices all day, just like Saturday, I am sure, but this is better than before. The promised new location in Buckhead is not yet live.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

honest to vitriol

Suparn Verma's refreshingly candid when answering a question on plagiarism/influences in Rediff's new slide show on his next film Acid Factory, his first film with Sanjay Gupta (An old post hereabouts portended this collaboration):

Are your films mostly inspired by some movie or the other?

Not actually. Ek Khiladi is inspired by 14 con films -- Confidence and House of Game are among them. Chhal was not inspired. Qayamat was inspired by The Rock. Yeh Kya Ho Raha Hai was marketed as American Pie but it wasn't inspired by American Pie; not one gag of it was from American Pie. Zameen and Karam were not remakes.

PS: Rediff's new layout looks cleaner and nicer, but there's a problem with their slide shows -- you can't get a URL for a specific slide. The whole thing is implemented using JavaScript and the content of each slide is a string array and your clicks on Next and Prev are nothing but indexes for the array. The code's goop and that's the price you pay for the pleasant look.

Monday, May 25, 2009

blinded by uncontrollable cuts

I never thought I'd rant again like I did about Hancock. With Quantum of Solace, Marc Forster and company have piddled gloriously on the fine efforts to rejuvenate the franchise in Casino Royale. A direct sequel may sound like a great idea, but all the writers on the film seem to have failed to give us anything interesting. James Bond was never really an action hero. What we get here, however, is an attempt to counter this notion. Right from the furiously edited chase before the credits, we are hurtled from one action sequence to another. Characters are introduced and revived during moments of relief. Levity is tossed in but the humour, mercifully, never threatens to enter the realm defined by the Brosnan films, whose jokes seemed like post-modern tributes to the Roger Moore films.

Ian Fleming wrote a handful of James Bond stories that explored new territory; they didn't seem to be "typical" Bond excursions -- The Spy Who Loved Me and Quantum of Solace were two of the most striking examples in this pack. It seems ironic that both lost their titles to films that had nothing to do with their content. SMERSH was clearly too old for this generation, but naming the organisation Quantum was/is a stretch. It's just too convenient. It would also be wise to perish any hope of seeing any trace of the meaning of the delectable phrase from Fleming in the film. Bond is still suffering emotionally, but all that was chucked in favour of a dogpile of crash-boom-bang.

all that glitters is oil

The chaos and confusion in the opening chase is, as far as I can tell, enough evidence that Marc Forster (who made the reasonably engaging Monster's Ball, the compelling Finding Neverland and the interesting Stranger Than Fiction) cannot handle action. Having chosen to yield the unhealthy fetish for shaky-cam/jerki-cam and having opted for an editing style that looks like someone was in a real hurry to make it to a conference with Mother Nature should be state's exhibits. The opening chase has received plaudits in many quarters; all I could figure out was that a lot of automotive equipment was trashed and some people died. The feeling of having missed most of the details came later during the second chase -- which ends with Bond shooting the traitor dead. By the time the end (not a bang but a whimper) came, I realised that there was nothing in this film to even match the parkour chase from Casino Royale.

The film has its share of references to older Bond films, the most obvious one being the nod to Goldfinger (with the twist of replacing gold with oil). It also packs tributes to Alfred Hitchcock (Vertigo, North By Northwest, The Man Who Knew Too Much). Mercifully, these references, unlike the hubris that buried Die Another Day, are not distracting. The rest of the film, however, is. Daniel Craig's faithful reading of the character is a saving grace. He remains unscathed by the morass around him, as does Judi Dench. The two deserve better as did all of us who awaited a more worthy successor to Casino Royale.

I fear that Craig's stint as Bond might look like Brosnan's -- starting off well, Brosnan ended up figuring in films that strove define new nadirs in the canon with their growing love for bombastic villains, flashy gadgets, quips and soulless action. Unless they decide to hire someone who disagrees with people like Paul Greengrass, there seems little hope.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

altered discomfort

Where's the Ian Fleming wannabe who came up with the egregious quantum of change? I saw this in some corporate email message and wondered what the writer was trying to achieve.

Was he trying to mock the blandness of corporate email? This seems unlikely when you notice that the rest of the email, embellished so finely by this piquant phrase, is laced with lapses in tense, punctuation and abused prepositions.

Perhaps he was trying to show off his skill at using neologisms and trying to achieve brevity (at the expense of clarity). What in the name of flying incontinent swine is wrong with just saying "because there are several significant changes"? This, my dear readers, must be the explanation. He was just being stupid by making an email message tougher to read. One nurses an iota of hope that he will soon resist the temptation for terse tripe.

Sunday, May 10, 2009

black pearls: sab gol maal hai

Jack Sparrow would have been proud of Bollywood's music directors. Their copious output hides several treasures that, in a matter of time, will make it to portals like Karthik's.

Ever heard of a film called Dhoondte Reh Jaoge? No no no, not the rip-off of The Producers. This was a 1998 flick starring Naseeruddin Shah, Javed Jaffrey. It was also one of those many minor movies that had songs by the now-defunct music director duo Jatin-Lalit. Known for the undeniably obvious influence of the music of R. D. Burman on their songs, they were (and Lalit Pandit still is) known for plagiarism from foreign shores, an affliction that most of the Bollywood music directors suffer from. Since any Jatin-Lalit soundtrack is always welcome (if only for a sampling), I was glad to have chanced upon the songs of the film recently. Things opened well when I realised that the brothers Pandit seemed to have chosen nothing less than Alan Mencken and Tim Rice's Academy Award-winning song A Whole New World from Aladdin with na tum bolo. A few tracks later, the "tribute" to the late RDB emerged with jaan-e-man jaane do, which lifted the melody from Bundal Baaz's kyaa huaa yaaro.n.

With which we move over to the all-encompassing genre of Indipop to examine the interesting album Sona that Sona Mohapatra cut with her now-husband Ram Sampath. Ram Sampath's been rather successful what with Tanha Dil and the stint with Siddharth Achrekar as Colourblind. But Sona, while showcasing a great voice and some enjoyable arrangements, opens with bolo naa, a song that works off a riff that's so much like the riff on Sting' Shape of my Heart. This is quite unfortunate given that a few years later, Ram Sampath was the victim of plagiarism.

getting onto the bullet train again

When the experiment called The Bullet Train was released in 2003, I had posted an optimistic note of welcome. Years later, the CD still holds up on a few levels. It is still an interesting experiment -- a remix of tracks by the same music director -- a very special case of sampling, if you will. It also works as a mostly consistent peppy offering for the ears. Something that never struck me then seems rather obvious now. The remastering by Debashish Mohapatra at Pancham Studios is commendable, but it also exposes familiar problems with the original mastered tracks. The punch of the bass is weak on some; on others the sounds in the lower registers seem to have been stripped away. It's another reminder of the inconsistency of HMV's catalogue: consider how Pyar ka Mousum (1969) sounds older than Baharon ke Sapne (1967) on CD; consider the marvel of the combo CD Yaadon ki Baaraat/Hum Kisise Kum Naheen, on the other hand. It seems like a stroke of luck that the verve of each song made it over from the LP to the CD.

My doubts about the pathetic way companies like HMV mastered CDs from LPs got a shot in the arm when I got my hands on two spectacular compilations from the guys known as Bombay Beats, The Bombay Connection, Vol. 1: Funk From Bollywood Action Thrillers and Bombay Connection, Vol. 2: Bombshell Baby of Bombay. The lovely mix of the vocoder and the bass on the title track of The Burning Train sounded far stronger and fuller than any other version on CD that I had heard. The Bombay Beats guys had created CDs from LPs and their process fared far better than whatever the guys at HMV/GCIL had. The packaging was exquisite as well and it was evidence of more love for the pulpy excesses of Bollywood than anyone within the system could ever muster or design.

Saturday, May 09, 2009

giving the censors a RANN for their verdict

The trailer for RGV's Rann is his first ensemble of known names in a long time: the Big B, Riteish Deshmukh, Paresh Rawal, Rajpal Yadav, Gul Panag, Rajat Kapoor, Suchitra Krishnamurthy, Mohnish Behl(!) and Kannada film actor Sudeep (who splashed into Bollywood in RGV's Phoonk). Neetu Chandra's also on the roll, but I don't think I saw her in the montage. Something keeps reminding me of Irving Wallace's The Almighty (adapted by Joshi in Malayalam and Hindi -- remember Jeetendra in New Delhi?). Only time will tell. Meanwhile, the song on the background was enough evidence that RGV hadn't lost his love for controversy. It's a pessimistic modification of India's national anthem with much of the original melody intact. Predictably, the censor board has a problem with it. Only time, once again, will tell. Meanwhile, I'll return to the trailer of Agyaat, his return to horror sporting the familiar canted camera, the portent of horror with sound and visual suggestion and the occasional tip of the hat to Sergio Leone.

Friday, May 08, 2009

email according to microsoft

It is only now that I see just how significantly Microsoft Outlook (and Outlook Express) have influenced sending, receiving and handling email.

In a bad way.

The proprietary PST format was only the tip of a compost heap. As with most Microsoft products, Outlook accommodates every email storage format as input, but refuses to let you escape the PST when you want to move to another email client. You're locked in. You're left staring at a horrible complicated binary format that eats up a lot of disk space (like you care).

Forums and newsgroups taught me the virtues of plain text, the value of HTML when used sparingly and only when appropriate, the importance of quoting. They also taught me about the flame wars dedicated to quoting/posting. Top posting was bad. Top quoting/Bottom posting and inline posting seemed better. Newsgroup management software managed threads. Every email message didn't have to look like it was responsible for managing the state of the conversation thus far. The corporate world taught me when top posting made sense -- it seemed like places shackled to an Exchange server and Outlook chewing away on everyone's disk never seemed to do well on communication. This meant that emails grew in size as the conversation went on until someone finally realised that one or more people who had to be part of this discussion had been left out. One "copying X" later, we have this snowball all set to mow another hapless inbox.

Until 2007, Outlook did a pathetic job with HTML (you remember all that XML cruft, don't you?). RTF is still around, though, and it's the default format. RTF still sucks. HTML is your best bet if you want to be nice to the Internet and the recipient's disk.

Outlook hates plain text. Make that "detests." Or "loathes." Condescendingly. Don't even bother thinking about quotation markers. Do it yourself. Text wrapping is awful. Outlook also employs what looks like one of the silliest wrapping algorithms ever known. No wrapping for the reader's convenience. If you try adding quotation markers, be prepared to send out email that looks uglier than Emran Hashmi. If you choose text, you get no support from the email client. To this cake of unpleasantness, add the icing of Outlook's "intelligent" handling of line breaks. It decides to strip "extra" line breaks in the copy that the recipient of your email sees. Your efforts in preparing a numbered list just got drowned in cowdung. Outlook can be configured not to do this, but try telling every possible recipient of every email you might send to configure their email client. Just try it. Go on. Try it.

I moved to Thunderbird and the move was painful. My obsession with folders and classification did not help. Proprietary email archival tools seamlessly "integrated" with the email client made matters challenging. It was arduous, manual and painful. At the end of it, I had all my email (except for some annoyances like embedded OLE images and the loss of BCC information) and it was not as demanding of disk space as Outlook was. Lightning was enough to help me respond to invitations and set up my calendar. Helpful posts on the Internet and having worked with LDAP helped me use the Global Address Book as well. There were other things I still needed Outlook for, but I had all my email.

All I have to do is deal with all the mocking snide remarks, the jokes and all that blah-blah predicated on "you Microsoft hater." I also have to learn to accept situations where top posting is unavoidable (this is when I use Outlook for the only -- IMHO -- thing it does well). I long for communities where email helps communication instead of heralding an avalanche.

I also have a chance to understand how even Thunderbird still has its share of annoyances.

I'm sure I haven't seen the last of TOFU, though.

Wednesday, May 06, 2009

multiplexing choice

I wonder how many users of either ... or realise that the expression can accommodate exactly two choices. Think of an exclusive or in logic, if you wanted some way to remember this. Abuse of the expression to stuff more choices is rife in usage, especially in conversations. A little popup in Eclipse today offered evidence that the Javadoc in Sun's JDK was not immune; Here's the extract from the documentation for the getTimeZone(String) method in the java.util.TimeZone class in J2SE 5.0 (I have underlined the guilty snippet):

public static TimeZone getTimeZone(String ID)

Gets the TimeZone for the given ID.

ID - the ID for a TimeZone, either an abbreviation such as "PST", a full name such as "America/Los_Angeles", or a custom ID such as "GMT-8:00". Note that the support of abbreviations is for JDK 1.1.x compatibility only and full names should be used.
the specified TimeZone, or the GMT zone if the given ID cannot be understood.

Sunday, May 03, 2009

a commencement of innovation

I sat in a red chair at the Georgia Dome for the first time in my years in Sprawlopolis , one of many in attendance at Georgia Tech's Spring 2009 Commencement Ceremony for graduate students. After the obligatory blah-blah about "the nation's finest" and the "change the world" dogma, it was time for the meat of the ceremony, paradoxically the one least likely to be entertaining: the conferring of degrees. This is but a litany of names and the only ones who're really happy are the recipients who showed up and their well-wishers scattered in the crowd. However, if you have a place like Georgia Tech that is a melting pot of foreigners and you have an announcer who has to make sense of monikers that only look like different surreal flavours of alphabet soup.

Reportedly, each recipient can, on the piece of paper bearing his/her name, offer hints to assist in pronunciation. But IPA is not something you'd expect to know or use often. This means that most people don't really avail of this opportunity. People have also probably decided that the way their name is pronounced is hardly worth any importance in the ceremony.

This means that those like me in the audience who'd love any excuse to make the proceedings interesting welcomed the innovation of one of the announcers that evening. Faced with so many challenging combinations of vowels and consonants, she decided to be innovative as she tried to get her plosives and fricatives right. And we relished each inventive uttering; here are a few nuggets:

Sneha: snaaihaa
Chandrababu: cha.ndraabhaabhuu
David: daviiD
Madhav: madhaav
Deshpande: Desappaa.NDe
Elangovan: iilaa.Nguuvaan
Mayank: myaanak
Goel: gaaul
Nehil: naaiihiil
Jamsandekar: jamadiikhaar
Chetna: chaiintaa
Kher: kaii-iira
Kolhe: kwaalhe
Pai: peii
Panse: paan-saaii
Patil: paTiil
Devdutt: devaduut

I'd have shown up for the baccalaureate ceremony the next day but the roll call wasn't so promising.

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