Wednesday, September 29, 2010

munch moment: siam square

On Windy Hill Road, in an innocuous little strip on the way to nothingness, is a little restaurant called Siam Square. The place is open for lunch only from Monday to Friday and all you get on the weekend is dinner (which might comply with a strong tradition of offering the same or slightly more of it for a higher price). Your best bet is lunch. You have to steal your attention from the interesting decor (black and white location photographs against a red wall; ornate mountings on another wall; the hanging wine glasses at the counter) to run through a lunch menu that fills a single side of a laminated sheet with a delicious colour scheme and is arranged in blocks. All main courses have the same price (minus extras), so it's easy to pick. If you, like I am, love having your tongue's resilience challenged, make sure you tell them that you want your dish cooked "Thai Hot" (this is usually the highest level of "hot" in most Thai restaurants and Siam Square is also one of the few to actually live up to it). If you're used to the curries from Kerala, try the Siam Square Special (also known as Mom's Special). It comes with a side of cucumber salad (diced cucumber and onion in white vinegar with a dash of sugar -- sample it at the end of your meal to heal your taste buds). If you want to try one of the standard offerings and indulge in a comparison with the wares from another restaurant, try the Green Curry. Don't forget to say "Thai Hot." If you're aiming for the sun, ask for hot sauce as well. You'll get a holder with four containers of dried peppercorns (recommended), peppercorn paste, soy sauce and a lighter clearer sauce with fragments and peppercorns.

At Thai restaurants, there's always the possibility that you'll ask for some more rice. You can often decide whether to keep a Thai restaurant on your list just based on how the serving staff treats your requests for extra rice (unlike Indian restaurants, rice in Thai and non-buffet Chinese restaurants is expected to be on the house). Siam Square tackles this problem in an interesting way: the bowl of rice is inverted atop your bowl. You can then mix the rice and the curry and never really ask for more rice. Smart and apt.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Ridley Scott's Body of Lies offers familiar tropes, familiar ideas and goings-on in a cinematic package that is engaging because of how it has been shot and cut together and because of the performances of the actors and actresses. There is no subtext in this product and I should not have been surprised that as soon as the end credits rolled with a Guns N' Roses song, I was thinking about something else already. The most entertaining (albeit unintentional, surely) bit of the film came from an abbreviation. The rest of it was well-edited exchanges of dialogue, a tour of several terror-infested parts of the world, a specious discourse in ideology, bureaucracy, jargon (Nitrate 37 slewing to all target ports now; IR 3.9, long wave 10.7, we're right on their six) and product placement (unsubtle Nokia cellphones, ubiquitous and more appropriate EMC data storage systems, the BlackBerry). I think I'll go back and watch Blade Runner again now.


Here's another email from some overpaid person who seems to want to appear responsive. It's got one line representing the content and that line is followed by a blank line, a line full of dashes and then the more verbose line "Sent using a mobile device with limited editing options, so please excuse typos"; This is someone who often has typos in emails sent using conventional devices not regarded as mobile -- laptops, for one, seem to be losing their status as "mobile"; the word has been hijacked by the BlackBerrys (or is it BlackBerries?) and iPhones of the corporate world. The disclaimer also seems to have been bowdlerised to remove all trace of the actual device being used. All this gives you 3 useless lines out of 4. This offers strong competition to those clueless one-liners followed by a 10-line email signature (HTML and a background image notwithstanding). Welcome the new cholesterol of the Internet.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010


The poster for Robot represents another howler in what might prove to be a buffet. On the right are the famous technifictional specifications we've encountered on the CD sleeve before. No one can take a slogan like Man... Machine ... Mohobbhat seriously. What manner of astrologically misguided spelling is Mohobbhat? It shatters records set by the likes of David Dhawan's Yaraana. Why is there no mention of the cast at all on the poster, you ask? Neither Rajinikanth nor Madame Rai-Bachchan can draw in the crowds for a Hindi film. Simple.

Monday, September 20, 2010


Lines uttered by Aishwarya Rai in the trailers released for Robot:

खून कर दूंगी

he's (pause) unbelievable! he's (pause) like a superhero (with the Americanised "l" and rolled "r") (a tribute to William Shatner, no doubt).

अब मैं उनसे कभी नहीं मिलूंगी ... कहना(?)

i'm yours

hello! don't get any ideas

PS: Is that Anil Kapoor's voice for Rajinikanth? Sounds like Mr. Kapoor and it also makes sense given that he had starred in Shankar's first Hindi film, Nayak.

Monday, September 13, 2010

some pages turned over

The Futurist: The Life and Films of James Cameron: My favourite section of the book covered the making of The Abyss. The portions about Harlan Ellison and the whole Soldier/Terminator only add to the mystery of the truth. Being an Ellison fan, I'd be tempted to hurl invectives at Cameron and Co. for not acknowledging a debt to Ellison's short story and the fabulous opener to the second season of The Outer Limits. But I also liked The Terminator and, had I not been any wiser, I'd have been inclined to dismiss Ellison's claims (as Cameron is quoted to have done in this book). What really transpired will unfortunately never be known.

The Lost Symbol: Dan Brown lives up to his reputation of writing something that makes you turn the pages as fast as you can, as you attempt to restore the narrative thread disrupted by one belch of expository preening after another. There is enough abuse of details in the descriptions of different things to make you shudder at the thought of turning over a page, afraid of what form of literary torture awaits you. I must confess, however, that it is a relief to be able to run through a whole book without once feeling intellectually tugged: Dan Brown makes sure that you, dear reader, do not have to pause, for one teensy bit, to evaluate the goings-on.

Death of a Politician: My first Richard Condon novel was a hefty challenge. I was unable to find much more about the book or its background and I was not as familiar with the politics of the 60s and 70s to spot the real-life figures that Condon was eloquently taking potshots at. This did not make the novel any less engrossing. The device of interrogations and reports takes some getting used to (The Anderson Tapes by Lawrence Sanders uses tape transcripts was easier on my eyes and brain). I hope the other books I picked up at the library book sale don't disappoint me. I'll save The Manchurian Candidate till the end; after all, I've already seen the film.

Friday, September 10, 2010

the good times at sigma draconis VI

Brain and brain! What is brain? (Spock's Brain)

After ranting away about the amateur dross that comprised Robin Cook's writing in the 21st century, I decided to try and read the books that had made him famous all those years ago just to see how much nostalgia had clouded my memory. My first pick was Brain, which was also one of the first (or perhaps the first) of Robin Cook's books that I had read. Interestingly, the book still held up well. The exposition was controlled and Cook's writing seemed to be more demanding of the reader's attention than his recent work that requires as much attention as a Top 10 countdown on Zee TV. I also learnt about RNs, LPNs and ASNs; since Cook does not commit expository abuse by explaining what they stood for, I went online. After ASN.1, Autonomous System Numbers and Advance Shipping Notices, I now had Associate of Science in Nursing; After Licence Plate Numbers I got Licensed Practical Nurses. RNs are Registered Nurses, in case you were wondering. Time to go back to Coma.

While I might trust the doctor to remove a splinter or lance a boil, I do not believe he has the knowledge to restore a brain. (Spock's Brain)

Monday, September 06, 2010

i have no brain cells and i must scream

Hey you, sitting over there in that cubicle on some conference call with your overzealous brethren huddled back home in some air conditioned conference room! Try talking into the mouthpiece instead of spraying your voice bits generously across the floor. I understand that you've been brought up to believe that ISD connections were poor and people had to yell to get some sound over the wire, but it might be a revelation that things have improved since then.

Hey you, sitting at that table behind me in this coffee shop! It's a cellphone not a walkie talkie, you nitwit! Take it outside if you want to scream out loud. It's not a conversation unless I hear the other side as well (perhaps you can try the speakerphone on your cellphone and become a certifiable jerk).

Hey you, over there in the neighbouring cubicle arguing furiously on a silly something as if it were the latest problem to befuddle nuclear scientists all over the world! Have you heard of conference rooms? The office surely has one available just to serve your needs. The whiteboards are larger and you can just get on the nerves of a few others like yourself, who presumably understand your babble.

You are all welcome to upload your essence into the Doom continuum as zombiemen. I'd be glad to blow your electronic avatars to pixellated goop.

Sunday, September 05, 2010

daemon: neuromancer for the dan brown world

I just finished reading Daniel Suarez's Daemon, my first lead from Facebook, and I've had a great time reading it. The elements of an artificial intelligence growing in power and strength is not unfamiliar, if you've read William Gibson's Neuromancer. But Suarez's writing is not as complex and intricate in its argot as Gibson's classic (or for that matter, A Clockwork Orange by Anthony Burgess). The shower of technical jargon (which, combined with some of the elements in the plot is likely to leave someone less geeky out in the cold) is mixed with a reasonable level of exposition and it puts the ouevre of Dan Brown to shame without trying too hard. You are likely to find yourself turning the pages not because there's not much worthwhile on each page (as is the case with any tome in the Brownian canon) but because Suarez takes you from one narrative arc to another, keeping things suspenseful. The level of exposition is also less than that found in the novels of Michael Crichton, which I have enjoyed far more than Dan Brown's novels. The only problem I have with the exposition is that in some cases, it involves the reader directly instead of being presented to some character in the novel. Sections where this happens threaten to transport Suarez's entertaining fine novel into Brown territory. That is, however, a minor grouse, for an otherwise excellent début.

I'll be picking up a copy of the sequel Freedom from the local library soon and I hope it's just as much fun.

looped aphasia

Arguably, the quality of satellite television in India declined after the locals took over. It was disappointing to see channels dedicated to movies churning out junk that was anything but a full reeler. That it became harder to find a channel playing a long-forgotten flick after the land responsible for the making of the film replaced all goings-on with stercoraceous smegma was a form of irony that escaped the guano-brained executives.

One of the developments in the wake of the massacre of entertainment was the replacement of English flicks in the catalogue with versions dubbed into Hindi. Some of those chosen included the Jackie Chan films for Golden Harvest, which, originally in Cantonese, were released abroad (including India) dubbed into English. We now had a layered incongruity with Hindi sounds replacing English sounds while Jackie Chan's lips continued to mouth Cantonese.

An interesting variation was the case of South Indian flicks dubbed into Hindi. These poorly dubbed mind-numbing "entertainers" were christened using titles of existing Bollyhits along with a bonus suffix in English to comply with the de facto naming rule that was born near the end of the 20th century. This is why the Telugu movie Mass became Meri Jung: One Man Army. This also explains the curious case of a film named Arasatchi. Had it not been for financial hurdles, this would have been the first film starring Lara Dutta to hit the marquee (the unfortunate honour went to a case of bad eggs from the Bollyfold).

As was the norm, Ms. Dutta's Tamil voice was not her own. Years later, this film was one of the lucky several chosen to be treated to an inferior dubbing job. Inviting Ms. Dutta to try her hand at dubbing for herself in Hindi would have, unfortunately, cost the whole project a lot more. So they just had one of the people on the session call sheet to do the needful. One could only mourn the loss in translation. Again.

Wednesday, September 01, 2010

boom boom roboduh

I still hadn't quite recovered from the lyrico-electronic assault of the soundtrack of Enthiran, when the soundtrack for the Hindi version Robot hit the airwaves. Swanand Kirkire takes up the rather thankless job of fitting words to tunes that had emerged as a blend with Tamil lyrics. To his credit he manages to toss in some interesting words to enliven the experience (but how does one explain the retention of the old Tamil word arima?), but he still cannot save this from being one really silly enterprise. I had hoped that they would use the correct pronunciation of robot, but alas, they chose the incorrect Indian one that rhymes with Bobo.

We choose, for the purposes of this post, to start from the beginning: the CD case. Vidcaps offer irrefutable evidence that Shankar has set new records in wasteful expenditure on lavish eyecandy. Despite the presence of A. R. Rahman at the helm of the proceedings, one of the sleeves bears the proud claim "Music made by humans." The gem that this post wishes to cast a floodlight upon the inlay card dedicated to providing some more information about the andro-humanoid (their term, not mine) Chiti (or Chitti, if you want to use the track Chitti Dance Sequence as a guide) and his creator Dr. Vasi (Tamil for Frankenstein Victor).

The section devoted to Chiti's anatomy/configuration (their label, not mine) is the produce of a local buzzword blender: speed one terra hz, memory one zeta byte, processor Pentium ultra core millenia V2, FHP 450 motor from Hirata, Japan. Hirata is presumably the place that produced the most fans of Muthu. A Terra[sic] (their spelling, not mine) Hertz is presumably a more down-to-earth measure of frequency than the Megas or Gigas. Zeta is presumably a typographical error (there are two Ts and it's one word -- zettabyte) or it's a tribute to Mrs. Michael Douglas. Thanks to the sloopy use of case, it's hard to determine which part of "ultra core millenia V2" is the code name for this strange stepchild of the Pentium. FHP might stand for Fractional Horsepower (after all, they can't make everything up). All in all, it's hard to believe that this is all that's needed to create a cybernetic clone of Super Star Rajinikanth (why clone? Well, the description says that Chiti can dance, sing and fight while being resistant to water and fire and boasting an appetite for electricity).

Chiti cannot lie they say. Expect to never see a scene where this creation is supine.

And to think it took only 10 years to make one.

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