Saturday, November 27, 2010

devil in disguise

(the title was not meant to be a pun on the moview reviewed or the name of the reviewer, but it seems to work rather well as such)

It's Rediff time again. Our target is a review of Devil, a film written and co-produced by M. Night Shyamalan (he has the same initials as a certain political party, but that has no bearing here). Let's start with the simple typographical problems.

These days it might serve a movie well to keep that idea as far off the promotional frontline as possible: Try far away from instead of creating your own phrases.

Hell it might make for a fantastic twist ending to a film someday: consider adding an exclamation mark after Hell and capitalising i in it. It would be a better idea to refrain from imitating conversational speech heared in some American film.

Neither run time nor runtime works as a substitute for the more familiar running time.

It's clichéd note and not cliche note.

We conclude with a look at a comparison implied in the review between Devil and Phone Booth.

Plus, the plot -- five strangers are stuck in an elevator, one of them might actually be the Devil -- had severe potential to be as difficult to stay awake through as Phone Booth, that other movie that promised chills and thrills and served up neither during its short but long-seeming run time.

The "short but long-seeming run[sic] time" of Phone Booth was, according to IMDB, 81 minutes.

The reviewer then writes about Devil: The film has a short and sweet runtime. The running time of Devil is, according to IMDB, 80 minutes.

1 minute was all it took.

buy something you stupid consumer!

I accidentally added an item to my shopping cart while browsing through the results of a search on I made amends by clearing my shopping cart only to be rewarded with a page that seemed to try and philosophically appeal to my responsibility as a consumer. Here is what it said (I have taken the liberty of emphasising the most interesting bits):

Your Shopping Cart is empty.
Your Shopping Cart lives to serve. Give it purpose
--fill it with books, CDs, videos, DVDs, toys, electronics, and more.

To put something in your Shopping Cart, start by searching or browsing through any of our stores. When an item interests you, click the Add to Shopping Cart button.

corporate blah

I've realised that working in the corporate world with all its double-speak and triple-speak and politically correct specious verbiage can only weaken the foundation one might have established for the rules of language and clear communication. As countless sentences are created and uttered (or printed) to avoid implying the wrong thing about gender and race, about medical and physical conditions and about habits and to also comply with some unsaid need for obfuscation, we as listeners can only unconsciously pick up some of the phrases and words we hear and evolve into drones ourselves. One way I have found useful to slow this eventual decay of our ability to say exactly what we mean without being abstruse is to silently edit and correct the sentences you hear or read. I highly recommend Richard Lanham's books (Revising Prose and Revising Business Prose) as guides for this. Both books are infectious: once you understand his approach, you will likely find yourself correcting paragraphs without having to practise too much.

In the spirit of outrage, I leave you with a fresh example of oblique-speak I heard a few minutes ago:

the next few slides are going to focus in on high level details of ...: in was probably used incorrectly (after all, you cannot zoom in on a "zoom out" view of a map, unless you're explaining relative velocity to a classroom). Perhaps the speaker was a fan of the Paul Greengrass Unsteadicam technique where the camera gets you closer to the action but also sends items out of focus.

Thursday, November 25, 2010


is coming soon if one is to believe that the USPTO has sent a notice of allowance to the firm for a trademark on Face(TM). While we wait for countenance to become a popular alternative, the comments on slashdot can help us laugh at this surreal travesty.

make it up as you go along

The line I need to do some green path testing leaped out (not literally, of course) at me from the morass of rich text at the tail of an email thread that had come my way. I had never heard of green path testing, so I asked Google. And I got nothing. Nada. Zilch. Like useful Indian Intellectual Property in IT. Void. You get the idea. Was this some new methodology invented in a secret dacha in Bengaluru? Or was this another example of a buzzphrase created by stringing together words from different columns of specious nouns? Right now, there's only one person who knows what that means and I do not really know if asking the writer of that sentence would be productive. There are enough buzzphrases in the test-o-sphere to keep one busy for months. Why bother with a neologism?

Friday, November 19, 2010

a rose by any other name

might just be a confused flower after all. Rational is such a funny name for that company acquired by IBM (another firm that thrived in large complex pieces of software). ClearCase is anything but. This brings us to Adobe Acrobat, which, like a baby, grew with each passing release. It's a young man now and a really well-fed one at that. 145 MB is a good reason to stop using acrobat as a name (elephants as trapeze artists work well as jokes in cartoons not as disk-churning memory-hogging DRM-crazy software applications) and move to a bland name like Adobe Reader. Ooh. Consider Foxit Reader as an alternative (if you already haven't). At 6.56 MB, it saves you some disk space and also does exactly what you want it to do: open PDFs. The next time you want a chihuahua, take a moment to wonder why you would choose an elephant instead.

Saturday, November 13, 2010

candy for the bibliophile

I love libraries and I love library book sales. I especially love the special deals that library book sales seem to have on the last day of these sales. One branch tells me that I can fill a conventional plastic grocery bag with as many books as I can and just pay $6 for it. It is probably a sign of the economic times that the price has now become $7. Another branch replaces the plastic bag with a strong paper bag that I buy first and then fill and walk out. These sales are monthly events, so it's easy to get addicted.

Another county library system has two sales in a year. Each sale ends with a Sunday special: a box of hardbacks for $10 and a box of paperbacks for $5. The hardbacks are all sold at one level and the paperbacks, videos, tapes, CDs and miscellaneous material are sold at a lower level. I must confess that I am addicted. It's nice to see the warehouse with long aisles of books and people walking along pulling boxes on carts or pushing them along the floor. I limit myself to a box -- going beyond that is usually impossible, because I have not, so far, found enough to justify a second big box. But there are others who seem to be on a mission.

People buy books for different reasons. There is the obvious reason of adding to one's personal collection. Some buy books to decorate fireplaces and similar spots in public places like restaurants, hotels and coffee shops. Such purchases tend to be dominated by large hardbacks. I have also seen someone use a portable device (a barcode scanner perhaps) to assist a seemingly endless waggle dance about the aisles building small stacks of books. I suspect that this person eventually sold these in retail or in bulk elsewhere. Some libraries have issued bans on such devices simply in response to the clutter caused as a consequence of the uncaring behaviour of such pricemongers. I really don't care about what people do with the books they buy, but I'd probably be upset if I lost a used book I would have cherished to a reseller's cold pile.

a few lines on collections thereof

(being some random scribbles on books read recently or quite a while ago)

Rudyard Kipling's The Jungle Book gets a grave makeover as Mowgli becomes Nobody (um, literally) and Neil Gaiman works his magic in The Graveyard Book. I also thought of Pip and Great Expectations a few times as I turned page after page, resisting the need to put the book down and go to sleep. Finishing this book made me feel better about never having been able to start reading American Gods for reasons quite inexplicable.

Hill Street Blues was on the shows comprising my long education on satellite television. Later, NYPD Blue took over the waves. Lingering memories might have been one of the reasons I enjoyed my introduction to Gotham Central, Ed Brubaker and Greg Rucka's police procedural comic book series set in Batman's hometown. Like Kurt Busiek's Astro City, the focus was on people living in a world dominated by a superhero of sorts, on people we otherwise saw as part of the texture of a narrative dominated by Batman and his crusade against crime and his inner demons. In Gotham Central, Batman, like Keyser Söze, looms large on the lives of people, but only appears occasionally while we follow the lives of a police force bursting with ambition, corruption, secrets and administrative frustration. I really wish the public library had all the volumes, but it looks like, as with Busiek's series, I will have to wait for a miracle.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

unnecessary and laced with errors

Where have you heard these songs before? is a recent addition to Rediff's ever-growing bucket of fatuous fluff. Karthik's simple and more informative portal eye-too-eff-ess makes such articles unnecessary, since they offer neither new information nor critical insight. Having established its ineligibility for a place in the sun, the article proceeds to hammer some fine nails in its coffin by tossing one error after another at the intelligent reader (are there any that read such pieces without their tongue lodged firmly in their cheek?). Here are some samples with my unsolicited editorial comments:

The chartbuster song Jab Koi Baat Bigad Jaye from the 1980 film Jurm (starring Vinod Khanna and Meenakshi Sheshadri) was directly copied from the English number 500 Miles. The Hindi song was composed by Anand-Milind.

500 Miles is sung by American folk singer-trio Peter Yarrow, Paul Stookey and Mary Travers, popularly known as Peter, Paul and Mary. This song was part of their first album, recorded in 1962.

The music director for Jurm was Rajesh Roshan and not the pilfering sons of Chitragupt. is sung is grammatically incorrect and there should probably be a note that the PPM version of the song is a popular cover. Has the writer (or any of the staff) heard of Wikipedia?

Munni Badnaamwas not the first song that Jatin-Lalit copied. The hit song Koi Mil Gaya from 1998's Kuch Kuch Hota Hai was also a copy.

Evidently, the "known fact" (to use a phrase from the opening of the article) that the Pandit brothers have split and only Lalit Pandit (aka one of the brothers) was credited or responsible for Dabangg's big hit. If the writer of the Rediff article is trying to make a case for Brother Lalit being the instigator of all the Pandit-ian plagiarism, the writer is advised to try again and in a separate article devoted to the subject.

The glamorous Zeenat Aman sizzled in this song alongside Vijay Arora in Yaadon Ki Baraat (1973). The music was composed by R D Burman, and the lyrics are penned by Majrooh Sultanpuri.
The song, however, is copied from the title track of the film If It's
Tuesday, This Must Be Belgium
(1969). It was sung by folk singer Donovan.

The song was written by Donovan, but was sung by J. P. Rags.

There are also some common grammatical errors: writing comprising of instead of comprising (if you like of consider using the passive voice with is/was comprised of).

The band's name is Wham! and not the acronymous WHAM.

Yet another Anu Malik composition, Raja Ko Rani Se Pyar Hogaya was a copy of Speak Softly Love theme from The Godfather (1972).

The writer is clearly getting lazy and bored, given that this "slide" of the article does not mention the original composer Nino Rota and indulges in sloppiness with "Speak Softly Love theme" instead of something a little more articulate like "The Godfather theme, whose vocal version is known as Speak Softly Love." It would be too much to expect the writer to have informed us that Nino Rota had reused a cue he had composed for a 1958 film called Fortunella (obligatory Youtube link).

The Laawaris music was composed by Rajesh Roshan.

This is either more evidence of sloppy laziness (lazy sloppiness, if you please) or an attempt at making a joke.

charge me for making your life easier

Just when I thought that utility companies might have stopped doing silly things like charging you a fee for paying your bill on the phone (where, one could argue, you pay for the valuable time spent by the person at the other end of the line collecting sensitive information from you) or online (where, it looks like they are really trying to push the interchange fee -- and more? -- to you, dear consumer). Alas, even as you admire how simple things like online bill pay (the trademark, if any, belongs to the appropriate owner) have made it for you and the environment (no need to send printed bills in paper envelopes bearing either postage stamps or bar-coded information to that effect), there are corporate atavistically inclined faceless entities with professional dull portals who announce You will be charged a $3.00 convenience fee for processing and handling of your credit. XXXX does not profit from this fee. The fee enables Utility providers to offset handling costs to focus on green programs such as paperless billing. And this is after I had -- thinking I was doing a good thing -- signed up for paperless statements. It looks like they want to punish me for saving them the trouble of generating printouts of bills and of denying them the privilege of ripping open an envelope addressed to them bearing a cheque in their name. One must thank the capitalist heavens that they support online bill pay without any additional "convenience fee" (presumably for even deigning to honour a cheque that was generated by an automated system on behalf of a faceless consumer). I refuse to explore the irony of going green in autumn.

Friday, November 05, 2010

go west electronically

The form to renew your free subscription to Oracle Magazine (or Oracle Profit) continues to remain steadfast in its simplicity and desire to get the same information from you as if you were signing up for the first time instead of merely simply asking you whether you wanted to renew or not. One of the subtle nuggets comes in the dropdown where you (optionally) select your country. I will let the image do the rest of the talking.

come to america

Thursday, November 04, 2010

presidential support for unfortunate neologisms

In the wake of the Republican victory in the mid-term elections, President Obama delivered yet another press conference laced with those sentences that politicians are wont to create (and he delivers with the fervour of a French art movie). In the middle of all the boring blather of western promises (hey! I made a Cronenbergian pun), he achieved a new low by endorsing a word that was born out of the ignorance and laziness of English speakers and given credence by numerous speakers who could care less about the language they're so busy butchering. The word was resiliency and here is the extract from the official transcript:

I do believe there is hope for civility. I do believe there's hope for progress. And that's because I believe in the resiliency of a nation that's bounced back from much worse than what we're going through right now -- a nation that's overcome war and depression, that has been made more perfect in our struggle for individual rights and individual freedoms.

The word, Mr. President, is resilience and I am quite disappointed that you have given credence to abuse. Of course, you have more important things to worry about and we can also ignore the two occurrences of that obnoxious lipidinous concoction day-to-day basis.

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