Friday, December 31, 2010

tagline of the moment

While browsing through the mystery section of a used book store, I ended up at the section within M occupied by the works of John D. MacDonald. Quite a few titles, even though I knew next to nothing about them, were attractive simply because they were older editions and sported interesting covers. One such was A Bullet for Cinderella, a great title in itself, which sported the funniest tagline I have seen in a long long time: people who live in glass slippers shouldn't kick stones. I should have bought the book just for that tagline.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

transcriptional subterfuge

I was listening to Fresh Air last night on NPR and Terry Gross was running a retrospective of the most memorable interviews conducted this year. The pick for the night was a conversation with Jon Stewart. I couldn't listen to the entire segment, but in what I managed to relish, Jon Stewart explained how what they did on The Daily Show was analysis and not journalism:

We're just going off our own instinct of, 'What are the connections to this that make sense?' And this really is true: We don't fact-check ... look at context because of any journalistic criterion that has to be met; we do that because jokes don't work when they're lies.

I was so pleased to hear someone use criterion, the doomed singular form of criteria and correctly at that.

When I got to a computer with an Internet connection, I went online to read the transcript of the entire conversation and was shocked to see that the transcribed version at NPR was erroneous:

We're just going off our own instinct of, 'What are the connections to this that make sense?' And this really is true: We don't fact-check [and] look at context because of any journalistic criteria that has to be met; we do that because jokes don't work when they're lies.

Did you see that? Someone decided to (presumably) correct what Mr. Stewart had said and, in doing so, produced a version that is incorrect and does not do justice to Mr. Stewart's rather carefully correct usage. I have to admit that I didn't expect something like this from NPR.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

translational subterfuge

I was in the aisle dedicated to space heaters in Wal*Mart a few weeks ago examining the various items on the shelves. While reading the notes on the boxes, I noticed that quite a few of them (not all from the same manufacturer) seemed to be sport a rectangle of text and graphics titled "What type of heater do I need?" -- below this headline was a table telling you what kind of heaters offered different listed features. Each box had two such rectangles: one in English and the other in Spanish. The English version listed key benefits as "quick, even heat" for fan-forced heaters and "quick, powerful heat" for ceramic heaters. In the Spanish version, the same text calor rápido y uniforme was used for both. Surely there is a difference between "even" and "powerful."

Friday, December 24, 2010

7 weddings and no bard in sight

It's out! It's out! The first glimpse of Vishal Bhardwaj's next, 7 Khoon Maaf (no more doubts about the title now) is out. Go watch it first and come back I say!

Despite the familiarity of the fades and cuts, this is a trailer mercifully far removed from conventional Bollyfare. Although the song you hear doesn't hit the same high as the hit song in Kaminey's trailer, the accordion lends the proceedings an adequate old-fashioned exotic texture and charm. Rekha gets to let her voice run down yet another interesting channel and teams up with Usha Uthup after years (the last time we heard them together was on raajaa kii kahaanii in Godmother, again for Vishal). Other interesting elements include the combination of colours for the titles, the sumptuous colours, the number 7 appearing inside a coffin on one of the inter-titles, Annu Kapoor and a tip (surely?) to The Bride Wore Black (which isn't hard to either do or avoid, considering that it would fit well with the goings-on).

Who knew this time I am going to drink his blood? could sound like this?

elsewhere: JR does the honours at the Vishal Bhardwaj blog.

scribbles lying around

(being some random notes lying around waiting to be deleted)

Finally summoning the gumption to do so, I watched the trailer of Sanjay Leela Bhansali's Guzaarish. All I could think of at the end of the collection of frames that bore the undeniable brand of Bhansali was "The Prestige meets the sets and texture of Black with the fonted dreams of Saawariya.

Bollywood has a strong tradition of connotation that has been sadly ill documented and has not received enough academic attention. The names of iconic villains is the best example, but relatively less unsubtle examples come from the names of the principal characters and the supporting cast. The memory banks got a nudge when, during a conversation over the telephone, a friend noted that "a film starring Salman Khan, Urmila Matondkar and Shammi Kapoor (playing daadaajii)" was running on some cable channel. It was not so hard to guess the name of the film: Jaanam Samjha Karo, the inauspicious directorial début of Majrooh Sultanpuri's son Andaleeb Sultanpuri. How could one forget the musical bombs (the title song, I was made for loving you and love hua) that Anu Malik had conjured for the film at the height of his dabbling in Hinglish howlers? I went online to refresh my memory of the film and noticed the names of the characters Salman and Urmila played. Our hero's name was Rahul (last name unimportant) and our heroine's name was Chandni. Rahul means moon and Chandni means moonlight. Remember all the lyrics based on the you are the X I am your Y format (X = poet and Y = poetry or X = shamaa and Y = parawaanaa)?

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

dinosaur in the new age

A: does X have a number to call you back?
B: this is my number
A: which is?
B: (tells A what the phone number is)

Until this, what surprised me most was how people in Atlanta assumed that you had a car. This had led to utterances like it's less than 20 minutes from here, which actually meant that you had to take one or more interstate highways -- the sprawl's closest approximation of as the crow flies -- and then drive (or cruise) along to a certain exit and then take a few turns to get to the location in question. To be fair to the sprawl, this assumption is not an ill-founded one, but I tended to respect people who directed you without this assumption (something as simple as If you took I-75N, it would take you about 20 minutes to get there made a big difference).

But now it was caller ID. In this new century dominated by cellphones and internet telephony, a POTS line might seem anachronistic, but is hardly surprising. So assuming that you had caller ID (which is not free and not part of basic service, although most consumers seem inclined to sign up for it either in order to suppress all those annoying telemarketing calls or because it seems like "just a few bucks more"). I also suspect that some people habituated to cellphones even forget that they might be calling a POTS line; they assume that it's another cellphone and cellphones have "free" caller ID. In any case, it's another assumption that I don't think is ill-founded, but there's clearly a better way of handling a request for a phone number. X can call me back at ###-###-#### isn't so hard, is it?

Saturday, December 11, 2010


There I was reading a post on Slashdot about Stephen Fry and the USB Sniffer Report and I scrolled to the bottom to take a look at the randomly generated quotation in the footer of the page. It was Whom computers would destroy, they must first drive mad. This is a clever variation of an ancient proverb those whom the gods destory they first make mad. Several variations of the original proverb exist and are attributed to various people, but my favourite riff on it is also how I learnt about the proverb in the first place: An episode from the third season of the original Star Trek titled Whom Gods Destroy. When I caught a rerun of the episode a few years ago, I noticed how similar it was to an episode from the first season Dagger of the Mind, which took its title from a soliloquy in William Shakespeare's Macbeth, which was staged in another Star Trek episode The Conscience of the King (which took its title from Shakespeare's Hamlet). At this point, the only digression that can prevent me from gambolling about the bardian field is how I was struck by the identical opening of two Sherlock Holmes tales The Resident Patient and The Adventure of the Cardboard Box. It was only years later that I read about the reasons behind this. Until then it was fodder for a Sherlock Holmes quiz.

Wednesday, December 01, 2010

converting distance

If reports are to be believed, Anurag Kashyap's Paanch is all set to hit the marquee early next year. As with the rumours surrounding Vishal Bhardwaj's forthcoming projects and casting choices, we will have to wait until the first show of the first day to be sure that the film will no longer remain the most-watched unreleased film in the history of Indian cinema (at which point, one hopes that Gulzar's Libaas steps up for the crown). The hype may well be the film's undoing, but it will still be valuable for those who have been following Mr. Kashyap's persistent progress as a unique voice in Indian cinema.

Why the title? Well, 8 (that's, roughly speaking, the number of years it will be since the release was originally planned) kilometres are roughly 5 (the film's title) miles.

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