Saturday, November 26, 2011

dhanush unleashes linguish

The viral attack of why this kolaveri has found a very unlikely (and rather unfortunate) victim: The Language Log. Why? Surely not because the Tabloid of India had something to say about it. Was it because the WSJ had a piece on it? Sigh.

Friday, November 25, 2011

revisiting wallace

After I had tried to catch up with the works of Sidney Sheldon and Robin Cook, it was inevitable for my attention to turn to Irving Wallace, another name familiar to fans of Sheldon, Cook, Ludlum, Cussler and Clancy. Wallace, if you didn't know it already, was responsible for encouraging Sidney Sheldon to publish his first novel The Naked Face. This might explain why s*x features a lot in the works of both writers. Research was more important to Irving Wallace than to Sheldon and he made sure his books were full of its fruits (consider books like The Seven Minutes and The Word); the experience for me as a reader was hardly as unpleasant as it was when I was unfortunate enough to read the works of Dan Brown, another purveyor of research.

But I digress. I just finished reading an old hardbound copy of The R Document that I had picked up at a book sale organised by the public library. I was surprised at how fast I had finished it, but I was also relieved that it was not as painful as The Pigeon Project. The latter also tried to be a travelogue of Venice while we follow Tim Jordan in his attempt to save the formula for yet another elixir for youth. The biggest problem with the novel is that it isn't hard to predict the end and once you have done that all the suspenseful goings-on are just not suspenseful anymore.

The R Document, on the other hand, is a conventional thriller with the appropriate twist and surprise tossed in ever so often to season the proceedings. The novel follows Christopher Collins, the Attorney General of the United States, as he races against time to find out more about a mysterious "R Document" that seems to be a rather nasty side of the 35th amendment (which is a new amendment to the Constitution that allows the powers-that-be to suspend the Bill of Rights during times of national emergency). Once again, you can predict how this is all going to end. But this time, Wallace does not try to do more than deliver a standard thriller while showing off his research on politics and the constitution of the United States. There is no travelogue. There is no sequitur into unrelated sub-plots. This is the stuff of efficient black and white low-budget thrillers (and in the hands of a competent journeyman that black and white thriller would have been a far better piece of art than this piece of pulp). Since this is fiction for the masses, it would be unfair to expect complex characters or a genuine sense of intrigue and dread. This novel was written 45 years ago, but could easily have been written today about the Patriot Act of 2001. That topical stroke of luck makes The R Document more memorable (is that too strong a word?) than The Pigeon Project.

commerce versus process

I asked Google about "my passport" and the first link in the results is Application Status, which is a page hosted by the Bureau of Consular Affairs telling visitors how they could check the status of their application for an American passport. Results about Western Digital's products appear only later.

Saturday, November 05, 2011

dirty ditties

Bappi Lahiri famously insisted that A. R. Rahman had lifted the ho in Slumdog Millionaire's Oscar-winning jay ho from his hit rambhaa ho from Armaan. In Anuvab Pal's book Disco Dancer (dedicated to the cult classic starring Mithun Chakraborty), he is even quoted as proudly claiming to have brought the ho to Bollywood. Would he then concede that Vishal-Shekhar's ooh la la from The Dirty Picture owed a debt to a certain song composed by A. R. Rahman for Rajeev Menon's Minsara Kanavu?

Regardless of such trivial quibbles, Bappi seems like the perfect person to warble this lusty duet with Shreya Ghoshal (who would have thought she'd pick a song like this instead of a strain of romantic yearning?). The song starts off feeling like an uncensored alter ego of R. D. Burman's chunarii sambhaal gorii before shifting into a nostalgic paean to the disco-laced 80s dominated by Bappi-da. Bappi gets to pay tribute to himself in (as far as I can remember) his second song for Vishal-Shekhar. He couldn't have asked for more.

it was a pleasure to be amma

I was pleasantly surprised and very impressed when I visited the Anna Centenary Library. I love the public library system in the US and always wished that something similar had existed in India (the British Library in Pune was the closest, but it offered only paid subscriptions and a catalogue mostly limited to the United Kingdom). For the first time, I saw hope as I explored the floors of the library.

And then Amma's crusade against all the edifices erected by her predecessor headed to Kotturpuram. The library was Amma's next salvo against Anna. Once again she wanted a hospital in its place. So far, such a hospital has not been set up in India. By establishing a super speciality hospital dedicated to interests of children, it is certain that Tamil Nadu would [sic] emerge as the top ranking State in protecting the interests of children, she was quoted as saying.

And what happens to the contents of the library? Amma plans to move them to the proposed Integrated Knowledge Park on the DPI (Directorate of Public Instruction) campus in Nungambakkam citing some reasons for this being a very ideal place. Nobody said anything about whether her government plans to be fair with space. I find it hard to believe that they're going to match square foot for square foot and floor for floor. Books in a bookshelf are likely to end up packed in boxes.

But I exaggerate. I shouldn't be cavilling about this. After all, a hospital is a noble thing to have (I trust that the hospital will be generous to all children in need of medical assistance). But so is a library. Surely there are condemned structures around town that can be torn down and replaced with her hospital. Surely there are other locations in the metropolis that deserve a facelift for the better.

But Amma must have this building.

Not because its location works better for a hospital than for a library.

Not because its interior design and layout are more conducive for hospital beds, labs and offices than for bookshelves, reading desks and couches.

But because Anna made it.

How people can elect such bickering people into office is beyond me.

Mercifully, the Madras High Court has restrained the State government from moving the library. Perhaps good sense will prevail and I'll still expect to see books on shelves and see people sitting at the desks reading and studying instead of dealing with the smell of disinfectant.

(the title of this post paraphrases the opening line of Ray Bradbury's most famous book, which seems quite appropriate for the occasion)

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