Monday, January 30, 2012

it's vinod now, not johnny

(notes on the first trailer for Sriram Raghavan's next film Agent Vinod)

Trust Sriram Raghavan to modestly refer to his own work in another trailer loaded with references to old Bollywood. The trailer starts off with the same question that kicked off the teaser for his last film, Johnny Gaddaar. A series of quick cuts introduce you to some promising action sequences and Raghavan keeps returning to the central joke of the trailer: the name of Saif Ali Khan's character.

The first name he throws is Freddie Khambatta (spelling?). Does anyone know if this is just an ingenious invention, a tribute to some character in some obscure cult film of yore, a portmanteau to Freddie Mercury and Persis Khambatta (Bambai Raat ki Baahon Mein, Star Trek: The Motion Picture), a reference to Farrokh Khambata the chef or a nod to a real person?

The second name he reveals with another smirk is Mahendar Sandhu. Of course we fans know that he's referring to the actor who played the original Agent Vinod.

Then it's time for a tribute to Manmohan Desai (and obviously not to that shamefully bad rip-off from 2006).

The last name is the closest we get to the truth (or is it the truth?). Vinod Khanna. Priceless.

They could have done without the sound of the fireball from Doom when we see the logo and title, but that's a minor quibble for the first of (hopefully) many enticing breadcrumbs to a film that had its genesis in 2007!

I wonder if the next trailer is going to have that R. D. Burman classic from Kati Patang playing the background? Unfortunately, it might just grind the joke about names a bit too deep for comfort.

The worrying bits? It has Prem Chopra (yeah!), but it also has Kareena Kapoor (ugh!). The official website is not as much fun as it was for Johnny Gaddaar. It also credits Pritam as the music director -- I wish he had picked Daniel B. George (who did a fabulous job with the score of Johnny Gaddaar), Amit Trivedi or Ram Sampath. But who knows? If Shankar-Ehsaan-Loy could manage a winner with the title track of Johnny Gaddaar, Pritam might get a lucky stroke of the creative kind too.

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

SOPA: the first salvo

By now, many more people know about SOPA. Thanks in no small part to how Wikipedia and Google pushed the day-long blackout planned for today into the faces of their visitors. They joined online fora like Slashdot, Hacker News, Reddit, Mozilla and the EFF. This crescendo had its consequences (read this and this), two more measures of success for the wave of protest that had started rising over the last several weeks from all quarters great and small in forms both raw and polished. Thanks to Wikipedia and Google, however, more people are now wondering what the big deal is about something they really had not heard about all this time. Several people have, as recommended, contacted their representatives in government to request that they not support SOPA and PIPA. Unfortunately, not all people can be expected to do this -- being vigilant, well-informed and politically active is a combination of qualities that no government, in its present form, expects its citizens to possess. The rise in the number of people who agree that SOPA and PIPA represent something bad is encouraging and this is why the grey/black page Wikipedia redirected you to and Google's innovative logo have been very useful today.

Unfortunately, it won't end here. The people pushing SOPA and PIPA are very rich, very powerful and will push them back in with different monikers or as addenda to innocuous resolutions. They can afford to wait for a short while until all this noise dies down, before they bring the twins back. One can only hope that all the vigilant forces that were active over the past few weeks will remain vigilant, active and interested should the twins return. The average person will soon forget this.

This reminds me of the case of Arun "Demolition Man" Bhatia in Pune in 1999. With a history of having fought and exposed corruption, Bhatia began his tenure as the Municipal Commissioner by ordering the demolition of illegal construction in the city. Anyone who was around in Pune then will hardly forget the sights of extensions of familiar restaurants and the like reduced to rubble near the sidewalks. A bulldozer became more commonly seen on roads than otherwise. It took less than a week for the political machinery to kick in and he was transferred. The twist in the familiar story appeared in the form of a public interest litigation (PIL) to get him back. The middle-class denizens of Pune rose as one and achieved a democratic victory when the Bombay High Court responded to the PIL by reinstating Bhatia. I remember noting a slight rise in my faith in the power of the public, should it choose to "wake up and act." Unfortunately, things were too good to last. The machinery kicked in again and he was impeached. No denizens, no victory. What the people had done once, they could not do again. Persistence in such matters is a virtue that cannot survive without strength and encouragement. The battered could only do so much. I fear that SOPA and PIPA might triumph like that machinery. I pray that I am wrong.

PS: There is enough information online for you to understand what evils lurk behind things like SOPA and PIPA (here's a Khan Academy video, if that's what will work best for you).

Your elected representatives have done shocking things like this before. Remember when most of the libraries of Cobb County faced extinction?

Saturday, January 14, 2012

any which monday but this

Tadka is an Indian restaurant in Alpharetta that shares space with Bamboo Garden (an interesting development in itself) and offers high-priced low-spiced Indian cuisine with ambience (if you go there in winter, choose the couches by the fireplace). What it lacks is just that extra dose of seasoning to elevate the dishes from bland and classy to lip-smacking delicious.

If you wanted to find out what time their location was open, however, you would see something that was either the product of creative genius or just the result of bad editing. You just have to ask yourself one question: which Monday will Tadka be open?

Mondays at Tadka


Has MARTA considered approaching MSFT to help it survive instead of descending ever so slowly into oblivion? Evidence (see below) suggests that the big M might already have support for the ill-fated transit system in its popular operating system

Microsoft's MARTA provider

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

too secure for you

First it was something like Password must be between 8-10 characters with at least 1 numeric value/digit, 1 capitalised letter and no more than 2 consecutive repeating characters. and now we have this: you will have to write your password down on paper to do this

WTF were they thinking? Are you playing games with your user? Are you trying to revive the business of the human teller? If you don't have hidden fees for stepping into the hallowed buildings that house your branches, nobody would mind. Or perhaps, you've just hired a person with some ostentatious ideas of security to design this. That link for Help to the right might as well be labelled Get Me Out Of Here!.

Intentionally Bombastic and Misguiding

I love some of the pages in the IBM Support Portal. They are exhibits of sheer audacity. Can you imagine continuing to pay these guys after the way they treated some of the tickets that people log for their products?

Consider this APAR. An APAR is one of the many acronyms that you get for free when you sign up to swim in the IBM pool. It stands for Authorised Program Analysis Report (aka "yeah, whatever") and (reference) is "an IBM-supplied program that allows you to create a diskette or tape file that contain information from your system to help software service representatives to correct programming problems."

But I digress into the marsh of minutiae. This APAR has been classified as a Permanent restriction. Also known as a feature. (You remember that lovely cartoon, don't you?). In plain English, "we are not going to fix this, so suck up and deal with it. And, by the way, don't forget to send us that cheque for quarterly maintenance and premium support"

As if to assuage the wounded soul who had boldly dared to log this ticket, the conclusion reads After analysis of this APAR we have determined we will not fix this issue due to: low priority/severity. A priority decision has been made that this defect cannot be addressed without neglecting issues of higher importance. Thank you for your understanding. In other words, another three-finger salute while gleefully taking payment for another round of sadism.

Thursday, January 05, 2012

once a pun a film

If Imtiaz Ali had made Rockstar in the 80s with Govinda instead of Ranbir Kapoor, Farha instead of Nargis Fakhri and Dharmendra instead of Shammi Kapoor, the title would surely have been Pop ko Jalaakar Rock kar Doonga

Monday, January 02, 2012

a nitpicking new year to you too: a review reviewed

Stephen King's fiction enjoys a large readership not just in the US but abroad and especially India. His forays have primarily been in horror and Indians love horror. He also manages to take interesting ideas, observations and characters and explore them in a rather simple welcoming style. Despite almost always working with a few genres, he manages to churn out books that are notches above the average bestseller.

Unfortunately, reviews of genre fiction in India still have miles to go before they reap. There are the unfortunately few reviews like this and then there are people who don't understand the works of Stephen King and foolishly dare to review them. It seems fit to begin my new year in this neighbourhood by ranting about a piece of fluff that, when all things are considered at Judgement Day, will be quite inconsequential. Yet, it is to griping about people and things that don't even deserve a modicum of attention that I am destined to devote my time.

The exhibit for the occasion is a review of Stephen King's recent novel 11/22/63 in the Deccan Herald by someone named Payel Dutta Chowdhury. If this public LinkedIn profile is the right one, the reviewer is a professor at Garden City College in Bangalore and also the head of the English department. This also makes a lot of what follows even more unpleasant. This is someone who should have known better.

We are off to a flying crash with the opening

Stephen King's latest magnum opus, 11/22/63, promises to be a rare juxtaposition of facts, fiction and much more.

The use of magnus opus is troubling. Does the reviewer wish to imply that King has been churning out great works for a while? There is no doubting that this is a work on a larger scale than perhaps anything that King has tried before, but have there been others?

Does anyone know any of the other rare juxtapositions of facts, fiction and much more? (I know only one: the coefficient of the linear).

The second sentence darkens the lentils even further

A master of the science-fiction genre, King's recent novel blends historical fiction and real life events.

Let's pick the grammatical nit first. Any editor worth his or her salary would have fixed this sentence. As it stands now, A master of the science-fiction genre refers not to King (as it should have) but to his recent novel. Let's now look at a problem that's arguably a more important one. I wonder if anyone familiar with Stephen King's ouevre would call him a master of the science fiction genre. It's a perfunctory label that only suggests that the writer's knowledge of King's work might be limited to a subset comprising either his works like The Gunslinger and Firestarter or absolutely nothing at all.

What follows next is a complete synopsis in précis, which reduces King's novel to basic elements of the plot, stripped of everything that actually made the novel interesting. The synopsis also pays tribute to Taran Adarsh in its completeness. It also constitutes the majority of this review. That should tell you that if you were looking for an interesting examination of the novel, if you were looking for reasons to read this novel (or not), if you were looking for a useful point of view, this is the wrong county to be in. Unless a grammatically incomplete line like Definitely, an interesting and insightful read is enough for you (in which case, just scroll down to the bottom of the page, read that line and get on with your life). The synopsis owes a lot to the Wikipedia page for the book (search for "recently-divorced high school English teacher"), King's reason for abandoning the idea in 1971 and other bits about the background of the novel (search for "price of a pint of root beer").

This brings us to the rest of the bits in the review, which, thanks to that very popular search engine called Google, were clearly swiped without attribution from elsewhere. A few bits come from Janet Maslin's review in the New York Times: the opening (which means that I must redirect my criticism above to Ms. Maslin), the premise (search for "revisit and even revise"), the description of the book's cover (search for "happy and unscathed").

With all this plagiarism, one wonders why the number of pages of the novel according to this novel (850) is different from the actual number of pages (849; 842 pages for the actual novel starting from chapter 1 and 7 pages for King's afterword). When both Ms. Maslin and the Wikpedia page agree that 849 is the right number, why would someone invent a different number? If you add the extra pages between the hard front and back and subtract the two protective thicker sheets, you get 864, which matches the number listed on the book's official site. Since no official paperback edition appears to have been released yet, the plot, as they say, only thickens.

The seemingly original contributions only offer more evidence that the amateur writings on Rediff are not alone; consider this:

King wants to remind his readers that the past does not want to be changed and in order to reaffirm his views, he examines the "butterfly effect" — a phenomenon whereby a small change at one place in a complex system can have large effects elsewhere.

Something tells me that King's novel is likely to lose a few readers thanks to this review. I only hope that the book reviews in the Deccan Herald do not have a large bunch of faithful readers.

Meanwhile, let us mourn the fact that someone got paid for this sorry piece of plagiaristic piffle.

PS: I wish someone from the New York Times would fix the date in the title of Ms. Maslin's review; the date (and the title of the book) is 11/22/63 and not 11/23/63.

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